digital technology

IN THE NEWS: Your Baby Monitor Can Be Hacked

by Samantha on August 1, 2015

Who's listening to your baby? Parents urged to take precautions with monitor technology

 

monitor

Who’s listening to your baby?

Are you safe? Is your baby safe?

The intersection of technology and parenting continues to expand as we increasingly rely on digital tools to make our roles as parents easier. We use tech more than ever to live our daily lives, from watching our babies to entertaining them; from reading to our kids to monitoring them (texting and cell phones). It all seems great, right? Granted, the convenience provided by technology can’t be denied, but there is a dark side to its usage as well.

As hacking becomes more commonplace in our daily lives, the instances of our digital tools being compromised will also increase. We’ve seen a rise of incidents where personal information has been hacked via email, cell phones and cloud accounts, but did anyone really anticipate that baby monitors would be a target too?

It’s scary to think that our most precious assets could be open to being spied on, secretly viewed, spoken to by strangers, or worse.

I recently provided my thoughts on this disturbing trend in an interview on Global News. You can watch the full segment below. There are also some simple tips that parents can follow to make sure that their babies remain safe and secure.

What you do to avoid hacking via baby monitors or similar devices:

1) Educate Yourself – Make sure that you fully understand the technology that you’re using, especially in their children’s rooms.

2) Err on the Side of CautionWhen in doubt, don’t. If you have any concerns or misgivings about the technology behind any particular device, don’t use it until you are sure about it’s security, or chose another option altogether.

3) Choose a Secure Password – Don’t make the password for your device too easy. Remember to use a login that is not easily-guessed, that is changed frequently, and that includes a non-sensical string of letters (both upper and lower case) and numbers. For more information on how to choose a secure password, visit this page: How to Create a Secure Password.

4) Limit the Use of Devices – The less amount of devices used to monitor our kids, the less likely hackers will be able to successfully gain access where they don’t belong.

Global News Segment – Baby Monitor Hacked!


 

What other tips do you have for parents who are concerned about being hacked? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Pregnancy and Public Transit

by Samantha on June 14, 2015

What has happened to kindness and common courtesy?


Pregnant belly

She was about 8 or 9 months pregnant, belly hanging low, baby about to drop any day. The previous months had clearly taken a toll on her, as her face showed the exhaustion and fatigue required to make a human being. She was physically spent, yet there she stood.

Yes, she was standing. Standing on the 505 streetcar in downtown Toronto, as it abruptly stopped and started in morning rush hour traffic. Had she slept the night before? Unlikely, as anyone who has experienced the final months of pregnancy knows: a good night’s sleep is an ephemeral and fleeting fantasy.

Yet there she stood, while all around her, young, fit and otherwise preoccupied citizens pretended not to see her by burying their heads in their smartphones of choice.

A 20-something man in a crisp suit, clearly headed to his job in the financial sector pretended to sleep, as his eyes closed immediately after viewing the pregnant woman’s swollen belly.

A middle-aged woman played candy crush saga with an intensity and fervour that many of us thought only belonged to a younger generation of gamers, her eyes glued to her retina display screen.

Three teenage girls in private school uniforms giggled amongst themselves, giving nary an eye to the belly that not only protruded into the aisle in front of them, but turgidly languished on the very edges of their personal space. You see, her belly – had it been acknowledged – would have broken up the party, and that wouldn’t have been cool. The latest gossip about that cute guy in class and recap of last night’s TV show was much more important.

This had not been the first time that I had seen such appalling behaviour. Sadly, purposely, ignoring pregnant women while riding public transit has become the norm, not the exception. What has happened to humanity?

I’ve posted many rants and complaints about this on my personal Facebook page and talked to many friends who are mothers themselves. All of them have a similar story to recount about how they have been ignored  while pregnant and riding public transit.

A personal anecdote: during my last and final pregnancy with my twin boys, I could barely walk. I was considered “high-risk” for a few medical reasons which relegated me to bed-rest for most of my pregnancy. On those off days before I was completely immobile, somewhere between my seventh and eighth month of gestation, I needed to use the public transit to get to my doctor’s appointments. Now, let me say that having my third pregnancy and twins, no less, made me huge, much earlier than I would have been, had I been on my first pregnancy. In other words, there was no doubt that I was indeed pregnant.

