Glued to the Phone

Glued to the Phone

Social media and the Internet are discussed, utilized, and examined by most children, teens, and adults on a daily basis.  According to the Pew Research Center (2015), 92% of teens go online daily and 71% of teens use more than one social media or networking site.

Studies also show that girls spend more time on social media sites, whereas boys spend more time playing video games. It is important to note that smartphones allow children and teens easy and almost instant access to the Internet and social media sites.

Many grandparents, parents, and guardians are active on social media, whereas others know very little about different apps, websites, and associated terminology. There are many steps parents can take to help increase their child’s safety online. Researchers suggest parents start by talking to their children about social media.

Some important points for parents to make include:

  • Not everything you see or read online is true
  • Only accept friend or follower requests from people you actually know
  • People may not be who they say they are
  • Once you put something online it can never be permanently erased
  • Be kind – cyberbullying does exist
  • Think before you post – talk about consequences of potential actions
  • Parents have the right to look at their child or teen’s social media site
  • Limit what you share

Parents should also develop a list of clear, concise rules, boundaries, and expectations for their child on the Internet. These rules might include not posting anything the child wouldn’t want his or her parent to see or read, or the parent having the right to look at the child’s page or app on a regular basis.

As previously mentioned, because many children and teenagers have smartphones, accessing social media sites can be done almost anywhere. If kids do not have cell phones and there is a computer in the home, parents should put the computer in a common area where they can monitor the child’s activity.

Parents are also encouraged to structure the time their child spends on the Internet. This may vary based on the child or teenager’s age, but having specific times designated for phone or Internet use can improve productivity, increase communication in the home, and improve relationships and quality time spent as a family. Parents can also use phone time as a reward for positive behavior choices or completion of desired tasks.

Bedtime should be a “no phone time” when phones are placed in a common area to be changed or turned off. Sleep is crucial for children and teens, and social media can decrease the quality and amount of sleep if technology is not monitored.

Though it may be challenging, it is important for parents to model the behaviors they desire for their children. If mom or dad is on the phone at the dinner table, the child will likely not understand why his or her phone has to remain elsewhere.

Children and teens imitate their parents’ behaviors. Parents may want to create an account, profile, or page on different social media sites so they can better understand the apps their children are spending time on and monitor their activity.

Some of the most common apps are Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, Vine, and Kik. Some apps allow the user to remain anonymous which often leads to cyberbullying and cruel words being exchanged and posted.

Parents should be aware of this and talk to their child or teen about the implications of this feature. Additionally, on some sites, users can choose who is able to see what information; therefore, a child could be friends with a parent on Facebook but not allow the parent to see certain information or material.

Having an open, honest relationship and communication with your child is the best way to ensure that you know what sites or apps he or she is on and how he or she uses them. Some teenagers post about their current struggles on social media hoping for feedback from peers and strangers.

If parents are on social media and know what’s going on with their child, they can initiate healthy conversations or get their child professional help if needed. Some teens turn to social media in search of friends. Meeting and communicating with friends online can make a child or teen feel wanted or important. Unfortunately, the child’s social skills, which are imperative for healthy functioning, are not addressed or improved upon. Encourage kids and teens to talk about and face their problems rather than Facebook them.

The following links provide helpful information for parents, children, and teens regarding ways to adjust privacy settings so that strangers cannot view you or your child’s social media profile or page:

Privacy Settings on Facebook

Modify Privacy Settings on Twitter

Control Visibility on Instagram 

Make Your Tumblr Private for a comprehensive site where you can update all your accounts (

There is also filtering and monitoring software and parental controls which parents can use to increase Internet safety.

The Value of Practice

The Value of Practice

Practice makes perfect … well, maybe not quite perfect, but it sure helps! You wouldn’t send your child into a soccer game, tennis match, or ballet recital without first learning the skills of the game or rehearsing the part.

Similarly, it is important to remember not to expect a child knows how to behave appropriately or use calm (not fearful) behavior for new or difficult situations, especially those that he or she has not encountered before or not previously performed well in.

The solution: Practice! One of the best ways to reduce negative or unwanted behaviors is to role-play or practice appropriate behaviors in advance when the situation is less threatening.

Prior to actually attempting the real situation, “practicing” getting into a car seat, saying hello to a neighbor, riding in a grocery cart, eating in a restaurant, demonstrating good sportsmanship in a game, or even making a mistake can give a child a script for what is supposed to happen and how to react. This can in turn build confidence.

Practice can also be fun and creative and feel more like a game than a requirement. The key is that it occurs before the actual situation and the child knows that it is happening; therefore, pressure for performance is reduced.

