Five Valuable Lessons I Learned as a Blogger

By Stacey Ross

You can put five bloggers in a room and hear a myriad of reasons as to how and why they began blogging, ranging from wanting to connect more with the outside world, to expanding their brands for business purposes. Regardless, bloggers form a community not quite like any other I have experienced – one that blends deep insight and personal perspective with a genuine desire to connect and grow with similar like-minded colleagues.

Many avid bloggers consider their blogs as extensions of themselves. Bloggers endure growth spurts along with growing pains, and in some cases a proverbial mid-life crisis or two, but determined minds carry on and learn as they evolve, both professionally and personally.

The following lessons have resurfaced at various times in my blogging “career” and are good discussion points for existing bloggers, as well as for those who are considering blogging in the future:

1. Rome was not built in a day

Duh, but we need reminding sometimes, right? This leads to the enviable quest motivating many of us: monetization! Some bloggers do not overtly promote their business via their blog, but rather use it to serve as a tool to network more efficiently and expose their more personal side and interests. For example, by being in a blogging community, marketers, journalists, freelancers, etc. can benefit from connecting on a personal level with the niche they already serve.

For others, the attraction to blogging is that it can be a means to generate money-making opportunities via freelancing, affiliate marketing, online sales, consulting, brand ambassadorship and ad campaigns.

Lastly, for a good many people, blogging is primarily an outlet – a somewhat cathartic hybrid of journaling and scrapbooking. You might hear the term “citizen journalist” thrown around, as well as the household term “mommy blogger,” but chances are you are safe to just specify “lifestyle blogger, travel blogger, tech blogger, parenting blogger, bargain blogger” etc. and the conversation can go from there!

2. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

You could spend 80 hours a week blogging and building a social media platform and have all the new bells and whistles in place, yet still not achieve what you set out to do.

Need a tip? Set clear goals for what you wish to obtain from your time spent blogging. Diversify your efforts by building and contributing to your other social media platforms, adding a unique appeal that helps your blog captivate and continue to grow an audience. Build strategic partnerships and network with online friends via social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn.

3. Time is of the essence

Two distinct areas stand out when it comes to using your time effectively. First, is that the Internet can be seductive, turning a few minutes to hours, so sticking to a daily schedule and mapping things out is crucial not only for online longevity, but for one’s sanity. Second, your time is well spent if it revolves around a particular niche that you are passionate about, so your words resonate well online.

4. Choose your friends wisely!

Share, network and learn from one another, but know what your “secret sauce” is and hold it sacred. I have met so many amazing people online whose friendships or connections have been life-changing for me, yet I have also met people that I wouldn’t even trust with a pack of gum!

Most important, as far as online relationships are concerned, is that it is smart to establish from the get-go the context of the relationship, because the social culture of befriending new colleagues online can blur the lines between business and friendship, especially when contracts and money are involved.

5. Some rules were meant to be broken

Many people are curious as to why bloggers blog, wondering just how one’s “return on investment”  plays in the mix and why blogging is such a popular pastime in the first place. Some take it to the next level and impose their “musts” for bloggers, to which I say, “Blaaaaah!!” Deflect the haters!

Beat to your own drum, and so long as you come from and maintain a voice that is credible and authentic, stay focused, and follow basic protocol, you will likely get out of blogging all and more that you put into it!

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.

Five Ways Tech Can Bring Families Together

By Stacey Ross

Family members around the world are finding ways to keep in touch with each other in real time, and the increasing accessibility of this technology helps strengthen and enhance families in a variety of different ways.

This rings true for me in some very personal terms. It is very important to take some time and appreciate some of the vehicles for keeping or making ties stronger with family members. I decided to share the five ways that have been most significant in my household!

1. Keeping ties with long-distance relatives

Skype’s free video calling has played a large part in how my kids have kept in touch with their grandparents who live miles away. We have taken our phones and devices to ballgames and stores, and the kids have even been able to share their instrument playing, dancing, games and other passions. The most novel experience for me was the time I woke up to the sound of my father’s voice playing with the kids downstairs. Grandpa chatting with his grandson as they played virtual checkers on a Sunday morning – surreal! I call him my virtual sitter.

