Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Excerpt from Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom about Health, Sex or Whatever

Mary Jo Rapini and Janine Sherman teamed up to write the book Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom about Health, Sex or Whatever with the hope that mothers and daughter would feel more at ease speaking with each other about such topics. The following is an excerpt from the introduction of the book:

Teens today, more than ever, face a myriad of issues involving sex and sexuality, self-esteem and body image. They need education; they need guidance; they need support to make the right decisions at the right time.

In our profession as women's health care providers, we've found that teens experience greater success through these difficult years when they have open communication with their mothers.

But we've also found that's not quite as simple as it sounds.

As women's health care providers we understand that daughters are commonly reluctant to approach their mothers for advice, for fear of punishment or lecture, or simply because they are embarrassed of the issue itself. They instead turn to their friends or the mass media, or avoid the issues all together, creating greater problems for themselves in the future.

And as mothers ourselves, we also understand that many of us are embarrassed to admit that despite our best intentions, we hesitate to engage our daughters in health-related dialogue. We either feel shy, inadequate, and poorly informed, or we have been so looking forward to such interactions with our daughters--anticipating with cherished thoughts how our conversations will go, only to discover that our teenage daughters are disinterested, busy, or outright offended.

So where are teen girls getting the little information they do have about health and sex? And what is it that they are concluding about health and sex and their bodies from these information sources? Adolescent girls learn about sex primarily from their conversations with their mothers, interactions with their peers, participation in school programs, and exposure to mass media, yet not necessarily in that order. All contribute to the knowledge our children receive about sex and their bodies; all are potential sources of conversation with our daughters....

As our children become more inquisitive and their lives become more complicated, these tasks can become far more challenging. Most of us find it uncomfortable when our daughters ask us questions about sex and their bodies. We often have difficulty teaching our daughters about sex because of our own discomfort and/or our own lack of knowledge. This uneasiness with the subject is often a reflection of the way that we were taught about sex by our own mothers, years earlier....

Peers. Adolescent girls exert a huge influence on each other. This is a time in a girl's life when she desperately wants to "fit in." Peers help each other "figure it all out." Teen girls can also be a fabulous resource for inaccurate information.

Young girls also get a lot of inaccurate information from their boyfriends -- whom they want to please -- about the risks of sexual activity. For example, a common myth believed by boys is that girls can't get pregnant "the first time."

Never underestimate the influence girls have on each other regarding the issue of body image. It's been noted, for instance, that eating disorders can "run in packs." Girls teach each other how to "do it" and encourage each other to stay skinny. The concern to "be popular" or "fit in" is far more important than taking care of their bodies. They find out what it means to be popular and to fit in, first and foremost from their buddies....

The goal of this book is to empower mothers and daughters with accurate and comprehensive knowledge so that they can have the open, relaxed, and informative conversations about sex and female health that every young woman needs and deserves. Mothers have the chance to directly shape their daughters? thought processes regarding their bodies, life choices, health and well being. The book also highlights the mother-daughter connection in helping girls to explore their passions and to focus their energies on self discovery.

For you mothers, table talk is a way of comfortably inviting your daughter into your beliefs and thoughts, and learning from her as well. For you daughters, table talk is a way of comfortably inviting your mother into your beliefs and thoughts, and learning from her as well. This book is designed for both moms and daughters alike. The information is meant to be shared. It is deliberately meant to spark conversations. Getting started with table talk can happen almost any place or time, just as this book describes.

Young girls deserve accurate information presented in a relaxed way by people whom they trust. They deserve straightforward answers to their questions. Moms deserve a chance to have engaging conversations with their daughters about life-critical issues.

Visit the book's website at http://www.starttalkingbook.com.

Visit author Mary Jo Rapini's website at http://www.maryjorapini.com/

Monday, July 30, 2012

'Bullying...Is It More Than Just Sticks and Stones?' Article by Mary Jo Rapini

School gets back underway in the next month to six weeks. Start to prepare yourself by reading up on signs of bullying in your child. Mary Jo Rapini, psychotherapist and coauthor of Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom about Health, Sex, or Whatever shares signs of bullying and tips on how to handle the situation with your kids, no matter on which side she falls of the bullying equation.

