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Do you Know What Your Kids are Doing Online?

Cyber bullying and internet safety. It's all over the news these days. As parents, what’s sometimes scary in the big internet world is the feeling of: “I don't know what I don't know”. Case in point, I just came across an article in the New York Times that talks about a new social networking site I never heard of. Apparently this new site has brought cyber bullying to a whole new level. I follow twitter, read a lot of articles about kids and technology … Why didn't I know about this? I guess my kids aren't on it, but that doesn't mean that they're not going to be on it next week.

So, how do we keep our kids safe and stay on top of what’s happening in their world? I think there are a couple of things we can do besides keeping an open dialogue with our kids (because let’s face it – our kids don’t tell us everything):

  • find a couple of good sites that talk about internet safety and provide current information and tips* and subscribe to their feed or check back regularly.
  • attend internet safety and cyber bullying seminars offered by your school and community.
  • participate in the social network sites so you know what your kids are up to.
  • and most importantly, talk to the parents of your kid’s friends. A lot. What are they seeing and hearing? Also, talk to your friends who have older kids. Know what's coming. 

Social networking has replaced the telephone for our kids. This is the world they/we live in -- some may not like it or understand it, but it is the reality. By keeping our ear to the ground and having an open dialog with other parents we can stay informed without being alarmists. One thing is for sure: the quickest way to get your kids to stop confiding in you about technology or anything else, is to over react (be an alarmist).

 How do stay ahead of the technology curve? How do you monitor what your kids are doing online? Love to hear from you. 

 * Internet Safety Information and Resources

On Schoolfamily.com:

https://www.schoolfamily.com/internet-safety-week

https://www.schoolfamily.com/print-and-use-tools/document/1454-safety-tips-on-cyberbullying-from-trend-micro

https://www.schoolfamily.com/print-and-use-tools/document/1455-general-internet-safety-tips-for-families-from-trend-micro

Other sites:

https://www.wiredsafety.org/

https://www.netsmartz.org/netparents.htm

 

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How to Get Off a College's Wait-List

This guest blog is from Paul Hemphill, a private college admissions coach and financial aid specialist. He has created six DVDs and written two books about strategies that make students stand out in the college application process. They are available from Amazon

 

No college is worth the agony of being wait-listed. And typically 1/5 of wait-listed students get in, but don't go by my figure because each college has its own rule. Some colleges accept no one off a waitlist. However, if your child truly feels he or she MUST go to a certain college, here are my tips for how to get off the waitlist.

  1. Call the college to find out when the admission director is in the office.
  2. Go to the college unannounced.
  3. Ask to see an admission person (if director is nowhere to be found) for just 2-3 minutes (Tell the receptionist how far you've traveled.)
  4. Chances are good you'll see an admissions person.
  5. Thank the admission person for the 3 minutes you're asking for.
  6. If you have to, READ 3 statements about why the school will be better for accepting you - what will you contribute to the freshman class?
  7. Hand the piece of paper to the admission person, thank him/her for their time, and ask when you can expect to hear from them.
  8. If the answer is in a week, hand-write a "Thank you" note for the brief meeting; if in a day, email your Thank you.
  9. Guess who the college will remember when they review their wait-list candidates?
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Neat Video Competition Focused on Online Safety

Just wanted to give you a heads up to a neat contest that one of our partners, Trend Micro, is running. Their “What’s Your Story” contest invites anyone age 13 and up to grab a camcorder and talk about what being safe and smart online means to them.

What I think is cool about the contest is that it empowers teens to have a voice about internet safety. As parents we are always talking to our teens about the importance of being safe online. Sometimes you wonder whether what you are saying is heard as blah, blah, blah. A chance to win $10,000 may just be the ticket to get our teens to be thoughtful about what internet safety really means and talk about it. Also, the fact that the “What’s Your Story” contest is opened to anyone 13 and older offers an opportunity for parents and teachers to collaborate with teens on this project. Lots of great possibilities.

Here are the details:

Entries are due April 30th, 2010

Prizes:

  • One Grand Prize Winner will win $10,000 cash!
  • Four Runners Up category winners will win $500 each.

To enter: Complete the online submission form and upload your short original video at https://whatsyourstory.trendmicro.com on one of the following topics:

  • Keeping a good reputation online
  • Staying clear of unwanted contact (such as harassment, cyberbullying or online predators)
  • Enjoying legal and age-appropriate content
  • Preventing cybercriminals from stealing your personal info

Good luck and have fun!