Google+ Hangouts have been just what the doctor ordered for my girl. She and her friends meet online to update one another on their musical instrument skills, then take their tablets into their rooms to share which outfits would work best for their dance classes. Sometimes they bring in other friends to join the party, which is just adorable. BTW: This method beats cleaning up after a slumber party!

2. Building closer ties

The past couple of years have brought some opportunities to me that otherwise would have been next to impossible. One family member found an estranged relative on and months after had a family party to meet her. (An event straight out of a commercial!) Another family member found our first cousin, who had been adopted as a baby! Facebook provided a marvelous platform for slowly building what I hope will be a long-lasting friendship. A piece of the puzzle I had waited for years to find!

3. Embracing the entrepreneurial lifestyle

My husband and I are both self-employed and between the four of us we juggle our two family businesses, five athletic teams, and two dance classes. Our plates are full, but man does modern technology provide a way for us to stay engaged and connected. I have a hard time trying to grasp how we did it in the past without smartphones and texting!

4. Chronicling milestones and hobbies

I love how the kids have learned so much from YouTube. My girl has literally choreographed dances and my son has built elaborate origami art merely by watching tutorials online.

Their next steps were creating tutorials of their own, which I share in snapshots on Instagram for kicks. We have come to the realization that limiting the segments to 1-2 minutes per tutorial will keep viewers engaged, but building those “skilz” will come in time. (Soon, I hope!)

5. Home/School connection!

I participate in a school/parenting application called School Loop, which has been nothing short of a godsend! Parents are regularly emailed with their kids’ workload, and updated grades and assignments are accessible too, along with school notes/files that help parents see what their kids are up to in class. I love that the students are also encouraged to use this as a communication system and can email any of their teachers directly from the application. It also serves as a wonderful tool for parents to keep in touch with the teachers.

It seems like these five items just scratch the surface! In what ways has technology helped your family thrive? Do share and tweet me at @sdbargainmama!

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.

Top 5 Social Media Personalities to Avoid

By Stacey Ross

I recently took on the cathartic experience of encapsulating my fellow online enthusiasts’ top pet peeve personalities: those individuals that have a way of throwing a wrench into the digital playground – a wrench that leaves us slapping ourselves as to why we still follow them or reminds us why we continue to be entertained by these cats! The umbrella is large, but the stereotypical personalities under it are even larger:

1. Over-Eager Eds

Can you say “awkward”?!! Needy “friends” of the opposite sex that somehow presume they can assign you a pet name and/or message you to chat as a significant other. These are unattractive gestures, best to ignore.

(Note: If an online lady friend is married with kids, don’t be a slime ball and ask her out on a date! Also, we married types are not the ideal pen pals for men in the service; find another fantasy! God bless you for serving our country, but…. Phew! Also, “Cutie” and “Baby” are typically reserved for tight relationships in my book, but maybe that is just the prude in me coming out for this cathartic rant! So, now that my engine is started….)

2. Riotous Roberts

This type is not online to engage; rather grabbing the spotlight is their shtick. They get on their bandwagon with an agenda or angle and methodically lure folks in, then insolently demolish even the kindhearted, non-malicious peeps that might merely see things from a slightly different angle than they do.

They really do not appear to care if their online friends differ in thought, as demonstrated by how they default to belittling those who might not see through the same hue of lenses as they do. This leaves no room for discussion or a good debate, but does invite an audience that primarily takes on the roll of silent followers and serial “likers,” despite seeing the sucky attitude of their “friend.” They basically thrive on building online groupies.

3. Narcissistic Nincompoops

They take the notion of provocative to another level and the only thing prolific about them is their growing egos and online friends. At least 90 percent of their posts have “I” or “me” as the main focus and they appear to be consumed mostly with flaunting their own personalities or showboating their adorable kids to the extent that there might be a violation of a child labor law in play! You begin to wonder if their keyboards are stuck in the first person mode. In a nutshell, they brag and gloat.

4. Judgmental Julies

Perhaps I am leaning towards being one of them today (don’t hate, I am just on a roll is all!), but I am referring mostly to snobby folks who name-call online, such as: “moron,” “idiot,” “ass-wipe,” etc. and have no problem appearing hateful. The catch here is that I doubt these peeps would even dare be so offensive to the person’s face.  They tend to use their platform as an outlet to obliterate others. Name-calling is their chosen form of bullying, which is an indication of insecurity and a likely demonstration of despair. They tend to come out during political debates or mommy wars and thrive on drama.

