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



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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An Ode to Saturday Morning Cartoons

by Samantha on March 15, 2014

A recent Saturday morning found me waking up to the sound of my kids’ feet scurrying down the stairs. Ahh….weekends. No school or daycare, no deadlines for getting out the door, no stressed-out parent yelling about packing lunches and backpacks. Saturday mornings are what kids live for, what I used to live for when I was in grade school.

On this particular morning, my kids were indeed running downstairs to watch their favourite shows. The difference between their experience and mine, however, was that they were watching their shows on my laptop. As I descended the stairs to the dining room, that familiar glow became evident and I saw my daughter and twin boys (ages 10, four and four) huddled around the screen, watching the remainder of the kiddie movie that they had started the night before. If they needed to go to the bathroom, they simply touched the touchpad and the action stopped. Ditto for that second trip to the kitchen for yet more cereal (their default when they don’t want to wait for Mom to make them a “real” breakfast). The idea of making a mad dash to do whatever was needed within a two-minute commercial window was as foreign as having to wait for a particular show to air on TV. In this day and age, even DVDs seem obsolete to the technologically-savvy, elementary school set.

In my experience, a huge appeal of the weekend was being able to wake up, run downstairs to the basement (where our TV was then), and turn on the TV. My reality wasn’t a 24-hour digital universe of children’s shows playing on a continual loop; rather, there were five to six programs that were good - really good - and if I slept in or missed them, I was out of luck for another week. Back in the day, the term “you snooze, you lose” was literally the case. After all, Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) didn’t exist, and that was okay. We all managed to live without watching our favourite programs at the perfect times and we survived if we - gasp - missed a show or two.

Bugs Bunny classic

The whole allure of “Saturday Morning Cartoons” (yes - they were a thing in and of themselves) was waking up early (really early, sometimes at 6am or before) - in order to catch the best cartoons and shows that would be played in sequence each week. There was no time-shifting, satellite or repeated-throughout-the-day, 24-hour or “on-demand” programming that has become the standard expectation of kids today. No - it was me alone at dawn, waiting with baited breath for Bugs Bunny, The Road Runner and Tweety Bird to do their thing. And when they did finally appear on the screen, they were so much more appreciated because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to Google the particular episode and watch it on YouTube if I wanted to see it again. I would just have to wait. Knowing that this particular time to watch was my only chance made it all the more enticing.

Kids these days really don’t know what they’re missing. The fact that they can access their favourite programs anywhere, anytime means that they will never experience the thrill of anticipation and the joy of watching a show, savouring it and letting it go once it is over, knowing that they won’t know when they’ll see it again. It is the not knowing that makes the program so much more enticing. At least that’s what it seemed like to me, way back when.

Don’t get me wrong - I love technology and all it has to offer, but there’s something to be said for the weekly wait and excitement leading up to the Saturday morning lineup. Somehow, running downstairs to do a quick Google search for a cartoon just doesn’t cut it.

Rocky and Bullwinkle Intro

Do you miss Saturday morning cartoons? What were your favourite shows?
Image courtesy of Warner Brothers


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Meltdown in Aisle 5: Top Parenting Tips From Multiple Mayhem Mamma



Social media and kids. Two topics that evoke lots of emotions, particularly for parents. Following my article Social Media and Kids: What Parents Need To Know I was invited to be interviewed on CKNW AM 980 to talk about some of the issues and my suggestions for parents. It was a great discussion and I covered some of the key points outlined in the article. You can listen to the full interview below.


Protecting Your Child on Social Media - CKNW Newstalk 980 Interview

What do you think? What other things can parents do to protect their kids who may be on social media? Leave me your answers in the comments below.

