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Saturday, August 24th, 2013
With the hustle and bustle of school followed by after school activities, sometimes it’s easier to grab dinner out before extreme hunger hits and while going out can be more expensive than eating at home, it doesn’t have to be. But how do you know where the deals are? Surprisingly, there’s doesn’t seem to be a great iOS or Android app to help parents but tech savvy families can stick to their household budget by doing these four things to save money when dining out.
Get email alerts for daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social for restaurant deals. While the selection varies from day to day, email alerts help you stay on top of what restaurants are offering deals like half off on dining certificates.
Look for kids eat free days. Often restaurants advertise their kids eat free days and others are happy to offer up the information when asked. Another great resource is MyKidsEatFree.com that allows you to do a search based on your city and state for participating kids eat free restaurants. Since it can be hard to remember which restaurants offer free meals on various days, make a list on your smartphone to give your family some options when you need to grab a bite on the go.
Check Restaurant.com to see what area restaurants participate. Just by entering your zip code, Restaurant.com will find local eateries and you select the gift certificate amount you’d like to purchase at a heavily discounted rate. Often times $25 gift certificates to a restaurant cost $10 out of pocket. There are sometimes restrictrictions such as days of the week the certificate can be used or a minimum purchase amount but generally Restaurant.com is a great way to save a ton of money as long as you enjoy the fare at the participating restaurants in your area.
Shop for gift cards for favorite restaurants at warehouse clubs. Our local Costco has a wide variety of gift cards for restaurants in our area and while it’s a significant outlay of cash at first, generally a purchase of $80 comes with a $20 bonus gift card for a total of $100. If you easily tire of the same restaurant, purchase gift cards to one restaurant and have a friend purchase gift cards to another then split them for variety’s sake.
Daughter enjoying meal with her mother via Shutterstock
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Friday, August 16th, 2013
Last year my third grade daughter had an online component to her homework that included a chat feature. While the kids were excited about their first exposure to social networking, it was something that I watched with a wary eye knowing that innocent conversations of saying hi could quickly turn and result in hurt feelings. Luckily the kids and the teacher were good digital citizens and their interactions were innocent but cyberbullying is real and something for kids, parents, and teachers to be aware of, especially if class assignments include an online chat component.
Here’s a primer on cyberbullying- what it is, how do you know if your child is a victim, the kinds of things we need to teach our kids, and what we can do to maintain digital wellness in our families while we teach our kids to be responsible digital citizens.
What is cyberbullying?
- Bullying behaviors are the same on or offline. It is hurting others’ feelings online and ranges from people making jokes that are hurtful to others, teasing, or even when someone logs into someone else’s account and pretends to be them.
- Cyberbullying can happen at any time and be very public because lots of people can see and share public messages online.
- Kids can use more hurtful and extreme language on and offline because they can hide behind the veil of an avatar. They say things they might not say in person because they feel they’re more anonymous.
- The only main difference between cyberbullying and bullying is the kind of harm that can be caused. Bullying involves physical harm but both types cause kids emotional harm that leads to discomfort, embarrassment, feelings of helplessness, sadness, and anger.
How do you know if your child is a victim of cyberbullying? Parents know their child best and can often spot when something may be off but the National Crime Prevention Council encourages parents to look for the following behaviors:
- Emotionally a child becomes shy or withdrawn, depressed, moody, agitated, anxious, stressed or aggressive.
- Academic changes include not wanting to go to school, skipping school, lack of interest in school and a drop in grades.
- Socially and behaviorally, a child isolates themselves from others. These behaviors can include not using the computer to log on to favorite social networks, changes in eating and sleeping habits, changes friends, and physically hurting themselves.
What can you teach your child to prevent them from being a perpetrator or victim? Help your children be emotionally well in order to be digitally well. Teach them respect and create open lines of communication so they know it’s ok to come to a parent or adult without the threat of always getting in trouble. Here are important concepts to teach kids of all ages:
- Empathy. Kids who are empathetic can identify with someone’s feelings are less likely to be perpetrators of cyberbullying.
