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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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How much freedom should a child be given, and at what age?

Where do we draw the line?

Where do a parent’s right to making a decision about their child or children end and the rest of the world’s responsibilities begin?

Working from the assumption that most of us have the best interest of children in mind, does that give us the right to butt in where we don’t belong?

I wish the answer to this question was simple but recent headlines and a growing trend towards “Helicopter Parenting” doesn’t give me much hope.

You may have heard about this story:

Maryland Family Under Investigation For Letting Their Children Walk Home Alone

The crime? Maryland parents Danielle and Alexander Meitiv allowed their children, aged 6 and 10, to walk home alone from a playground, not far from their home, in the middle of the afternoon one recent Saturday.

 child walking home

For many who subscribe to the philosophy of “Free-Range Parenting,”  it was seen as the most normal thing in the world: an opportunity for these parents to teach their children a bit of independence and self-reliance in what they felt was a safe scenario. For others, many whom may be considered “Helicopter Parents,” it was cause for considerable alarm and for some, enough for them to call the police and child protective services.

Both camps believe that they’re in the right - and that the other is woefully misguided. Each camp believes that the other is doing irreparable harm to the children due to the choices of the children’s parents. Sadly, the kids are often the ones who suffer as they are either monitored so closely that they never gain the confidence required for true independence, or they are left to their own devices - too much so - which in itself may lead to trouble.

Is it okay to let a child walk to the park and home alone, or with a younger sibling? How old is it when it becomes okay? What age is too young?

For the record, I think that the treatment of these parents is beyond harsh and alarming. If anything, they are doing what we all try to do as parents - teach their children to have confidence in their decisions, to be fearless and to be independent. Isn’t that what we all want for our kids?

Now, perhaps my perspective is coloured by the fact that I was also raised by “Free-Range Parents,” except they didn’t know that that’s what they were doing.

As a child of the ’70’s, I spent many a day, evening and summer vacation going to the park by myself or with friends, walking to the corner store alone, riding my bicycle without a helmet (no one else wore helmets, either) and coming home after school alone, with a key to let myself in. Yes, I was alone, in my home and no, I wasn’t a teen yet. I had to call my mother (who was at work), from our landline (there were no cell phones, email, texting or Google then and we all managed to survive) and I watched the Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island until my parents got home from work. I even made myself snacks and used the stove. I was a responsible kid and my parents trusted me. Oh - and all of my friends were “Free-Range Kids” as well, as raised by their parents. The “Helicopter Parents” of later decades had not yet made their mark.

Nowadays, I’m sure my loving parents would be reported as being negligent, and perhaps be arrested for their perceived neglect. Yet they were anything but. They loved and cared about me and were able to gauge my maturity level as they meted out a bit more responsibility and independence to me every time I proved that I was worthy of their trust. They provided me with the tools, skills and independence I needed to become a fairly confident and well-balanced adult. This type of parenting isn’t neglectful; if anything it shows a keen desire to help a child to gain the skills that they will need as an adult.

Yet we are now in a different era and parents like Danielle and Alexander Meitiv are under the spotlight for their perceived neglect.

I had the pleasure of participating in a Huffington Post Live segment on this very topic that featured Ms. Meitiv herself, along with Julie Gunlock and Lisa LaGrou, both moms who, like me, were united in our thoughts surrounding how Ms. Meitiv is being treated regarding her decision.

You can watch the full Huffington Post Live segment below.

Huffington Post Live - Under Arrest For Letting Your Kids Be Independent?

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you believe in “Free-Range Parenting?” Was it necessary to call in the authorities on this parent regarding her decision to let her children walk home alone? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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

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Recent News Events Can Scare Children - Here's How Parents Can Help

child watching tv

Ebola. Terrorism. War.

Shootings. Poverty. The economy. Death.

All scary topics and all very real. These subjects are broached regularly in the media and, if you’re a parent of a young child, you’re likely concerned about the effect that such information is having on your little one.

With recent world events escalating in tandem with the ubiquitous 24/7 news cycle, it’s almost impossible for a parent to completely limit the access to information that their children may have. While it is possible to keep a lid on the negative and scarier news items while your child is within your care, our kids do venture out into the world without us - at school, at a friend’s house and elsewhere - and it is in these places that we don’t have much control. Add to this fact the reality that kids talk amongst themselves and it’s likely that your child will have heard something about the latest headline, whether it’s good or bad.

In many instances, kids react to what’s in front of them. What we as parents need to do is to provide context, information and in all cases, reassurances and support to allay any fears that our children may have.

Following are 5 tips for parents about how to calm their child’s fears during these difficult times.

 1) Listen - Listen to your child’s fears. What are they most concerned about? Oftentimes, there are one or two things that are really scaring them. Are their concerns based in reality? What have they heard, where did they hear it and what do they think is going to happen as a result? When you have a clear understanding of exactly what is bothering your child, you’ll be better prepared to provide them with the information, comfort and support that they need.

