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Chief Technology Mommy: Working relentlessly to keep children & teens safe on the Internet. No high-level technical jargon and No Excuses!

A young girls’ self-esteem is directly related to her online behavior – Keeping children safe on the Internet

It is 100% clear that a girl’s self-esteem is directly related to her online behavior.

As I travel the world speaking with parents about Internet Safety, they tend to overlook the “non- technical” piece to the equation. Many wonder why their daughters are posting naked photos of themselves, sharing photos where they are drinking (underage) alcohol, using inappropriate language, dressing provocatively, and taking chances with their lives by hooking up with men they meet online.

Before you spend money on Internet tracking tools or the latest software, I want to share 10 practical “non” technical” tips for keeping your child safe on the Internet.

At the age of 11, my daughter was 5’7”, wore a size 10-shoe, and rocked sister locs. She came home crying and told me that she didn’t like being taller than everyone else. The pain she felt took me back to my childhood where people would tell me I was “cute” to be so dark and how that comment made me feel ugly and awkward. Many of the horrible life decisions I made was based on trying to be good enough, and it was not until college that I let it go and started truly loving myself. The moment my daughter told me how she felt, I knew that she did not have to wait until college to start loving herself, and I was the person who could help her. Unfortunately as adults we are still holding on to some lie someone told us about ourselves, that we took as truth and unconsciously passed that lack of self-esteem and self-love onto our daughters and other young girls in our lives.

Our young girls are watching us, they are listening to us, they mimic us, and they are taking their cues from us. We are their movie…is your child watching a love story, a drama, or horror movie? When they hear us putting ourselves down, they are not analyzing us for self-esteem issues, they start wondering if they are good enough, and often times seek the answers and validation through their online behavior.

My daughter laughs at how I constantly tell her, “Your mommy is absolutely beautiful and fabulous.” She laughs, but I notice her confidence when she walks into a room, or she will say, “Mommy, I look just like you don’t I?” What impact would it have on her if I were still walking around complaining my skin color?

During my workshops with young girls it is sometimes hard to get them to say something good about themselves as they believe someone will think they are conceited. I call it celebrating their uniqueness, and by the end of the day they have written a long list of things they love about themselves in their “Always Believe” Journal. With that boost in self-esteem they talk about the different choices they would make on and off line. They are more apt to think about the consequences of their online behavior. A few girls talked about how their actions could keep them from being admitted to college, getting a job, or simply tarnish their reputations. This change comes in one afternoon, so think of the power you have over a lifetime.

Bottom-line: Girls who truly love and believe in themselves will think about the consequences of their online behavior and make different choices. They feel they have a future, they believe they can reach their goals, they don’t need other people to validate them, and they aren’t looking for a man to complete them.

10 Practical “non technical” tips for keeping your child safe on the Internet
1.Make sure your comments about yourself are loving and kind.
2.Teach people how to treat you and your daughter will do the same.
3.Foster open communication about self-love and self-worth.
4.Encourage your daughter to discuss her dreams and goals.
5.Encourage your daughter to celebrate her uniqueness and discuss ways her being different is an advantage. Example: My daughter’s height has helped her to become a volleyball star! She now wishes she were taller.
6.Think about what your daughter sees and hears when you interact with her dad or any other man.
7.Give her a compliment.
8.Get her involved in extra-curricular activities.
9. Tell her your stories about what you experienced as a teen, let her know you too made mistakes.
10.Make sure she feels safe enough to speak with you or some other trusted adult about anything.

I know this is not the “normal” type of advice you see on Internet Safety, but I am speaking from experience. I am speaking from the heart as a mommy and technology expert. We can boycott Facebook, throw all the computers out of the window, lobby on Capitol Hill, but none of that works better than good old fashion communication. No Excuses!

To contact Marlin for speaking engagements : email: or call 313-420-0591. To get updated Internet Safety Tips delievered to your mailbox go to and sign up for the blog or just hang out!

Skout: Online flirting site for teens – 3 adults charged with rape. Keeping children and teens safe on the Internet.

Skout is an online flirting site and app for teens…take a minute and let that sink in! I can’t believe I’m using the words “teens” and “flirting” in the same sentence. Unfortunately three adults have been charged with the rape of three children they met on Skout. I guess separating the teens from the adults, didn’t work out. I’m guessing the people who created the site did not really think through the security risks and consequences, which makes our responsibility as parents even more important. It’s up to us to monitor our child’s online behavior…No Excuses!

Listen in as I share the Skout story and offer practical tips for online safety.

Video Game Safety – Keeping children and teens safe on the Internet

In my video blog I share the unfortunate story of a young boy who was lured into a chat room by an online predator. Statistics show that 97% of children between the ages of 12 – 17 play some type of online video game and about a quarter of them play with strangers. Although not considered traditional “social media,” online video games gives your child an entry way into the world.

I provide practical tips, things to look out for, and a guide to the Game Rating System.

