Computer Safety for Kids from Toddler to Teen

June is a great month, offering a sense of relief at being beyond the reach of any further cold weather. The last snowstorm is a distant memory, the last day of school has been celebrated. Everything is all smiles. Of course, all of that celebration is often followed by an unending chorus from kids, who, after five seconds of being out of school, are boooooored with far too much free time on their hands. While summer vacations are being planned and we can hopefully encourage our kids to spend more time in the fresh air, the reality is that kids end up having more time online. This isn’t always a bad thing – in our home, we have embraced the idea that technology is something our kids will live with, so the more comfortable they get with it now, the better.

Our daughter has her own blog, and she’s learning how to manage Twitter and a Facebook page. Our son has multiple YouTube channels that he runs, as well as associated social media pages for each. They’re also both on Facebook with personal accounts. We’d rather have the kids making mistakes now, when we can guide them, than have them experience the horrors of an improper post or tweet when there’s no one there to help them learn the etiquette and safety tools they need.

But because they’re online more, it’s even more crucial that you know what they are doing online, what sites they are visiting and who they are talking with online. Have regular conversations with your kids about the risks, reminding them not to share their personal information.

It’s so ingrained in our son, who is now 15, that even when we’ve given him permission to create an online profile for some project he is doing, he will still come and check with us before giving out his name, let alone more detailed information. And to this day, we know the passwords for all of our kids’ online accounts.

Online Safety with Your Kids from Toddlers to Teens

Since there is no way to avoid exposure to the internet for your kids, the best thing you can do as a parent is be proactive. Schools introduce kids to computers in kindergarten, and most kids older than age 5 are more tech savvy than their parents! It’s better, we think, to expose your kids to technology and teach them how to safely use the internet than to simply hope they won’t go there. They will.

To keep your kids safe, remind them:

  • Never to give out personal information
  • Never to open emails or files from people they don’t know
  • Never to agree to meet with someone in person that they’ve met online
  • To always tell you if there is anything that happens online that makes them uncomfortable, nervous, or upset

The FBI offers great tips to help you keep your kids safe online. For more information, visit their website.

As a reminder for all of us who spend time online, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Be wary of pop-up ads, as clicking on them may make you vulnerable to malware.
  2. Never click on links from emails that come from unrecognized sources (and definitely do NOT open attachments, especially .exe attachments, that are sent to you by email).
  3. Always update your virus definitions regularly.

If the worst happens and you believe your system has been compromised, turn it off and disconnect it until you can obtain help removing the virus or malware.

Should Your Kids Have Facebook?

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

social mediaSocial media is everywhere.

And especially in our house, where my husband and I run a niche marketing firm that focuses in part on social media strategy and content marketing, social media is prolific.

But does your child need to have Facebook? As a parent, letting your kids venture into the world of social media can be a little scary. How do you protect your child from the entire world that they now have access too? Where do you draw the line? (We draw the line at snapchat).

We’ve allowed the kids their Facebook pages on a few conditions:

  1. We get to be friends. There is no way they get an online profile without our ability to monitor it.
  2. They are not allowed to accept friends without our approval first.
  3. We know the password.

And of course this privilege comes with a talk about safety, privacy, and a touch of common sense that we hope to instill.

You’ll be able to decide at what point you think your child is mature enough for a social media profile. Just remember that it might be better to allow controlled access with your approval and guidance than to refuse completely. The internet can be accessed anywhere and your child might create an account secretly (something Kira pulled when MySpace was popular), so keep an eye out.

We also allow our kids to have their own webpages and manage their own Facebook pages and Twitter accounts (following the same rules).

We have found that it is better to educate our kids about online behavior and etiquette than shield them from it completely.


iParentTV Helps Parents Stay a Step Ahead of Tech


One lucky MomsGetReal reader will win a one-year subscription ($49) to!

The subscription includes a password and login to the site and access to articles, news, information on what’s new in the world of tech and how it affects your family.  There will be ratings, rankings on which platforms are safe for kids and age ranges so you know if a site is safe for very young children.

What is iParent.TV?

If your kids are like mine, they’re probably more adept than you are with smartphones, smart TVs, downloading apps, or posting to social networks. iParent.TV is a yearly, subscription-based website that teaches parents about all the technology for kids to help you know what they’re going to be learning about from their peers.

