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Reel Mama: July 2012

Saturday, July 28, 2012

New giveaway helps homeless pets! Ends 8/11

I have always had a special place in my heart for homeless and abandoned pets, who deserve so much better. They deserve to find that special forever home. I have really enjoyed volunteering to help these deserving animals, who are so sweet and incredibly grateful to those who adopt them. I look forward to teaching my daughter all about the importance of caring for pets, and the responsibilities that adopting a pet entail. Kitty Mattrazz set up a wonderful page for bloggers and blog readers to help Project 121 through the Arizona Humane Society. Kitty is only eleven, a young artist with a big heart who wants to make a difference for these animals.

Kitty Mattrazz and Coupons and Friends have brought together bloggers and sponsors who love animals and want to help bring awareness to this important cause. It's a wonderful opportunity to win prizes your pets are sure to love, and perhaps give back to charity as well!

Special Thanks to Amber of Thrifty Mom's Review's and More for our Event Image


Help Kitty Reach her goal of $200 to donate to the Arizona Humane Society. Even a $1 donation will make a difference. DONATE HERE.

Several outstanding sponsors have been willing to support this great cause and offer some wonderful prizes to win!!

Daris Howard is a wonderful author, and you will have a chance to win Super Cowboy Rides and one of his Life's outtakes books of fun short stories!

Our wonderful sponsor Original Sock Dogs will be giving one lucky winner a pack of these super cute Smiling Bullies Cards. Awww. If you think these are adorable then you just have to check out their sock dogs! Made out of real socks--so cute! You can also find their creative creations on Etsy.

Silver Paw Tags has generously donated one of these heavy duty stainless steel pet tags for a lucky winner. These are beautiful and a very stylish way for your pet to express individuality. Yes, it's a pet fashion statement.

If you have not checked out Artsydog yet then it is a must see! They offer very unique products with something for every dog owner and every dog! These are one-of-a-kind handmade products. The lucky winner will receive a $30 gift certificate to ArtsyDog.

Santa is coming early this year this Dog Treat Advent Calendar being sponsored by Felterrific! Felterrific is your destination for all cute felt crafts. She takes custom orders and has her own Etsy shop. You'll find out how many adorable things can be made of felt.

DistinctlyIvy has donated a gorgeous Mommy and Children hand-stamped name necklace with pearl from her Etsy shop. The winner will have one personalized just for them!

Felissa the creator of Two Little Cavaliers has graciously donated three cute keychains to our giveaway. You'll love Two Little Cavaliers for the latest doggie news, new recipes for your dogs too, and even giveaways!

Christi Smith an independent consultant of Scentsy is offering the winner these great warmers with two scents of their choice! Check out this glowing review: HERE.

Dog Tag Art is donating three fun tags to the winner. They have an endless array from which to choose!

Carolyn From Conversations With Carolyn a blogger who loves to blog about health, recipes, and more, has given us a Pearl Mountain Batch Image Converter registration code for a lucky winner! This is a great product. Check out a review here:

The style experts over at 26 Bars and a Band are going to set one of our readers up with one of their brand new avante garde retractable leashes! These are the latest thing in doggie style! As an extra bonus, readers will be able to get 25% off with code GivingHope25 for the duration of the giveaway!

$10 Gift Certificate to Dog Collar Boutique. Check out this review HERE.

1 Set of My Hikes

1 Bottle of Tantex Leather Conditioner

One summer bag of Optics Eye Care

Read more »

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost loved ones in the Colorado shooting