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Social Media and Kids: What Parents Need To Know

by Samantha on December 13, 2013

In the age of Twitter and Facebook, kids are sharing information and images, often without understanding the consequences

young girl on computer

Times have changed and digital connectivity has become the standard for most of us. Online access, smartphone technology and a 24/7 interactivity has come to be the rule, not the exception. We love our technology and the many benefits that it affords us. Is it any wonder then, that our kids are as addicted to this very technology as we are? We can’t really blame them when we find out that they’re “tweeting,” “liking” and “Instagramming” almost every aspect of their daily lives, much to our chagrin. Social media has become the way that our children express themselves, interact with their peers and showcase themselves to the world - often without understanding the implications of this type of sharing.

Our children are on social media whether we like it or not. As disturbing as this reality may be to many parents, it’s a truth that must be accepted and dealt with if we’re going to maintain any control over what our kids our doing. Facebook, Twitter and many other social media platforms may indeed caution that the minimum age for participation is 13, but we all know of many kids who are much younger who have profiles on these and similar social media sites. As a matter of fact, it’s sometimes the parents themselves who open up their child’s Facebook or Twitter accounts for them (in some cases pre-birth).

We’ve certainly relaxed the standards for our kids, perhaps in part because we ourselves as parents are as enamoured of social media as are our younger counterparts. It’s difficult to say “do as I say, not as I do,” especially in this digitally-connected day and age.

Because of this, there are some important considerations that parents need to consider regarding their kids’ social media use.

Social Media and Kids - The Top 5 Things That Parents Need To Know

1) Understand the Medium - First things first: You can’t possibly help or monitor what your child is doing without yourself feeling comfortable with the platform upon which the child is operating. Know what your kids are dealing with. Don’t get Facebook and can’t figure out Twitter? Get help by enlisting a trusted friend or family member who can teach you the ropes. Learn how to navigate the popular sites with ease and feel comfortable with the format, lingo and rules of how others on the site interact. By doing so, you’ll be much better prepared to deal with any issues or situations that your child may encounter online.

2) Set Rules of Engagement – Okay – so you’re fine with your child being on Facebook or Twitter. That fact has been established. If you’re indeed a parent who has given permission for your son or daughter to be one of the more popular social media platforms, now’s the time to sit down and discuss the rules of engagement. This means asking questions and setting expectations. Is there a particular site that you will absolutely not allow your child to visit? Then let her know. Is there a time frame within which she can interact online on these sites every day? Make sure she’s aware of it and agrees. The rules should be clear and everyone should be in agreement. With instances of inappropriate languages, images and cyberbullying occurring on social media daily, this step is especially important.

3) Enforce Privacy Settings - Make sure that your kids understand that anything posted online is equivalent to putting the same personal information up on a billboard for the world to see. A venture into the world of Facebook can mean a lot, and more than one young person has found out the hard way about how making posts and pictures “public” can have long-term negative effects on one’s reputation.

4) Use Technology to Your Advantage - If you’re really stressed about your kids’ activities online, there are tools that can help you to monitor and in some cases block your child from social media use on certain sites. Just as there have been parental controls for video games for some time now through such organizations as the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), there is now an option for parents who want better control over their kids’ social media activity. FamilyControls is one app that allows parents to control their child’s social media behaviour over Twitter, Facebook and Instagram from one integrated, simple platform.

5) Lead By Example – The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and no more true is this idiom than in the case of social media. If your kids see you jostling to get the best shot of the most mundane moments of life, just so that you can post a picture of it on your Instagram account, they’ll follow suit. If you post inappropriate images or comments on social media, the will be seen by your children, guaranteed. Limit and moderate your own social media activity so that your kids realize that there’s a time and a place for everything.

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here.

I was asked to do a radio interview regarding this post on CKNW Newstalk 980 in Vancouver. Here’s the full audio:

VIDEO: Social Media and Kids - Tips For Parents


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Babies Using iPads

by Samantha on November 5, 2013

baby on computer

They can’t talk but they know how to swipe. An iPad, or similar tablet or smartphone, that is.

Perhaps not surprisingly, a recent survey revealed that 30% of children under the age of 2 use some type of a mobile device. Now: understanding that “use” is a relative term, the findings are still shocking, to say the least.

