Helping Your Kids Back into their School Routine

Depending on your school district, your children are either back to school already or about to hit the ground running. Or staggering. Or moaning and dragging. Let’s face it, if your kiddos have enjoyed a lazy summer with late nights and even later mornings, getting back into a school-days routine can be slightly less tortuous than waterboarding.

If your child is feeling anxious about going back to school with a new teacher and classmates, don’t dismiss their feelings – validate them. Reassure them that facing new people and new situations can be stressful for adults too and reassure them you will do everything you can to support them and make their school year a success.

One of the biggest changes as you transition from summer to school is to your morning routine. Start by talking your kids through what the morning will look like and what your expectations for them will be. Get organized, especially if your child isn’t a morning person. Help them plan out what they’ll wear, pack their backpack, and prepare their lunch or snack the night before. The key is simplicity and clarity – make sure they know exactly what you expect from them. “Regular routines provide a kid’s developing brain with a template for how to organize and manage daily life. By gradually turning over the responsibility for self-management, we support the brain’s development and ensure that our kids learn how to manage themselves, ” says Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D. 

If your children are young or struggle with staying on task, create a chart on your smartphone or tablet or with poster board and stickers to help them keep track.

List what they need to do, for example:

  • Wash your face
  • Brush your teeth
  • Brush your hair
  • Make your bed
  • Eat breakfast

Bedtime can be another tough transition. Just as with your morning routine, establishing a bedtime routine trains the brain that it’s time to slow down and go to sleep. If they’re used to staying up late watching a video or playing on their device, setting time limits and a countdown – 30 minutes til bed, 15 minutes til bed, and “here’s your five-minute warning” – can de-escalate tantrums and make the transition to bedtime less stressful or argumentative. Create a bedtime checklist as you did for the morning:

  • Pack your backpack
  • Put on your PJs
  • Brush your teeth
  • Go potty
  • Wash your hands
  • Get your last drink of water

Homework, the bane of parents and children everywhere, is another potential stressor for both parents and kids. Once again, the key is being organized. Check their backpack, Blackboard, or school website to keep track of upcoming projects. Use apps like Cozi to keep the family organized and myHomeworkMyStudyLife,  or Chalkboard to help manage assignments.

Remember, learning time management is an essential part of your child developing maturity. Creating a routine and setting boundaries helps them internalize structure and learn self-control. “Children who are taught basic routines grow into adults who are efficient and organized,” says Hartwell-Walker. “There’s a lot more to routines than simply getting everyone out the door in the morning and into bed on time at night. Establishing routines provides kids with important skills for life.”

 

 

 

 

Ride Share Apps for Minors

According to HopSkipDrive, the logistics and the number of hours caregivers spend transporting children to and from activities is the equivalent to a part-time job. The hassle of working out which parent or caregiver will do drop off or pick up, who’s turn it is for driving the carpool is a stressor in many homes.

Two out of three parents say having to drive their kids somewhere interrupts their work regularly. Over 41% say it’s a daily or at least weekly struggle, a whopping 51% say they spend up to five hours a week driving their kids to activities, and a third of those parents spend over 10 hours.

It was just a matter of time before rideshare options for minors became an alternative. If the thought of telling your child to hop into a stranger’s car goes against everything you’ve ever taught them and makes your heart stop, congratulations, you’re a good parent! However, apps like HopSkipRide, Kango, and Zum are a safe, reliable option for those days you just can’t get away from the office or are double-booked with another commitment.

Each has safeguards in place and caters exclusively to children, something Lyft and Uber do not offer. In fact, both prohibit drivers from accepting requests or transporting unaccompanied minors.

If you’re considering using one of these kid-friendly rideshare apps, here’s what you need to know.