 2) Limit Exposure - As much as is possible, limit your child’s exposure to negative and scary news stories. Granted, information is everywhere, but while your child is in your care, turn off the radio, mute the TV and monitor internet use to assure that what is being viewed is appropriate and at the least, neutral. While we can’t completely control what our children see or hear, we can make a difference in the amount and type of information that they receive while they’re with us.

 3) Share Age-Appropriate Information - Kids have a limited understanding of many of the underlying reasons and causes behind the headlines. The geopolitical situation that has fuelled recent wars, the spread of infections diseases; there is much more context and information that underlies the realities of what is being conveyed in the headlines. Children of certain ages, particularly the younger ones, should be provided with as much detail as is appropriate, and that they can handle. In many cases, this may mean giving them basic facts of the situation at hand, but not getting into the specific, granular details, much of which may be beyond their scope of understanding. As the parent, you will know what your child can and can’t handle. Proceed accordingly when providing them with information regarding world events.

 4) Be Honest - If you don’t know, you don’t know. It’s okay to tell your child that you don’t have all the answers. Children need to learn that parents are just people and as such, we don’t know everything that there is to know. What is important is letting your child know that you’ll share whatever information that you receive (age-appropriate, of course) when received, and that you’re there to answer any questions. As always, honesty is the best policy.

 5) Provide Comfort - A warm hug and some kind words can go a long way, especially coming from Mom or Dad. At the end of the day, kids are looking to their parents for reassurance and comfort that everything is going to work out fine - or as fine as things can be, given the circumstances. Be available to answer questions but also be available to give your child whatever reassurances that they may need. Sometimes they may be words; other times, a big hug and some prolonged cuddling can assuage the fears of the most anxious child.

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here.

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Image courtesy of www.telegraph.co.uk

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Top 5 Tips For Kids’ Snow Safety

by Samantha on February 8, 2014

How to keep your kids safe in winter weather

vintage kids in snow

With the winter season, snowfall can mean just one thing to most kids: fun. To a child, nothing can be more enticing than piles of snow, taller than they could imagine, beckoning them to start the festivities of snowman-making, fort-building and igloo assembly. Unfortunately, these piles of snow can be deceiving and in some cases, downright dangerous. Snow banks that have accumulated at the sides of roads as a result of ploughing are particularly unsafe. They are also one of the first places that kids go to build tunnels and forts. Between the danger of cars, snowploughs and not being seen by passing vehicles, it’s imperative that parents talk to their children about this potential danger and others that come with a buildup of snow.

Here Are 5 Tips For Kids’ Snow Safety

1) Set Clear Rules - Kids should know what the rules are before they head outside to play. Take a few moments to discuss the “do’s and don’ts” of snow play. Remind kids to play in open areas that are free of cars and traffic and to stay away from snowbanks (roadside or otherwise) and snow ploughs.

2) Dress Kids in Bright Colours - Stay away from the light or white clothing when sending the kids out to play in the snow. They have to be seen in case of an emergency, from a distance and when visibility isn’t great. Dress them in bright and colourful outerwear to assure that they can be easily identified.

3) Use the “Buddy System” - There is safety in numbers. If kids are going to play in the snow, make sure that they’re doing so with at least one other friend so that they have another set of eyes and backup in case of an emergency.

4) Daylight Play Only - Snow play in the dark can be dangerous, as visibility is limited and there are more opportunities for accidents to happen. Make it a rule that the kids only play in the snow when it’s light outside, so that they are able to be seen clearly.

5) Supervised Fort and Tunnel Building Only -  Building snow forts and tunnels are some of the most fun activities for kids during the winter season. Unfortunately these are also opportunities for kids to get hurt, or for accidents to happen. Caution children that these types of activities should only be done under the supervision of an adult.

I provide some related snow safety tips in this Global News video as well:

Global News: Keeping Kids Safe in the Snow

 What other snow safety tips do you have? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

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VIDEO: Huffington Post Live Commentator Segments

by Samantha on April 10, 2013

huffpostlive

I was asked back to Huffingotn Post Live to discuss various news segments ranging from Joe Biden’s potential run for president to Vogue’s fashion industry standards/contracts. Here are the links for your viewing pleasure :)

VIDEO: Joe Biden Running For President?

VIDEO: Vogues Signs a Code of Conduct For Models

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Monday Musings - How Do You Talk To Your Children About Tragedy?

December 17, 2012

I frankly wasn’t sure that I wanted to put together a Monday Musings blog post today. In light of the events in Newtown, Connecticut,  it’s hard not to ponder on the appropriateness of even putting up a blog post at all, let alone one that may be viewed as gratuitous. It’s safe to say that […]

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