I want to start by saying how very heartbroken I am for all the victims who were killed this past Friday at the shooting at a Colorado movie theater.  I send out my heartfelt condolences to the families who lost loved ones, and I think I can speak for all my readers by saying they do too.  I want to offer words of love and comfort for those who have loved ones who were hurt and are recovering.  
I want to tell the people who were in that theater that day that you are not alone.  Anyone who has ever been to the movies, anyone who loves going to the movies, is with you.  You have our thoughts and prayers too.  The horror that you experienced is a wound too.  We want to embrace you and be a shoulder to cry on, because it just as easily could have been us.
As movie lovers we have all experienced the excitement of going to a film on opening weekend.  The movies are a special place. They are a place where we feel so safe that we can make a fun escape from our daily lives.  We trust them enough to lose ourselves in a story, to fall in love with the characters.  On Friday that trust was violated.  That safety was shattered.  
The shooting that occurred is impossible to comprehend.  We search our souls to make sense of a senseless act and pray for understanding.  People thought at first that what was happening was some kind of special effect, a part of the film.  Reading about it in another state or even another country, it does seem more like a movie.  It somehow doesn’t seem real.  We don’t want it to be real, but it very much is.
And this makes me mad as hell too.  The monster who committed this heinous act reportedly ordered 6000 rounds of ammunition to be delivered to his work and home.  How could that not have set off a red flag somewhere?  It’s time for gun control.  I’ve never understood why automatic weapons are so readily available.  Why do ordinary citizens need them?  They make no sense.
I offer my heartfelt thoughts and prayers for all of those affected by the shooting.  I wish you strength, love, faith, and hope.  Many people around the world are thinking of you.
I plan to go see “The Dark Knight Rises” and I will post my review next week.
Information on how to help the families of the victims is available here.

ATTENTION BLOGGERS: Join the "Giving Hope to Homeless Pets" giveaway (low cost)!

Those who know me well will tell you that the cause of helping homeless animals is very close to my heart.  Having rescued and adopted two homeless cats and volunteered at the Delaware County SPCA when I lived in Pennsylvania, I am always looking for ways to help an animal in need.  Homeless pets have the world's biggest hearts and they express their eternal gratitude when they find their forever home.  
I'd like to invite all my blogger friends out there to join a wonderful new giveaway I've learned about that will benefit the Arizona Humane Society and raise awareness for this very important cause.  You can sign up here.
Please join us in this effort.  The cost is $1 per link and all proceeds go to the Arizona Humane Society. Talk about bloggers doing good!
This giveaway will run from 7/28-8/11.
There will be referral prizes for the top three referrers:  a $10 Amazon code, $10 Amazon card and a $25 Cato ladies' fashion.  Join up, make your own post to spread the word, and let’s make this giveaway a huge success!
Here are the prizes we have so far:
A Dog Treat Advent Calendar Sponsored by Felterrific
A $30 Gift Certificate and Free shipping Sponsored by Artsy Dog
A Silver Dog Tag Sponsored by Silver Paw Tags
“Rescued is my favorite breed” T-Shirt Sponsored by Pea Of Sweetness
2 books Sponsored by Daris Howard
A $10 gift certificate to Dog Collar Boutique
3 Dog Tags from Dog Tag Art
TBA Prize from Distinctly Ivy
3 keychains from Two Little Cavaliers
Dog greeting cards from Sock Dogs
More to come!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Enter to win the 'What to Expect' trilogy of books! Ends 7/29

Reel Mama has teamed up with To Sew With Love and To Cook With Love to bring you a wonderful giveaway sponsored by
I had to be a part of this giveaway because the "What to Expect" series has been so invaluable to me, first as an expectant mom, and then as a mom. I have consistently referred to this book series throughout my pregnancy and my daughter's first two years of life, and that's why I was so delighted to participate in this giveaway and offer my dear readers the chance to win them. Even if you're not expecting or don't have small children at home, you probably know someone who does. These books make great gifts for any expecting couples, new parents, or parents of toddlers, and could even make a great shower gift or Mother's Day present.

WhatToExpect is one of the most popular and respected sites for pregnant women. They have the second largest audience of pregnant women online! They are an excellent resource for expectant parents and offer a wide variety of books that any expecting couple will find helpful! Moms (and dads) will be delighted to find that at, they will find not just invaluable information and the latest news about pregnancy, newborns, infants, and toddlers, but also the opportunity to become a part of an online community of parents offering mutual support and advice.

