Sunday, November 25, 2012

Teens and Smartphones: Is your teenager ready for a Smartphone?

The holidays are here and many tweens and teens are asking for cell phones and Smartphones.  But are they ready for the responsibility of having one?
  • Do children really need Smartphones?
  • Can Smartphones be beneficial to their learning alongside school?
  • Are Smartphones a fashion statement?
  • Is it fair if all families cannot afford them?  Peer pressure to those that can’t have them?
Pew Internet tells us 77% of US 12-to-17-year-olds now have cellphones and 23% Smartphones, so if your 12-year-old tells you “everybody has a cellphone,” s/he’s less and less far off the mark. But when to get a kid his or her first cellphone is very individual too, based on how s/he handles technology, people, and responsibility!

Cons: Smartphones can be used to bully other children through advanced messaging features which are available on smartphones and also apps which can be downloaded.
Pros:  Parents can track their child to make sure they are safe while they are out playing with friends or going to school.

An excellent article was recently written: Five things to do before giving your teenager a Smartphone – definitely worth the time to read if you are considering purchasing a phone for your child this holiday season.

Cellphone Safety Tips from Connect Safely:

Cellphones are increasingly full-blown handheld computers, and everything that can be done on the Web via computer – photo-sharing, Web browsing, game playing, tune-swapping, real-time text chat, and (oh yeah) talking – can be done on a phone. Here are some basic ideas for keeping mobile phone use safe and constructive: 

Smart socializing. Use the same good sense about what you post from your phone as from a computer. Once they’re posted, text, photos, and video are tough to take back, can be copied and pasted elsewhere, and are up there pretty much forever. Think about the people in them (including you!). Reputations are at stake – even more so if racy photos are involved. Just best not to go there.
Phones are personal. Letting other people use your phone when you’re not around is like letting them have the password to your social network profile. They can impersonate you. Which means they can play tricks on you that could really become a problem. It’s a very good idea to lock your phone when you’re not using it.
Bullying by phone. Because people socialize on cellphones as much as online, cyberbullying can be mobile too. Treat people on phones and the Web the way you would in person, and the risk of being bullied goes down. Be aware, too, of people randomly taking pictures at parties, in locker rooms, etc. – you may not want to be tagged in their social-network photo albums!
Sexting: The vast majority of kids – 99% – are smart and don’t take, send, or post or even store nude photos of themselves or peers on their phones. People who do so can be charged with production, distribution, or possession of child pornography, a serious crime. They can also be subjected to jokes, bullying, blackmail, expulsion from school, loss of a job, etc. and the images can circulate forever. Just don’t go there.
The value of “presence.” If you do a lot of texting, consider the impact that being “elsewhere” might be having on the people around you. Your presence during meals, at parties, in the car, etc. is not only polite, it’s a sign of respect and appreciated.
Down time is good. Constant texting and talking can affect sleep, concentration, school, and other things that deserve your thought and focus. You need your sleep and real friends understand there are times you just need to turn off the phone – harassment can happen between midnight and morning too.
Social mapping. Most cellphones now have GPS technology and there are a growing number of services that allow friends to pinpoint each other’s physical location. If you use such a service, do so only with friends you know in person, and get to know the service’s privacy features!
No texting while driving! Research shows that texting while driving can significantly increase the risk of a crash or near-crash situation. Silence your phone in the car, pull over if you need to use it, and of course follow your state’s hands-free laws for mobile phones in cars.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Community Empowerment Series (CES)

Education is knowledge and power that help us to keep our kids safe.

St. Johns County, Duval, Clay, Putnam, Nassau and Flagler all welcome three renown experts to World Golf Village.

Presented by St. Johns County Education Foundation and Communities in Schools, The Community Empowerment Series will cover topics that parents, educators and everyone that are involved in today's youth are concerned about.

  • Sexual predators, and how to talk to your kids about private parts and stranger danger.
  • The social jungle that kids are facing today. From peer pressure to bullying and cyberbullying.
  • Importance of digital safety and the critical topic of teaching our kids and especially teens today about how to protect themselves from identity theft.
For these three topics we have brought in the country's leading experts. You may have seen them on your TV and also read their books!

Session one: Stacey Honowitz, who has served twenty years in the Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Unit of the State Attorney’s Office, will be speaking about sex crimes in Florida and the sentences that they carry. She will also be addressing how to talk to your young kids about private parts.

Session two: Dr. Michele Borba is one of the most popular parenting experts in our country and the bullying prevention expert. She will have a workshop on the Social Jungle our kids are dealing with today, from peer pressure to bullying. Her speaking topics will include friends, cliques, relational aggression, cyberbullies, bullies and peer pressure. Watch the video on the sidebar.