An incentive may also be a good idea (based on participation and appropriate behavior) to make practices more enticing. So the next time that something feels difficult or does not go as planned, take the pressure off and practice first before you play.

Helping Children Believe They Can Succeed

Helping Children Believe They Can Succeed

Every parent hopes that their child will be successful, that they will be able to deal with difficult or challenging situations with confidence, and that they will be able to meet challenges head on and learn from both successes and failures. To do this, a child must have a good sense of self-efficacy.

What is self-efficacy?

Self-efficacy is the belief that you have the abilities to reach a goal or outcome and to succeed in their efforts. It is different from self-confidence, though closely related. While self-confidence is feeling good about yourself, self-efficacy is believing you have the ability to succeed. In fact, self-efficacy is one way to build self-confidence- learning what your strengths are and believing that you can succeed can help you to feel good about yourself.

What influences self-efficacy?

Albert Bandura, the psychologist who first coined the term “self-efficacy,” described four main factors that determine a person’s beliefs about their skills and abilities to succeed:

  • Direct Experiences: How successful we are at a task impacts self-efficacy. One of the best ways to develop self-efficacy is succeeding. On the other hand, failing at a task can contribute to low self-efficacy, decreasing your confidence in similar tasks. For example, a child who studies and performs well on a test will likely feel confident about the test the next time, while a child who studies and performs poorly on a test will feel less confident about similar tests in the future.
  • Observed Experiences: Seeing others succeed or fail can impact self-efficacy, as we tend to compare ourselves and our abilities to those of others. Seeing someone similar to us succeed shows us what we might be able to achieve, while seeing someone similar to us fail may cause us to doubt our own abilities.
  • Feedback from others: Feedback about our performance, whether positive or negative, impacts our beliefs about our abilities. Positive encouragement from others can persuade us that we have what it takes to succeed and achieve. However, negative comments from others can make us doubt our abilities and whether we have what it takes. Negative feedback and comments generally are more powerful than positive feedback and encouragement.
  • Bodily Response: It is normal to feel “butterflies” in the stomach or other bodily sensations when faced with a challenge or task. However, some people mistake these normal, natural feelings for incompetence or as a sign that they are not prepared and lack the ability to succeed, and this causes a decrease in self-efficacy. On the other hand, pushing through these feelings and sensations and putting a positive spin on them can maintain current or increase self-efficacy.

Why is self-efficacy important?

Self-efficacy shapes self-confidence and motivation, which are highly related to performance and achievement. One study found that a child’s self-efficacy predicts their academic success and achievement as much as their overall intelligence and cognitive abilities. Someone with low self-efficacy may try to avoid difficult or challenging activities, may give up easily or not try hard on things they feel they are “not good at,” tend to focus on failures, quickly lose confidence in themselves, and may be more negative and anxious about performance.

These are the children who say “I’m not good at that” before attempting the assignment or test, or the children who immediately stop when they encounter an unfamiliar or challenging problem. Often times, these children struggle to achieve in school. On the other hand, someone with higher self-efficacy views tasks as a challenge to master, becomes more involved and interested in the tasks, recovers more quickly from failure, and displays more effort and motivation. These are the children who work hard on assignments and studying, are excited about learning, and persevere even when assignments are difficult or challenging.

How can I help my child develop self-efficacy?

  • Provide mastery experiences: Start with a simple task and help your child succeed in that. Then, once the simple task has been mastered, increase the difficulties and demands of the task, with the idea that as the child succeeds on more and more difficult tasks, they develop a sense of mastery and the belief that they can achieve and succeed.
  • Teach goal setting: Help your child learn to set realistic goals, as well as make a plan as to how they will reach those goals, including thinking about how to handle challenges that may get in the way.
  • Praise effort: Rather than just praising your child for successes (e.g., a good test grade or scoring a goal in a game), also praise them for trying their hardest and persevering. Give specific praise about their effort, saying things like “You worked so hard on that project” or “I really like how you stuck with this, even though it was difficult.”
  • Allow failure: Many times, when children fail, it is tempting to either ignore the failure completely, or become overly critical of the failure. Instead, help the child identify the reasons for the failure, as well as specific talents, skills, or strengths he or she can use next time when faced with a similar situation.
  • Celebrate success: When your child succeeds, acknowledge it! Help them recognize their success and reasons for their success, by giving them specific praise and helping them to identify their strengths.
  • Stand up to negativity: When your child expresses a thought like “I can’t do this” or “I’m not good at that,” help them identify this as a negative thought and challenge their statements. Then, help them come up with a positive or neutral statement to replace the negative thought. For example, you could replace the thoughts of “I can’t do this” with “This will be hard, but I will try my best.”
A True Vacation

A True Vacation

Summer has finally arrived and the much-anticipated family beach trip begins today. It’s approximately 8:00 am because if we’re not at the beach shortly after noon, well…that’s not going to go well. One sibling won’t get out of bed and the other has waited until this morning to pack a week’s worth of clothing in an old grocery bag.

