Technology + Kids: 12 Must Do’s To Keep Your Children Safe on Technology

IMG_4333Technology has become ubiquitous in our lives. We use it for work, to communicate, to connect with others, and to be entertained. The units are getting smaller, more portable and more accessible. My son’s iPad finds its way into his hands as often as possible. One minute we are having a conversation, the next that darn iPad or iTouch is the most engaging thing in his life. It happens in a second. So what are parents to do?

The first thing to remember is that the use of technology is not a right, rather it is a privilege. I highly suggest making that a mantra. Say it to yourself often. Know that those tech units are there to be used by us, not to control us – especially not our kids! There are too many pitfalls!

12 Must Do’s To Keep Your Children Safe on Technology

1. Give them access to social media judiciously. Only let your children get social media accounts that are age appropriate. Don’t just let them create accounts because their friends are. Ask yourself: “Are my kids ready for this type of engagement with others and technology?”

2. Become technology literate yourself. You need to know about social media sites, gaming sites, etc… so that you can support your child’s healthy use. The top ones for kids: texting, email, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Kik, YouTube, Vine, Pinterest, + Twitter. There are more. They keep changing too. If your kids have accounts on these social media channels you should too!

3. Educate your kids about appropriate internet/social media engagement. Create a contract or have a detailed discussion about what is appropriate behavior online. They need to understand that what they say on social media/internet is public and visible. You bet employers and colleges are getting on social media to see what perspective students/employees are, or have been, doing online.

4. Keep the computer in a common area. This is especially true for younger children, but if possible try to keep all technology use in a common area where you can keep an eye on their use.

5. Educate your children about internet/social media issues. The big ones are cyber-bullying, sexting, identity theft, and even pornography. If your children are online they are likely exposed to some of these issues – or they will be soon. These are so important to discuss before they experience them. Remind them it is essential they talk with you if they see/experience any of these internet/social media issues.

6. Have ALL login info for ALL your children’s accounts. I cannot say this strongly enough. They must give you all login information and let you know when something changes.  Internet/social media accounts are not a given, rather they are a privilege.

7. Monitor your children’s internet/social media use/accounts on a regular basis. Don’t just have an account on all social media channels that your kids are on. Monitor it very regularly. “Friend” and “Like” and “Comment” and “Engage” with your children and your children’s friends. And ask other parents to do the same. It takes a village! 

8. Bookmark your child’s favorite sites. For younger kids and older ones, work together with them to find their top sites and bookmark them. It seems simple, but then they are not constantly entering the names and possibly going to an unintended site.

9. Spend time together online. Just spend some time together online. You will get a sense of how they engage online and it’s just great to do something together. If you don’t know about social media sites ask them to give you a tour and show you how they are used. Let them be your teacher – very empowering!

10. Be aware and stay involved. Notice if your child’s mood is changing when they get online. If they removing themselves from the family to get online or feeling an urgency to get online as soon as they have access. This is where being engaged yourself is priceless!

11. Have a common area where you power technology – not your children’s bedrooms! This seems simple, but your kids need a break from technology. Identify a time they turn in their technology units and have power cords in a common area.

12. Make a technology contract. This can be a document you put together and then discuss with your whole family. How much time is it okay to spend online? What are the behavior expectations? How to handle login info. And so much more. About a year ago a mom created a contract for the iPhone she gave her son and it went viral. The iPhone Contract – This offers a great framework for creating your own a contract!

#boulder #technology #socialmedia #kids #safety

BVSD Offers Students/Employees Seriously Cheap Refurbished Computers!

BVSD is offering students and employees refurbished desktop PC’s for seriously discounted rates – $25 for students and $50 for employees. The Adopt-a-Computer program is about to close for the year. The last date to get one of these for your home is March 20, 2014! So if you need one, time to get on it!

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More info on the computers & the process of getting one here. It seems easy from what I read…

#technology #bvsd #families #students

Get Ready, Get Set: Screen Free Week Is Coming…


Screen Free Week is coming up, April 29 through May 5, 2013. This is the nationally organized week dedicated to getting us all to turn off electronics and commit to play, read, create, and get physically active!