  • Start by reviewing the company’s terms of service to ensure you understand its limitations and disclaimers of liability. This is not the time to tick the “I have read and agree” box without actually reading it.
  • Go online and read the customer reviews, so you have an idea of their track record and what other users’ say about their experience.
  • Investigate how they respond to inevitable issues like late pickups/drop-offs, last-minute driver cancellations, accidents, traffic, or other incidents that may occur while transporting your child.
  • When you book the ride, include a secret password that the driver must tell your child before they get in the car. Make sure you use an app like “Find My Friends” (iOS, Android) so you have a way to track your child independently from the rideshare service you are using.
  • If you’ve had a positive experience with a particular driver, ask for them each time you use the service. Most apps will try to accommodate you since a happy customer is a returning customer. Also, be sure to leave a tip and positive review.
  • On the other hand, if you have a negative experience, be sure to report it immediately. That includes things like a late pickup, careless driving, and bad language.
  • Teach your children to be observant while in the car and to text you immediately if there are any concerns.

HopSkipDrive Service area: Northern and Southern California, Colorado’s Front Range, and the Washington DC/Virginia area

HopSkipRide was founded by three working moms frustrated with the struggle of t trying to get their kids to and from school and their activities. Every driver is thoroughly vetted, and parents can schedule rides up to eight hours in advance or schedule recurring trips. Rates are similar to what you’d pay for Uber or Lyft, but they also offer a carpool option for up to four families.

Autter  Service area: Atlanta

Founded by moms, Autter offers their services at $1 per mile and $0.50 per minute, or you can purchase multiple rides for a discount.

Kango Service area: Bay Area of San Francisco and parts of Los Angeles

Kango started as a peer to peer rideshare app but switched to rideshare in 2015. Like the others in this list, Kango thoroughly vets their drivers – their background checks go back 18 years – but goes one step further by fingerprinting them. Drivers must pass an in-person interview as well as attend an in-person training program, and require childcare experience. They also provide childcare services. For details on cost, scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Zūm Service area:  California, Arizona, Texas, Illinois, and Florida

Like the others in this list, Zūm has an exhaustive three-step vetting process for drivers with only one in five applicants accepted. Along with passing the standard criminal and driving-record background checks, anyone who wants to drive for Zūm must be certified by TrustLine, a database of nannies and babysitters who have cleared criminal background checks. Over 2,000 schools and districts have contracted with Zūm.  Zūm offers a fare estimator on their site — prices start at $8 per kid for carpool rides and $16 for a single trip. For individuals who need extra time, Zūm drivers can be booked for childcare for up to two hours at $6 every 15 minutes.

goKid Service area:

goKid uses the peer to peer model formerly used by Kango and enables caregivers to create GoKid carpools by-invitation-only: you are paired up with other parents whose kids are going to and from the same events and locations like soccer practice or ballet class. Just enter the school name and team name and through integrating SportsEngine and TeamSnap, the needed details such as times and locations will usually be filled in automatically. The only cost is for the app itself – $4.99 a month or $49.99 per year. A free version is available with that has all the essential components necessary, dropping in-app notes, carpool history, and Google calendar synchronization. Be aware that goKid does not vet drivers, nor do they screen drivers – the app is more a facilitator than screening service – it’s up to you to screen the driver.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Mommy vs. Nana – The Fight Over the Right to Post a Child’s Image

By Tracey Dowdy

I recently polled parents on my Facebook page, asking, “If you’ve chosen not to share pictures of your kids, how do you broach the subject with grandparents or others who don’t respect your rules and post their photo anyway? Also, what is your primary reason for not sharing their photo? Privacy? The child’s right to curate their own social media?” As I expected, some of the responses were adamant about privacy, others were less concerned, and some were just funny, like the dad who responded with a meme that said, “I told my mom that she was invading my privacy and she said I came out of her privacy.”

It’s a question more, and more parents are asking as our online privacy and personal information continue to be compromised. Platforms who swore our data was safe – I’m looking at you Facebook – have been exposed as vulnerable to breaches. If even Pentagon computers can get hacked, how secure are the rest of us, the ones who tick the box saying we’ve read the Terms and Conditions but never have?

