#Memories and Send an Email

A friend gave me a fantastic idea the other day for any of you who like me, developed an aversion to baby books after the first child. I tried really, really hard with the second, but it turned into more of a scrapbook of photos. It was non-existent by Kid #3, just a collection of pediatrician reports and the occasional random memento tossed into a folder to follow him around. And photos. Lots of photos, all diligently filed on Facebook under “Mobile Uploads.”

Yeah, I am that bad.

We were talking, though, about the funny things kids say, and trying to remember them all in the absence of a baby book. My method is to record them on Facebook (when I remember to so so), hashtagging them “truisms,” since my son’s name is Truitt. If you search on Facebook for #truisms, a fair number will pop up, many of them dedicated to my lovely child. One of our most recent is this number: Continue reading

Snapchat Education

“Facebook is for old people now Mom!” And so the wheel of social media turns, turns, turns. Chances are if your child is in middle school or junior high, they are entering the arena of social media at full force.

I have a little age span with my children. My oldest who is a senior in high school is well-versed in Snapchat as well as my sophomore. My fourteen year old son could care less because he feels like that is just one more way for girls to annoy him (he broke up with his last little girlfriend because she was constantly texting him). My middle, I must confess, started using the app without my knowledge and I panicked because I really had very little grasp on the app.

I sat down with my almost eighteen year old to learn how to work the app myself. Frankly, even after my coaching lesson, I find it confusing. It requires multi-tasking finger dexterity well beyond my mom-speed.

The basics of Snapchat, in case you are out of the loop, I find a little ironic. The creator, Evan Spiegel intended to create a service that gave more privacy than Facebook or Instagram for photo sharing between friends. Guess what this means? It is harder for you as a parent to monitor what your children are sharing. Sure you can demand they allow you to follow them, but they will still have the ability to send photos to their friends and those will almost certainly not include you Mom and Dad.

The Snapchat app is not intended for users under the age of 13. If you go to download it in the ITunes store, it is rated 12+, so you can actually use your ITunes downloading restrictions to keep your younger child from downloading the app to their device. However, all the child has to do is put in a different year of birth and ta da, if you have no ITunes restrictions–they have just obtained Snapchat. There is actually a SnapKidz app designed by Snapchat for younger kids. This allows them to take pictures, add drawings and captions but they cannot add friends or message the photos or videos anywhere. You can let them have this as an alternative, but chances are not having the ability to send (which is probably why they wanted it in the first place) will not pacify their requests.

Snapchat allows users to send photos or short videos that “self-destruct” after a time period from being viewed, generally ten seconds. You have to hold down on the photo or video to view it. This often gives kids a false sense of security. The “self-destruct” only removes the picture from the Snapchat app, but both Android and iPhone allow users to screen shot a photograph, so there is absolutely no chance of these pictures always being one and done. Snapchat tried to include a feature that alerts the sender if their “snap” was screen shot, but according to my daughter that is a hit or miss notification.

Users are able to create groups of approved followers to view a certain photo/video or they can create a Snapchat story that is visible to all their followers. Users should always set their privacy settings so that ONLY people they know can send them images so it is not exactly wide open to the public. This is found under settings. Change the option from “everyone” to “my friends.” I have found that unlike Instagram, at least with my crew, they really only interact with their friends on Snapchat. They can snap a picture of their food, make a silly face and draw on it before sending, or update their squad on their current activities.

Here is what you absolutely need to know about Snapchat if you are a user or a parent:

Friends ONLY

This absolutely has to be a discussion between pre/teens and parents. Limit your pictures to friends that you trust. I also think it is extremely important to understand that preteen and teenage friendships are like rear view mirrors and not always what they appear to be. A friend today can easily be an enemy tomorrow. The safest thing you can do is limit your posts to your closest friends. You need to trust but verify this often with your kids. Sit down with them and ask them to show you their Snapchat in the least threatening way possible so you can use this to engage in conversation.

Watch What You Send

As with any post you make on the internet, even if you decide to go back and delete it at a later date, there is a chance it is still out there. It can be tempting to think you can send that risky picture to your boyfriend or even use a photo to poke fun at someone you do not like, but those can come back to haunt you down the road. Stay classy!

It’s Your Future

Colleges and employers are spending more time singling out candidates by viewing their online activities. If having your boss, college admissions representative, or grandmother view the photo would make you embarrassed then just DO NOT SEND IT. You may find it hard to snag that summer job at the clothing store doing customer service, if there is a photograph of you out there trying to be funny and flipping someone the proverbial bird. Hard to say you work well with others, if this is the image you either intentionally or unintentionally put out to the world.