Session three: Theresa Payton will discuss the importance of digital safety, identity theft with kids, and technology in today’s world as it concerns our children. There will also be deep discussion on how to create, maintain and protect a healthy digital identity for all family members, adults and children alike.

All three of these speakers are nationally recognized in their field and have been on many media outlets. We are honored they are coming to our community to help empower us with knowledge to keep our kids safe and our families educated in a society that is ever changing.

Tickets are free and limited to the first 300.
If you are a business or individual that would like to sponsor or be a vendor at these events, please visit our "Getting Involved" page. There are opportunities for everyone!

Don't miss these exciting educational and fun events! 

Visit for more information on the dates, times and all the details!

Pass this on to your friends, family, and neighbors!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

It Your Teen Ready to Babysit?

Babysitting is a time-honored tradition among teenagers looking for a way to earn some extra money while selecting their own schedules, rather than being forced to adhere to one made each week by a manager.

If your teen has recently approached you with a desire to begin her career as a babysitter, there are some things you’ll need to take into consideration when determining whether she’s mature and responsible enough to be charged with the very important task of caring for dependent children.
Before giving your teen the green light to start searching for babysitting clients, you should consider the following points.
  • How Much Experience Does She Have? – If you have younger children that your teenager has been in charge of caring for, how did she handle that responsibility? In the case of only children, it’s important to consider any prior experience she’s had with children; if her contact with little ones has been limited, it might be wise to help her spend some time in a supervised childcare setting, such as volunteering in the nursery of your place of worship, before allowing her to strike out on her own.
  • Has She Been CPR and First Aid Certified? – Regardless of age and experience level, any childcare provider will need to obtain CPR and first aid certification in order to be as prepared as possible in the event of an emergency. While these certifications aren’t required by law, most parents will not consider your teen mature enough or competent enough to care for their children without them.
  • What are the Laws in Your Area? – State and local laws regarding the age requirements of a babysitter and restrictions on the number of children that a teenager can legally be responsible for can vary significantly from one location to another. Be sure that your teen is old enough to be legally eligible to act as a childcare provider before granting your permission to look for clients.
  • Does She Understand the Dangers of Food Allergies? – Severe food allergies have the very real potential of causing death if a child is exposed to something he’s allergic to, meaning your teen needs to have a clear and realistic understanding of food allergies and sensitivities and how dangerous they can be.
  • Is She Able to Care for a Child with Special Needs? – Before your teen accepts a job caring for a child with special needs, it’s important for you to evaluate her ability to do so competently, and you should discuss the matter with her thoroughly to determine whether or not she’s up to the task of providing top-notch care for a special needs kid.
  • Is She Usually Punctual and Dependable? – A teen that’s dependable and makes an effort to be on time in other areas of her life will likely extend those character traits to her new career as a babysitter, just as those who are less dependable may begin to slack off in time.
  • Does She Have any Marked Behavioral Problems? – Putting a troubled teen in charge of children in a situation with no adult supervision is just asking for trouble, so it’s important that you’re honest with yourself about her behavior before allowing her to do so. Breaking house rules on the job can put your child and her charges in danger, and is a strong possibility if she has a history of behavioral issues or acting out.
  • How Developed are Her Time Management Skills? – Taking on a job, even an irregularly scheduled one, can interfere with your teen’s academic performance and extracurricular activities if she’s still developing her time management skills. Kids that struggle to maintain their current schedules may not be mature enough to add more responsibilities to it.
  • Does She Know Her Way Around the Kitchen? – Part of caring for children is feeding them, something your teen may not be mature or experienced enough to do if she’s not familiar with basic meal preparation. Taking the time to work with your daughter to develop these skills will serve her well in the future, as well as helping her to overcome an obstacle on the path to employment, so consider a brief round of lessons in kitchen basics and safety before sending her on her first babysitting assignment.
  • Trust Your Instincts – In the end, no one knows your child and her abilities as well as you do. Even if she’s dependable, reasonably experienced in the kitchen, and CPR certified, you may still have the nagging feeling that she simply isn’t ready for the huge responsibility of keeping a child safe. In such cases, it’s imperative that you trust your instincts.
Many community centers offer babysitting classes for interested teenagers, which can be an informative and exciting way for your child to hone her skills and obtain the training she needs to be a more prepared, experienced sitter. Consider enrolling her in one of these courses if she’s beginning to express an interest in babysitting in order to make the transition from unemployed teen to seasoned sitter easier for her.

Source: Find a Babysitter

The American Red Cross offers a Babysitting Workshop for Teens. Check the local office for times and locations.