The Problem

Most parents don’t have a clear understanding of the dangers inherent in their children’s use of social media, let alone how to safeguard their kids against them. Consider these stats:

  • 58% of 10-12 year old kids believe they know how to hide their online activities from their parents.
  • 46% of them said they would change their online behavior if they knew their parents were paying attention.

The Solution

iParent.TV will have hundreds of videos and product reviews that are very current, cutting edge and trending, keeping parents who subscribe ahead of the tech curve. The iParent.TV website will be a subscription-based site costing $49 per year for parents to access all the videos, reviews, how-tos, and live chat support. It will be the largest site on the net helping parents understand what’s safe and what’s not in the world of tech.

Subscribe on Indiegogo and Save

iParent.TV is available for $29 on Indiegogo. That’s a $20 annual savings, and you get everything iParent.TV has to offer:

Articles, videos, reviews, tips, tools and expert advice on:
– Popular Apps
– Social Network Sites
– Major Websites
– Top Devices

To get started visit Indiegogo.

To enter to win a free one-year subscription to iParent.TV from MomsGetReal, we’re hosting a Twitter giveaway. To enter, you must be over the age of 18 and in the United States.

1. Follow MomsGetReal on Twitter

2. Tweet your entry message by clicking the bird:

Tweet: I just entered to win a year's subscription to #iparenttv from @MomsGetReal. Enter here:
3. Check out the iParent.TV app below.

RULES: Each household is only eligible to win One (1) Subscription to via blog reviews and giveaways. Only one entrant per mailing address per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you will not be eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

This post is sponsored by iParent.TV and MomsGetReal owner, Shadra Bruce, will receive a year subscription as compensation for this post.

FTC Guidelines

How Parents Can Mitigate the Effect of Media Violence on Children

MomsGetReal Expert Contributor Dr. Tali Shenfield

TV violenceThere is little doubt that violence is part of the fabric of life for the human race, whether in the form of war, criminal activity, interpersonal conflict or family squabbles. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do better. In recent years, violent activity seems to have increased, especially among young people. The causes for these violent tendencies among young people have been the subject of a significant number of research studies over the past 30 years, but the landscape keeps changing with technology.

There are a number of factors to take into account when assessing the effect of media violence on children’s behavior. Among these are poverty, exposure to actual real-life violence either at home or in the community, substance abuse and a variety of psychiatric disorders. But even with all of these factors, as the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry points out in a recent article, entitled, “The Impact of Media Violence on Children and Adolescents: Opportunities for Clinical Interventions,” a lot of research suggests a strong correlation between the increased tendency toward violence and the exposure of that child to media violence.

Whether or not a specific cause-and-effect relationship between media violence and violent is ever proven, the factor of exposure to media violence has to be considered, especially given the statistical realities of modern life. Fully 99% of all homes have a TV in them, and more than half of all children have TV in their bedrooms, which means there is a lot of TV viewing without supervision.

Media violence is pervasive. One recent study found that children as young as eight spent as much as 7.5 hours per day consuming media. That’s actually more time than they often spend at school. Some research estimates that 90 percent of movies, 60 percent of TV shows, and 68 percent of video games include some depictions of violence. Some estimate that the typical child will see at least 200,000 violent acts by the time they turn 18, including at least 16,000 murders.

So, how does media violence translate into aggressive behaviour? A number of research studies have shown that, when very young children play with their friends, they will usually imitate some of the aggressive acts they see on their TV programs. Many parents don’t realize that they need to deal with child aggression from very early age. Children under the age of four have difficulty understanding the difference between fantasy and reality, and may see violence as a normal part of life, or even as an acceptable form of conflict resolution. Violence is often used by the “heroes” in many programs to solve problems and vanquish the “bad guys,” and they are frequently rewarded for their violent behavior, thus becoming role models for children.

Child development experts believe they can play a crucial role in curbing the effects of media violence on children. But so can parents. First of all, parents should limit their children to no more than 1-2 hours of television per day, and they should watch with them as much as possible. Parents should also pay attention to television and film ratings, and use the v-chip that comes with all televisions these days, to avoid exposing your children to media violence to the extent possible. Also, be aware that there is a lot of brutally violet material online, without any sort of ratings system available. Be proactive in avoiding exposure to media violence.