- Help them understand where the line is between funny and mean. This line can be crossed in a nanosecond without being intentionally harmful but misunderstandings happen. Instead of letting the problem fester online, take the conversation offline and have your child call a friend or talk face to face to clear up the misunderstanding and preserve the friendship.
- Make sure they talk to someone, even if it’s not you. Talking to a responsible adult- parent of a friend, aunt or uncle, teacher, counselor, coach, etc.- is better than not talking to anyone. Discuss who the responsible adults are in your child’s life that they might be able to trust with any information.
- Encourage kids to stand up and get involved. Cyberbullying often involves the bully, victim, and a lot of bystanders. Kids need to be brave and get involved to make the bully stop by not engaging with them online while seeking help offline. Help them become an upstander- not a bystander. Encourage them to get involved.
What else can parents do?
- Set expectations. The minimum age for being on social networks is 13 and many kids clamor for accounts for their 13th birthdays. It’s ultimately up to the parents to decide whether their kids are ready but if they are, it’s important to set expectations about why you’re going to monitor their FB page. Parents can tell their children that they may have a Facebook account as long as I have the password. A tool like MinorMonitor can be helpful since it automatically tells parents what kids post and who their friends are so they can keep an eye on things.
- Know that these conversations aren’t just happening on the computer. With mobile devices, cyberbullying can easily happen on a smartphone, a connected iPod Touch, or tablet. Parents can tell their kids that a phone is a privilege and if they’re paying for service, they have the right to review texts manually or use apps like those from Safely.com, which gives parents easy-to-digest text and app reports and the power to block contacts and phone access, and support and resources, like a phone contract, which helps get conversations started.
Additional resources for parents include:
- CommonSenseMedia.org for parents to become educated about cyberbullying. Features helpful tips on starting conversations, what to look for, how to help your kids
- Netsmartz.org is a program by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that helps parents and kids navigate issues like cyberbullying but also sexting, social networking, online and mobile safety, and smartphones in age appropriate ways. The site is broken up for kids, tweens, and teens and does a fantastic job of presenting information to kids in a way they’ll understand.
More helpful articles from Parents.com:
Teen working on laptop in bed in the morning via Shutterstock
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Friday, August 9th, 2013
How old is too young for a smartphone and a tablet? Is there value in giving them to babies? The American Academy of Pediatrics supports a “screen free” stance for kids under the age of two but in many cases, parents are handing their kids devices at younger ages partly because of the apps that are being created to target this age group. But are these apps truly educational for this age?
Despite claims by manufacturers that apps can be educational, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) recently filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against Fisher-Price and Open Solutions charging both companies with false marketing their apps apps for babies as educational. Designed for infants as young as six months, CCFC’s Director Dr. Susan Linn said, “Fisher-Price and Open Solutions exploit parents’ natural tendency to want what’s best for their babies…time with tablets and smart phones is really the last thing very young children need for optimal learning and development.”
But what do kids really need?
Findings from a 20 year study by Martha Farah, Director of the Center for Neuroscience and Society at the University of Pennsylvania, published by The Guardian determined the effects of childhood stimulation of brain development beginning at age 4. The longitudinal study involved visits to homes to determine the number of children’s books they had, if the family had toys to teach children about colors, numbers or letters, and whether they played with real or toy musical instruments. Parents were also observed to determine how much warmth, support, or care the child they provided and received a “parental nurturance” score. Farah found that cognitive stimulation from books and educational toys from early childhood had a significant effect on a person’s brain into their late teens. Researchers also determined that the amount of mental stimulation a child gets around age four correlated to more highly developed language and cognition skills in later life.