*Review by Reel Mama and To Sew With Love

These three books from WhatToExpect  are a treasure. They offer a tremendous amount of information in a concise and accessible way. Everything is easy to find, and expecting parents, moms, and dads will find answers to almost any question or concern they could have! I know there were many times, especially late at night, when I would turn to these books with a concern I had about Leilani, and I would find the answer there, alleviating my fears and providing me with the knowledge I needed to feel at ease.

The What to Expect When You're Expecting Pregnancy book is a best seller. This book is the pregnancy bible, a must have and almost an encyclopedia of information! It has almost everything you need to know during and immediately after your pregnancy!
This book also includes:
  • an expanded chapter on pre-conception
  • a detailed weekly fetal development in each of the monthly sections
  • loads of information about pregnancy's emotional ups and downs and how to survive it
  • a brand new section on achieving a safe, comfortable and pampered pregnancy  It also includes practical advise for pregnant women on the job and on the go!

What to Expect The First Year book is America's best-selling guide to baby care. New moms, you'll rest easy because you can find the answers to your questions about the milestones, medical concerns, teething, even things like how to bathe your baby and nursing tips. This book has it all! 

It also includes:
  • information on your child's monthly growth and development
  • feeding and sleeping strategies
  • up-to-date medical and practical tips

 Time flies! Before you know it, your beautiful baby is a beautiful toddler! You will be amazed at how much independence they will have by this point, but they still need you very much! Understanding your toddler during this stage is so important, and this book is as helpful as the others were in earlier stages. 

With this book, you will get to understand and learn more about:
  • feeding picky eaters
  • solving sleep issues
  • getting your toddler to talk and communicate
  • temper tantrums and how to manage it
  • understanding their behavior and
  • keeping them safe and healthy.

These books saved me lots of worrying! They are a must-have in any household with small children.  These books are available for purchase through's bookstoreBut generously offered to give away two sets of books to two of our readers!

Two lucky readers will win their own set of What To Expect books. Each set will consist of What To Expect Pregancy Book, First Year and Second Year books. This also includes free shipping worldwide! Cool!

An email address is required to enter. Giveaway will end at 11:59 EST on July 29, 2012. The winner will be chosen randomly through Rafflecopter Random Selector and contacted via email. A reply to the winning email is required within 48 hours before a new winner is chosen. The winner's entries will be verified -- please make sure you follow the instructions and submit the entries correctly. Only one person per household may enter. You do NOT have to be a blogger to enter. Open worldwide, ages 18+. This giveaway is void where prohibited.

For more chances of winning, make sure to come back every day for the daily entries. The more entries you send, the more chances you have at winning!
Please be patient and wait for the entry form to full load. If it does not load at once, just re-load the page.

Good luck and have fun!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

DISCLAIMER: This giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook, Twitter, Picket Fences, Pinterest, etc. Information collected is not collected by these sites. In signing up for this promotion, participants release and indemnify aforementioned sites from all liability. By entering this contest, you may be choosing to opt in to newsletters and other emails from To Sew With Love, To Cook With Love, YOUR BLOG'S NAME and/or its sponsors, but opting out of emails does not jeopardize your chances of winning. To Sew with Love and Reel Mama are not responsible of shipping the giveaway prize. 

Sizzling summer winner's choice giveaway: Kindle Fire, $200 Paypal Cash, or $200 Amazon GC!

The Sizzling Summer Giveaway is on!

Our fabulous giveaway hosts are Jenn's Blah Blah Blog & Diva Fabulosa!

A BIG thank you goes out to the giveaway's lovely co-hosts: Bonkers 4 Coupons, Luv Saving Money, Sister's Saving Cents, Dishin With Rebelle, Trinkies, My Vegan Gluten Free Life, Tidbits From A Mom, and Keeping Your Cents and all of the fantastic bloggers that have joined in to help make this event happen!