When violence occurs on-screen, explain to your children what happens in reality. Point out that in real life there are consequences for violent behavior, even when the violence is committed by someone considered a “hero.” Always have your eye on the clock, and don’t let children, especially the youngest ones, spend too much time watching virtual violence, because the more time they spend immersed in violent content, the greater its impact and influence will be.

Child development professionals also recommend that parents and schools develop programs that teach better conflict resolution skills. Even though the vast majority of children learn early on that hitting someone isn’t an effective way to resolve a disagreement, they should also know that verbal bullying is also a form of violence. Teach children how they can stand up for themselves using words, without having to hit anyone.

In addition to monitoring levels of exposure to media violence, parents should also monitor behavior the child displays suggesting aggressiveness. Knowing how to keep the influence of violence to a minimum is important, but so is knowing what to do when a child acts up, regardless of the reason. Jumping to a conclusion that a child’s aggressiveness is due to media violence can sometimes lead parents to overlook other possible problems that may be present, but less apparent. Of course, one side benefit to placing severe limits on exposure to violence is that it’s easier to eliminate that as a possible cause for a child’s aggressive behavior. So, start with that.

How parents control exposure to media violence will necessarily vary, based on the child’s age. While they often see cartoon violence, keep children ages 2-4 away from anything that demonstrates physical aggression as a form of conflict resolution, because will almost always imitate what they see. Children ages 5-7 are generally mature enough to handle cartoon slapstick and mild fantasy violence, but not violence depicting possible serious injury or death. Children in the 8-10 age range can handle obviously fake and non-gory action-hero-style violence, and 11-12-year-olds can handle violence in historical films, as well as duels and fantasy violence, but not extreme gore or graphic violence, especially close up.

By the time children are 13 or 14, they will see almost everything, and you pretty much have to deal with it as a parent. Make them aware that the violence they are seeing is not real, and that in real life, such violence causes a lot of suffering. Even in the 13-17 age group, try to limit exposure to graphic violence, especially when it comes to video games. M-rated video games feature ultra-violent behavior and sexual images, the combination of which isn’t beneficial for developing brains. And don’t give in to the excuse that the child down the street plays it. It’s your child who matters.

Dr. Tali Shenfield  is a clinical psychologist practicing in Toronto, Canada. She is dividing her time between managing the Richmond Hill Psychology Center, conducting psychological and psycho-educational assessments, and writing for “Child Psychology for Parents” blog. You can follow Dr. Shenfield on Twitter at @Dr.Shenfield.

Image via


Backpack Safety for Back Health

Most kids are doing nothing but counting down for Christmas break and doing their level best to eat as many cookies and drink as much egg nog as possible, but soon enough the break will be over and the kids will be “back” at it – and it’s a kid’s back that truly suffers during the school year from hauling heavy text books back and forth every day.

Before your kids go back to school, make sure they have a properly fitting backpack. Thanks to Aligned Modern Health of Chicago for this excellent infographic that will help you not only get the right backpack fit but also pack the backpack properly!

Aligned Modern Health

Why and How to Train Your Babysitter

This is the time of year when we all have holiday parties to attend and may be leaving our kids with sitters more often. We asked John Perkins from to help us understand the importance of training the babysitter and how to go about it. Particularly if you have kids with special needs like we do, this can be an important step in having a successful experience. Thanks, John!

Your children are your most precious treasure, and you provide the best care you can. So why wouldn’t you give your babysitter the training so they can provide the best care they can, too? This isn’t going to be a super formal, but should be approached with a sense of seriousness, as it is important to get across to your sitter, who may not have much experience.

Emphasizing the Opportunity

train your babysitterMany baby sitters view the job as an easy way to make some extra money, which it can be, but you need to explain to them the other opportunities that lie within this position, like establishing good work habits and references, and learning how to care for children, should they decide to become a parent someday. Don’t skip over this step. Someone interested in learning will be much easier to train than someone who doesn’t understand what they have to gain from what you are teaching them.

Breed Familiarity

How comfortable your children are with strangers will vary greatly depending on age and the child’s personality, but you should always spend some time letting your sitter and children become acquainted while you’re present.