Bullying...Is It More Than Sticks and Stones?
by Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPCGirls Bulling

Bullying is thought of as being an ordinary passage of growing up. We all remember being pelted with some sort of hurtful words. Some kids remember being beaten up on the playground. Although this wounded many children of generations past, it wasn't always taken seriously. When we hear the word "bully", we continue to think of it as not a big deal. However, bullying has changed. It is more than words or getting teased on the playground. It is inescapable harassment, physical assault, verbal abuse, and a constant barrage of cyber attacks that leave kids feeling defeated, fearful and alone.

According to Maureen Hackett, a mental health child advocate, children and teens are at fragile stages in thei
r development of identity and self-esteem. Their relationships with peers are an integral part of how they see themselves and how they view their sense of worth. This is just one of the aspects that makes bullying so dangerous. Hackett goes on to say that the young victims look to their parents and other adults in their life for validation, appreciation and protection. When parents, teachers, or other adults in children's lives don't take bullying seriously or fail to help them, the child is hurt further. Many times this intensifies the bullying children are experiencing.

There is also no escape. While home used to be a safe haven, now there is an onslaught of cyber bullying so the terrorizing often continues at home, even in the child's own room

What can we do to help with this situation that happens every day, everywhere, to many children? The first step may be getting involved to change the laws. Encourage the state to recognize bullying as a form of abuse. Currently the word "bullying" minimizes w
hat our children are going through on an emotional, or even physical level. They are being terrorized.

Warning signs your children are being bullied:
* They come home with torn, damaged, or missing pieces of clothing, books, or other belongings.

* They have unexplained cuts, bruises, and scratches.
* They complain about not having friends.
* They seem afraid of going to school, walking
to and from school, riding the school bus, or taking part with peers in organized activities (such as clubs).
* They have no interest in school or their grades. They begin to struggle with school.
* They are weepy, sad, moody, or depressed when they come home from school.
* They complain frequently of headaches, stomachaches or other physical ailments.
* They experience a loss of appetite or begin to gain weight.
* They appear anxious and suffer from low self-esteem.

The best advice for parents regarding helping your child is take it seriously. Do not minimize it. Write everything down (for future reference).

More tips for parents with children who are being bullied:
* You need a plan and you need to make an appointment with your child's teacher. Share your ideas with the teacher and make sure that they include the time spent at both school and at home.
* Talk to your child with a private or school counselor. This will help reinforce your child's sense of worth. Many counselors have ideas of how best to intervene using other resources. If your child has a private counselor, he should visit the school in order to help support the teacher's efforts.
* Limit your child's computer time and have her share threats she is receiving with you. If your child has a cell phone, be aware of how much texting is taking place. Make sure you have a copy of these threats in case you need legal help.
* If there is no improvement within a week, it is time to take it to either the principal (if the abuse is happening at school) or other person in charge.

 If you are the parents of a bully:

* Your child needs counseling along with a professional assessment from a psychiatrist. (Your whole family may be encouraged to attend.) Bully behavior is learned and suggests that there may be a "bully mentor" in your home.
* Make a doctor's appointment for your child. Sometimes children act out with impulsive and angry behaviors when there is something wrong with them medically (a hormone imbalance, for example).
* Set firmer limits at home. Limit your child's ability to text and use the Internet.
* Violence toward your child (spanking, etc.) will not stop the behavior and may make their bully maneuvers more intense. Overprotecting your child and telling yourself that it is normal child behavior doesn't work either. There is nothing normal about hurting another child. You need to act and you need to do it now.

Behind every bully who is terrorizing another child, there is a parent who has ignored the bully's behaviors and decided that it will go away on its own. Bullying does not go away. It usually gets worse, and intervention on both the parent's behalf (the parents of the bully and the parents of the child being bullied) works best.

Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at www.StartTalkingBook.com and more about Rapini at www.maryjorapini.com

Monday, July 23, 2012

'PDA: How affectionate is too affectionate" Article by Mary Jo Rapini

Mary Jo Rapini is a psychotherapist who is also coauthor of the book Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom about Health, Sex, or Whatever. Here she discusses the problems of teens and PDA and how to keep them both in check.