5. Texting Trolls

I do not knock texting in the least, but I have come to find that many others distain it. They get irritated with the OTT and OMGs. Sometimes, this is just a language we no speak-o, and we need to get over it quickly and get with the times. But apparently this method of chatting really turns some people off, especially if they are not accustomed to using short syllable words and getting to the point, or have not brushed up on the “how to hide your messages from your parents” acronym guide.

When “H bday, babe XO” begins to replace a surprise phone call or a birthday card, then it is not texting that is at issue; instead HJNTIY (he’s just not that into you)! The only annoyance of texting, IMHO, is that users are grabbing at the tool to avoid intimacy or as a cop-out when picking up the phone would be more appropriate.

If you relate to having a few of these folks in your stream, take refuge in the fact that many people use the online jungle to portray a different persona. They might not be as obnoxious in real life or as interesting for that matter. As fellow online enthusiast, Robyn Wright suggests: “Just hover over their name, click on Friends, then Settings, and you can uncheck all the information that you don’t want to see.” Or you can just remain distracted and annoyed or feeling better about your life and do nothing! Your choice!

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.

Five Tips for Debating Online and Coming Out Alive

By Stacey Ross

Do the phrases ‘Zimmerman trial,’ ‘breastfeeding in public,’ or ‘Obamacare’ get your heart skipping a beat just at the sight of the words? Social media platforms, without doubt, house some heated debates about all sorts of topics, from politics to pop culture. There are pros and cons to how these messages are shared, however. The range of communication styles is as diverse as the angles and perspectives – ranging from folks compassionately engaging each other, to downright demolishing one another.

I asked my colleagues to share their thoughts about what guidelines they follow when they express disagreement on their social media platforms or when they share personal viewpoints that might be controversial. Here are a few responses:

“I always tell people to be mindful of their word choice because readers have no way to know your tone and, if they overlay their own words, yours can be given meaning that you never intended.” ~ Sara F. Hawkins

“I’m always mindful of what I say due to my career and professional standing. That aside, I’m an open book and speak my mind. If someone takes my views personally or thinks less of me because of them, then I’m probably better off without them. Life is too short to not show your passion or your beliefs. I have lots of friends who feel the opposite of what I do on certain things yet we still derive value from an open and mature dialogue.”Scott Gulbransen

“I don’t get into debates anymore online. People don’t know how to have a discussion without bashing each other and judging them, so when I see someone post something I don’t agree with, I just skip over and ignore it.”Hillary Lachman Gardner

Oops, I did it again!

If you are like I am, at one point in your online life you broke the pact with yourself that you would refrain from interacting online when it comes to certain topics or heated debates. Then maybe you swore you were going to take a long break from social media, but a few days later you returned, yet again! A love hate thing! And then, chances are that you remember at least one time that your finger hovered, hovered, hovered over the “Enter” key and time froze – and POW – you just went for it anyway!

“Oh  – – – -, what did I just do?!” you might have thought; either that or “OMG, yes, I finally did it!”

You might, as I do, have one or two valuable live-and-learn experiences to help guide you for the next online adventure!

The following are tips to keep in mind when you want to exchange ideas online but still keep it classy:

1. Decide if you want to be in an exchange or in a battle. Make sure to use language that does not belittle, condemn, name-call or insult those who are chatting with you. If you look at it as war, then you are approaching it as a heated debate, with the aim to win and be right vs. listen to others’ ideas. Both platforms surely exist, and are not necessarily discouraged, as they drive attention and traffic. It comes down to a choice.

2. Avoid the ultra-heated rants! Keep in mind that some online personalities have a “shtick” designed to keep their posts evocative, confrontational, edgy, sassy and even insulting. They get paid to vent and pull peoples’ strings. If you can stand the heat, then have fun (I guess?!), but keep in mind that first and foremost they are entertainers, and they are not worried about offending your inner child!

3. Know your limitations. Have a line that you draw which defines the degree of “debating” you will tolerate, meaning that if your stream gets way out of hand by trouble-making trolls, you might need to get in and moderate the comments, or even delete offensive messages. Some people even go to the extent, depending on their platform, to state what they will not accept language-wise on their pages. It really is a professional and/or personal call!