If you’re interviewing potential candidates, your children should be present at these times to start the initiation process. Have them meet again once or twice when you meet with the sitter you’ve selected to exchange information and provide instruction and expectations.

Information Exchange

Stability and consistency in parenting are important for the development of your children, and since the baby sitter will be acting as the parent in your absence, it is important to make sure they know how you want your children treated. Try to frame this instruction as guidelines and only have a few strict rules.

Your sitter will likely appreciate this guidance, as it provides them with a structure to work from, but understand that everyone needs to have a little wiggle room to allow for their own personal style. (Big conflicts in child rearing styles should be a consideration in the selection process, not something you try to get around with hundreds of rules.) It can also be beneficial to explain why you do certain things, so the sitter is better able to understand and adapt techniques to other situations you haven’t discussed. For instance, instead of only saying, “Stevie only uses this blanket,” add, “because he has sensitive skin and sometimes develops a rash with wool blankets,” giving your sitter the chance to incorporate this information into her clothing choices when she comes over.

Walk Them through the Routine

There are no routine days, but you should still walk them through everything that is standard in a day or evening; feeding, burping, napping, changing diapers, play time activities, etc.

Specific to Your Home

You’ll likely already do this, but make sure the training you give your sitter is specific enough for them to do everything with your children and your home. Maybe your sitter lives in a ranch style house and hasn’t had to consider the danger stairs pose to your toddler, or they’ve always had a gas stove and won’t think about how long the burner stays hot after you turn it off. These are easy things to overlook, but can be crucial to keeping your baby sitter from making a big mistake.

In Case of Emergency

It’s easy to panic in an emergency and overlook the obvious things you should do, and it is going to be even easier to panic for someone as young as your baby sitter likely is. Prepare them for the worst by providing a list of numbers to call including the police, family or trusted friends that live nearby, your cell phone, and the number of where you will be (i.e. the theater you’ll be at with your phone off).

Show them where the fire extinguisher is and how to use it. Show them where the main water shutoff valve and gas valve is and how to turn them off.

Find out if they are first aid and CPR certified. If they aren’t have them get certified, either through an online course or a hands-on training session.

Hold a Dry Run

In order to put both yourself and your sitter at ease, hold a trial session where you are available in case of problems but your sitter is responsible for taking care of your child. You should be away in a different part of the house or somewhere nearby where you can leave or talk to your sitter on the phone at any time.

Going through this dry run will make your first night out much more enjoyable, not having to worry as much about how your child is doing with the sitter.

Peace of Mind

All of this might sound like a lot of work, but this is for the benefit of your children. Finding, training, and keeping a reliable baby sitter will go a long way towards making your life easier and more enjoyable in the long run.


john perkinsJohn Perkins works as a marketing manager with and enjoys writing about topics related to health and wellness. In his free time, he enjoys wake boarding, going to concerts, and cooking with fresh ingredients.


Mobile Apps for a Safe and Fun Halloween

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Getting a good fright has always been an integral part of Halloween, but parents genuinely fear some of the harm that can come to a child during trick-or-treating. The danger stems less from hazardous treats — Time magazine claims only two children have ever been reported to have been poisoned on Halloween — than from car accidents and falls. Using a mobile phone can help to minimize the risks of ending up in a hospital on Halloween with a few handy apps.

Life360 Family Locator

Happy Halloween party with children trick or treatingKnowing where your child (and your child’s friends) have gone during the span of a night trick-or-treating can go a long way towards giving a parent peace of mind. The Life360 GPS app for Android and iPhone offers a free tracking service so that you can be sure that they have not wandered too far off. What’s more, this app includes information about nearby hospitals, police stations, and any criminals or sex offenders living in the area, so that you can plan ahead for a trick or treat route and have contingency plans in case the worst happens. Acquiring details about the community helps your children to avoid danger but also allows you to avoid identity theft. Services from LifeLock minimize the danger of criminals who seek to capitalize on unsuspecting parents. Identity theft on holidays has become common as consumers drop their guard over private information to focus on their family.