I am the first to say that I’m a tech aficionado and that my kids are fairly tuned into the latest gadgets. Irrespective, the fact that so many children who can’t even speak in full sentences are hitting up the tablet as a method of entertainment does, admittedly, give me pause. Is this a good thing? It depends.

What, exactly, are these babies looking at when they’re trying (often unsuccessfully) to swipe? Is it a primer on how to learn their ABC’s or is it a less-educational option, such as the latest viral video, hit TV show or similar? Therein lies the question.

As parents, we are the ones who should be the gatekeepers regarding what our kids are and are not viewing. No one will argue that young minds are impressionable, and the what goes into them at an early age can leave a lasting effect. This reality, however, is tempered by the fact that there are those times in a parent’s life where you just need something - anything - to keep that kid quiet. You’re frazzled and stressed, trying to get dinner going, laundry done or otherwise and the little one starts screaming. A tablet, smartphone or similar certainly seems tempting at this point because distraction is the name of the game if you want any hope of getting a few seconds of peace and quiet. Unfortunately, it’s a fine balance regarding how much we allow our kids to indulge in technology and where to draw the line and just say “no.” It’s a struggle and somewhat confusing for parents these days because in many instances, the iPad has replaced the book, so shouldn’t it go to follow that it’s okay for our little ones to turn virtual pages and swipe to their heart’s content? They’re learning, after all, right?

Yes; they are learning, if they are indeed reading but oftentimes they’re not. They’re often staring at the latest kiddie movie or show that’s streaming on Netflix or playing a preschool-targeted game. For the latter, it may be educational; many times it’s not.

Problematic? It depends.

No one is going to fault a parent for doing what they need to do to keep a child quiet. We’ve all had those moments where we hope that our little ones would just keep a lid on it for a few moments so that we could get something done. The problem arises when that distraction - in this case an iPad or similar tablet - becomes the norm, not the exception. How much is too much and where do we draw the line?

It’s hard to say these days as our standards have changed and our expectations regarding what’s “normal” has shifted. We’re a digital society; one that views screen interactions and virtual communications as commonplace. We’ve passed our collective love and dependence on technology onto our little ones, oftentimes with little thought. The consequences of doing so have resulted in a new generation of children who are not only dependent upon the digital screen, but who expect and crave it as well.

For today’s child, a book is now seen as an option, whereas just a few years ago it was the only choice. Reading as we know it now, has taken on a whole different form, through one’s ability to easily peruse and download thousands of book titles digitally, within seconds. Similarly, what was once considered the standard form of entertaining a bored baby or toddler - reading them a book, showing them pictures or playing a simple game with them - has, in many cases, been replaced by a screen.

There’s no choice but to accept the reality of our digital world, but let’s not throw in the digital towel and throw out the baby with the bathwater. We as parents still have control over what our kids do, see and how they behave.  Yes - there are more choices now available to them but this fact in and of itself shouldn’t preclude some of the more conventional, tried and true options out there.

It may now seem quaint to do so but curling up with our babies and an enticing picture book still has its merits. There are times when a “swipe” just doesn’t cut it.

VIDEO: A Magazine is an iPad That Doesn’t Work

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Monday Musings: Is it Ever Okay to Snoop On Your Kids?

October 14, 2013

How do you feel about snooping? You know - going through your kids’ stuff, reading their diaries (if they’re older) or checking their online footprint? Is it a parent’s right to snoop on their kids? As our children enter their tweens, this topic becomes particularly pressing, especially these days. Kids are doing and saying things […]

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Blog Series: Parenting in the Digital Age

April 7, 2012

Kids and technology. It’s a topic that I’ve discussed on more than one occasion on this blog. I’m fascinated. The intersection of childhood and technology is of particular interest to me due to that fact that I am a tech geek. Busted. I admit rather unwittingly that like many of us, I have been sucked […]

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