4. Share compelling information to state your case. Otherwise, if you are just coming from pure speculation, you will not be taken too seriously. Speaking from the heart and head are two totally different approaches. The best facts, documents, examples and/or experiences to back up your viewpoint will make you shine bright like a diamond.

Check the validity of your example and make sure that it is the best you can find. If you are not pulling from facts, then be honest and share that you “speculate” or “have a strong hunch” about something vs. letting lose like a cannon!

5. Be polite! It might not offer as much of an adrenaline rush, but it surely will give you more credibility! Especially if you are a voice of authority that wishes to remain esteemed in your online community. Maintain your cool and don’t give in to letting your emotions go wild. You will come off as way too self-important and callous, like you are too good for your platform. When doing so, what leaks out is sarcasm, bitterness, and a basic sense that pretty much what others have to say doesn’t really matter. If that is what you wish for, then disregard the above.

Be sure to not make fun of or personally attack whomever is disagreeing or showing a different side. Chances are that this topic might weigh heavy and touch a nerve with more people than you can imagine. There might be very valid reasons that they see things through a different lens than you do.

My colleague Lin as a preface to a recent post on her site,, shared, “It’s okay to have an opinion, passion, conviction, difference, and disagreement – it’s not okay to be disrespectful. Don’t force what you think on me and I won’t force what I think on you and that way we can learn from each other.”

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.

Facial Recognition Software: Revolutionizing Dating at a Bar Near You

By Stacey Ross

Imagine you are single. A beautiful face in the crowd catches your goggling eyes and, being the dialed-in tech wiz you are, you’ll say something like: “She’s hot; I wonder if she’s single?”

After that, you can skip the formalities. Instead, you put on your Google Glass eyewear with the fully-loaded facial recognition app NameTag, blink your eyes, and – bam! – you’ll be all set with her personal information staring right back at ya!

Talk about sparing yourself rejection! (Oh, and random party-goers’ privacy while we are on the subject!) It also cuts out the need for small talk: by the time you meet, you’ll know everything about her! This is the new age of tech, folks!

Privacy in the trashcan

Google Glass, set to be released to the mainstream market sometime next year, is basically a pair of glasses with a built-in computer light enough to rest on your nose bridge! Using NameTag and other apps already in the pipeline, the Google Glass technology will wirelessly match up faces to social media profiles, all without giving people the right to opt out, because, well, if the information has already been made public, it’s fair game, right?

Are you already running to check your privacy options for your social platforms? Good thing, because you will need to be proactive in protecting your images and personal data. Google Glass is just one more reason to not only check your privacy settings on all your social networks, but a reminder to keep photos and personal data as concealed as possible.

Steve Lee, director of product management for Google Glass, addressed concerns by many and shared, “We’ve consistently said that we won’t add new face recognition features to our services unless we have strong privacy protections in place.” As far as I can understand, those protections mean that you will have to personally tweak your information profile for each app, similar to the opt-out policies for certain public data bases. We will see.

The developers of NameTag say that their facial-recognition software will make the world a much more connected place, but I translate that as giving the ability to stalkers to link to instant contact information, such as social media profiles, interests, hobbies, passions, and clues to your likely whereabouts.

Considering where this might take us

A New York Times article suggests that Google Glass will allow users to record things (both video and audio) without the need to whip out a more obvious cell phone. Then there is the safety component (think driving or even walking).

“This is just the beginning,” said Timothy Toohey, a Los Angeles lawyer specializing in privacy issues. “Google Glass is going to cause quite a brawl.

“We are all now going to be both the paparazzi and the paparazzi’s target,” said Karen L. Stevenson, a lawyer with Buchalter Nemer in Los Angeles.

A stalker’s paradise

Developers of facial recognition technology are also working to enable the scanning of profile photos from dating sites such as, and So long as you are a member with a public profile, you are fair game! On the plus side, facial recognition technology could also allow users to match faces against the more than 450,000 entries in the National Sex Offender Registry and other criminal databases.

So, in the future, if you ever fall for a pick-up line, you’ll be ready to immediately cross-reference the source. And you thought you were already well-connected!

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.

The Big Debate: When Will My Daughter Get Her Own Phone?