For years, privacy experts have been warning us about the risks of exposing your personal life online, and parents are beginning to listen. Years ago when mommy-blogging was at its peak, and Facebook was taking off, personal information like the first day of school pictures included the name of the child’s school or geotags with the family vacation resort tagged were common. Contrast that with parents today who are choosing to keep those details limited to private groups of close friends and family or offline completely.

Part of the problem seems to be generational. While Baby Boomers didn’t grow up with today’s tech ubiquity, they have embraced it as passionately as younger generations. According to Pew Research, 90%+ of adults over 60 own a computer or laptop, 70% have a smartphone, and 40% have a tablet. Boomers also represent 1/3 of all online and social media users. Boomers are especially fond of Facebook, with 65% saying it’s their preferred social media network.

That love for Facebook, coupled with their love for their grandchildren is at the heart of growing tension between young parents and their own parents. The biggest threat to your family’s cyber-security may not be Russian hackers – it’s Nana.

 Lena, one of the moms who responded to my poll, posted a screenshot and captioned it, “Family member currently with a pic of my baby as their profile pic.” The photo had been published without Lena’s consent.

Another respondent, Sophia,* has a private Facebook group for her newborn. Under a recent photo of the child, a relative asked how she could share the pictures as there’s no “Share” button under the post. When Sophia explained they prefer to keep the images limited to close family and friends, the family member objected. Sophia once again respectfully explained her position and included a link to the story of an American teen who discovered a photo of her had used in a Virgin Mobile Australia campaign without her consent. The family member countered with “these things happen… but why should that stop the joy of our friends and family from seeing our offspring… I respect your decision but had to voice my opinion.”

Several respondents sent private messages lamenting their parent’s refusal to accept their choice to limit their child’s online presence. “My mom constantly tags herself in my photos. I don’t know a lot of her friends and even worse, her profile is set to “public” so who even knows who is seeing those pictures of my kids?”

That’s an important question. One of the respondents to the poll cautioned, “I don’t share pictures of any of my 19 nieces/nephews, or any other children. I have only accepted if adults share pictures on my timeline; and only after I have reviewed them or if they give me direct consent. I work in law enforcement and am aware of more than I would like to know about pedophilia; personal identity theft; and the like.”

It’s a global issue leading some countries such as France to implement much more stringent privacy laws than here in America. French parents have been warned to stop posting pictures of their children on social media platforms or face the possibility of being sued for violating the child’s right to privacy or jeopardizing their personal security. The penalties are as harsh as one year in prison and a fine of €45,000 ($50,000) if convicted of publicizing the intimate details of the private lives of others —including their children – without their expressed consent.

Here in the US, the likelihood of such a suit succeeding is unlikely. There’s no legal precedent or laws concerning oversharing, and parents could claim the suit is a violation of their First Amendment rights.  There’s also the parent-child immunity doctrine — the legal notion that a child cannot bring legal action against his or her parents for torts, or civil wrongs, parents inflict while the child is a minor.

Parenting coach Ray FitzGerald recommends following the three P rules of posting. “There’s privacy (“Make sure your privacy settings aren’t public. Treat your child’s private images like your Social Security number and don’t hand it out like digital candy”); perception (“If you wouldn’t want a similar picture of yourself shared, then you likely shouldn’t share one of your child”); and permission (a rule he admits mostly applies to older kids).”

*Name changed by request for privacy purposes

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Parents, It’s Time to Talk About Our Social Media

By Tracey Dowdy

As a Gen Xer, my daughters’ childhoods are captured in framed photos, memories, and photo boxes in the closet off my home office. I didn’t start using Facebook until they were both tweens, and perhaps that’s why I understood the importance of not posting photos or posts about them without permission. Tweens are at an age when even having parents is mortifying, and though I sometimes overstepped, I have their consent for what’s in those old Facebook albums and posts.

Fast forward to today, where the oldest members of the millennial cohort are – gasp – turning 40. Lifestyle blogging was in its heyday during the late nineties and early 2000s, and for a while, it seemed like everyone had a blog, especially moms. It wasn’t uncommon to hear graphic stories of diaper blowouts, potty training mishaps, mispronounced words, and other content that exposed the most intimate details of their child’s milestones and behavior.