Oh and helpful Internet safety info from Trend Micro you might want to look at:

Safety Tips for Social Networking
General Internet Safety Tips for Families
Safety Tips on Cyberbullying

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6 Critical Facts To Consider Before Applying to College

Paul Hemphill

This guest blog is from Paul Hemphill, a private college admissions coach and financial aid specialist.

He has created six DVDs and written two books about strategies that make students stand out in the college application process. They are available from Amazon. This post offers Paul's perspective on preparing for the college admissions process.

  1. Begin the admissions process no later than the 9th grade. That is, start speaking about college. And sparingly. This is no time for so-called "boot camps" for college admission that do nothing more than create stress for the student and line the pockets of enterprising admission gurus. Occasionally mention college as an inevitable future experience. Mention something productive of your own college days as a hint of the good things that can be expected of the college experience. In other words, begin creating the culture of college as an expectation of new discoveries to be embraced. It's aging well, teen-style.
  2. When your child’s applications arrive in the room of the admissions committee four years later, it’s Showtime: the decision to admit your student will take no longer than 30 minutes. “Today, it’s a complicated and prolonged dance that begins early,” says J. D. Britz, dean of admissions and financial aid of Kenyon College...“there is little margin for error: A grade of C in Algebra II/Trig? Off to the waitlist you go.”
  3. Olympic athletes begin practicing their sport four years before their Showtime, which takes a lot less than 30 minutes, with very little margin for error. Your student’s preparation for admission success will take the form of fatigue, long hours, boredom, and little recognition until their qualifying moment arrives. The difference is that your student will more likely win the gold, which means admission to college.
  4. A student should specialize in one activity; texting isn't one of them. As an Olympic athlete must practice for only one event with total commitment, a student should specialize in one activity or talent that demonstrates a real interest, passion, or the student’s uniqueness. Limiting focus will allow for more time to study and to improve grades. Creating a limited but strong profile - a theme - gives the colleges what they desire.
    For example, if the student enjoyed working on political campaigns, his theme would be politics; if she enjoyed ballet, her theme would be dance; if it were playing the guitar, the theme would be music; if it were soccer, sports is the theme.
  5. The student’s mission is three-fold: to get good grades, good test scores, and to demonstrate a theme.
  6. Commitment is the operative word here. Ideally, colleges like to see evidence of leadership. But if you were never a captain or a president, a college admissions committee wants to see how you’ve managed your time and focused your efforts. Colleges want to see evidence of your passion for something. They want you to be part of a mosaic they are creating for a new freshman class.
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Preparing for College Applications – As Early as Middle School and Younger

Pleased to introduce a guest blogger this week: Janis Daly. Janis is our director of sponsorship sales, and mom to 2 teen boys. Her oldest is nearing the end of his college admissions process. Janis has some insight, that they gained during the college application journey, to share with families that are just beginning the whole process. 

 

February 1st marked the end of the college application process for millions of U.S. high school seniors. After completing this process with my oldest son and hitting SUBMIT eight times, I’ve discovered two key tips worth sharing with parents whose children are years away from this daunting exercise. 

  1. Conveying ideas and experiences through the written word helps your child become more than an SAT score or summary of four years’ grades and extracurriculars. Learning how to articulate on paper: Who am I? and What’s important to me? is one of the few ways an admissions office discovers the person behind the student. Setting the stage to write solid college essays begins with the fundamentals of writing established during middle school and even elementary school. Getting to the point quickly, with well-chosen words, is paramount when you have a 250-, or even 50-word limit to answer a question.
  2. Individual experiences develop rich subject material. In order to write a compelling essay, you need first-hand experiences to reveal personal thoughts and ideas. As you plan your next family vacation, consider whether a trip to a National Park, historical location, or a weekend in the middle of a city, might provide a different perspective than the same spot you visit every year. Let your child, and yourself, become comfortable with trying different activities. Expose your child to situations from which they can learn and grow. Siloing a child’s activities and interests as young as elementary ages translates into a one-dimensional college application 10 years later. Getting your whole family into the groove of trying different things, visiting different places and meeting different people offers experiences that can be drawn upon, or melded together, for a rich personal statement.

Finally, enjoy your kids and the time you spend together. Senior year descends in the blink of an eye.