By Stacey Ross

Have you ever been on the fence about something and your kid can sniff out your slightest vulnerability and at just the most opportune time pop it to ya? Then your well-intentioned chitchat that you presume you can wrap up in a bow in less than ten minutes turns into a family affair that lasts for two hours and twenty-five minutes – and is to be continued!

Has the topic-at-hand centered around your kiddo getting his or her own phone before you think he or she is ready for such a big step? Phew, then I am not alone!

But Mom, everyone has one!

We, as parents, often have an internal dialogue: our “permissive parent” voice (as long as the kids are happy) vs. our “authoritarian parent” voice (“Because I said so, is why; end of story!”). And sometimes the most difficult role to assume is standing our ground firmly and mustering up something like, “I realize that you think everyone else has one, but the reality is that my decision is not going to change based on what ‘everyone else’ is doing, but we will re-evaluate as time progresses.” Not too harsh, not too soft, just right – at least for starters!

A helpful exercise

I decided to try that hat on in a very methodical, yet open way in the form of an exercise this past week. My eleven-year-old is over-the-top eager to have her own phone, but merely a phone on-hand for emergency calls won’t cut it.

It is important to note a little background 411 here:  I drop my kid off at school daily, pick her up, and personally take her to all her extra-curricular events, classes, recitals and tournaments (along with her brother, who is just happy with a Rainbow Loom, but I digress…). She has a landline nearby whenever I am not present, which translates into supervising adults, as well. But back to the exercise…

It gets a kid thinking about her needs vs. wants and clearly reveals her level of maturity in the process (a prerequisite for the privilege at-hand). It empowers the kid by indirectly having her grasp the reality that she needs to reflect on your parental values and ultimate make the decision herself. (Yes, it’s manipulative but effective!)

So I asked my girl to write five attributes that a kid should possess and regularly demonstrate in order for her parents to consider getting her a phone. I can almost guarantee you that, unless there is a very viable need for one, most kids will overemphasize their reasons for their wanting rather than needing a phone. What also might come out in the wash is the reality that they already have those features on their tablets, iPods or home computers.

The road to a smartphone

In our situation, it comes down to our girl’s desire to have a way to remotely communicate with her buddies in between school and pick-up and in between her homework time and her sports or dance activities, where she will most likely see them anyway. She wants to have all the “cool” apps and phone and texting abilities, and the ability to take photos and videos at the drop of a hat. Rite of passage to some, an earned privilege for others! After going over her list, I wrote a new list using her and my ideas, emphasizing that the number one reason to get a phone is when she truly needs one! I posted it on the magnetic board in the kitchen:

1. Our family needs/wants you to have access to us and your closest friends and family members.

2. We have an affordable plan.

3. Your phone features will be age-appropriate. (Access to social media, texting friends, data plan, etc. will all evolve over time). So long as you are a kid, your phone will have filters and monitors, so your parents will be aware of everything you send out and receive.

4. You have proven your responsibility around the house. (Trust, respect and maturity help earn such a great privilege).

5. You demonstrate to us that your life is enhanced by having access to such a privilege.

Ah…. um…. we have some ways to go!

All in due time

Presently, I am okay if my kid has to wait an extra five minutes when I am picking her up from dance without the need to call to check where I am. What a good exercise it is to go to the school office if she forgets her lunch at home! What if she has to deal with the consequences of her forgetfulness without having Mommy make everything better?

The first year of middle school is not the most opportune time to bring on yet another responsibility, at least in my girl’s scenario. To have instant access to a video game fix on-the-go, or to remotely pass notes all day hardly builds character! I know what a distraction my phone can be, but I have come to depend on it like a personal assistant. Somehow, I have come to need my phone to remind me to stay on a task that interestingly enough the same contraption lures me away from!

“But what about when we get separated in the shopping isles, Mom? Or remember that time at the school fair when you couldn’t find me? And a lot of my friends have Instagram and just change their names…” Again, a little bit of creative problem solving can go a long way without having a parent there to rescue the kids at any given moment. Ironically, these little gadgets don’t always encourage kids to become more independent; rather, they have the tendency to foster more dependence!