PDA: How affectionate is too affectionate?
by Mary Jo Rapini

Teens are advertising their relationships out in public all the time. Go to Facebook or MySpace and you can see whom they are dating, whom they formerly dated, and basically everything they have done in the past month. It is scary, especially if that teen happens to be yours.
Even when your child goes to college, they will be showing their personal life to everyone they accept as their friend (don't feel bad if your friendship status is ignored, it happens to all of us). I like my privacy as many other people do and I am not comfortable with discussing my relationship status, what I am doing at this minute, or what I did last night with all of my "new friends." My view is not shared among most teens though. This sharing of information is also physically acted out in public with our children's boyfriends and girl friends. It is called PDA or public display of affection. The schools are tip toeing around the topic but they, too, are uncomfortable with how much is too much.

Whenever I go to Italy or Spain, I love to watch mothers and daughters walking down the street arm and arm. I also love to see men in a warm embrace and kissing each other as a greeting. It seems right to me and whether that is because I am Italian or just very demonstrative, I believe hugging and kissing are more important than guns and bombs. However, seeing two teens groping each other in the school hall or at my friend's home makes me feel uncomfortable. My discomfort comes from a feeling that the teens are not respecting themselves or their parents, the school rules or anyone who is in the room. I am all for passion, but I believe there is a time and place, and in front of others is not the time or place.
As children grow they learn by trying new experiences. Their parents guide them, direct them and then they develop a sense of right or wrong with regard to individual behaviors. Parents (my friend included) would tell her daughter if she had chocolate on her face to go wipe it off, she would tell her it was inappropriate to talk with her mouth full, but yet when her boyfriend comes over and starts kissing her, or pulls her onto his lap, the parents freeze and don't know what to say.

A Quick Guide on What to Say to TOO Much PDA

1. Tell your teen when you are alone with them. They may be angry or embarrassed but don't let that stop you from saying this.

"Your father and I or 'your mother and I' are not okay with you hanging all over, kissing your boyfriend, sitting in your boyfriends lap (whatever the offending behavior is). We believe it is disrespectful and we don't approve of it. We do not think it is appropriate at school either.

"We can see you really care for whatever his name is and we think he is a nice boy (or girl) as the case may be, so we are concerned your behavior may influence our respect for him/her also."

Do tell a teen what is appropriate behavior in your home.

2. As a parent you may say, "We think holding hands, a quick kiss or an affectionate hug is okay." Then talk with your teen in regards to ways they can express their affection besides the way they are currently expressing it (deep kisses and hands all over each other). Teens will talk to you if you ask questions that encourage them to think and affords them some control. This also helps the teen understand that you are trying to help, that you are not being judgmental or critical.

The schools cannot be held accountable to raise your children and teach them at the same time. Parents need to guide their children, make the tough calls and follow through. Your kids are watching you all of the time. As our children grow up we think they don't notice anything but their friends; wake up, you are still their most important mentor. Kids become what they learn from home. Talk to your kids, listen to your kids, discipline and respect your kids.

Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at www.StartTalkingBook.com and more about Rapini at www.maryjorapini.com

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review of Parenting With Scripture

Parenting With Scripture is geared toward parents of children ages two through teens. It defines a teachable moment: how to find one and what it actually is. Discussion questions are designed to help the parent grab a hold of those teachable moments with his or her children. Different ideas can help you tailor each lesson to fit the individual situation. Included are verses that fit a variety of situations. Parents are encouraged to discuss the situation, pray about it with their children, and to memorize those verses.

Topics include anger, cursing, hope, death, humility, idolatry, kindness, charity, mercy, obedience, money, perseverance, respect, responsibility, sharing and more. Each topic is clearly defined in its own section, with the related verses, discussion questions and activities. Sections are short, providing a concise, yet comprehensive overview of the topic. Related topics are also listed for further reference. Parents will want to have read the book in advance to have a basic understanding of it. It would be hard to always have these topics at hand in those teachable moments and to have all of those verses memorized and ready to go. Being familiar with the book would allow the parent to quickly refer to it for guidance.

The appendix includes the full text of the Ten Commandments, Beatitudes and more. It also explains how to memorize verses, how to pray for your child, and how to tailor each lesson to the individual child.

This book would also be useful in a Sunday School situation.