The issue is that many of those children are now old enough to Google themselves, and those blogs and Facebook posts are impacting them in ways parents didn’t, and arguably couldn’t have anticipated. The children who were the subjects of those posts are in some cases mortified by the content, while the majority simply resents having had no say over their online presence. There’s even a portmanteau for the phenomenon – sharenting.

Perhaps there’s no better example of the conflict between the two perspectives than that of Christie Tate and her daughter. Back in January, Tate, who has been blogging about her family for over a decade, wrote an essay for the Washington Post titled, “My daughter asked me to stop writing about motherhood. Here’s why I can’t.” Though she’s been writing about her children since they were in diapers, it’s only recently that her nine-year-old daughter became aware of what her mom has been writing, and asked her to stop. Tate refused, stating,

They’ve agreed to a compromise where Tate will use a pseudonym rather than her daughter’s real name, and Tate has “agreed to describe to her what I’m writing about, in advance of publication, and to keep the facts that involve her to a minimum.” Her daughter also has the right to veto any pictures of herself she doesn’t want to be posted.

Tate faced considerable backlash, with many calling her selfish and coldhearted. Many on social media sites like Reddit have roasted her, though she did receive some support.

Fourteen-year-old Sonia Bokhari wrote an honest, insightful piece for Fast Company about what it was like to finally be allowed her own social media accounts – long past the age many of her friends had become active – only to discover that her mother and older sister had been documentary her life for years. “I had just turned 13, and I thought I was just beginning my public online life, when in fact there were hundreds of pictures and stories of me that, would live on the internet forever, whether I wanted it to be or not, and I didn’t have control over it. I was furious; I felt betrayed and lied to.”

Bokhari’s mother and sister meant no harm; they posted photos and things she had said that they thought were cute and funny. She explained her feelings to her mother and sister, and they’ve agreed that going forward, they’ll not post anything about her without her consent.

It wasn’t just the embarrassment of having the letter she wrote to the tooth fairy when she was five or awkward family photos. Her digital footprint that concerned Bokhari as well. “Every October my school gave a series of presentations about our digital footprints and online safety. The presenters from an organization called OK2SAY, which educates and helps teenagers about being safe online, emphasized that we shouldn’t ever post anything negative about anyone or post unapproved inappropriate pictures, because it could very deeply affect our school lives and our future job opportunities.” Bokhari concluded that “While I hadn’t posted anything negative on my accounts, these conversations, along with what I had discovered posted about me online, motivated me to think more seriously about how my behavior online now could affect my future.”

Her response to what she learned? Bokhari eventually chose to get off social media altogether.

“I think in general my generation has to be more mature and more responsible than our parents, or even teens and young adults in high school and college… being anonymous is no longer an option. For many of us, the decisions about our online presence are made before we can even speak. I’m glad that I discovered early on what posting online really means. And even though I was mortified at what I found that my mom and sister had posted about me online, it opened up a conversation with them, one that I think all parents need to have with their kids. And probably most importantly, it made me more aware of how I want to use social media now and in the future.”

For many of us, trying to clean up our digital footprint or that of our children feels a lot like trying to get toothpaste back into the tube or trying to make toast be bread again. Still, it’s important to try. You’re not only curating your own reputation; you’re shaping your child’s before they’ve ever had a chance to weigh in.

Consider your audience and your motivation, then evaluate whether or not what your sharing is worth the potential ramifications. The internet is the wild wild west – maybe you need to start acting as the sheriff of your own town.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Equifax Breach: You May Be Eligible for Compensation

By Tracey Dowdy

Over 147 million Americans were affected by the 2017 Equifax Data breach. If you are one of those millions – you can check here – you can now file a claim to recover money you spent or lost as a result. Additionally, as part of the settlement, you file to recover money you spent to protect yourself from identity theft and/or on credit monitoring following the breach.