Mom is getting ready and Dad is pacing in the driveway trying to figure out the perfect way to arrange each of the 10+ bags and suitcases in the back of the car. Tension is building as the 8:15 am departure time approaches and half of the family has not been seen since they went to bed the night before.

Twenty minutes later we are miraculously in the car and thankful that dad will not be frantically running us through security at the airport because we only have a short, easy, speeding-ticket-filled, “how much longer,” “slow down, honey” drive to the beach.

By definition, a vacation is “a period of time that a person spends away from home, school, or business usually in order to relax or travel.” However, in reality, it seems that vacations often lose the ability to give parents or children the time they need to relax in a world full of cell phones, busy schedules, and unique family dynamics.

Research shows that vacation provides many mental, emotional, and physical benefits to individuals. Vacation time increases productivity and decreases burnout when returning to work. Vacations increase energy levels, improve mood, decrease stress, and improve overall life satisfaction upon returning to work.

Vacations provide an opportunity to rest and recuperate, particularly from chronic stress, which can negatively impact an individual’s health and well-being. Research also suggests that when individuals come back from time off, they feel healthier and have fewer physical complaints. With this in mind, it seems that we should all be begging for more vacation time.

However, a study in 2014 found that working adults in the United States only took 51% of the vacation days they were allotted. Some might find this crazy, whereas others understand the stress and heavy workloads they are leaving behind at the office. In 2014, 61% of American workers reported working while on vacation.

For some, a cell phone or laptop can mean that the stress and workload aren’t left behind, but brought with them… in that case, is a vacation really a vacation? It is important for a vacation not just to be time spent outside of the office, but time away from work as well.

Growing up, vacation time was strictly vacation for my family and rarely was there work being done. Granted, email and cell phones were not nearly as prominent as they are today.

Sometimes, however, there is other “work”, such as ensuring that family members are getting along, lathering sunscreen on the kids, trips to the grocery store, deciding where to eat dinner, or what matching outfits the kids are going to wear that night.  Even though a vacation is meant for fun, relaxation, and quality family time, we often focus on the check list rather than making memories.

My fondest memories growing up are from family vacations – going on new adventures, funny stories and experiences, pictures that will be treasured for a lifetime, and stepping away from daily routines. I’ll always remember the pure bliss of body surfing and boogie boarding at the beach.

Vacations truly are the best times if we allow ourselves to step back, let go, and laugh when things don’t go perfectly. I would encourage you to think of ways to ensure that this summer’s vacation is truly a time of decreased stress, more quality time with family and friends, and FUN. Happy summer!

Hearing the Quiet as a Parent

Hearing the Quiet as a Parent

Learn to hear the quiet, rather than the squeaky wheel:

Paying attention to positive behavior as a parent

The squeaky wheel gets the oil. That’s how the saying goes.

Unfortunately, especially in our busy and chaotic everyday lives, it is often the case that what gets noticed with our children is the negative behavior, the problem, when something goes wrong. Whatever it is that we do not want to see our children do, we notice immediately, and it becomes the screaming noise that feels as if it has to be instantly rectified.  

We jump to action. “No! Don’t touch your sister.” “Stop beating on the table.” “Stop wiggling” “You’re not paying attention.” And then, in the quiet moments, when things are going well, we tend to be quiet ourselves, relishing in the smooth sailing.  

What behavior theorists and savvy parents alike have come to understand is that our natural response, the process of focusing significant attention toward negative behaviors rather than positives, can actually increase rather than decrease the problem, creating a daunting negative cycle where parents reprimand, kids respond negatively, and parents reprimand some more.

So, in direct competition with what your instincts tell you to do, try noticing the quiet, praising the opposite (of what you do not want), and telling your child, in very specific terms, what he or she is doing well. It sounds simple enough, but can actually be a difficult feat.

Set a goal of praising at least 10 positive actions (or potentially lack of negative actions) that you notice in your child each day – that’s 10 things that he or she is doing well, 10 behaviors that you want to see.

  • “I love how you are sitting quietly at the table.”
  • “It helped me so much when you emptied the dishwasher.”
  • “You followed that direction so quickly!”
  • “You really played well today with your sister.”
  • “It was great to see you keep your hands to yourself when you got mad.”

Shifting the focus from what’s going wrong to what’s going right can make a remarkable difference in your perspective of your child as well as how your child responds to you.