Yet there I stood.

Their eyes averted, I was ignored, invisible and silently defeated as I struggled to balance so many times on the streetcar, hoping that some kindly person would give me a seat. My elephant-sized ankles continued to swell, my feet ached and my back painfully swayed with each lurch and jolt of the streetcar. Everything hurt, including my feelings.

As the mother of four, and one who has experienced three different pregnancies, I’m sad to say that this experience wasn’t atypical. Sadly, it was the norm, not the exception. And every single woman that I know who has been pregnant has experienced the same. What on earth is going on?

While I don’t profess to have all of the answers, I do believe that our culture of entitlement is a huge factor in this cultural shift. Once upon a time, there was chivalry, then socially accepted norms that included women, about “doing the right thing.” Helping someone who was clearly in need was the norm, not the exception. With the increasing sense of entitlement, exemplified by the “Me Generation” and continuing onward, those in need haven’t had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting a fair shake. Whether they’re seniors who are unstable on their feet, the disabled or the aforementioned pregnant woman just looking for a kind soul who will let her have a well-needed seat, the chances of these folks receiving this small kindness grows smaller every day. The lack of focus on others, supported by the technological tools to “zone out” or feign ignorance wherever and whenever possible makes this willful blindness not only possible but probable as well.

Yet, in spite of this trend towards selfishness, I do believe that change is possible. The change starts now with all of us who are raising children with the values that support kindness and compassion. And while we make efforts to effect our childrens’ behaviours in future there are some adults who are in need of an etiquette refresher now.

I am starting a one-woman public awareness campaign as I feel that it needs to be done. As someone who has endured a very difficult twin pregnancy and was on the verge of begging someone to please give me a seat, the time for greater awareness for this reality is long overdue. Clearly, the assumption that everyone riding on the bus/subway/streetcar/[insert transportation mode here] understands that pregnant women should be given a seat is completely wrong. My assumptions – based on the teachings of my parents (thank-you, Mom and Dad) underscored the importance of kindness, but more specifically the need for those of us who are more able, to extend said kindness – and where appropriate, a seat – to those in need. This includes the elderly, the disabled and, of course, pregnant women.

Whenever and wherever you can, please remind those riding the public transit who seem to have forgotten basic courtesy that pregnancy is challenging, difficult and just plain exhausting. If a pregnant woman is standing while able-bodied people are pretending not to see her, be her advocate and ask them to give her a seat. I’ve done it before and have never been told “no,” probably because the shock of being called on their bad behaviour mixed with their embarrassment makes the culprits stand up quicker than one would imagine.

Perhaps making the subject one that is no longer ignored, one where pregnant women don’t have to suffer in silence, will put an end to it once and for all. If anything, making those who are oblivious more aware of their choices and how these choices affect others will affect change, hopefully for the better.

I’ll be tweeting and sharing the hashtag #StandUpForMom and #giveupyourseat on my social media channels to keep the topic top of mind and hope you’re able to share it as well.

Let’s do this.

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here.

VIDEO: Stand Up For Mom!


What has been your experience with pregnancy and public transit? Tell me about it in the comments section below.

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Kickstarting My YouTube Channel

by Samantha on May 26, 2015

youtube logo

I’m kickstarting my YouTube channel.

No, not that kind of “kickstarting.”

After a long hiatus, I’m restarting my video blogging in addition to writing on this blog. Life has been busy and sadly, I’ve neglected the channel for some time now. You know how it goes – life gets in the way, and between work, kids, laundry and homework, personal pursuits tend to take a backseat to more pressing items.

That being said, I’ve realized that vlogging (as well as blogging) is something that I enjoy, a fact that I’ve realized since being away from it for the past while.

As they say, “there’s no time like the present,” so here’s to taking a second jump into the world of video blogging on one of the Internet’s most popular sites.

On my YouTube channel you’ll find parenting tips, advice, opinion and insight, as well as previous and future media appearances.