I love participating in giveaways as a way of expressing my gratitude to my wonderful readers, and I hope one of you wins! I really liked this giveaway because the winner is free to choose the prize. Good luck!

Prize: The winner's choice of prize will be valued at no more than $200 (shipping included). Choose from a Kindle Fire, Paypal Cash or Amazon Gift Card.

This giveaway will run from 7/21 12:01am (EST) - 8/20 11:59pm (EST).

Giveaway is open worldwide and participants must be eighteen or older to enter.

Please the giveaway tool below to enter.

Javascript must be enabled to enter this giveaway. Learn how to activate Javascript by clicking here.
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Disclosure: Reel Mama is not responsible for prize shipment and was not compensated in any way for posting this event. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to winning email to be sent out by Jenn's Blah Blah Blog or Diva Fabulosa. If there is no response another winner will be drawn.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Stop and smell the roses

‘Ice Age 4’ cool 4 kids

The Pleistocene pals are at it again in "Ice Age 4."

It’s no secret that “Ice Age 4” has received a lukewarm, if not frigid critical reception, but silly critics, “Ice Age 4” is for kids!  
Grownups might rather stay home and watch “The Artist,” but it might warm their hearts to know that “Ice Age 4” is lively and fun to watch.  The environment in which the characters find themselves, with plate tectonics shifting the world’s land masses, is inhospitable, but the characters themselves are not.
While there’s no mistaking that this is a sequel, with that unshakeable feeling of picking up where we left off and landing in the middle of something already in progress, “Ice Age 4” melts away the inevitable low expectations its audience might have for it by this point in the franchise. 
For starters, the opening is priceless, with Scrat the squirrel up to his usual oblivious antics in his relentless search for acorns.  This time, his pursuit changes the face of the planet, and all prehistoric peril breaks loose. 

This fourth installment finds the familiar trio of Manny the Mammoth (Ray Romano), Diego the sabor-toothed tiger (Denis Leary), and Sid the sloth (a lisping John Leguizamo) struggling to find their way home as the continents divide.  They are stopped in their watery tracks when they encounter the primate pirate Captain Gutt (voiced with delicious malice by Peter Dinklage).  
Pirates in the ice age give new meaning to “shiver me timbers.”  True, the pirate theme has been done to death and should probably be forced to walk the plank, but kids never get tired of it, and there’s not a children’s series in existence that hasn’t taken advantage of it.  
The storyline is perhaps nothing special.  “Ice Age 4” is all about silliness, but the goal was never to have the depth of a Pixar film.  It’s all about making kids bust a gut (even naming a character after the same).  Mission accomplished with mildly rude jokes like Sid’s shocked “Holy crab!” reaction at yes, wait for it, a giant crab.  
Manny’s overprotective father struggling with his little girl Peaches (Keke Palmer) growing up has been played out in every family sitcom since “Growing Pains.”  While predictable, who better than sitcom superstar Ray Romano to make it work?  “Ice Age 4” is a series of goofy vignettes, with a generous amount of hilarious if a tad agist humor thrown in by newcomer to the franchise Wanda Sykes, who plays Sid’s decrepit sloth granny. (“It’s like having a child, only without any of the joy,” declares Diego about her presence.)
The visuals are dynamic and eye catching in 3D.  While not capturing the fine detail of a film like “Brave,” the bright colors and flashy images are perfect for the broad slapstick comedy that it is.  Based on the ending, I have a feeling we aren’t drifting any closer to the end of the franchise with “Ice Age 4.”  
Reel Mama’s rating: Appropriate for five and up.   Pirate “booty” jokes will make the kids have a giggle fest as parents struggle to suppress laughs.  There isn’t much sexy stuff to speak of, but there is a scene in which each character is “seduced” by his image of the perfect woman when they encounter creatures known as Sirens.  It’s as harmless as Bugs Bunny in drag.  Captain Gutt’s fantasy girl, to quote a phrase from Chris Rock in “Madagascar 3,” is “roach-killin’ ugly.”  Peaches has a crush on a “hot” thrill-seeking mammoth jock, but it’s just mammoth-sized puppy love.  There are a few intense moments that might be too much for four and under (the Sirens with their flashing images as they return to reality are disturbing, and Captain Gutt cracks a whip.)