Block Users

There is ability in Snapchat to block someone from sending you messages. If someone bullies you or your child, use the privacy settings and stop the ability of them to send you messages. Snapchat actually alerts the sender when their snap has been viewed. If you block a bully and never view their snap hopefully they will lose their steam in trying to attack this way. Ignore their advances. To do this find their name in your list of friends, click and hold the name and it will bring up icons. The settings icon looks like a gear you click that and hit block. That “friend” can no longer send you photos or videos.

As with all social media use, you absolutely have to have ongoing conversations with your growing tweens and teens about internet safety. Constantly discuss the possible consequences of oversharing which can be very real and have very long lasting impact. If you want to stay in the know, there is a great website for parents www.bewebsmart.com that provides a wealth of information for navigating social media apps with your children. Talk now and talk often.

True Colors

 I don’t know about you guys, but I find it so difficult to write when Fall TV starts back up.

Let’s be honest: I find it difficult to do anything except sit on the couch, eat the occasional spoonful of chocolate chip cookie dough, and breathe.

I just watched a 15 year-old slay the judges on The Voice. This girl was amazing!

I do attempt to mother during this time, but it’s hard. Fall is just so…transitional. In my opinion, you really have to take a few minutes or hours and savor the pumpkins. The porch pumpkins. Reese’s peanut butter pumpkins. Pumpkin spice lattes.

But that’s not why I wanted to write this post. Jordan Smith is why I wanted to write this post. This is Jordan Smith:

Jordan sang “Chandelier,” and did so beautifully, but it wasn’t even his talent that compelled this. It was his message.

Jordan is from Harlan, Kentucky, but he does not, as Gwen Stefani put it, “look like his voice.” He has a fairly feminine voice, and a unique appearance. As Jordan says, he “is now, but he hasn’t always been the coolest person.” Through the trials of being different–aka, being called “ma’am” at the drive-thru and on the phone, Jordan learned that “being different was actually what made me special. It’s my gift. This, for me, is just an amazing opportunity to share that it’s okay to be different, that you’re made that way, and that’s how God intended you to be.”

YASSS! This is such an important truth to learn when you’re young, and (if you’re a parent) to help your kids internalize when they’re young. Everyone is so concerned about fitting in–if truth be told, even as adults. I am personally more concerned with presenting the most authentic picture of myself that exists to the world.  If I am not happy and excited, it’s okay to have sad eyes or an unsmiling mouth. If I don’t agree with something, I don’t have to fake it. If I do not want to do something, I’m not required to say yes. I don’t have to be rude about it…I just don’t have to pretend to be anything that I’m not.

Life’s too short for that. I want Cyndi Lauper to see my true colors.

On Generational Thigh Gaps

Jamie and I had the pleasure of working with a wonderful young writer this past summer when we wrote and edited briefly for a sports and entertainment start-up. Ava Winckler is a fabulous writer currently living her dream in Chicago, IL (although she will always be a former Virginian), and former VCU student. We are thrilled to have her guest posting for us today on the subject of body image. Thanks, Ava! 

Recently, I was hunting for a new fall wardrobe. I try to keep up on current trends as much as my post-college budget will allow, but I still don’t understand concepts like ankle boots and ponchos. As I was trying on my umpteenth pair of stone washed, distressed, boot cut, boyfriend, vintage jeans, I could hear a girl in the dressing room beside me sighing. We all know that sigh: the one where you immediately regret your decision to try on whatever was on the mannequin.

“I hate these pants! You can’t see my thigh gap!” a stressed teenager yelled to her patiently waiting mother.

Her mom, who was fading fast and trying to feign interest in what her daughter bought with her money, sighed. “I have no idea what a thigh gap even is.”

The girl in dressing room explained, “It’s that space between your legs that’s open.”

The girl’s mom was audibly shocked. “NO PART OF YOUR LEGS NEEDS TO BE OPEN!”

In my dressing room, I stifled my laughter in a huge sweater I was modeling and made a mental note to remember the conversation for future comedic relief. I love generational (thigh) gaps.

