Parenthood

cyber bullying My heart breaks every time I read about a teen killing herself after suffering cyber bullying. And I get scared with every news report about sexual predators using social media to target kids.

My own daughters, 11 and 13, do not yet use social media, but I know that the time will come when they will, very soon probably, especially for the older one, and I can’t help but worry. Social media is a wonderful tool for adults, but in the hands of kids, it can be ruthless and dangerous.

UPDATE: A mere two weeks after writing this post, my younger daughter had announced that “all her friends are on Instagram” and begged for her own account. We agreed, after going once again over Internet safety rules, and on the condition that we use SafeSocial.

SafeSocial is a service that helps provide Internet safety for kids by proactively allowing us parents better insight into what our children are doing on social networks such as Instagram or Facebook.

SafeSocial sends you an email alert every time your child is active on social networks – whenever they write something on Facebook (as a post or a comment), whenever they upload a photo to Instagram or comment on a friend’s photo, and every time something is written about them on their Facebook or Instagram page. The email alert contains the content of what has been written, and a link to it.

In addition, photo uploads and posts that contain photos are scanned for inappropriate content and flagged if they seem worthy of additional scrutiny.

These alerts can be sent in real-time, as they happen, or on a regular schedule.

There is no need to actively go to the social network and look for your child’s activity – everything is proactively sent to you via email. You don’t need to be the child’s “Friend” or “Follower,” and you don’t even need a Facebook/Instagram account of your own.

SafeSocial is respectful of the child’s privacy. Neither SafeSocial nor you need to know your child’s password or other social network account info, and SafeSocial does not store any information in the application. It just notifies you of the activities.

In fact, one of the best things about this tool is that it works with complete knowledge and cooperation of the child. They must opt-in, so there’s no ‘big brother’ type spying going on without their knowledge. Interestingly, most kids welcome this additional layer of protection. I suspect that secretly, our kids want us to supervise and protect them.

“But I’m my child’s friend on Facebook. I have her password. I visit her profile regularly. I would become aware of any issues without SafeSocial.” Well, check this out – a Facebook post by a teenager that I happen to know. She’s a good kid. Her parents are wonderful, attentive and caring – and they are her Facebook friends – yet they had no idea that she posted this on her timeline.

status-update

Obviously, SafeSocial should not come instead of talking with your child about safe online behavior. But even the savviest, smartest, most dependable kids make mistakes online, and SafeSocial provides an added layer of protection and can help parents catch those mistakes before they escalate.

Joining SafeSocial is easy. There’s no software to download and install. You just provide your name and email, as well as the child’s email, and you are set.

A typical SafeSocial Alert looks like this:

safesocial_alert

To get started, simply go to Safe Social, provide your email where you would like to get alerts, your child’s email, and choose a password. Your child will get an email asking him/her to install the app. The app installation is a simple two- click process. Once completed, the service will start sending you notifications about your child’s social network activities.

And you’ll regain some peace of mind.

*Disclosure: I believe that SafeSocial is an amazing tool, and use it for my own daughter’s Instagram account. I do have a personal interest in promoting SafeSocial: my husband is one of its co-founders.

rebellious teenagerMy two girls are growing older, and I’m loving every minute of it.

“Will you have another one? You still could” I am asked once in a while. At forty one, yes I still technically could, and I guess I’ll continue to hear this question for 3-4 more years before it finally stops. I could have one more baby, but I don’t want to.

I know I’ve blogged about my fear of the future, in fact I blogged about it more than once. As a fairly anxious person, I like knowing where things stand, and I like to be in control. Of course, control is an illusion, and as life progresses, things keep changing and you learn for yourself how little control you really have.

So I’ve blogged about my desire, as a classic control freak, to have things stay the way they are, and about my reluctance to watch my kids grow and drift away, first emotionally, then physically, as they move out and embark on their independent lives.
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teacher mugMake your life easy. Make the teacher happy. If you want to buy your kids’ teacher a gift for the holidays (and this is optional), by all means go ahead and do so, but avoid the “Best Teacher Ever!” mug or any mug for that matter. In fact, it’s best to avoid anything made of ceramics, anything personalized, and anything that the hundreds of Yahoo Stores that sell personalized gifts tell you you should buy.

Yes, this includes soaps and candles, whether personalized or not.
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kids and veggiesA real-life friend recently asked for my advice – she wanted to know how come Israeli kids are so much more open to eating veggies than American kids seem to be.

I actually don’t know if this is still the case in Israel of today, since the junk food disease is spreading around the world and has arrived in Israel too unfortunately. But certainly, back when I was a kid, I ate whatever was served to me, which was identical to what the grownups were eating, and that included plenty of veggies.

So it got me thinking, that by assuming our kids would hate vegetables, we are actually conditioning them to do so. Is it possible to raise kids without making a fuss about healthy foods, serving them the food we eat ourselves, avoiding “kid friendly” stuff, and raising vegetable lovers?
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1. I love you.

2. You are beautiful.

3. As you grow up, you will hear many times that you are not beautiful. Teenage boys, or mean girls, might laugh at you or say mean things about your appearance. If you let them, these casual comments can cut deep and leave permanent scars. In addition, many companies will work very hard to convince you that you’re not beautiful enough, or that you need to look a certain way to be beautiful. Don’t believe them. They are wrong, and their messages are self-serving. The mean girls want to put you down in order to feel better about themselves. The companies do it to make you buy their products.

4. Be prepared to work hard. It’s the only way you will succeed. It’s great that you’re smart and beautiful, but that’s by the luck of the draw. The reason I’m proud of you is not your beauty or your talent – it’s your willingness to work hard and improve yourself.

