cell phone

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 Caution - When 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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Can Kids Still Be Entertained?

by Samantha on May 10, 2014





kid playing on tablet

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 idea of being entertained is much different from that of their parents.

Part of the problem is the fact that what’s considered “entertainment” has changed considerably over the years. Gone are the days where the choices were few and far between: a movie on a Saturday afternoon, a local fair, a playdate. Nowadays, the entertainment choices that kids have are mind-boggling, all due to progress and technology. The digital age has indeed changed the playing field – literally – as kids are choosing video games over volleyball (or other outdoor sports, for that matter) and real-life.

What’s a parent to do?

Because of the prevalence of options out there, kids almost have too much choice. It’s a big old digital world out there and the possibilities are endless. Why go outside and play when one can create their own playground - and friends  - digitally?

The bar has been set fairly high in the last 10 years or so, and the old standby options for kids’ play are up against digital contenders that make an afternoon at the park seem pedestrian at best. Whether it’s choosing a movie from an extensive digital collection to watch on our large-screen TVs, or simulating downhill skiing in the Alps, a child’s expectations are much more sophisticated and extensive than ever before.

Part of the problem is that we as parents have benefited from they myriad of digital entertainment choices that are available to our kids. We have given them the tools to play, grateful that the latest technological gadgets have provided us with a few moments of peace. Why throw the baseball with your child when they can play baseball with a whole team - digitally, of course? Why build a fort in the backyard when you can build a kingdom over the ether?

We’re busy. We’re tired. We’re stressed out and frazzled. And in our haste to find a few moments of peace in our own frenetic worlds, we have passed on to our children the idea that activities that require any semblance of energy are optional. The alternative? A digital one. One that keeps them quiet and out of our hair.

If we convey to our children that something as simple as kicking around a soccer ball is not only “low-tech” but more effort than it’s worth, they’ll follow our lead and download yet another video game.

Recent calls to return to our parental roots and engage in old-fashioned play seem to echo a growing concern about this reality. I spoke about it this very topic here, with other equally concerned parents. Increasing outdoor and conventional play time in the digital age may also warrant more extreme measures for our addicted kids, including limiting screen time and in some cases getting rid of the tech tools altogether. A scary proposition which may require some of us to actually take the time ourselves to turn off our smartphones and put down our tablets.

As much as we enjoy the fact that technology has given us choices in how we entertain our children, perhaps we need to step back and reassess how much we’ve allowed this same technology to take the place of more simple pursuits - ones that allow us to bond with our kids the way no video game or app can. At the end of the day, a pixel can’t and shouldn’t replace a playdate, even in the most modern of times.

Can kids still be entertained without the use of technology? What do you think? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Image courtesy of http://www.sudocrem.co.uk

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If You Could Turn Back Time…Would You?

by Samantha on 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 cases, sadly, these items are largely technologically-based. Think about it - how did you feel the last time you left your smartphone at home or forgot it in your other bag? Ever try to take a technological holiday, even for a weekend? Difficult, isn’t it? And your kids? If they’re like mine, they’re already connected - literally - to the tech toys. Tablets, video games and online videos have become standard fare for even the youngest of children. It’s a new world order and families work, play and learn via digital and technological means.

So how could a family possibly exist without the items that have come to be seen as standard and trusted tools in their everyday lives? One family did it - for a year. To be exact, they chose a year that they liked, one that was many years in the past: 1986. This family in particular chose the year of the parents’ births as they benchmark time frame that they would use as a basis for how they were going to live for 365 days. Forsaking all technologies and conveniences that mark the lifestyles of today’s day and age, they pulled out the VCR, videotapes and Super Mario brothers and got busy. Oh - they also got mullets, kids included.

go back in time
This foray into the past is an interesting and fascinating experiment, particularly in this day and age where many of us are connected - literally and figuratively - to our tech devices. The thought of going through our lives without the conveniences that we have come to expect and rely upon seems almost unimaginable. And kids? That’s a whole other story. Entertaining them circa 1986 style means forgoing the modern conveniences like iPads, Netflix, video games and a range of distractions that we use in trying to keep our little ones quiet.

Perhaps this point is where the sheer horror of this family’s story begins. That’s right - I said “horror.” Because we all know that most of us could not give up our current lifestyles and modern conveniences to go back in time and live like they did over 25 years ago. If we did, we’d have to drastically change the way we do things, in more ways than one. No more reliance on technology to provide us with those much-needed “quick fixes” when our kids started to meltdown in the grocery store or doctor’s office. There would be no more text messages as methods of communications for our Tweens and Teens when they were outside of our home or view. And think about this for a moment: we’d actually have to talk to our children from a landline or pay telephone when they went to a friend’s home or to the mall. Hard to imagine, isn’t it?

Perhaps the real story about this family’s journey back to the ’80’s is not about their experiences living a more simple life, but our collective fear of what their experiment says about the way we are living our lives now. The idea of losing our technological crutches that we’ve come to depend on is a frightening one for those of us who can admit to our reliance (and often addiction) on technology. The thought of no longer having our trusted distractions to keep a certain distance between ourselves and our loved ones is enough to send a shiver down our collective spines. Hard to admit, I know, but true nonetheless. Sometimes it seems so much easier to bury our heads in a movie on the iPad or to pop in our headphones and listen to music than to actually connect - really connect - with our kids. Conversely, our kids are similarly distracted, more often than not, texting their friends or turning to an online community for support. It takes a strong man or woman who can turn on, tune in and drop out of the digital age in favour of a lifestyle that does not include the distractions of daily life.