When I was in high school, I don’t remember “thigh gaps” being a thing we worried about. The mid-2000s were much more about glowing tans, perky boobs, and looking like Paris Hilton. (I’m sure we all realize that was a mistake.) Although I wasn’t concerned about my thighs repelling each other, I recall being in dressing rooms and hating the fact I was five-foot-nothing with horrendous acne. I had the same sigh as that girl when I couldn’t fill out a baby doll top and wasn’t blessed with the ability to wear pastels without looking seven. Eventually, I came to the realization I would never be like the women who I saw on television and in magazines and millions of other women were more like me than those who were in the surrounding media. Because of the fairly new wave of body positivity, I foolishly thought people younger than me had an easier time accepting themselves. I’m sure the mother in the above situation had the same mindset before she had a daughter who brought up those feelings from when she was younger.

Looking back on the exchange I overheard, I’ve come to some conclusions. We’ve come a long way in trying to be comfortable with ourselves, but the cycle of wanting to emulate those we find attractive is ever changing; accepting how you look doesn’t mean there isn’t an everlasting issue with the portrayal of beauty in the modern world. We’ll never be able to fully get rid of the pressure of wanting to be perfect, but we can try to ease the stress by being understanding and remembering what it is like to be on the other side of acceptance, where many teenagers reside.

So, to the girl who couldn’t see her “gap”: neither can I, but it’s going to be okay. And to all the teens out there worried about the next new thing and how to be that perfect person: Paris Hilton wasn’t forever, and neither is whoever is next.

Unless it’s Meryl Streep or Audrey Hepburn. Class like that lasts forever.

Instagram Safety and Tweens

“Mom can I please have an Instagram? All my friends have one!”

And if your child is anything like my relentlessly spirited middle-schooler then you will hear those pleas more than eleventeen thousand times. While exposure is happening at younger ages each year, around middle school is when the begging often begins to allow them to have an Instagram.

As a parent, I have chosen to allow Instagram for my children. Tweens and teens are so social media savvy and connected these days. I do feel there are things that absolutely have to be discussed and monitored when your child enters this social network. The best thing you can do as a parent is educate yourself on how the app works and then decide how you are going to monitor your child’s activities.

First thing to consider is Instagram actually has an age limit for usage of at least 13 years old. However, with a parent’s permission many kids are on much younger. Ironically, nowhere when you go through the set up process does the app ever ask for your date of birth.

Second step is privacy. You have an option to set the account to Private Account or Public Account. If you click on the settings wheel in the upper right hand corner shown in the picture below you access these settings. Under options there is a tab for private account, if you swipe the circle to the right it will make the account private. What does that mean exactly?

a pic 2 edited

The bio and profile picture of any and every account is always public. There is no way to change that. But, by marking the account to private, your posts are not public and only accepted followers can view the photographs. The above image is our blog Instagram, as you can see the private is turned off. Swipe right to turn this setting on.

Since we are talking about followers, let me discuss. Kids often have these insane number of followers on Instagram. There is absolutely no way my children likely even know 2758 people. It almost seems a competition with them and if they do not have thousands of followers, they feel so uncool. I routinely sit down with my kids and sift through all the followers and delete people that they do not know. I can tell them a hundred times, only people you personally know, but their execution of that order is lacking.

Another privacy issue to discuss is when you go to the profile, there is an option to include your phone number-make sure your child does not give out their phone number to the world.

a pic 3 edited

Location sharing is a dangerous option on Instagram when children are managing it. The “add a photo map” option allows you to add a location to the photograph. It is very important as parents that kids are not giving out their location automatically when uploading a picture. It can narrow down to your exact location. Be sue this setting is off and do regular spot checks to make sure they are not including a location on their posts.

Beyond the security concerns, as a parent you really have to be engaged to ensure that their posts represent themselves. Kids do not understand the gravity of once it is out there, even if you delete it, it might very well be out there for years. Watch their comments and the comments of others. If you see something rude, mean or in any way a form of bullying, you really have to sit down with your child and teach them how to safely and use social media with class. 

From personal experience I will also tell you it can cause unintentional drama. My child is a social butterfly, if she is having a quiet weekend at home and watching what her friends are out doing…she starts to complain…a whole lot. I remind her I am not her personal cruise ship director and that not everyone is living it up every single day-Instagram is a snap shot. Not everyone can be invited to every event every single time. I also see this as a sign she needs a social media break. It’s easy to feel sad if all you see is what seems like everyone else having fun and you’re home cleaning your room.
Navigating parenting in the digital world comes with an entirely different set of rules, the most important things you can do is educate yourself, engage and monitor, and talk often about the rules and your expectations of them.