5. Be very choosy about the people whom you hang out with. Whether friends, partners or spouses, choose people who make you feel good about yourself. If they put you down, drain your energy or if you feel worse after being with them than before, stay away from them.

6. Find yourself a good man. A “bad boy” is called bad for a reason. He is bad for you. Find someone who will treat you with love and respect. In other words, to borrow from your own preteen world, everything that Lady Gaga sings about when it comes to love (“I want your ugly, I want your disease”) – do the opposite.

7. Respect yourself and your values. If you stick with what you believe in, and don’t allow others to influence you and pressure you to do things you don’t want to do, they might moan and whine, they might threaten to leave you, fire you, not be your friends anymore – but ultimately they will respect and admire you. More importantly, you will respect yourself.

8. Respect money. Money is not a goal in itself, but it is your ticket to freedom – freedom from financial worries, from the need to work for a living. Being financially independent gives you more control over your life and more choices, including the choice to do work that you love and to give to causes you care about. Be ready to work hard, save aggressively, invest wisely, and build your own wealth. Never depend on anyone else to “take care of you” financially.

9. Be careful. Most people are good, but there’s enough evil out there, that you should guard and protect yourself against it. From identity theft to date rape, bad things happen to good people. Being aware will not always prevent bad things from happening, but it’s the least you can do.

10. Talk to me. I’m always here to listen. I can probably help, too, if you want me to. Never think that you’re alone, or that no one can help you. Even if things are really bad, even if you think you’re alone in this, know that your parents, while not the heroes you thought we were when you were little, can be very helpful in offering perspective and in helping you out of situations that seem too complex to handle. It’s called age and life experience, and it does have value. Make the most of it.

11. If something feels wrong, if you have a gut feeling that tells you something is wrong, it probably is wrong, and you have the right to stop it. If you can’t stop it by yourself, tell me about it and I’ll help you.

12. Sometimes things can feel pretty hopeless, especially to a teenager. But even when things get really bad, there’s always a way out and there’s always a better future down the road. Never, ever give up and decide that “this is as good as it gets.” It WILL get better, I promise.

13. Forgive yourself. You will make mistakes. We all do. Learn to have a short session where you learn from your mistakes, but then forgive yourself and move on.

14. Have fun. Yes, I want you to work hard and stay true to your values, but life is so incredibly short and you only get one chance. So don’t forget to laugh and sing and dance and notice the beauty around you, and if you feel like splurging once in a while, that’s OK too. Don’t allow life to become a huge “to-do list” that you have to go through as quickly as possible. Slow down and enjoy the moment. And while you’re doing that, I’ll try to slow down too. 🙂

In the photo: My daughters navigating a rocky path, August 2005.

best momTwice in the last few weeks, I’ve been thrown into parenting wars. Not necessarily Mommy Wars – just parenting wars, where parents of both genders become engaged in a subtle, or not-so-subtle, “I’m a better parent than you are” argument. One such argument was about cell phone use in middle school. The other was about our kids’ education, and more specifically, private vs. public school.

I don’t get it. Assuming none of us is abusive, we are all doing our best. And looking around me, at the parents I know in real life, we ARE all doing our best. It’s no secret that parenting isn’t easy – that it’s one of the most difficult jobs we’ve ever had. We are terrified of making mistakes, because we love our children so much, and we are heavily invested in their well being. And yet, despite the importance of this role, no one really teaches us how to do it. We just learn as we go, trying to do the right thing, trying not to mess up too much.

Parenting these days is especially challenging, since we have to deal with unprecedented advances in technology. Our children’s childhoods are so different than our own, that it’s very difficult to rely on past experiences to navigate the dos and don’ts of modern child rearing. (Do I let them use social media? At what age? And is Mark Zuckerberg correct when he claims that there’s no such thing as privacy anymore?)

Under these difficult circumstances, how can it possibly be helpful to attack another parent and make them feel bad about their own choices?

“It’s all about the attacker’s own insecurities,” says my friend, and I agree to some extent. If you’re unsure about your own choices as a parent, one way to feel better about yourself is to put another parent down. If they are worse than you are, or are made to feel worse, then you’re automatically elevated to a “better parent than others” status, right?

What a sad way to feel better about one’s own parenting!

When my kids started growing older, and questions of cloth diapering, breastfeeding and co-sleeping were no longer an issue, I was glad to be finally done with Mommy Wars. Little did I know, that Parenting Wars were not quite over yet, and as our kids get older, the topics actually get hotter – and parents’ behavior, just as hurtful.

tween1. You discover that the box of baby wipes that used to always be on the kitchen counter and was used multiple times each day, is all dried up. Apparently, you haven’t used it in over a year.

2. Getting out of the house is as easy as “OK, put your shoes on and let’s go.” No need to take a diaper bag filled with diapers, said wipes, snacks and toys.

3. You wake up in the morning before they do.

4. They have lost their baby fat and have become tall and lanky – in fact, almost as tall as you are.

5. They still need your approval, but friends’ approval is slowly becoming just as important.

6. They are more interesting. They ask thought-provoking questions that you no longer always have the answers for.

7. They don’t want to go to the playground anymore. That surefire way you had to make them happy, suggesting “Let’s go to the playground, then for ice cream” doesn’t work anymore. They’re only interested in the “ice cream” part.

8. Looks are very important to them.

9. Being “cool,” or at least not being “lame” or “uncool” is a top priority, even though the exact way of achieving a “cool” status is fairly vague.

10. Their love is no longer unconditional. They sometimes scrutinize you closely, and you can see fleeting disapproval in their eyes. Yes, it hurts. They might even do the teenage eye roll from time to time.