But wait, how could we get along in this world without our multiple gadgets and screens? How many times do you find yourself just checking that last email as you are trying to rush your kids out the door? Let’s take this week and power down! Let’s roll model how to be present and unplug!

I was excited to hear that the City of Lafayette’s Bob Berger Recreation Center is offering kids K-12 a free week pass to the Rec Center if they register and commit to go screen free. More information and to register for the FREE REC CENTER WEEK PASS here.


Want more information on how to go screen free? Ideas for homes, schools, and communities can be found at or visit them on Facebook.

Movies for Kids: How Does a Parent Decide?

hollywood signRecently I have had a lot of discussions with other parents about movies what movies are appropriate for our kids. This is but a mere portion of the larger discussion on media and technology that we must address as parents. What is a parent to do? How do we make good decisions? We have to use Common Sense!

I will never forget the moment when I let my child who was WAY TOO YOUNG watch The Green Hornet. I let myself get swept away by another parent’s enthusiasm–and my son’s too. I did go with him and not a minute went by that I didn’t want to scoop him up and leave the theater. Maybe I should have. But I didn’t, and it did lead to some good discussions. But I vowed never [this word needs a loose interpretation] to go into another media situation without a better compass.

What I always find most confusing about movies is that the ratings don’t always make csm-logo-apr12sense. They especially don’t make sense if you are comparing a current movie rating with that of an older film. We have a general rule to not let our 3rd and 5th graders watch rated R movies, but some older ones are exempt and make it in the mix. We came to this rule because without a rule we were floating out there in media-land without any compass. Our kids fight it. But it just makes sense to us.

How do we make decisions about what movies our kids can watch? We use discussion with other parents we know we share values. We also lean heavily on Common Sense Media. This is a nonprofit organization that rates movies in a way that I can understand the content and underlying tone. They break things down so that I can ensure my kids aren’t getting the stuff we don’t want and get to watch shows with themes we can live with or are looking for. The break down includes rating by parents and kids in terms of how old kids should be to watch the film, the quality of the film, the overall message, positive role models, sex, violence, language, consumerism, & finally, drinking/drugs/smoking.

Here is an example from the movie, Chasing Mavericks, that we watched on our last family movie night:

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Common Sense Media gives us an opportunity to preview the movie and think about how we will talk about themes in the show that come up. Sometimes we do. Sometimes we just let the message speak for itself.

Where do you get the scoop on what to let your kids watch?

Pathways to Parenting Success Offers Free Talks About Important Topics to Boulder Families!

IMG_0171Take advantage of these! The Boulder Psychological Services offers some really incredible, free, lectures on essential parenting topics. Examples include:

  • Technology’s Impact on Child Socialization
  • Understanding and Dealing with Teen Depression
  • Stress Reduction
  • Understanding and Managing Sibling Rivalry
  • Family Communication
  • And lots, lots more!

There are relevant topics for every family and situation! Even if your child isn’t a teen yet, it’s never to soon to start thinking about what is coming up. If you have an infant you still might be interested in topics of stress reduction or understanding family communications.

I highly recommend taking advantage of these free discussions/lectures. They are led by experts in their fields and every one I have attended was worthwhile! You can get more information about upcoming events at Click on calendar on the left side to find the most complete list of upcoming events. 

Reaching Your Child In a World of Distractions

This is a re-post of a recent blog from  It is so poignant that I feel it needs to be spread far and wide and made available to as many families as possible. As the world opens to our children & technology creeps in in places you never suspected, the question remains loud and clear: How do we reach our children in a world full of distractions?

Thanks to Rachel of blog Hands Free Mama. She has been inspiring many people to make a shift and work on being present for their children. I am inspired by her. I hope you are too! Here it goes: 

At my very first “Hands Free” speaking engagement, a woman in attendance said her children were getting to the age where they just wanted to do their own thing. She felt that the older her children grew, the more difficult it was to find shared interests and spend time together.