Flashlight In A Phone

A strong light remains best way to prevent a potential car or bicycle accident while trick-or-treating. When you cannot find a flashlight, using the Flashlight display for iOS allows your kids to maneuver through the darkness without running the risk of falling or coming too close to a car. This free app works on iPhone and iPad, including a compass in order to help lost parties make their way home or to a rendezvous point. Though this app burns through the battery quickly, it allows any driver to see children clearly while the children can see any paths they are on.


For parents who subscribe to the philosophy that an ounce of prevention makes up for a pound of a cure, planning out a trick or treat route helps to minimize the risks of going down unfamiliar streets and crossing unsafe roads. This app, free for both Android and iOS smartphones, ensures kids, parents, and candy providers all know where everyone will be at any given time. With a simple tap-to-share function, moms and dads can give kids a schedule and curfew, list the possibilities for preferred candy, or get the information on costumes and backup costumes.


Many kids in a neighborhood trick or treat together in order to share the experience with friends. Parents’ anxiety can multiply as the kids under their charge multiply, making many look for assistance or keep backup on call. The NearParent app, free for iOS, allows any parent to make connections with friends and neighbors in the vicinity, so that trusted names can be on hand instantly in the event that assistance becomes necessary.

The Importance of Car Seats: Infographic

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Eli Meir Kaplan for Home Front Communications National Highway Traffic Safety AdministrationCar accidents are the leading cause of childhood injuries and deaths. Using seat belts, car seats, and booster seats is one of the best ways to keep your kids safe.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, provides a great guide for parents to help you know how to best use safety seats and what kind to use. The infographic below shows the importance of knowing how to actually use child seats properly.

The Case for Car Seats: Never Leave Home Without One
Presented By:

Image source:

Fast and Inexpensive Approaches to Babyproofing

For parents, the joys of seeing your little one learn to pull himself up and take those first wobbling, unassisted steps are often tempered by the horror of looking around and suddenly seeing everything in your house as a potential instrument of injury.

baby-proofingWhether you’re scrambling to secure all of the would-be hazards in your house before your little one gets a hold of them or you’re expecting friends or family with toddlers in tow, following are some quick, easy and inexpensive fixes to keep your valuables in place and your ‘most valuables’ uninjured:

  • Cabinets: Depending on your child’s temperament, you could approach securing your floor-level cabinets in two ways:
    • iChild safety locks: For many children, the struggle against a child safety lock on a cabinet is enough to humor them for a minute or two before they move on to something more entertaining. Others, however, can easily become frustrated with being locked out and might start a tantrum. In these cases, consider either reorganizing your cabinets or using a combination of both locks and reorganizing.
    • Reorganizing: By putting only harmless items in floor-level cabinets such as Tupperware, pots and pans and blunt cooking utensils such as wooden spoons, you can feel reasonably safe if your toddler gets into the cabinets.
    • The pinch factor: Little fingers are very prone to getting pinched in cabinet doors, regardless of whether they have a safety lock on them. For doors your child likes to frequent, consider putting a short length of thick adhesive foam near the top edge to keep the door from slamming shut. You can also purchase foam u-shapes made just for this purpose.
  • Bookshelves: For top-heavy bookshelves, use hinges or braces to attach the upper and lower parts of the shelf to the wall to prevent accidental tipping.
    • The books: For lower shelves, consider running a piece of bicycle tubing across the front center of each shelf. This will keep your toddler from pulling out heavy books but still keep them accessible. Attach the tubing on the sides of the cabinet, not the front, for a cleaner appearance.
  • Top-heavy furniture: Top-heavy furniture and heavy items on pedestals or thin-legged tables should probably be moved into storage for a couple years. Otherwise, consider bracing them to a wall or another secured piece of furniture.
  • Hard-edged furniture: Consider moving items such as coffee tables and other low, hard-edged pieces of furniture into storage for a couple of years. The extra space will give your little one more room to move around and less surface areas to bump into. Otherwise, consider purchasing plumber’s tube insulation and running it around all of the low, hard edges in the house.
  • Low-hanging curtains, blind cords and table covers: While your toddler is awake and roaming, keep floor-length curtains and blind cords out of the way by folding them up and over traditional curtain hooks. Table covers such as runners, doilies and tablecloths should be removed and avoided for a couple of years.
  • Wall sockets: Plug all unused wall sockets with plug covers. You can also use clear packaging tape for a quick, temporary fix.
  • Plugs and power cords: For sockets that are in-use, secure the cords against the baseboard or wall either with electrical tape or small plastic hooks that screw into the wall and hold the cord in place.
  • Surge protectors: If you have a lot of cords running out of a surge protector that’s not tucked behind a piece of furniture, consider placing the surge protector into a small plastic crate and running the cords through the openings. You can attach the crate to the wall with hinges or strong Velcro. For a quick, super cheap fix, consider taping a clear plastic deli container over the in-use sockets.
  • Stairs: Stairs are the only exception in terms of inexpensive solutions. With stairs, child safety gates are a necessity.