I hope you’ll check it out and subscribe – I promise to update the channel regularly with interesting and informative information, as well as timely and relevant topics related to parenting and raising kids.

See you there!

Sam

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The "Kylie Jenner Challenge" highlights the worst insecurities in tweens and teens

2014 American Music Awards - Arrivals

Have you heard of the #KylieJennerChallenge?

It’s a hashtag that’s become the call to action for young women who want to emulate the full-lipped look of the reality TV star.

One of the famous sisters on “Keeping up With the Kardashians” and the younger sister of Kim, Kylie has become admired for her full lips and fashion sense; is it any surprise that tween and teen girls want to emulate her?

Perhaps not, however the degree to which they want to be more like their idol is troubling, at best.

In an effort to emulate the young TV star, teens have responded to the “Kylie Jenner Challenge” call to action that involves “participants placing their mouth over the opening of a cup, jar or other narrow vessel and sucking in until the air vacuum causes their lips to swell up.”(Daily Mail) The desired result is the pouty look that their young celebrity idol sports, seemingly without such painful effort.

Kylie Jenner and young girls who have tried to emulate her look

kylie jenner examples

While it would be easy to write off such silly behaviour as harmless tween/teen antics, the reality is that this type of body mutilation in the quest for “beauty” is anything but.

The physical pain and frequent injury that results from the #KylieJennerChallenge are the least of these kids’ problems. Rather, as parents, we must look at the root causes of why kids feel the need to emulate their idols to such a painful degree.

So what is really going on here? Why are young girls risking physical harm in the unrealistic quest to look like a celebrity who has the means and ability to look “just so” without pain or discomfort?

Here are some of the reasons for this disturbing trend:

1) Celebrity Culture

We live in a society that is dominated by celebrity culture. Add to this fact our kids’ ability to access the latest information, gossip and trends related to their favourite stars and you’ve got the recipe for a beauty disaster – and then some. The digital age, including kids’ love of social media, smartphones and the latest updates about the celebrity of the day adds to the desire to emulate what they are seeing. The famous have also been sucked into the digital vortex, with many stars using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other channels to connect with their fans. While this may be a great marketing tool and publicity generator for the celebrity, the focus on appearance, as well as an unrealistic standard of beauty is resulting in the damaged self-esteem of vulnerable kids.

2) Insecurity and Diminished Sense of Self

Perhaps spurred on by the constant feed of information about Hollywood beauties and otherwise, is it any wonder that impressionable tweens and teens – girls in particular – feel insecure about their looks and bodies? In the age of Photoshop, Instagram and unrealistically “ideal” bodies, it’s difficult for the average tween, who is often already sensitive about their appearance, to maintain a positive self-image. Our celebrity culture doesn’t help, highlighting the “perfect” and largely unattainable body types of the rich and famous, making young fans who are already vulnerable even more insecure than they already may be.

3) Unrealistic Expectations of Beauty

It should be no surprise that insecurity and diminished body image exist in this age of “perfect” beauties, photoshop and plastic surgery. With images of celebrities being digitally altered before they are shared online and on social media, is it any wonder that our kids have a skewed sense of how real people look? Post-baby bodies that showcase washboard stomachs and curvaceous figures that echo shapes rarely found in reality feed into young girls’ doubts about themselves and perpetuate an unrealistic standard of beauty.

Tweens and teens idolizing celebrities is nothing new, but the standards of “perfection,” made possible through technological and medical manipulation most certainly are. With the bar being raised higher and higher daily, there appears to be little hope for the average young person, insecurities and all, to ever reach the pinnacle of what they see to be the norm.

As parents, we have an obligation to counter the messages and images that our children are bombarded with, particularly now. If we don’t put a stop to it, we’re destined to have a whole generation that is not only insecure, but psychologically scarred as well. Instances of eating disorders, younger and younger children going under the knife in the name of beauty and worse will become more prevalent if this celebrity trend continues.