Honestly, I didn’t know what to say. This concept of one’s children not being permanently attached to one’s side seemed completely foreign to me. I simply did not believe the day would come when I could use the restroom without a voyeur. I could not fathom the thought that my youngest child would one day resign from her duties as my fulltime bodyguard and actually let me out of her sight.

But here I am a year later and it’s happened. My daughters love to play together. And I am no longer needed nor invited. They set up the Barbie house and play for hours without any need for my creative storylines and juicy plot twists. They play school and inform me I am over the age limit to be a student. And when they log on to and starting talking gems, avatars, and dens, this technology-challenged parent might as well be invisible.

But I am all about being real in this space I call “Hands Free Mama,” so here’s some realness: When my kids are in their own little world, it’s quite tempting to go into mine. It’s tempting to pop open the laptop and knock out another chapter in my book, draft a new blog post, or even just pick up a delicious book I have been dying to read. While there is nothing wrong with any of these activities, nor is there anything wrong with my children playing by themselves, I can see how easy it would be to allow separate lives to become a way of life. I can see how easily the space between us could grow until the gap is so wide we can no longer reach one another.

What motivates me to get up from my keyboard and participate, even just as an observer in my children’s preferred activities, is the whole reason I started this “Hands Free” journey in the first place. I don’t want to look up at my children’s high school graduation ceremony and see a stranger walking across the stage.

It’s no secret that this type of parent-child estrangement can happen without warning. Furthermore, the realization that it has happened often comes too late. In fact, even before technology was a readily available distraction, many generations of parents have looked back on their child-rearing years and wish they had invested more time in their children’s lives.

This topic is addressed in a book entitled 30 Lessons for Living written by Karl Pillemer.  In this powerful book, Pillemer shares the priceless information he gleaned from older Americans—which he refers to as “experts” in the area of living an intentional, meaningful life. Interestingly, the elderly experts who didn’t have regret in this area had “creatively manufactured” shared time. This meant going along with their children’s interests whether the parent enjoyed these activities or not.

Pillemer shares this powerful observation: “The more I talked to the experts about child rearing, the clearer it became that the quality of relationships with the children is directly proportional to the amount of time spent together.”

I don’t need proof that spending time with my childrennow will likely result in a close relationship later, but it feels reassuring to know that the wisest Americans (through personal experience) confirm this theory to be true.

So here are the things I do … things that don’t come naturally to me … things I could easily take a pass on, but I don’t. I do these things—not because I enjoy them—but because someone very important to me does …

I hold the roly poly in my hand—not because I like how those creepy little feet feel on my nice clean hand—but because it feels good to slow down and marvel at a tiny miracle through my child’s eyes.

I go down the giant curly slide at the park—not because I like to hear my skin squeak as it sticks to metal—but because of the joyful laughter and grateful smiles that greet me at the bottom.

I read the American Girl chapter book out loud—not because it has a compelling plot and strong character development—but because of the way my child feels snuggled next to me as I read words she does not yet know.

I watch her lip-sync Taylor Swift music videos—not because I like to hear “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” ten bazillion times—but because the facial expression she makes are indescribable, and I want to remember them when I am 80-years-old.

I lay beside her when she’s worried about something—not because her bed is more comfortable than mine—but because after a few minutes, she whispers her fears into the dark, and I am there to comfort her.

I join her on the porch when she plays with the cat—not because I lack something more interesting to do—but because this is when she randomly throws out questions like, “What do you love about me?” and “What happens when we die?” And I want to be there to answer them if I can.

I strap on a pair of goggles and swim beside her—not because this is a good look for me—but because it allows me a close-up view of her proudest moment doing something she thought she’d never do.

I listen to her describe (in agonizing detail) how to create an iMovie using dolls—not because this topic interests me in the slightest—but because out of all the people in the world she could teach this to, she wants to teach me.

I sit on the porch and watch her do awkward handstands and clumsy cartwheels—not because this is riveting entertainment—but because I want my child to look back on her growing-up years and remember a mom that was present in the mundane, every day moments of life.