I received an eARC in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, July 16, 2012

'Is it time for THAT talk with your daughter?' Article by Janine Sherman

Janine Sherman is one of the coauthors of the book Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom about Health, sex, or Whatever. In this article of hers, originally published back in 2010, she speaks to parents about how to have "The Sex Talk" with their teenaged daughters.

Is it time for THAT talk with your daughter?

by Janine Sherman

A new study that just appeared (2/1/10) in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine that indicates that discussing abstinence in a non-judgmental way had the best outcome in delaying the onset of sexual activity. As supported by the research, these ideas can be carried over when discussing sex with your teen daughter.

A patient reported to me that one afternoon while making dinner, her 16-year-old daughter sat down at the table and confessed that she thought that she was ready to have sex with her boyfriend of 5 months. She swore that they had not had sex yet but felt like they were ready to take it to the next level. If you were this mom, what whould you do or say?

First of all, if you are too overwhelmed to have this conversation, "calmly" ask to talk to her at another time...and specify the time. Don't just say "later," say "I need some time to think, how about after dinner we can go for a walk and talk."

Start TalkingGather your thoughts, and then pat yourself on the back because you have obviously done something right, since she feels comfortable talking to you. Having a relationship where she obviously feels that she can come to you is a real gift for both of you. As a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner, I often see adolescent patients after they have had sex, and the mother just happens to find out.

Secondly, admit to yourself that we are all sexual beings and no matter how much you do not want to think of your child in this manner, you can't get rid of the hormones that are circulating in her body. This admission does NOT mean you are saying it is okay for your 16-year-old daughter to have sex, but you are admitting she does have normal feeling, and now you need to teach her what that means. Just as we teach our children to eat healthy, we need to teach our children how to make healthy sexual decisions.

Don'ts and Do's

Don't say "you are too young to have sex and I want you to abstain till marriage," even if that is how you feel.

Do admit that she is feeling like she is ready to have sex, and those feelings are normal, then...
Ask her why she wants to have sex.  Does she think it will make the relationship stronger?  Is she curious?  Is she being pressured by her boyfriend or peers to have sex?

I was recently told by a 15 year old patient "all my friends are having sex and it just isn't a big deal".

Don't say "if you get pregnant or get an infection you are on your own."

Do ask her if she understands the long term effects of having sex.

1.  What would she do if she were to get pregnant? Abortion, adoption, or raising a child at the age of 16 or 17? Regardless of the choice that is made; her life if forever changed.

2.  Infection? Is she ready to accept the risk of a sexually transmitted infection? Remind her that 1 in 4 sexually active teens gets a sexually transmitted infection. Some, such as herpes, never go away.

3.  Psychological? Does she really understand the potential emotional impact of her actions? Girls become more emotionally attached after sex than boys. The frontal part of the brain, which is responsible for understanding consequences, is generally not developed enough before the age of 18 to truly understand the emotional consequences of sexual activity.

4.  Effect on her relationship? How will she feel when the relationship ends? Are she and her boyfriend wanting to have sex for the same reasons?
Don't forbid her to have sex, ground her, or restrict her from seeing her boyfriend.

Do tell her that in your opinion she is too young to have a sexual relationship. But, in the end, you want her to be safe and healthy..

1.  Tell her you want her to go see a health care provider to learn how to be safe. This may include being tested for sexually transmitted diseases and learning about birth control.

2.  Remind her she should insist that her boyfriend also go to a health care provider to be tested as well.

3.  Remind her if her boyfriend is really pressuring her and she doesn't really feel ready, it may be time to reevaluate the relationship. At 16, it is time to focus on herself and her passions and becoming the woman she is going to become.

4.  Tell her that you love her and that you are glad she came to you! When all is said and done, you cannot lock her in her room to keep her from having sex, and so it comes down to her choice. However, most girls who go to their mom in a situation like this wants to hear what you have to say. Therefore, if you talk she is probably listening; if you scream and yell, she will probably tune you out.
Adapted from Start Talking: A Girls Guide for You and Your Mom about Health, Sex, or Whatever, Mary Jo Rapini & Janine Sherman, www.starttalkingbook.com.

Monday, July 9, 2012

'How Much Praise Is Too Much?' Article by Mary Jo Rapini

Mary Jo Rapini is a psychotherapist and coauthor of the book Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex, or Whatever. This article addresses the overabundance of praise in today's society.

