If you’ve been around here for any amount of time, you may remember that we’ve had our fair share of cyber bullying from “mean girls” and other forms of bullying.

The first time that I felt a need to step in was when M was in the 5th grade. This is when I learned a hard lesson of parenting: unless there’s significant harm being done, you’re better off being a coach on the sidelines than the quarterback trying to win the game.

7th grade brought the next significant round of bullying by mean girls and was the year I was in the principal’s office more times than I cared for. 8th grade was pretty quiet. But just when I thought I could breathe a sigh of relief, along came the 9th grade and high school. (What is it with the every 2 years pattern??)

High school has opened up a whole new can of challenges. My friend, Jon Lowder, warned me that going from middle to high is like going from a AAA farm league to the Major Leagues.

None of the stuff we’ve encountered is overtly bad – more of the PITA (pain in the ass) variety. Nasty tweets, snarky comments, bitchy texts – pretty textbook stuff. The only difference between what you and I had to deal with and what she and her friends have to deal with is that it’s done electronically as opposed to in person or with pen and paper.

So what is the actual definition of cyber-bullying? According to Google, it is “the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature.” If you want to read the entire NC statute, click here.

All of the schools in our area preach about having zero tolerance policies when it comes to bullying and I’ve been pretty pleased with how they’ve handled situations if it got to that level. While the schools and parents may take a strong stand on cyber-bullying, unfortunately, our judicial system has a more difficult time prosecuting anyone should it get to that point.

IF they were to bring them through the system, they’d be tried as juveniles and most likely be given nothing more than a “slap-on-the-wrist.” We have a friend who did take another kid and their family to court for this kind of abuse. As a resolution, the other kid was ordered to write an apology letter. Pretty expensive apology letter, I’d say.

This past weekend, we had a situation pop up that made me call a friend of the family who is in law enforcement just to validate that what I was doing the right approach. He confirmed that I was, but as a parent, you can’t run to the school every time someone gets pissy and sends out a nasty tweet. So, what do you do?

I’m no expert on the law, but here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

1. Be Mindful

Keep a diligent eye everywhere, but for the most part, do it from the sidelines. Trust me. It is SO hard for me to read the texts and tweets that come across while biting my tongue and resisting the urge to rip off a few well phrased tweets.

2. Create a “Twatch” List

You don’t have to follow the kids in question (i.e. bullies) on Twitter, but you can create a private list and add them to it without following them. The next best option is to keep a list and just check in on them if you think there’s an issue. For the most part, their everyday tweets are just typical teen bantering that bores me to tears.

3. Give The School A Heads Up

It never hurts to alert the school if they’re getting harassing texts or any other kind of electronic communication.

4. Listen, Listen, Listen

My experience taught me that kids will withhold this kind of information until it reaches critical condition, so make sure you listen when they come to you. This is not the time to tell them, “just a minute”. This could be your one and only shot at them opening up. Don’t blow it. Listen to what they’re telling you even if it seems a bit over the top. I promise, if there’s smoke, there’s fire.

5. Screenshots Are Golden

If there IS an issue, make sure you educate your kid on the importance of taking screenshots and sending them to you. This will be helpful if you choose to send it to the school or addressing the issue with their parents.

6. Understand That There Are Always Two Sides

You may have to admit that your kid may be involved in the act. I have yet to go through one of these situations and think that my girls were 100% innocent. It takes two to tango friends.

7. Provide Your Kid(s) With Options

While it’s really, really hard to do, sometimes the best course of action is just to ignore the bully acts. Teach them not to engage, respond, or react. They may still do it, but if you repeat this often enough, they’ll get better at doing it – at least a little bit.

8. If All Else Fails, Do What You Have To Do

If it gets really bad, do what you have to do. Get the school, the parents, and the authorities involved. At the end of the day, it’s better to be overprotective than under.

The one thing that blows my mind about this group of kids is that they have some major cajones. They think nothing can stop them. I’ve seen texts where one kid proclaimed that “because his dad was rich, he’d make sure that M and her friends would never go to college”. I know you’re dying to know what my response to that was. Well, I pulled a Dr. Huxtable and told M, “he doesn’t have money. His DAD may have money, but this kid is like you…broke”.

I’ve never said this phase was easy, but my hope is that I can at least prepare you for what’s’ to come so that you’re ready to handle it as best as possible. Don’t worry – we’ll all survive!

This post was originally featured on Kristen Daukas’s blog, Four Hens and a Rooster. Featured image via. 