For parents who are concerned about the emphasis on looks and unrealistic expectations conveyed through celebrity culture, here are some tips on how to help your tween/teen:

  • Discuss their fears and insecurities – Talking to your child about how they feel about themselves and countering negative or incorrect perceptions that they may have about their appearance can help them to put things in perspective
  • Show them the “real deal” – The reality of how using Photoshop, plastic surgery and other methods of altering appearances should be shown to teens who are emulating the looks of their favourite celebrities
  • Encourage their interests – Self-esteem is often increased through success and activities; help your child refocus on an interest or skill that will support their feelings of self-worth. These could include sports/athletics, reading, art, music, cooking or more
  • Focus on their abilities, not their looks – If we as parents focus on our or others’ looks, so will our children. Support and encourage their abilities and what they do, downplay the importance of appearance and how they look
  • Give praise and support – A positive word of encouragement and praise for a job well done can go a long way – especially for a tween or teen who is struggling with their self-esteem
  • Encourage independence and decision-making – There’s nothing like confidence in one’s abilities to make one feel better about themselves. Support your child’s steps towards self-reliance and good judgement
  • Do unto others – A great way of taking the focus off of oneself is to give back to others. Encourage your child to volunteer and their feelings of self-worth will increase considerably, guaranteed.

How do you feel about the #KylieJennerChallenge and the focus on celebrity appearances in general? What additional tips would you give to parents who are struggling to help their children increase their self esteem? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here

VIDEO: Under Pressure

Image courtesy of www.instyle.com

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CBC Radio Interview: Kids and Email

by Samantha on September 4, 2014

Should parents allow their children to have email and online accounts?

Gmail Does your child have an email account? Why or why not?

This is a question that I addressed on CBC Radio’s Ontario Morning program about kids and online access. Following a discussion on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning show on a similar topic, I delved more deeply into the questions that all parents face about when they should allow their kids online access.

cbc_radio_logo

 

Some topics discussed:

  • Should kids under 13 have an email account and online access?
  • How young is too young to be online?
  • How has parenting a child in the digital age changed from raising a child before the Internet was the norm?

As digital technology becomes the norm both at home and at school, kids are increasingly expected to have some type of access, whether it be via email or otherwise. This reality raises a number of issues and concerns for parents who worry about the safety of their kids as they venture online.

Is it okay to let a child under the age of 13 have an email account or online access? What are some of the considerations that parents should make before allowing their children online? These are just some of the questions that need to be addressed by all of us who are raising our kids in the digital age.

To listen to the full interview, click here:

What are your thoughts? Do your children have email accounts? Why or why not? How much online access do you allow your kids? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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CBC Radio Interview: How Young is Too Young to Be Online?

August 23, 2014

At what age is it okay for kids to have an email and social media accounts? Does your child have an email address? How about a Facebook account? How do you feel about your child being online at all? Those were some of the questions posed in an interview that I did with CBC Metro Morning. […]

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How the Internet Ruined Kids’ Fun

June 20, 2014

Instant Online Access to Toys Kills Kids’ Sense of Anticipation Once upon a time, kids experienced a few days a year that brought incredible moments of joy. Birthdays. Christmas. Grandma coming to visit. The knowledge that these days were on the horizon only added to the excitement that children would feel. Oftentimes, the waiting was […]

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Can Kids Still Be Entertained?

May 10, 2014

How do you entertain the kid who has seen and done everything? It’s a tough question but a real concern for parents these days. The idea of “kids’ entertainment” takes on a whole new perspective in the digital age. For those who have grown up in an age of video games, iPads and Google, the […]

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Are “Girl Geeks” Cool?

April 22, 2014

Back when I was a kid, it wasn’t cool to be uncool.  Back then, the tech revolution wasn’t in it’s infancy; it hadn’t even begun. To be called a “Nerd” was to elicit scorn and its accompanying exclusion. You see, the “cool” kids had no time for those who were more interested in pocket protectors, […]

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If You Could Turn Back Time…Would You?

April 12, 2014

How connected are you to your tools and toys? I’m not talking about the items that you may actually find in your toolbox or in your children’s toybox. I’m talking about the things that you’ve come to see as necessary parts of your everyday life – those things that you couldn’t live without. In many […]

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