Maybe I’ll be the lone voice in the arctic wilderness for liking it, but it wouldn’t be the first time.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Chef Larry’s Summery Pomegranate Punch

For a summertime drink that’s refreshing, light on calories, but big on flavor, my dad Larry came up with the perfect concoction: a summery pomegranate punch.  
You’ll need:

3 ounces of 100% pomegranate juice 
Sparkling lime-flavored mineral water (no sugar added)
1/2 small lime or key lime squeezed or used as a garnish
Fill a tall glass with ice, then fill with sparkling water.  Top it off with the pomegranate juice and just a squeeze of lime.  

For the kids, combine grape juice and a dash of the sparkling mineral water.


Tip: I like Crystal Geyser’s Natural Lime Flavor Sparkling Mineral Water, and R.W. Knudsens’ Just Pomegranate can be found in the juice section (Pom Juice will also work).

Attention bloggers: A fun, fabulous, and free giveaway

One of my favorite ways to give back to my readers is to participate in giveaways of fun and useful items.  One of the most exciting giveaways I’ve found this summer is hosted by Jenn’s Blah Blah Blog and Diva Fabulosa -- just those names by themselves conjure up images of summer fun.  

These fabulous divas have organized a fun event where the prize is the winner’s choice: a $200 Kindle Fire, great for enjoying for all your favorite summer bestsellers, or $200 Paypal cash or a $200 Amazon gift card.  The giveaway will run from July 20 until Aug 18.  If you'd like to be a part of this fun opportunity, sign up here!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

La vie en rose: Celebrating France on Bastille Day

Paris has always held a special magic for me.  Though I haven't been in years, and am not likely to do so until my toddler is a bit older, I often imagine the City of Lights and remember my experiences there:

No place in the world can come close to Paris, and I'm lucky enough to have gone there with my husband Horacio on our honeymoon.  I hope everyone gets the chance to visit this glorious city at least once in their lifetime.

Being unable to travel to Paris this year for Bastille Day, we decided to bring Paris to us.

Of course fashion is one of the highlights of Paris, so we started there.  My daughter Leilani's dress with the French poodle may be my very favorite from her closet, and Bastille Day seemed the perfect opportunity for her to wear it one last time before she outgrows it (wistful sigh).  My daughter's dress has a gingham skirt, but the owner of the French café near our home informed us that the pattern is known as Vichy.

We decided to have a tea party.  Yes, traditionally tea parties are British, but we were thinking French thoughts as we drank imaginary tea.  Leilani's guests at the tea party were also French: Madeline and her dog Genevieve.  I even got out a book of children's fables from a French class I took in college.  Sadly it didn't help bring back my French, but it did help set the mood.

Later that day we had a croque monsieur, which sounds a lot better than ham sandwich, at a French café, then we headed downtown for the Bastille Day Waiters' race.

Waiters from all over the city enter the race and have to round a city block twice carrying a tray filled with glasses and bottles of Perrier among other items.  It's become a tradition in my city of Sacramento but the practice was started -- where else? -- in Paris, to showcase the balancing skills of the servers there.

When the day was done, we headed off into the sunset, dreaming of France, and seeing the world through rose-colored glasses for having imagined ourselves there.

Good night, Paris!  Thank you for the inspiration.

* If all this talk of Paris has you in the mood for a movie set in France, then check out "Mr. Bean's Holiday."  It's hilarious, and it's very family friendly.  We love it at our house.  My favorite French movie is "Jean de Florette," starring Gerard Depardieu in his prime, appropriate for teens and up.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Rude, crude, and socially acceptable?