Parent Placement Training

Babyproofing also requires some basic training on the parents’ part. Instead of leaving the remote out, for example, put it on top of the TV or somewhere out of reach. Coffee mugs shouldn’t be left on low tables and any items small enough to fit through a toilet paper tube should be kept out of reach either in sealed Tupperware containers or unreachable drawers.

Even after taking all of the precautions you can think of, there’s still a chance your toddler will figure out something to get his or her hands on. Just continue to keep that ever-vigilant eye on your little one and together, you’ll both learn how to turn your house into a safe and happy toddler-proof home.


Jessica Johnson works for Extra Space Storage and contributes to the Extra Space Storage blog, exploring various aspects of organizing and storing possessions.

Is Your Kids’ Playground Safe?

Kids sustain injuries in the playground most of the time. Every year, over 200,000 children are estimated by the National Playground Safety Institute to undergo treatment for injuries occurring on playgrounds. What’s more is that around 45 percent of those playground-related injuries involve amputations, dislocations, concussions, internal injuries, and severe bone fractures. Public playgrounds are the sites where 75 percent of nonfatal injuries happen. And most of the incidents take place in daycare centers and schools.

playgroundPlayground-related injuries are easy to avoid by simply exercising caution and paying attention to certain factors that may lead to accidents. Here are the things that you can do to ensure that your kid is kept safe from playground injuries.

Carefully observe the playground area

  • Are there blind spots preventing you from watching over the activities of children? Make sure that you can see what they are doing while in the playground and to supervise them accordingly.
  • Carefully scrutinize the ground before you allow children to play. Look for anything that poses potential danger, including broken equipment, glass shards, litter, sharp objects, etc. Also, be wary of tripping risks brought about by concrete footings, rocks, and tree roots or stumps.

Check the playground equipment

  • Ensure that children are playing on equipment that’s suitable for their age group.
  • During hot days, metal equipment can heat up and cause burns. Metal slides located in non-shaded areas can grow hot, so you need to check them first before you let children play on them. Moreover, make them wear shoes when they are on the playground.
  • Anything elevated, such as platforms and ramps, must be fitted with guardrails to thwart falls.
  • Small spaces—between 3.5 and 9 inches—can ensnare children. Make sure to watch out for equipment spaces within that measurement range.
  • Snagging on bolts and S-hooks is also a problem. S-hook gaps that can fit a dime may be potentially hazardous because they can catch children’s clothing.
  • Do not forget to check for sharp edges, pointed parts, splintered wood, and cracked plastic equipment.

Inspect the playground surfacing

  • Safe and suitable playground surfacing usually includes loosely filled materials, the likes of engineered wood fiber, sand, shredded rubber, and pea gravel. Such materials should also be well maintained and filled at sufficient depth. It is recommended that loose-fill material must have a depth of 12 inches.
  • Rubber mats and tiles are safer surfacing options. The no-no’s for surfacing under any playground equipment include asphalt, concrete, dirt, and grass.
  • Fall zones for playground equipment must be 6 feet in all directions. When it comes to swings, the fall zone length must be twice as tall as the post from which the swing is suspended.
  • Talk to the playground operator as soon as you see any potentially unsafe area. That way, it gets addressed immediately.

Oversee children on the playground

  • Eliminate all loose objects, such as clothing drawstrings and necklaces, before your kids enter the playground.
  • Remove your child’s bicycle helmet. It is only appropriate for use when a child rides a bike. When a kid is simply playing on the playground and still has a bicycle helmet on, the helmet straps can cause strangulation.

Your children’s playground safety is something you can directly influence. So take charge while you allow them to have fun.