Kids at the youngest ages need interaction that comes from parents and caregivers to stimulate their brains and foster language skills along with social and emotional development. Authors Jamie Loehr, M.D. and Jen Meyers provide simple suggestions for parents in Activities to Enhance Baby’s Cognitive Development: 0-3 Months. They suggest reading to your child to get them used to the sound of your voice, talking to them and maintaining eye contact, providing them with noisy toys to learn cause and effect, showing them mirrors so they can see themselves and their movements, and singing. Activities for ages 3-6 months expand on a child’s development and include exposing them to new textures and introducing a variety of sounds through musical instruments that they can play themselves.
While apps and devices have educational value and can certainly reinforce skills and engage kids in a positive way as they synthesize information, they’re not a substitute for what parents can provide to their developing baby.
Baby boy playing with computer tablet via Shutterstock
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Friday, August 2nd, 2013
Teaching our kids to look outside themselves and think about others can be a challenge when they’re young but as they get older, it’s not too difficult to seize on their empathy and goodwill towards others to teach them about social good and global citizenship. This is the idea behind the first ever Moms+Tweens+SocialGood event organized by Elena Sonnino, a former teacher turned blogger and social good advocate.
This Saturday parents and tweens will convene in Washington, D.C. for panels featuring both moms and tweens, community leaders and role models who will lead discussions about topics like what it means to be a change agent, ways to use your voice for good, how to advocate for a cause, and finding causes or campaigns. The half-day event also includes interactive age-appropriate activities such as how to write letters to Congress and video interviews where tweens will practice communication skills as they talk about why it’s important to be a global citizen.
“Global citizenship is not a residency status, nor is it based on the number of stamps you have in your passport,” says Sonnino. “It is a mindset and belief structure that is built on the fact that we live in an ever-interdependent world, where our colleagues and counterparts are spread out around the globe. More importantly it is built on the premise that fostering sustainable progress and self-sufficiency for children everywhere will strengthen our world.”
How did the idea for this event come about? As a parent of a tween, former Fairfax County Public Schools teacher who always sought to empower her students, and a passion for fostering self sufficiency and inspiring others by sharing travel and social good stories, Sonnino attended the Social Good Summit, and was inspired to create her own +SocialGood event. +SocialGood brings together innovators from around the globe to leverage the power of technology and social media.
As a first-of-its-kind event, organizations such as the United Nations Foundation are eagerly awaiting to see the response from parents and tweens. “We are really excited to process the learnings/findings and watch as this is held up as an example of not only the “philanthroteen” trend,” said Aaron Sherinian (@ASherinian), Vice President of Communications and Public Relations for the United Nations Foundation.
For more information and resources, visit Sonnino’s Grow Global Citizens Facebook page and follow the conversation through #growglobalcitizens on Twitter and Iinstagram.
Image courtesy of Elena Sonnino of LDG Media
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Wednesday, July 24th, 2013
As July turns into August, we look forward to our last summer vacation, final trips to the pool, and a few more weeks whose days can be a little less unstructured as school looms on the horizon. It’s a bittersweet time for families as we look forward to the excitement of our kids starting a new grade level but also acknowledging that they’re also a year older as summer ends. Make your final month of summer count by resolving to unplug a bit more in favor of family time because as Amy Foster, Director of Consumer Insights at The Walt Disney Company says, we only have 18 summers with our kids before they leave the nest we call home.
18 summers. What summer are you on? How many do you have to go? In our home, my husband gently reminds me that we’ve enjoyed half the summers we’ll have with our daughter and 1/3 with our son. In 9 years our daughter will graduate from college. Her brother will only be around for two years after that.
Everyone always tells new parents that time goes quickly. “Enjoy it,” they say. But somehow we forget. We forget with looming work deadlines and the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Before the weekend comes, pause.
Hit your pause button in the name of digital wellness. Stop for a minute and figure out how much time you want to spend plugged in versus unplugged. Take a look at your work and family calendar to see if you can seize some time together in this final month of summer to reconnect with your kids face to face before school starts and the hustle and bustle begins again.
Because how many more summers do you have? Grab hold of this last month and enjoy it before next summer rolls around.
Mother and daughter enjoying time at tropical beach via Shutterstock
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