Rude, crude and crass.  Sometimes downright mean.  Something has shifted in our society, and all these behaviors are becoming a lot more acceptable, even celebrated. 
“An aggressive lack of consideration for others is spreading across this country like a case of crabs through a sleepaway camp, and there isn't a lot standing in the way,” says Amy Alkon, author of I See Rude People, in her recent essay for Psychology Today.
Amen to that.  
The examples of rude, crude and crass, and downright mean treatment I received recently are more plentiful than f-bombs dropped in a high school locker room (sadly).
The rude: A senior woman in a banana boat of a Cadillac was jockeying for a space as I pulled into a parking lot.  I angled my car to claim the spot next to hers, which clearly ticked her off.  Her intention was to prevent me from parking anywhere close to her or to get past her, as I pleaded in my head, “Please, pick a spot, any spot.”  I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe she was just having some trouble straightening her car in the space.  
But to clear up any doubt, when she had finally settled into her spot, she turned and stuck her tongue out at me, her expression bordering on malicious.  A member of the Greatest Generation, whose female members are known for their gentility and class, gave me her version of flipping the bird.  Old enough to know better and then some.  Pardon my existence.
Crude and crass: The $%#@ halfwits (I’ll avoid stronger language because I don’t want to appear crass) who purposely raise the decibel level on their profanity when I approach with my two-year old daughter.  As far as I’m concerned, they’re the scum of the earth.  When did it become acceptable to curse like a seasick sailor with a bad hangover and a newly acquired SDT in front of children?  It was funny on Modern Family when toddler Lily dropped the f-bomb (reportedly the young actress really said “fudge” and it was bleeped while her mouth was blurred), and it is painful and funny at the same time when a young child says a curse word for the first time without comprehending its meaning.  
Accidental parental utterances during stubbed toe incidents aside, shouldn’t we make an effort to protect children from profanity for as long as possible?  Their minds aren’t equipped to understand the context for profanity nor developed enough understand the consequences.  Childhood innocence is a beautiful thing, and as a society we should band together to protect it.  Which is why strangers in public purposely spewing curse words at my child, as if we were somehow invading their private space, is beyond my comprehension.
The downright mean:  I’ll never get over being the victim of road rage, because my daughter was in the car at the time.  I described the event in detail in another anti-rudeness post, “Screw the ‘Baby on Board’ sign: Road rage, distracted driving, and why every day is Carmageddon in LA,” but for the uninitiated, a driver of a convertible BMW was apparently foaming at the mouth because I had to stop short at a traffic light in front of him, forcing him to stop suddenly as well, but with enough time to avoid hitting my bumper.  Relieved, I was then shocked when I felt a jolt, and turned my head to see the BMW with its front headlight knocked out (small payback for ramming my car) as it screeched away down a side street.  The guy needed to teach me a lesson, and yes, my “Baby on Board” sign was in plain sight.  Luckily we escaped the incident unharmed, just a bit shaken up.
As a society we need anger management.  We need to take a few deep breaths.  I’m grateful for the many random acts of kindness I encounter, but I’m disheartened by the woman huffing and puffing and storming away because I’m taking too long to check out with my groceries due to having an active small child with me.  Give a mom a break!  And a kid too, for that matter.
We’re not a nation of saints.  Never have been and never will be.  But is it too much to ask for human decency?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lauren's rules for happiness

  • Eat cupcakes or ice cream every day. Preferably both.
  •  Eat dessert first.
  • Don’t weigh yourself.
  •  Don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself.

  • Go to the movies as often as possible.
  • Surround yourself with good friends.

  • Get and give back rubs as often as possible.
  • Collect hugs and kisses.

  • Call an old friend.
  •  Call your parents.
  • Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone every once in a while.

  • Pet your pets.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

What parents can do to about cyberbullying

As parents who likely have memories from twenty years ago of an existence without email or Internet, it can seem like a brave new world when it comes to evolving technologies.  For our kids, technology is their comfort zone, but we don’t want it to become their whole world.  We wonder how to set limits on the limitless Internet and protect our kids from harmful messages, especially when it comes to interacting with other young people online.  