The breach was a serious violation of user’s privacy with hackers exposing consumer’s personal information including their driver’s license information, social security numbers, and birthdates.

Back in July, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Equifax reached an agreement for Equifax to pay at least $575 million and up to $700 million for victims. Under the terms of the settlement, you can file a claim for compensation for costs incurred recovering from the security breach as well as any costs related to identity theft or freezing/unfreezing your account, and for any unauthorized charges to your banking accounts.  The one caveat for those filing for losses to be aware of is that the agreement caps payouts at $20,000 per person.

Victims also have the option of filing a claim to cover the expense of protecting yourself from identity theft following the breach. In fact, you can file multiple claims, and if you have already signed up for credit monitoring, you have the option of filing a claim for $125 in compensation instead.

Be aware the FTC has issued a warning cautioning victims to be aware of fake settlement websites created to dupe victims of the Equifax breach into revealing personal information like birthdates and social security numbers, ultimately victimizing them a second time. Jason Cipriani over at CNET has a great article on how to protect yourself.

To determine if you’re eligible under the terms of the settlement, follow these steps:

  • Start by going to the Equifax Data Breach Settlement page to find out if your information was impacted and if you are a class member.
  • Enter your last name the last six digits of your social security number.
  • You’ll immediately be told if your data was compromised and you’ll be directed to the Equifax Data Breach Settlement website to file a claim.
  • You have the option to file online or have a claim form mailed to you.
  • The final step is to determine which benefits you are eligible for by gathering documentation to support your claim. This includes any bank or credit card statements detailing unauthorized charges, any costs related to freezing/unfreezing your account, or payments made to lawyers or accountants to recover your losses.
  • If you signed up for a credit monitoring service as a result of the Equifax breach, you are eligible for a cash payment of $125. Note this is in addition – not in place of – filing for compensation for losses incurred.

For details or a full explanation of the settlement, go to the FTC’s Equifax Data Breach Settlement page here.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Talking to Your Kids About Violence in the News

By Tracey Dowdy

My daughters were in first and third grade when 9/11 happened. We were living on Long Island, and I was the assistant to the elementary school principal. Of course, this was pre-internet, so we spent the day listening to the radio reports as we tried to understand the scope of what was happening.

One of the biggest challenges, aside from knowing if we could put children on the bus at the end of the day in case parents were still trapped in the city and unable to get home, was determining what to tell the students about what had happened.

That’s a question we’ve had to answer again and again in this country in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, the DC Sniper, Virginia Tech, and the recent shootings in El Paso and Dayton. Sadly, according to data from nonprofit Gun Violence Archive (GVA), as of Aug. 5, 2019, the 217th day of the year, there have been 255 mass shootings in the U.S. (defined as more than four people shot, excluding the shooter). As I write this, the USA Today building in McLean, Virginia, 15 minutes from my house, is being evacuated because of a possible gunman in the building.

So with violence a seemingly ever-present threat, how do we talk to our children about what has, or could, happen? It’s difficult for us as adults to make sense or process what’s happening, so how can we talk to our kids? Should we? Psychotherapist and Pastor of Family Ministries at Expectation Church  Roy Dowdy says that though it’s a tough conversation to have, it’s an important one. “Your kids are going to hear about scary or tragic things one way or another – on the playground, on the bus, the soccer field, or from an older sibling. A lot of parents try to shield their kids from these things but that isn’t healthy. Telling them that nothing bad can ever happen doesn’t prepare them for the real world – bad things happen to good people every day. Instead, a healthy approach is to tell them you will do your best to protect them, they’re stronger than they know, and together you will get through any hard times that come. This provides them with the coping tools they’ll need to succeed in life.”

Dowdy recommends using these strategies when tragedy strikes and you’re forced to have that difficult conversation.

The first and most important thing to remember is to be age-appropriate in your explanations. You’ll need to have separate conversations with your kindergartener and your high school senior for reasons that are obvious. If you have preschoolers, it’s important to distinguish between what’s real and what’s make-believe. They have complex, often vivid imaginations, and sometimes have difficulty separating fact from fiction. Be honest, but be discreet.

