* Make Sure Your Child is Safe Online

By Jordan Beach, MSW – Courier & Press – April 24, 2018 –

As a school social worker, I work with kids every day. I like to think that I’m pretty up-to-date on all the newest apps that students at my school use.

I want to be in tune with the ever-changing social media aspects that fill our children’s lives, but if I’m being honest with myself, I know that’s not true.  By the time I figure out what I believe to be the “newest” app, my students are telling me they aren’t using that one anymore and they have moved on to something new.

So what can you do to ensure your child is being responsible online, especially if you find it difficult to even keep up with the apps they are using?

For starters, do your research. Know what apps are popular. Most parents know the basics: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Musically…but what are we missing?

  • Yik Yak: Yik Yak is an anonymous social media site that takes zero personal information to create. Every post from every user is anonymous. This is especially concerning in the hands of younger students who often struggle with using social media in a positive way.
  • Ask f.m.: This app is set up in a question/answer format.  This again is troubling for younger users who tend to use social media for validation. Questions and answers can be posted either using a name or anonymously.
  • Kik: Kik is essentially another way for kids to text each other. It thrives on giving a more “face to face” feeling by using images, and pictures are part of its allure. However, this app is easily accessible and often times used as a way to meet strangers. This app certainly puts your child at risk to predators.
  • Voxer: Voxer turns your phone into a walkie-talkie style device. Youth enjoy the app for this diversity in communication styles but it also poses a concern to parents.  Messages on this app can be saved and replayed.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  Again, this app is concerning when used inappropriately to put people down.
  • Other Programs to be aware of: Programs or instructions to “jailbreak” a phone are easy to find. This means the phone is free of limitations imposed on it by its manufacturer and carrier. Once your child’s phone has been “jailbroken” they can add apps that don’t come directly from an app store.  Most commonly apps being utilized in this way are used to hide other apps from the main screen.  Do some research about these jailbreak apps so you can see what the icon looks like.  This will help you identify if one of these apps is being used on your child’s device.

So what steps can you take to keep your child safe online without being the type of parent that is watching every move they make? As our kids get older we want to give them some additional freedom to learn and make mistakes, but we also need to know they’re safe.

Here are some tips to ensure your child is safe online:

  1. Talk about it. Know what apps they’re using and ask them to be transparent.
  2. Have active accounts and befriend them on major social media accounts.
  3. Have their passwords. Don’t abuse this, but letting them know you have the ability to log in and see what they’re doing at any time can be helpful.

* JUULing – Vaping Gets a New Look

By Jordan Beach, MSW, Courier & Press, March 27, 2018 –

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are turning into a thing of the past.

I would love to tell you it’s because less people are using them and all forms of cigarette use are becoming obsolete, but that is not the case. The growing popularity of e-cigarettes has just taken on a new form called “JUULing,” which is a type of vape made by JUUL Labs.

According to the manufacturer’s website, its mission is to “eliminate cigarettes by offering existing adult smokers with a true alternative to combustible cigarettes.”

The company says the product is not intended for minors. However, young people are using it, and medical experts are concerned about the health risks.

JUULing is essentially the same concept as vaping using an e-cigarette, but the device itself is much smaller and more discreet. The size and style can make it especially appealing to kids or others who might want to hide use of this product.

Like an e-cigarette, this device needs to be charged, but the difference is it can be easily plugged into a laptop or charged in a car using a USB port. Small enough to fit in the palm of a hand, the JUUL may easily be passed off as a flash drive and brought into homes and schools without the knowledge of adults.

Vaping flavors like fruit medley and crème brulee may also attract a younger market, though the manufacturer states that its products are not designed for anyone under the age of 21.

Outside of convenience stores, these products can also be purchased online through the manufacturer. There are steps to verify the buyer’s age and help prevent minors from making a purchase, but according to news reports, underage users are still finding ways to buy it online.

Using a JUUL has to be better than smoking traditional cigarettes, right? They are made without tar and some other well-known cancer-causing chemicals used to make cigarettes, but they are not harmless.

The manufacturer says one cartridge used for a JUUL contains as much nicotine as an entire pack of standard cigarettes. The American Academy of Pediatrics says nicotine is both highly addictive and toxic. Nicotine has been linked to nerve damage in developing teens. A newly published New York University School of Medicine study suggests nicotine delivered via e-cigarettes puts users at a higher risk for cancer and heart disease.

JUUL products are also expensive. A “starter pack” purchased online will cost just under $50. Each time you need more cartridges it will cost about $25 for a pack of four. This is not a cheap habit (or addiction).