I make an effort to take an interest in my children’s preferred activities—not because their desires are more important than mine—but because I want to know them and I want them to know me … now and in the future.

Just knowing there are some elderly parents out there today wishing they could turn back time and make different choices about time spent with their kids is a wake-up call for me. After all, when those folks had young children, the digital distractions that parents deal with today were not prevalent. Yes, there were other distractions just like my parents and your parents had, but more and more research shows that mobile devices are more distracting and habit-forming than the diversions of yesteryear. In fact, the recent association of childhood injury and lack of parental attention due to “device distraction” is quite sobering.

We are the first generation of parents raising our children with the ever-present lure of technology at our fingertips. We are the first generation of parents able to be digitally connected to virtually anyone, anytime, anywhere. We are the first generation of parents who will show our children that technology is either a tool or a crutch—that it can enhance or damage our lives. Time spent engaging as a family does not come naturally anymore, yet time isolated from one another comes a little TOO naturally. In fact, time spent alone on our respective devices has become a way of life for many.

I’ve decided I am going to fight the natural inclination for separate interests, separate screens, and separate lives. Even if it means sometimes doing an activity I am not crazy about doing. Because when it comes down to it, my motivation is pretty simple:

I want to know what makes her smile.

I want to know what makes her laugh.

I want to know what makes her hurt.

I want to know what makes her dream.

I want to know what makes her proud.

I want to know what makes her tick.

And I cannot know these things if I am spending time in another room

Holding tightly to my distractions

Creating a world of emptiness between us.

Rachel’s mission is to provide individuals with the inspiration, motivation, and tools to let go of daily distractions so they can grasp the moments in life that matter. Join her on her journey to a more meaningful life at and by visiting “The Hands Free Revolution” on Facebook:

Evernote is a Great Tool for Families!

I love collecting resources & knowledge, but where do I keep all those random bits of information? Someone mentions a great camp, I think of a new blog idea, my kids tell me something really funny, or I have an idea of a project I want to do–I just send the website, link or idea to Evernote and voila I have it whenever I need it. Since I have gone digital [thanks iPhone!] I need a place to keep all my websites, ideas, whims, questions, etc… organized. Welcome Evernote!

Evernote is my favorite website right now. I signed up for an account wondering what the big deal was, but now I’m hooked! You can add a bookmark so your computer will send sites or links to Evernote with just a click or you can manually add them. Try it! I can categorize things by tags and always look back and find what I want. Right now I divide my life into: work, blog, family, kids, recipes, school [kids’], summer camps, house projects, & design. If I am at a meeting and I forget my notebook I just use whatever device I have in front of me and make a page on Evernote. This is the real deal and it’s helping me stay sane!

Get an Evernote account.

Why use Evernote?

  • Write down your thoughts or notes anytime, anywhere. It’s better than a notebook/journal because it is synced through the cloud and therefore it is on every device you have. I use this feature for blog post ideas, funny things the kids say, etc.

  • Clip websites and/or pages right from any device & keep them organized. No more remembering to write something down, bookmarking it, or having to hunt it down at the bottom of you purse. It’s right in one place. I use this for projects, summer camps, blog posts, etc.
  • Recipes or other things you can photograph rather than entering. An old recipe, someone just sent it to you, or its not on line? Just take a photo of the recipe and send the photo to Evernote. Now when you are at the store you can access all your recipes. I use this feature at the grocery store constantly.
  • Email your Evernote “notes”. You can simply share your Evernote pages with whomever you want. I use this for work, meetings, etc.
  • Voice notes. I have not done this yet, but I have it on good authority [Thanks, John!] that you can leave voice messages and Evernote transfers your message to print and leaves it in your Evernote notebook. I need to get to this one! No more trying to get in one last email while driving!

Some sites to search for more info on how to use and optimize Evernote:

What do you use to stay organized? How else have you used Evernote? Please share so we can all learn how we can keep our families and ourselves more organized!