How Much Praise is Too Much Praise

by Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC

I was on my run the other day and stopped at the park to get some water. While there I sat on a bench and drank my water, I closed my eyes and listened. The happiest sounds in the world are listening to kids as they play: their little voices, screams, imagination, and bargaining with their parents for more time to play. Also, what I heard were a lot of "Mommy, was that good?" or "Daddy, see me?" "Did you see that throw?" Mommy and Daddy both responded, affirming the good job or the throw their child had naturally thrown.

You don't have to go to the park to hear all of this praise and affirmation that is exchanged between parents and their children. Sometimes, you have to question if it has gone overboard? Are we raising a generation of kids who expect praise for doing nothing?
The overabundance of praise is cultural and society influenced. It wasn't done as much when I was a kid, or if it was, I don't remember it happening in my family. Eastern cultures believe too much praise causes kids to grow up to be self-serving lazy adults with big egos. They may have something there. More and more young people don't seem to have as strong a work ethic as their parents and grandparents had. They also seem incensed when their boss tells them they have to work for their pay. These are the same kids who grew up getting an allowance just for their existence. The whole idea behind an allowance is to teach a child to manage their money and to instill the concept of working (doing their chores and being supervised by parents) to earn spending money. Like praise, parents are giving it away for free.
Is praise bad for kids? Not really...if it's done appropriately. For example, research has shown that praising a small toddler for having good manners actually does produce more polite teens. More inappropriate praise is when you praise your child, the little league pitcher, for throwing a good pitch. It's a natural gift for them, and you shouldn't praise gifts or natural talents. Praising your superstar little leaguer for being compassionate to another player for a job not well done will be wiser for that child's future development of having good sportsmanship.

It's all so confusing for parents. One doctor tells you to praise your kids; your parents may tell you not to. You may have grown up with parents who never praised, so you are determined that your children will be praised. The problem is over praise from your kids' point of view can make them feel one of two things:  (A) That you feel sorry for them and think they need praise because they are a loser, or (B) That you aren't really engaged with them because you are praising them for something they already know and they are tuning you out.
Here are a few suggestions or guidelines that will help you re-consider before you praise.

1. Be careful praising them for what comes naturally. If you praise your kids for an A in math that comes naturally, your child may end up taking fewer risks and be less willing to fail a new challenge. They will worry you won't praise them for effort. This can cause anxious, hesitant kids.

2. Be careful praising the kid for what they love to do. This leads to a kid who thinks they must love what they do in order to do it. These kids may grow up thinking life shouldn't be this hard and are easily defeated when challenged.

3. Using comparisons with other children is going to backfire in your praise. Telling your child that they are better, stronger, or more attractive than someone else makes a child grow up to think in a win/lose mindset and they become very competitive. These children may not seek to understand others; they will seek to win an argument, win a position, or win a relationship. Don't forget, no matter whom you know or how high you go, getting along with others can make or break you. Teaching your children to be compassionate and polite is more important and more highly correlated to their future happiness and success than promoting comparisons and competitiveness.

4. Praising your child for their attractiveness should be used with caution. As a parent, it is easy to get caught in the trap of telling your child how beautiful or handsome they are. When a child is praised for looks they know one thing...that the person who praised them values looks. Media's focus on beauty, along with societal norms of impressing sexuality on to children puts additional pressure on children to "look pretty." Your daughter may begin to think at a very young age that she cannot leave the house without her hair and clothes just perfect.

Encouragement and modest praise when your child is discouraged with their tedious practice schedule to learn a skill or overcome a challenge will help build your child's self-esteem more than telling them how pretty they are.
When praising, keep in mind the child's age and developmental level. If you praise a teen insincerely, they may think you are trying to manipulate them, whereas a toddler may need to hear frequently they did good work, or you liked the colors they chose. Kids naturally will begin building their own internal confidence if they face a challenge and work well with it. Constantly telling them how great they are makes them take less risks and less likely to try the very challenges that will help build their self-esteem.

Praise is powerful...use it wisely.
Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at www.StartTalkingBook.com and more about Rapini at www.maryjorapini.com.

Reprinted with permission.

