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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!

Archive for the tag “Monitoring your child’s internet activity”

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!

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.

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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30 year-old man poses as teen on Facebook and “sexts’ young boys – Keeping children and teens safe online

A 31-year old  man from Georgia,  was arrested and charged with multiple sex crimes for posing as a teenage girl on Facebook and “sexting” middle school-aged boys.  Brendan Spaar created a fake Facebook page and portrayed himself as Kinsey Spencer, a 16-year old girl from South Forsyth High School.  Spaar became friends with the boys through the fake profile and convinced them to send him their cell phone numbers.  Investigators said that Spaar then sent the boys sexually explicit photos of a female and asked them to send photos and videos of themselves.

Deputies charged Spaar with four counts of child molestation, four counts of sexual exploitation of children and three counts of computer pornography.

Bottom-line tip from Chief Technology Mommy:

If your child has a Facebook page, they should never friend anyone on a social media outlet that they don’t know in “real life.”.  If the person is not currently interacting with your child and you don’t know their parents, it’s safe to say that your child has no business interacting with them on the Internet.  When you monitor your child’s social media activities, don’t forget to take a look at their friends list.  If you are not familiar with a friend, view their profile, and ask your child how they know the person.

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

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Threats made on Facebook ends with the death of three teens. Keeping our children and teens safe online – Chief Technology Mommy

When I was in 6th grade, I had my first physical altercation with a classmate.  We were both sent to the principal’s office, our parent’s were called, I was put on punishment,  we both apologized and went on our way.  When the fight was over, it was over.  Unfortunately those days are over.

An argument that began at school, made it’s way to Facebook with threats, and ultimately lead to the death of three teens.  As the teens sat in their car, a man approached them and fired 10 to 12 shots into the car at point-blank range.  Joshua Soto, 14 and Javier Orlandi, 16 were pronounced dead within a half-hour.  Dante Lugo, 14 died the next night.  The alleged shooter is the 30-year old stepfather of the other teens involved in the argument.

I have no idea who started the argument or what it was about, but I am almost 100% sure someone saw the threatening posts on Facebook.  As the rational adults (evidently the 30-year old stepfather was not,)  it’s up to us to monitor our children’s social media activities and report inappropriate conversations.  In this day and age we cannot take threats lightly or shrug them off as “kids being kids.”

Here are a few things we can do to keep our children safe on the Internet:

1.  Don’t just browse, but thoroughly read through your child’s posts.  Make a note of who they are speaking with and pay special attention to the tone of the conversation.

2.  If you see a threatening or inappropriate posts that involves any child, ask your child about it and report it if necessary.

3.  Encourage your child to tell you if they feel threatened at school or on the Internet, and bring it to the attention of the school, the other parents, or the authorities.

4.   Work to make sure young men feel comfortable telling someone about threats made against them.  I’ve heard grown men tell little boys to “man up,” but when it comes to threats they should understand that their stance has nothing to do with their manhood, but everything to do with saving their lives.

Let’s work together to keep our children safe on the Internet.

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Teenage girls fight on facebook ends with the shooting of a 2-year old. Keeping children and teens safe on the Internet. Chief Technology Mommy

What started as a fight between teenage girls in Philadelphia wound up a shooting that left two children, their grandmother and another man shot.  Two-year old Aisha Owens was shot in the hip and stomach.  Allegedly the fight stemmed from an unruly Facebook posting over the summer that spilled over to the school year.

There are so many things that went wrong here and we all could make judgments (I know I did.)  The judgments and finger pointing won’t change the series of events, but we definitely can learn a few things from the shooting incident.

Bottom-line:   Adults must monitor their children’s social media interactions.  There are parents who will not monitor for a number of reasons, but this is not about them.  I can’t make any adult stay connected to their child’s online activities, however I am accountable for what I do.

Things to consider:

  • Do you know who your child’s friends are on facebook?  Have you met them face-to-face?  Do you know their parents? If your child does not interact with them offline, they probably should not interact with them online.
  • Speak with your child about the rules of “friending,” and peer pressure.  For example:  Just because someone attends the same school, does not automatically qualify them as an online friend.
  • Most importantly have a conversation with your child about your expectations and guidelines as it relates to social media.

Let’s all work together to keep our children safe on the Internet!

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To spy or not to spy…that is the question. Keeping children and teens safe on the Internet – Chief Technology Mommy

Over the years, I have had many debates with parents and experts about “spying” on a child’s internet usage and social media activities.  Some people feel that spying will break the trust in the relationship and cause the child to be resentful.  Let me very clear about my stance:  I do not spy; I am very upfront with my daughter about my monitoring of her technology habits.  When I was younger my parent’s policy was “my house, my business,” and I now appreciate that rule.  Please understand, I am not judging anyone’s parenting style or house rules– I am speaking only from my experience.  Knowing that my parents were openly watching made me think twice about my decisions, made me feel as if they cared, and ultimately saved me from many unnecessary heartaches.

Periodically I review the cell phone bill to monitor texting and phone usage, as well as review the browser history on her computer.  Last year, I typed my daughter’s name in a search engine only to find her on YouTube singing as if she was auditioning for American Idol.  Although we had previous discussions about internet usage, she felt that it did not apply if she were going to be a superstar.  Needless to say we revisited the social media conversation and the expectations.  I compare the monitoring to being a supervisor; you expect your employees to do the right thing, however from time to time you still inspect their work.  With our children we must “inspect what we expect.”

As the parent you have every right to be very open and upfront about your expectations and actions as it relates to your child’s internet and social media interactions. While some experts are still debating over “spying” and a child’s right to privacy, they forget that some of the information the child discloses is public, which means the only person in the dark is the parent! Maybe I’m crazy, but I would rather have my child temporarily upset with me for monitoring her activity than reacting to a situation that could have been avoided.

I am not a huge fan of monitoring software, however it depends on your individual situation and experiences.  Instead of spending money on software, here are a few easy things you can do today for free to monitor your child’s internet usage:

1.  Place your home computer in a common area.   Often times when your child has less privacy they are less likely to do something they don’t want you to see.  I have found having the computer in the living room or kitchen, opens up communication and sharing.

2.  Review your browser history.  Periodically perform a check on your browser history to find out where your child is spending time on the web.  Many children are aware of this tactic and will erase the history.  If you check the browser history and it’s clear, you may want to explore further.

3.   Set-up Google alerts for your child’s name or alias.  Set up the alerts to come to your email and if things are posted on the Internet, you will be the first to know.

4.   Implement technology time-outs.  When my daughter walks in the house from school, she understands that her cell phone should be turned off.  I don’t take the phone from her, but the expectation has been discussed and set.  If her friends want to speak with her they know to call the home phone, if she wants to use the internet she can access our home computer in the common area, and I can’t imagine her sitting in the house texting all day.  The cell phone rule is a little more relaxed on the weekend and still gives her the freedom she needs.

5.  Talk to your children.  Never underestimate the power of communication.  I ask my daughter about her day, what’s going on in her world, and usually will slip in a conversation about social media or Internet usage.  It’s amazing how my daughter opens up when I am interested in what’s important to her, listen without interruption, and encourage open conversation.  Lastly, it’s important that these conversations become a normal way of life as this will make the way easier when and if an issue arises.

I do believe that children have a right to some privacy, however if someone is bullying my child or a predator is reaching out to her on her social media pages – it is my business!  Back in the day, my mom was my mom…not my “girl” or my friend and I appreciate that.  If my daughter grows up and says the same, I will count that as a success!

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