Allow your child to ask questions so you get an understanding of what they’re thinking and about what they’ve heard. Children are no different from adults when it comes to repeating a story. Facts are embellished, important information is left out, and the story they’ve heard may be far from the actual event. Remember, your tweens and teens are likely getting a lot of their information from the internet – YouTube, Twitter, Reddit – not always the most reliable sources of information. Ask open questions like What have you heard?,” “Where did you hear that?,” and “What do you think about what you’ve heard?”

Be careful that in your conversation you aren’t vilifying a particular group of people. Often, the motivation behind the violence is unclear, so don’t jump to conclusions or paint everyone from that ethnicity, political party, religion, or other demographic with the same brush. Also, be mindful not to project your fears on to your child. If possible, process the event with someone in your support system before talking to them.

With older children who are active online, remind them of one of the first things I learned in journalism school – “If it bleeds, it leads.” Media outlets are competitive and the more sensational the headline, the more clicks (readers) it draws, and not every media outlet holds the same level of journalistic integrity. Teach them to think critically about whether the source is credible and likely to exaggerate.

Help them put things in perspective based on your own experience with tragedy on a personal or even national level as we all experienced on 9/11. Help them understand that history has many accounts of violence, but it also has stories of people who overcame adversity and the countless number of people who step up and become heroes during these events.

Dowdy also recommends helping your child find a healthy coping strategy. Younger children can draw pictures of how they’re feeling or write a thank you note to the police or first responders. Older kids may benefit from writing in a journal or creating a video diary.

Finally, if your child seems overwhelmed by the event and they’re having difficulty coping, it may be time to have them talk to someone beside you. Psychology Today has a directory that can connect you with a therapist or support group in your area, or, one of these resources may be a better fit:

  • Crisis Call Center: 800-273-8255 or text ANSWER to 839863
  • Crisis Text Line (U.S. only): Text HELLO to 741741
  • Youthspace Text Line (across Canada): Text 778-783-0177 from 6 p.m. to midnight daily.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Is it Time to Disable or Delete Your Instagram Account?

By Tracey Dowdy

 Instagram influencers live their lives on a very public stage – that’s the whole point of being an influencer. They share everything from their favorite granola to their favorite brand of underwear, and everything in between. As it turns out, Instagram inadvertently gave many users a taste of what it’s like to give brands, marketers, and total strangers access to their private information and preferences. According to Tech Crunch Security Editor Zack Whittaker, “A massive database containing the contact information of millions of Instagram influencers, celebrities and brand accounts has been found online. The database, hosted by Amazon Web Services, was left exposed and without a password allowing anyone to look inside. At the time of writing, the database had over 49 million records, but was growing by the hour.”

The database was owned by Chtrbox, an Indian marketing company that connects influencers to brands looking to promote their product or service. Instagram (owned by Facebook) has since revoked Chtrbox’ access to its platform.

Since its inception, Instagram has morphed from a simple photo-sharing platform to an imitation of Snapchat or Facebook, with advertising cluttering your feed. For some Instagram users, the breach was the last straw. If you’re one of them, you can delete your account but it isn’t easy to do from within the app itself. Patrick Holland has a step by step tutorial on CNET’s How to Do It All YouTube channel that will walk you through beginning to end.

Keep in mind, once it’s deleted, it’s gone forever – you will not be able to recover it. If that seems harsh and you just want a break, consider disabling it for a while. By logging out, you have the option to resurrect your profile once you’re ready, but whatever option you choose, be sure to download your data. This is especially critical if you’re deleting your profile – there may be photos in your stream that you’ve forgotten exist but will be important to you down the road – because again, once it’s gone, it’s gone. You can request your download through your browser or through the app, but realize this isn’t an immediate download. It will take time for Instagram to collate all that data, and prepare it for downloading.

If you’re still unsure which option is best, check out Holland’s tutorial Instagram: How to delete or disable your account to determine which is best for youTech

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.