Two 15-year-old girls charged with “Pimping” – Keeping children and teens safe on the Internet

Two 15-year old girls have been charged with “pimping” after forcing three teens into prostitution. The girls met online and moved the activity offline.

Parent’s can purchase all of the software monitoring tools in the world, but nothing works better than good old fashioned communication. We must talk with our children about their self-esteem and self-love, as they will find the attention they are looking for in all the wrong places. One thing is for sure, a child’s self-esteem (especially girls) is directly related to their online behavior. If they are acting out online its only a matter of time before it shows up offline.

In this video I discuss the news story and provide online safety tips.

Google+ and Teens – Keeping Children and Teens Safe on the Internet

Google+ has rolled out the welcome mat for teens, but as parents you still want to make sure you have a full understanding of what that means for your child.  When Google launched Google+ in 2010 it was for adults only, and now it’s open to children who are 13 or older.  Bradley Horowitz, Google’s Product VP for Google+ said, “We want to help teens build meaningful connections online. We also want to provide features that foster safety alongside self-expression. Today we’re doing both, for everyone who’s old enough for a Google Account (13+ in most countries).”

Your child will still have the ability to create circles of friends, classmates, family, team members, etc., but there are some additional safeguards for teens.  The safeguards are intended to protect your child from predators and from sharing too much information.

Some of the safeguards that have been added include:

  1. If your child tries to share content (posts, videos, photos, etc.) publicly with everyone on Google+, they will receive a warning stating that people outside of their circles will have the ability to view the information.
  2. Only people in your child’s circle can comment on their posts or contact them via the site.
  3. Only people in your child’s circle can see information about “who they are.”
  4. In the hangout feature of Google+, if someone outside of your child’s circle joins their video chat, your child will be pulled out of the hangout and asked if they want to continue.

Although the safeguards are in place, many of the decisions are left up to your children. If your child is going to join Google+ it definitely should be a family decision where the parent is ultimately communicating the rules of social media.  More information about Google+ safety features, practices, and policies can be found on Google’s Safety Center.

Regardless of any safeguards, open communication and clear expectations are the best safeguards for your children!

“Mom Chokes Daughter’s Bully” – Keeping Children and Teens Safe on the Internet

Stop Cyberbullyng

A Florida mom is being prosecuted for choking her daughter’s bully, and I can’t say I’m totally surprised.  No, I am not condoning this behavior…just saying – I get it.

As a mommy I understand wanting to protect your child against anything or anyone who wants to cause them harm.   My daughter has never been cyberbullied,  but I listened as people made stupid comments about her looking “old” for her age, or how tall she was, most importantly I watched how their comments negatively affected her self-esteem.  When I was younger people would tell me, “You are cute to be so dark,” how idiotic is that statement?

If you think cyberbullying is not an issue take a look at these stats:

  • Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University.
  • A study in Britain found that  at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying and that 10 to 14 year old girls may be at even higher risk for suicide.
  • According to statistics reported by ABC News, nearly 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims or bullying and 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of the fear of bullying

Tips for Mom’s who want to “choke” their child’s bully:

1.  Stop, Breathe and Think.  You are the adult and violence is not an option, think about the consequences and walk away.

2.  If you child is being bullied,  alert authorities and school officials.

3.  Speak with your child about their self-worth and self-esteem.

4.  Create a “safe haven” where your child feels comfortable talking to you about what’s going on in their lives.

5.  Pay attention to your child’s behavior.   If your child shows sign of depression, sadness, withdrawal or a lost of   interest in their favorite activities, talk to them right away and get help from a counselor.  Don’t ignore it!

Attention Teens: “Think before Tweeting” – Social Media Responsibility and Keeping Teens Safe on the Internet.

Attention all parents, coaches, teachers, and all other adults involved with educating teenagers– I’m calling a Twitter Life Meeting for our children!

I heard a disturbing story today about a very talented high school athlete who is being courted by some of the most popular coaches in college football.  The young man allegedly sent out a tweet on Twitter with his demands for the coaches, which in my opinion was very inappropriate and could cost him his scholarship.  Whatever happened to good old-fashioned face-to-face conversation?

Honestly, I love technology and the endless possibilities it offers us, and while I encourage young people to become engaged in the field of technology there are certainly some boundaries that need to be set when communicating online.

Educating our teens on social media protocol must span far beyond Facebook and posting inappropriate photos.  Words are just as powerful, and once they are loosed into cyberspace they cannot be taken back. Tweeting inappropriate messages on Twitter can also cause harm to our children. The words they share with the world will follow them and sometimes come back to haunt them.

Trust me, as a mom I understand we have so much to teach our children, but let’s go ahead and add this to our list.  I believe that my child is going to be a very successful musician, performer, baker (she changes her mind often), and I want her to know that the decisions she makes today will have an impact on her future.