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Swine Flu and Your School

You can't pick up a paper or turn on the TV or radio without reading or hearing a mention about Swine Flu. Are you still wondering how parents and schools should respond to the H1N1 virus? Wanted to let you know that we just added an article about health officials'  latest recommendations for parents and schools regarding Swine Flu

Curious to hear how you and your school are taking precautions. 

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New research on middle school parent involvement

I found this middle school involvement piece from the Wall Street Journal.  No surprise, as Sue Shellenbarger's stuff is typically excellent on all kinds of parenting and school-family issues.

The upshot on this piece is likely comforting for many parents of middle schoolers, folks who are often frustrated that they can't be or their kids won't let them be or their schools aren't as open to them being as involved as they were in the elementary school.

That's OK.  The kids are different; the involvement can be different. Seems like a natural progression.

A new research survey on parental involvement in middle school nails down an answer: The best way to promote achievement in middle school isn’t to help student with their homework, or even to volunteer for school fundraisers. Instead, middle-school students posted the best results in school when their parents stepped back a bit and moved into more of a “coaching role,” teaching them to value education, relate it to daily life and set high goals for themselves, says the study, published recently in the journal Developmental Psychology.

Good stuff.

My only fear is that research like this will give parents a green light to disconnect from school. The fact is that staying connected can have quite positive effects even beyond the classroom.  As the kids grow into more serious danger zones, that's the time when our connections with their friends' parents and their teachers and counselors serve as an early defense system and a zone defense system and a safety net. And those connections can be forged best through school involvement.

Understood if you're not hawking gift wrap now that junior is a 7th grader, but not OK to forsake the school involvement piece entirely. We may be there quite differently, but we still need to make those connections that will serve us and our becoming-independent (but not all the way there yet) children well.

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Swine Flu , Parents, and Schools

 

I’m sensing that schools are going to be the first line of defense this fall and winter when it comes to the Swine Flu and getting our kids vaccinated.  This AP article on parents’ views of school and the flu shows that most parents are comfortable with their kids getting the flu help right at school.  Not surprised, since from what I’m reading, this new flu strain is spreading especially quickly among children.

 

After the initial deluge of attention, it seems like Swine Flu concern has died down some.  What are you feeling?  Me?  I’m not overly concerned, but I’m definitely interested in getting our kids and our whole family protected as soon as we can. I like the idea of schools leading this effort, as…. well….  where better to get the big swatch of kids in one fell swoop?

 

If you’re interested in the concept (having the school host the clinic) for your child’s school, then definitely check out the “Teach Flu a Lesson” program over at ptotoday.com. Spread the word to your administration, school nurse or PTO or PTA.  I suspect we’re going to be hearing more and more about this in the next weeks and months.

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Virtual Summer School - Something to Think About!

What student doesn't feel that summer vacation is at least a month too short? Factor in summer school, and your summer vacation suddenly becomes less carefree (for both parent and child)! Enter virtual summer school! Here's an article about how summer enrollment in one virtual summer school is soaring! The flexibility it offers leaves you wondering if this may be the wave of the future, for summer schools everywhere.
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Graduations Gone Wild

In a thought-provoking Newsweek column, Rabbi Marc Gellman weighs the pros and cons of child graduations.

Pros: Graduations celebrate learning and provide motivation to pursue goals. Most important, they show kids that they have the love and support of the adults in their lives

Cons: Kids have so many graduations these days (nursery school, kindergarten, karate class) that the ceremonies lose their meaning. They can also send the message that students are through with learning. True learning, he says, never ends and has no graduation.

Sharron pondered the seriousness adults place on child graduations in her humorous June 11 post, "March of the 8-year-olds." Although her 3rd grade son's graduation didn't merit a famous speaker, it promised something even better: ice cream!

Gellman jokes about his grandson's graduation from nursery school, saying the 5-year-old graduated "with honors in finger painting" and "summa cum laude in knocking down things made with blocks," but he sides firmly in favor of pomp and circumstance.

We are subjected to an endless and proliferating series of awards shows on television," he writes. "Why not, in the face of a culture that gives awards to sitcoms, stand and cheer for our children who are learning things? Are there any members of our society who are more worthy of being honored?"
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Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?

Yes - 31.6%
Sometimes - 25.4%
No - 37.4%

Total votes: 4919
The voting for this poll has ended on: June 25, 2016