Kudos to this family who had the courage to ditch the modern conveniences that they’d come to love in order to get back into the lives of their children. I couldn’t do it. Could you?

If you had to live your life with your kids the way it was 25 years ago, do you think you could do it? Why or why not? Tell me about it in the comments section below.

VIDEO: Watch a family live life like it’s 1986

 Image courtesy of www.sodahead.com

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madonna vogue image

“Strike a pose.”

Remember that edict that Madonna pronounced to us so many lifetimes ago?

In the song “Vogue,” she challenged us to go big or go home. “Strike a pose” was the battle cry for some heavy-duty showing off, if that’s what you want to call it. “Voguing” was the rage and narcissistic vanity was at its core.

Fast forward more than 20 years later and here we are, striking poses like it’s nobody’s business. This is particularly the case with the younger set – those in the tween and teen ranges are especially attuned to vain behaviour. The culture of narcissism has been facilitated in large part by those very handy little items that many of us tote around with us every time we leave the house: the smartphone. No longer just a vehicle for making and receiving calls, the ability to take pictures and share them almost instantaneously, has made even the most timid folks into showoffs.

“Look at me at the mall!”

“Here I am in the waiting room at the doctor’s office!”

“Check out my style at the grocery store!”

Duck lips abound, faux smiles dominate and a general sense of self-importance is de rigeur in this age of acceptable and often-encouraged vanity.

But to what end?

How much is our collective acceptance and encouragement of narcissistic posing affecting our kids? Are we complicit in raising a whole generation of those who feel that their image is one to be, at minimum - admired, at best – adored? Our reliance on documenting every second of our lives – mundane moments and all – has become the norm, not the exception, much to our detriment. Our children must surely have a skewed sense of what is truly important as they jockey to get that perfect shot of themselves as they walk down the street.

monalisaducklips

As parents, we’re both shocked and complicit, as we too have become addicted to the allure of social media. Instagram feeds are no longer the sole domain of the younger set and increasingly the over-35 crowd is embracing the urge to document their interesting and not-so-interesting pursuits. The urge to instantaneously share what would have at one time been perceived as “humdrum” is overwhelming. Is it any wonder, then, that our children have no qualms about broadcasting their everyday pursuits to the world, whether said world is interested or not?

We laugh at the vanity and self-absorptions of tweens and teens, all the while ignoring the fact that we ourselves are Tweeting, Liking, Instagramming and generally sharing portions of our lives that others may find…well…boring. Is it really possible to think that even our closest friends and family want a regular stream of pictures recounting our meals, snacks, grocery store visits and waiting room demeanours in an ongoing feed of monotony?

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and monkeys not only see, but they “do” as well. Aphorisms, perhaps, but realities in this era where smartphone addiction (otherwise known as “Nomophobia”) is a very real ill. While older folks may not have started society’s social media obsession, we may, surprisingly, be the ones who are unwittingly facilitating our kids’ dependence on it through our own actions and examples. To this end, we should take a long hard look at our social media behaviour and realize that it’s not only our children who should put down the smartphone and stop to smell the roses.

What do you think? Has the “Selfie Generation” gone too far with the amount of images of themselves shared on social media? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here.

VIDEO: Madonna - Vogue

Images courtesy of Sire Records and Notable.ca
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VIDEO: Social Media and Kids - Top Tips For Parents

by Samantha on January 19, 2014

How to Keep Your Child Safe Online

tween-girl-social-media

Social Media and Kids - Tips For Parents

I recently wrote about the growing trend surrounding kids using social media. In Social Media and Kids - The Top 5 Things That Parents Need to Know, I provided some simple advice for parents who are looking for practical tips regarding their children’s engagement on social media channels. With the growing popularity of teens and tweens using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, it’s impossible for parents not to have concerns about how their children are spending their time online. Instances of cyberbullying with serious and sometimes tragic effects make all of us parents realize that we must be more diligent in knowing what our children are doing online, and managing their behaviour.

Following the original post, I did a radio interview on the topic and a segment on Rogers Daytime Toronto to discuss social media and kids in more detail as well. See below for the full interview.

VIDEO: Social Media and Kids - What Parents Need To Know

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Image courtesy of www.parents.com

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Land(line) Locked - Do Parents Really Need a Landline?

July 14, 2013

I have a security blanket and it’s my land line. Quaint, I know, but I just can’t seem to give it up. After all, I have young children at home and, well, you know - what if there’s an emergency? Having grown up in the Jurassic Era, it just seems normal to have a land […]

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VIDEO: Emergency Preparedness Tips For Families: Global Morning Show Segment

May 10, 2013

Following my post regarding best practices for families about Emergency Preparedness, I was asked to return to the Global Morning Show to discuss. Armed with an Home Emergency Kit based on the information found at Toronto Hydro’s site, I was ready to go. Watch below for tips and advice about what all homes should have […]

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An Emergency Preparedness Checklist – Top 10 Tips For Families

May 4, 2013

An Emergency Preparedness Checklist – Top 10 Tips For Families Emergency preparedness is particularly important in families with children in the home. Not only should parents make sure that their kids know fire drills and how and when to act in emergency situations; they should also make sure that kids are well-versed on where certain […]

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The Top 7 Ways That Digital Technology Has Affected Our Kids – The Good and the Bad

January 26, 2012

There’s no doubt that the digital age is here to stay. Not only are we enamored with the ability to send and receive information in a digital format, but our children are equally smitten. Sometimes, too much so, as I hear more and more parents bemoaning the fact that they’re not able to retrieve their […]

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