No matter how you slice it, I want this stage of my girl’s young life to not be centered around the seductions of the smartphone. As it is, I am quite aware that we parents, despite our great intentions, are not really aware of all that our kids are up to with their little mini-computers and texting devices. A couple of years from now we will see a shift in privileges, responsibilities and trust, but frankly, kids running around with access to all they have scares me. Kids are presumed trustworthy far, far, far too early on, and that is about all I am going to leak on that Wrecking Ball note (oops!).

As much as I realize that my girl wishes to feel the joy of fitting in and experiencing the gratification of texting and calling her friends up while she is in route to this or that event, or feeling “in” because after class she can search the net for her school projects or personal interests, or take lovely pre-teen selfies while she waits for me to pick her up after soccer, I remind myself that those are the precise things that I want her doing in front of an adult and on our terms. Like training wheels.

Ah, the joys of parenting in the age of tech! Sometimes the “No, and that’s my final answer!” approach seems far more simple. What say you?

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.

Digital Solutions for Helping Overweight Kids

by Stacey Ross

In today’s culture, instant gratification is the name of the game, although that is often perceived as a negative thing. However, in the area of fitness, nutrition and general health, instant access to technology can be a huge blessing!

With this in mind, I have tapped into the resources provided by nationally-regarded fitness expert and children’s health advocate Kelli Calabrese, who highlights digital resources that encourage positive lifestyle changes for children who struggle with weight issues. The following are just a few of her recommendations:

Internet Calculators

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a reliable indicator of body fat levels for most children and teens, and serves as an easy-to-perform method of screening for weight categories that could pose health concerns. A BMI calculator for children and teens ages 2-19 years-old can be located at the Centers for Disease Control web site. The Healthy Eating Calculator developed by Baylor College of Medicine is another useful tool. It calculates how many calories a child needs each day, based on height, weight, and physical activity.


A noteworthy eBook is the award-winning fictional children’s story Making Healthy Choices—A Story to Inspire Fit, Weight-Wise Kids. Available in both a boys’ and girls’ edition, it is identical to its paperback version, and includes a bonus recipe section only available with the eBook. The story helps overweight kids get on track health-wise, and motivates healthy kids to better relate to peers currently struggling with a weight problem. Good stuff!


Searching for apps to help kids eat healthful foods and get active? One app called Child Obesity Guide provides caregivers with assessment and planning tools that include chapters on “How to Diagnose Obesity,” “Meal Planning,” and “Using Labels to Eat Healthy.” Targeted towards a younger audience, another app titled Nutrition and Healthy Eating provides three fun, science-based learning games for preschoolers and kindergarteners. Kids learn how to ID different foods and how to create well-balanced meals for a penguin’s birthday party!

Interactive Games

Education made fun is an ideal way to engage kids while they learn important information; and in this case the topic is health principles. Kidnetic, which is produced by Kraft Foods, is an awesome interactive Web site that is chock-full of cool games, scavenger hunts, challenges, and even a cool “Move Mixer” dance designer. The CDC’s BAM! Body and Mind web site also offers online games that teach kids about the body and mind.

Supportive Videos

One of the keys to a healthier lifestyle for kids is for parents to be part of the process right along with them. There are many helpful videos that center around childhood obesity that are both educational and informative to watch right along with your kids. One such initiative, spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama, provides inspirational documentaries that are full of great information. They showcase kids who have changed their lives for the better through good nutrition and fitness.

Everyone seems to be looking for a quick fix, but hopefully these resources can be part of the toolbox that offers positive experiences for children who are ready to embrace a change of lifestyle!

Distracted Parenting: Time to Put the Devices Down

By Stacey Ross

Distracted parenting.

Upon hearing that resonating phrase, I immediately stopped scrolling down my phone for a second (or even two) and had to check it out! While there are no conclusive studies linking the increase in reported childhood injuries to distracted parents using smartphones and other devices, there is a growing concern among doctors and social scientists over the tug-of-war parents feel between their parental obligations and the lure of technology.

Sherry Turkle, director of MIT’s Initiative on Technology and Self, has studied the effects of technology on children and parenting. “After five years and 300 interviews, she has found that feelings of hurt, jealousy and competition are widespread,” the New York Times reported. “Over and over, kids raised the same three examples of feeling hurt and not wanting to show it when their mom or dad would be on their devices instead of paying attention to them: at meals, during pickup after school or an extracurricular activity, and during sports events.”