Bullying, formerly the domain of private spaces like the locker room, has gone public and even viral in the form of cyberbullying. Author Signe Whitson is an expert on bullying, and in her latest guest post she sets forth some invaluable tips for parents to help them monitor their kids’ online activity and prevent their children from becoming victims of cyberbullying.  I am thrilled once again to welcome Signe as a guest contributor at Reel Mama.

What Parents Can Do to About Cyberbullying

by Signe Whitson

I remember with clarity the day my daughter “discovered” the internet.  She was just three years old and playing hostess to the son of one of my college friends, visiting from out of town.  As the two toddlers were breezing through the kitchen, my friend’s son, Jack, stopped short and suggested enthusiastically, “Let’s play computer!”

I laughed, thinking how cute it was going to be to watch the little ones sit and pretend to type on my laptop.  Then, before my amazed eyes, Jack navigated successfully to and introduced my daughter to the wonders of the world wide web.

Now, at not-quite-nine, I am still amazed everyday at how natural and intuitive technology usage is to my daughter and to all of her peers who have grown up with computers, cell phones, tablets, and texting as part of their everyday lives.  I am also aware, however, that things like Internet safety, cyberbullying and “netiquette” may not register on her radar the same way they do on mine.
When she was very young, I worried about the unknown: online predators who could try to trick her into revealing personal information so that they could cause her physical harm.  Now, in her tween years, I know that “stranger danger” is still a threat, but I spend more of my time worrying about the known:  frenemies from her daily life who may use taunting texts, humiliating social media posts, and viral videos to cause her emotional harm.  It’s no wonder that when she begs me (at least once daily) for a cell phone, I feel chills run up and down my spine.

No matter how tech-savvy my daughter becomes, I am constantly aware that she is young and that it is up to me to monitor her safety and well-being with technology in the same consistent, diligent way that I ensure her well-being on a playground.  These basic rules are our first line of defense in minimizing (I’m too wise to think that “preventing” is realistic) cyberbullying and using technology in safe, respectful ways:

Talk About Safe Sites

In her pre-literate days, I could rely on the fact that the only way my daughter could get from one website to another was by me typing in the correct website address for her.  Likewise, I knew that she would be content staying on PBS Kids, Disney, or Nick Jr. Websites.  Those days are long gone.  Flashing icons, interesting links, viral videos--there are so many ways that children and tweens are tempted into visiting and viewing less-than-innocent content online. 

Without wanting to scare my daughter out of ever going near a computer again, I do talk frankly with her about the fact that predators exist in cyberspace (I have explained this in terms appropriate for each stage of her development, but have never sidestepped the subject) and that it is important for her to safeguard her personal information while online.

Define “Safe Sharing”

I’m so glad we had the talk about safe sites when we she was young, because it has helped us make a seamless transition in her tween years to talking about what is—and what is never, ever, ever, never—safe to share online.  

First and foremost, our rule is to go photo-free.  The network news is chock-full of stories about kids who have gotten themselves into friendship-destroying, reputation-shattering, college admission-sacrificing, future career-jeopardizing, family-humiliating situations because of photos they have posted online or via text.  For parents who don’t want to take as hard of a line on photos, at minimum, I recommend making sure that the photos their kids share are never suggestive or sexual in any way.

Next on my list of words of wisdom to my technology worshipper:  What you post is permanent.  Once you share something online, it is out of your hands where it goes, who will forward it, who will see it, and how it can potentially be used.  When Queen Bees and Wannabeees author, Rosalind Wiseman called technology a weapon of mass social destruction, she was not exaggerating; according to the CDC, 97% of middle schoolers are bullied while online.   

So, as much as my daughter might think she can trust her BFF with her deepest, darkest secrets, I remind her of the importance of never posting personal information that a BFF-with-a-grudge could at some point distort and use against her.  