Parents, it is important to educate yourself on the appearance of a JUUL so you know if your child has one with them.  Also, it is important to have conversations with your children about the dangers of these substances. When something doesn’t look dangerous or is advertised as a safe alternative, it is easy for teens to overlook the dangers that lie beneath the surface.

* Preparing Older Children for the Birth of a Sibling

By Jordan Beach, MSW, Courier & Press, April 25, 2017 –

Having a new baby is a very exciting time. There is so much to be happy about.

Since there is usually a lot to be done before baby arrives, preparing for the newest member of the family can be very consuming.

When you have your first child it is possible to allow the new family member to take up all of your time and energy.  But when there are already children in the home, it’s important to get older siblings ready for the arrival of their new baby brother or sister.

Unfortunately, children are not usually as excited about a new baby as the rest of the family.  They understand at an early age they are going to have to share things they’ve never shared before.

One of the biggest changes they are going to face is sharing the attention of their parents.  There are plenty of things that you, as parents, can do to help make the arrival of the new baby exciting for everyone and help older children mentally and emotionally prepare for the changes occurring in their family.

During the pregnancy, it is important to discuss the new baby with older siblings.  Talk about when the new baby will arrive.  Depending on their age, you could tell them the month the baby is due or talk about the season the baby is going to be born. Help your child understand the amount of time it will take before baby comes.

Other activities that will encourage your child’s relationship with their future brother or sister include reading books about siblings, visiting friends who have infants, including them in prenatal appointments and encouraging them to help you think of baby names.  Many hospitals also provide sibling birth classes to help the older child prepare for the new arrival.

Most of the changes in your family will occur after the baby arrives.  It is great to talk to your child about the arrival of the new baby, but there is no way to really prepare them for the amount of time a new baby takes.

If possible, maintain a normal routine with your older child.  If your son or daughter attends a childcare center or school, continue sending them as normal.  This will help maintain their routine and also make your transition back to work easier when the time comes.

After baby arrives, set aside some special time each day for the older sibling to spend with mom and dad.  This might be bath time or reading a book right before bedtime.  It doesn’t really matter how you spend the time; it is just really important to give them at least 10 minutes of your undivided attention every day.

This would be a great time to talk to children about how they like being an older sibling to get a better understanding of how they are adjusting.  It is also important for them to receive this individualized time with both parents.

Another way to help your older child adjust is to allow them to help with the new baby.  They can help by getting diapers or other things you need for the baby, playing with the baby (appropriately), singing songs and telling stories.

There is no doubt your family is about to change with a new baby on the way, but by taking some of these simple steps you can make the transition as seamless as possible for your older children.

* Teaching Tolerance to Children is Vital *

By Jordan Beach, MSW, Courier & Press, December 27, 2016 –

Now, more than ever, we live in a world where global interaction is normal, and even expected, in many fields of work. This trend will continue to grow, so it is important to raise children to be accepting and tolerant of cultures and norms different than their own.

Children are taught about other cultures in school, but as far as molding a child into a tolerant human being, most of the responsibility falls on the parents or caregivers.

The primary way for a parent to teach this is by example. Your children are going to model your behavior. If you show respect for people of all races, genders and religions, your child will learn to do that too.

It is very difficult to teach your child to respect others if you are not doing it yourself. The way you speak to (and about) a person from another culture does not go unnoticed by your child. Make sure you always treat others with respect and dignity so your children learn to do the same.

Don’t be afraid to talk about differences with your children. At times it seems as though people get embarrassed when their children point out different physical characteristics, races or ethnicities. The truth is, there are a lot of races, cultures and ethnicities in the world. Your child is simply learning through observation and pointing this out.

It is a positive thing to have conversations with your child about these differences and encourage them to be accepting of everyone — no matter what they look like. Diversity makes our world a great place, and introducing this to your child will help them become a better-rounded individual.

Helping your child build their own confidence is also a tremendous help. People who are comfortable in their own skin and confident about their own lives are more likely to be tolerant of the lives others choose to live.

 This is true of children too. If you celebrate your child’s uniqueness and happiness, they will radiate joy to those around them. They will be less consumed with the differences of others because they are comfortable being themselves.

Allow your child to have experiences in diverse settings. Sign them up for camps or clubs that will support your goal of raising a tolerant child. When possible, travel together. Seeing different ways people live will help your child be more aware that everyone’s lives don’t look like theirs.

Children grow up so fast. As parents, it is our job to prepare them for their futures to the best of our abilities. Raising your child to be tolerant of others is a huge step in raising a successful child.

Besides preparing them for success in an ever-changing global economy, having this strength will allow your child to build positive relationships throughout life.