The topic makes me want to press pause for a sec, because I can admit that my kids sometimes do regard my apparent connection to my smartphone as competition. I try and rationalize my habitual dependence on my smartphone, despite my inner voice saying “just put it away.”

But then there are times, as a work-at-home mom, that I truly need my kids to understand that mobile communication has been a game-changer, allowing me to earn an income while also effectively managing my kids’ busy schedules and being an accessible partner to my self-employed husband.

The safety issue

I am quite certain that in the heat of a good tweet or text, many of us have been sucked into some form of mesmerizing cyber vortex! I think as parents, however, that we can exercise a little self-restraint and determine when or if we are being neglectful or even downright rude.

I think that whether or not we are drawn into the novelty of all the bells and whistles and wall updates, we are all smart to consider prioritizing being courteous to our present company and, most importantly, attentive to our primary obligations, namely our children. Remember, multi-tasking is a myth!

It is always smart to feel out the situation before we whip out our devices at family gatherings, play dates, meetings, etc. I am sure we would all agree that by giving small kids our full attention (or taking turns with other adults), we will help insure their safety and foster a greater sense of well-being.

Chelsea Gladden of succinctly shares that as parents we are smart to catch ourselves and get real with our kids: “Make a big hoopla with your child by saying, ‘Mommy is turning off her cell phone and putting it away until after our special play time.’ This will boost your child’s sense of self and self-esteem. We, children and adults, all want the same thing – to be seen, acknowledged, validated, and accepted, flaws and all!”

5 Topics You Might Think Twice About Before Posting Online

By Stacey Ross

It is said that the best way to avoid problems is to learn from others who learned the hard way, and, what better place than Facebook to gain wisdom in order to spare yourself future grief? Over the years, I have seen some scenarios develop on Facebook that had me wondering if I was being “punked”, or if those who had posted had given any thought to the implications of their messages!

The following five areas are worth considering as sacred ground in regards to how vocal one might be, not just on Facebook but elsewhere online as well. I have been called a party pooper more than once in my lifetime, so feel free to keep it going if you must. (I can handle it!)

Your relationship status

I think that not publishing a relationship status is a smart move for many (particularly for young people or children). If your single status is something you wish to be part of your online identity, then perhaps refrain from making changes immediately after a relationship ends or prematurely changing it to spite someone when it does. I am not going to go so far as to advise everyone to not share your love interest’s name, but if you are not looking to marry or get engaged any time soon, I think it is a great idea to save future heartaches and drama and pass on declaring exclusivity.

Your partying habits

Employers and school officials look at your online habits, so unless you have a guaranteed job for life or are independently wealthy, it is extremely important to consider what you (and your kids!) post, and refrain from discussing or sharing racy or dicey topics and photos. References to drug use, alcohol consumption, sexuality, criminal activity, religion and politics are all areas that can quickly lead to sticky situations.

Your personal drama

Our online culture encourages young adults to be open books. “Transparency” leads to juicy conversation, leading to more eyeballs and more profit. But be careful to not get too heated, as it can quickly backfire! Trust a mama! If you turn your world into a reality show, it can have a very limited shelf life but a long-lasting footprint. Always ask yourself what you are aiming for when you post. What is the main drive that propels your online efforts? Might it backfire?

Your whereabouts

There are so many perspectives on this but I – as a woman and mom – have a growing discomfort about sharing my whereabouts in real time when: at least one adult is not at our residence; I am not with a group of people; we are on a family trip; or the information adds an unnecessary risk factor (e.g. parents “checking in” to their kids’ pre-schools or their banks). I typically post after events are over, and that serves me just fine!

Personal data

Posting photos of children and/or places of residence, or tagging names or leaving traces of an address, can be considered risky behavior. It’s also advisable to refrain from sharing one’s full name, birthday and birth year for obvious security reasons.

Also, it is good to preview photos that might reveal more than you intended. (Credit cards, notes on a wall, a home address, a house layout, etc.) Photos to avoid include those that reveal where your kids go to school, photos of them bathing, and photos that they or others have requested you not share!

The area that I am most sensitive about might be considered overboard by today’s standards but I do not share my kids’ photos and personal lives online, unless a story can be told using the backs of their heads and their stage names! It can be challenging but, hey, I am still around!

What areas concern you or heighten your online sensitivities? Do share!

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.