Monday, July 2, 2012

'Monitoring Your Child's Online Behavior' Article by Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC

Mary Jo Rapini is the co-author of the book Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. In this article, she speaks to parents about the dangers of of cyber-bullying and how to keep kids safe online.

Monitoring Your Child's Online Behavior in 2012

by Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC

"Facebooking" and "YouTubing" are no longer just a "cute" thing kids do for fun to pass the time. Not understanding the risks associated with the many social media outlets poses a huge potential problem to the safety and well-being of our children.

To keep them safe, online activity is something that needs to be monitored closely. To fully understand the potential dangers, we, as parents/teachers/child advocates need to educate ourselves and then stay aware of what our children are doing online.
I read the headlines daily, and see sad story after sad story about a child who was not supervised by engaged parents or children whose parents were not aware of their child's virtual world. If you lose a child due to cyber bullying or depression due to feeling isolated and friendless, it is too late to become involved and ask the questions you need to ask now. Telling yourself that your child would never be involved in dangerous activities online is denial on a parent's part. Anyone who has parented a teen understands being proactive is wiser than trying to scramble when bad things happen.
It is time to educate or re-educate parents about the reasons they need to be engaged in their kids' Internet activity.

Whether it's browsing websites like YouTube, networking on social media, playing video or other Internet-connected games, or downloading files, every activity poses potential dangers that parents should be aware of.

Before the Internet was so accessible to all children, kids could Young Teen online2come home and we, as parents, could ask them how their day was, who they hung out with or had lunch with, or how their activities went after school.

Judging by the child's response, we could get a fairly good idea of the events and interactions of their day. By just looking at their face or judging their reactions to our questions, we can often understand how their day actually was.

Today children have a world very different from the one we have known. 

They have an online world with real people, real events and real drama--one that can easily be hidden from our view and protection.
So, let's start with a quick quiz. Do you know:
  • If your child has a Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Tumblr account?
  • How they use each social networking site they have?
  • How many "friends" do they have? Do they personally know all of those friends?
  • If they have more than one Facebook page?
  • ALL of their friends and connections on each site? Do they?
  • How much time your child spends online in general?
  • What your child does on YouTube?
  • If the video games they play connect to the Internet?
Each of these questions represents online activity most kids use almost daily.

By using these social media and search vehicles and playing video games online, they can be whoever they want, talk to anyone they want, or research anything they want. And until we communicate with them about the happenings in that digital world, we are missing out on what's going on in their entire world.
I recommend two avenues:

1.  Daily communication of what happened online. Questions might include:
  • "Where did you spend your time online today--IM, Facebook, games, surfing, etc?"
  • "Did you make any new friends?"
  • "Have you noticed anyone having trouble? I read a lot about cyber bullying."
  • "Did you play any new online games today?"
  • "Would you mind showing that (whatever it may be) to me?"
  • I would also suggest proper etiquette rules of Facebook and texts.
  • I would check their phone for inappropriate photos and go over those rules and consequences prior to giving them the phone (it is a privilege after all...not a necessity).
2.  Restricting Internet use to a public space such as the kitchen or family room and allowing kids on the computer only when you are home.
  • Managing your computer's own settings for password control.
  • Adding software-based controls to your computer.
  • Ensuring that privacy settings on all Internet-based accounts are set to your standards. This includes sites like Facebook, but also YouTube and online photo sites like Snapfish or Picasso.
  • Add a service to monitor your children's activity on sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to send you alerts based around your child's activities.
  • Checking to ensure these same settings and measures are also used on cellular phones that have Internet access.
While there is no perfect solution, a combination of these measures and daily interactions will help provide your child with a safe online experience. As always, we recommend you keep the conversations around Internet safety open and positive so expectations and rules are made cut and dry.
In a place where predators are present, cyber bullying is increasing, and defaming the reputations of others happens rampantly, we need to be keeping a very close eye.

As we enter 2012, I, along with my partner, TrueCare.com, will continue to help parents understand that they do need to be monitoring their kids online. There has never been a more vulnerable time in your child's life where what you don't know really can hurt you (and your child).  We want to move the needle in raising awareness and make "monitoring kids online" the next "buckle your seat belt" campaign.
Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at www.StartTalkingBook.com and more about Rapini at www.maryjorapini.com.