Set Clear Guidelines on Etiquette

When the internet first became a powerful force in the lives of kids, the term “netiquette” was coined to describe ethical ways to interact while online.  Though no equivalent phrase has yet emerged for cell phone use (cell-iquette??), it is important to talk to kids about how to treat others while texting.  For example, I pose these questions to my daughter (only to an occasional groan, surprisingly):
  1. Would you say the words you are texting to a person’s face?
  2. What would your parents think if they read this text?
  3. Could this message you are sending cause hurt or embarrassment to me, my friends, my family, or anyone else?
  4. Can your text be taken out of context and used to hurt you or someone else?
  5. If you received a threatening or rumor-spreading text message, what would you do?
  6. How does technology make it easier for you to say something unkind to someone?

Cell phones and social networking sites are prime tools of bullying among young people, so being clear that texts, phone calls, and social media sites are never to be used as tools of gossip, exclusion, embarrassment, etc. is essential.  Likewise, parents are wise to encourage their kids to tell them about any incidents of cyberbullying that they are aware of, even if they are not directly involved.  

By keeping a dialogue going, parents can position themselves to help a child who may be being bullied online and can establish a set of standards for how their own kids must behave online.

Know the Lingo

Are you familiar with these text-friendly acronyms?

·         LOL
·         JK
·         BRB
·         ATM

Texting has a language all of its own.  Laugh out Loud (LOL), Just Kidding (JK), and Be Right Back (BRB) are common enough, but while most adults that are parents today take for granted that ATM stands for a bank’s Automatic Teller Machine, kids can tell you that it is more likely to refer to their being “at the mall.”  Online lingo is cryptic, clever, and intentionally elusive.  The over-30 crowd may never know all of the acronyms, but the more parents educate themselves about the lingo their kids are using, the better able they are to monitor technology use and abuse. 

Know Your Child’s Passwords

Am I a helicopter parent?  I don’t really think so, though I will own the accusation if necessary, for my firm belief is that kids need clear guidance, limits, and expectations when it comes to using technology.  In my own home and in the workshops I do, I always advise parents that when the time comes to allow their child access to a cell phone, Facebook, YouTube, or any other piece of today’s technology, they would not be overstepping their bounds to let their kids know that they maintain the right to access their child’s accounts at any time.  

The relative freedom of cell phones and social media sites tempt even the most trustworthy and responsible kids to engage in risky behavior, so it is important for parents to let their kids know upfront that they will be reading texts, reviewing MMS messages, scrutinizing Facebook posts, viewing YouTube uploads and providing any other kind of oversight that underscores the importance of safe technology usage by kids.

While I advise parents to know their kids’ passwords, it is equally important that parents tell their kids not to give their passwords to friends—like, ever.  Trusted BFF one day, sworn enemy the next; when kids give up their passwords, they are giving up control of their personal accounts, their online identity, and potentially their good reputation.

Lastly, if your child is using a social networking site such as Facebook, ask to “friend” them or, at minimum, ask another trusted adult to do so.  While kids may initially resist this as “spying,” when parents present this guideline as coming from a place of love and concern for their child’s well-being, the young person’s sense of paranoia often melts away.

Parental Controls

And one final note to wrap up my thoughts on the topic of keeping kids as safe as possible when it comes to using today’s social technology.   In response to a conversation about cyberbullying recently, I heard someone bluster, “I don’t know what the big deal is--all of those sites and gadgets have parental controls on them.  Parents should just use them and be done with it.”

If only it were that simple.  I agree with his basic advice about activating parental controls: adults should use them.  However, I caution all parents not to rely on them as a sole means of safety for kids.  Parental controls are limited…and we all know how good kids can be at testing limits!  Automated safety features are a great first line of defense—best fortified by discussion, guidelines, standards, knowledge, interest, and a whole lot of support for kids.

Signe Whitson, LSW is a national educator on bullying, mother of two daughters, and author of Friendship & Other Weapons: Group Activities to Help Young Girls Aged 5-11 to Cope with Bullying.  For workshop inquiries, please visit,"Like" Signe on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter @SigneWhitson.