As a speaker I often tell my audiences that I don’t have to walk around telling people that I am African-American, as you can look at me and tell.  The same is true for our teens that are out there making their mark, if they have talent and skills the world will see that.  There’s a difference between tweeting an accomplishment and making demands on a school that would like for you to play football at their institution.

There is a fine line between being self-confident and obnoxious.  Let’s educate our children on the differences and how they want to be perceived by the world.  Before their next Twittering session, remind them to think about it before they ‘tweet’ about it!

Online Video Games: Toys or Trouble? 7 Practical Tips to Keep your child safe on the Internet.

A 22-year old man allegedly met a 10-year old boy online while they were both playing the video game “Call of Duty – Modern Warfare 2.” The man invited the boy into a private chat room where they exchanged cell phone numbers. The man proceeded to call and send texts to the boy requesting pictures of his genitals. Unfortunately the boy sent the pictures in hopes of receiving cheat codes for the video game which would allow the child various advantages in the game. Luckily the child’s mom checked his phone and text records and alerted authorities. Just because your child is not involved in social networking, does not mean they are safe from online predators.

Seven practical tips to keep your child safe while playing online video games:
1. Before allowing your child to engage in any online activity discuss the basic rules of engagement. They are to never disclose their full name, address, phone number, school name or any other identifier.
2. Make sure your child knows to only chat with friends or relatives during the online gaming session. There have been instances where people have their online gaming identification stolen, so make sure your child knows to look out for any peculiar behavior or verify that they are chatting with a friend. I would advise my child to avoid private chat rooms even if asked to join by a friend or family member as they can just as easily speak on the phone.
3. If your child is being harassed, let them know they can come to you for help. Yes, you will probably be upset, but your child must feel safe enough to share this information.
4. Make sure your child knows to never send out any pictures or any other confidential information to anyone, not even family members, without your permission.
5. Often times your children play online video games while visiting friends. Find out what games they play and the family policies to make sure you and the other parents are on the same page.
6. Invade their privacy. In this instance mentioned above, the mom checking her son’s cell phone records probably saved his life. You probably know all of your child’s real life friends, and it should be no different with online friends.
7. No matter how much your child begs you for a certain game, check out the video game rating. In this instance the game was rated mature and was not suitable for the child.

ESRB Game Rating System:
EC – Early Childhood. The game is appropriate for anyone between the ages of three to six. It may include components that require reading or math skills.
E – Everyone. This is for everyone over at least seven years old. It may contain little or no violence or strong language, and resembles the MPAA’s G Rating.
E10+ – The game is suitable for people age ten and older. It may include some mild violence and some strong language. The Sims 2 for Playstation has this rating and it resembles the MPAA’s PG rating.
T – Teen. Anyone thirteen and older could play this game. Most of the western civilization games fall under this level. This resembles the PG-13 rating as there may be some nudity, violence or strong language.
M – Mature. This is the most common game rating because most gamers are over seventeen years old. Many of the war games and some sports games such as NASCAR fall under this category. These resemble the MPAA R rating and usually contain violence, some nudity, language, and possibly sex.
AO – This is the hardcore stuff with intense violence, nudity, sex, and strong language. You must be eighteen or older to buy this game and most people are done with gaming after they get at this level. This resembles the MPAA’s X or NC-17 Rating.
RP – Rating Pending. This rating is usually used for advertisements, but when the game hits the stores its rating has been determined. Some games, however, do have this kind of rating, just to do a similar kind of thing as calling a movie that should be R or higher unrated, such as “American Pie 2″.

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Video: Quick tips on keeping children and teens safe on the Internet – Do you know who your child is “friending?”

Quick and “to the point” True Stories, Real Life Strategies and Tips to Keep children and Teens Safe on the Internet.”

Topic: Teens being lured to “friend” people with fake profiles. In this video I recap the story and provide “real life” strategies on keeping your children safe on the Internet.

Teen Posts Girls’ Facebook Photos as Porn – Keeping Children and Teens Safe on the Internet

A 19-year old Pennsylvania man was arrested and charged with using the Facebook photos of four teenage girls to create pornography, which he re-posted online. According to police Neil Geckle admitted to creating a Facebook page under the name “Matt Hemcher.”

Three of the girls go to Radnor High School.  Geickle graduated from Radnor last year, but was not friends with  the alleged victims.

Bottom-line tip from Chief Technology Mommy:

I recently had a conversation with a mom who stated that her 13- year old daughter has 400+ friends on Facebook.  Her daughter “friends,” all those that attend her school, church etc. regardless of their interaction on a daily basis.

It’s important to openly communicate with our children and set expectations around their behavior on social media outlets.  Someone going to the same school, sharing the same birthday, attending the same church, etc., is not a reason to friend someone on Facebook and allow them full access to your life.

My definition of acceptable social media friends (for my daughter):  The Facebook friend has to have been to our home or I must know their parents, otherwise she brings it to my attention and we decide together if they should be accepted as a Facebook friend.

Working to keep our children and teens safe on the Internet!

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