It’s Friday! Which means you deserve a break and you deserve to take this quiz. Have you ever wondered which famous pair of BFFs you and your best friend are? If you have, you’re in luck! This quiz holds all of the answers, so enjoy and share with your bestie over a glass of your favorite wine. You both deserve it.

Featured image via.

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You’d think the parents of this adorable 2 year old Alabama girl would have a few more years before they had to worry about boys! Momma Chelsea Kirland uploaded the now-viral video of her husband telling their daughter, Kennedy, that she’s simply too young to date and Jared isn’t her boyfriend. Jared is the little girl’s uncle’s roommate, and plays football in college. Apparently Kennedy is quite smitten with him, because she completely dissolves into tears when her father insists Jared isn’t her boyfriend. Watch the super cute video above! We have a sneaky suspicion this is going to be the perfect “Throwback Thursday” video when Kennedy is a bit older.

What’s missing from those What to Expect books is a chapter (or maybe even a whole volume) on parenting in the age of the World Wide Web. Right about now, something like: What to Expect when your Child Gets Sucked into the Matrix and their Brains Turn to Jelly, would be helpful.

I’ve done my usual exhaustive research (i.e., read a couple related articles online before getting distracted by lists of celebrities who Botox their pets), and come to the conclusion that no one really has a handle on the convergence of kids and the Internet.

Will hours of uninterrupted screen time melt their grey matter? Will the unfettered access to disturbing, factually flawed or grammatically incorrect (sometimes all at once) information turn them into bitter, deluded sociopaths? Is some nefarious crook or bored kid even now collecting their personal information in order to bully or imitate or coerce them online? When they’re grown, will they have nothing to talk about at cocktail parties but stupid cat videos?

These are questions that keep me up at night.

There was a time I thought the kid-technology combo a good thing. A guarantee there would always be someone around who would know which remote to use on which thingie. But I’m getting wise to the remote thing, and feeling a little less off my game since the VCR stopped blinking 12:00.

Oh, wait, that’s because we don’t appear to have a clock on the VCR, or even …

Hey, wha…. who took the VCR?

Anyway, I’ve kept notes and developed my own guide on parenting in the digital age. Use it in good health:

First, start when they’re young. Outlaw screens in their bedrooms. There’s the thing about obesity. And sleep deprivation. Something about blue light, melatonin and REM. I read about it. So, no screen time after 8pm.

When they argue, regale them with stories about how you had only four television channels back in the day. And cartoons only on Saturday mornings. Watch their eyes glaze over as they drop the subject. Give yourself a mental high-five. You’ve won this round.

Eventually they must acclimate to the digital age, so set up a computer station in a very public space in your home. Somewhere they can play on preapproved family-friendly sites while you monitor their activity.

Don’t kid yourself into thinking this will stop them from accessing inappropriate material online (unless you install some draconian software that blocks everything you later want to see after the kids go to bed, but can’t because you forgot the damn password).

Oh, and for that matter, don’t trust Youtube’s randomly enforced community standards. Those are baloney. Your kids can still easily access all kinds of inappropriate crap, like their favorite video game characters performing intimate acts that are probably misdemeanors in most states.

Look up a Youtube video that explains how to block Youtube from your computer and follow the instructions. Blamo. Problem solved (give yourself another mental high-five).

It might not occur to you until later, but the rule about the television in the bedroom should really include any screen. Such an oversight effectively renders your silly rule mute once your kids get their own phones, not to mention are capable of saving their own money to buy their own tablets and computers.

Okay, so they now have screens in their rooms. It’s still your cable, your cords and electrical outlets, your wireless router, which you can certainly unhook whenever you want. So unhook the Internet one night in a huff, and tell everybody to read a book. You remember books? Books are great (high fives all around).

Of course, some people’s children will simply wait until their parents are asleep to hook stuff back up and binge out on Xbox Live and Minecraft until the wee hours of the morning.

So consider an elaborate system of password changes and/or dismantling and hiding cables and little, black boxes.

Then remember your inability to remember stuff like passwords. And how hard it was to figure out how to access Youtube again. Remember you have a whole season of OITNB waiting on Netflix. Decide elaborate systems of password changes and dismantling and hiding crap is not for you.

Join all the social media channels and follow your kids. Refrain from commenting, favoriting, or liking their every post, and maybe they’ll forget you’re stalking them (If you’ve figured out how to unblock Youtube by this time, you can find a video tutorial on how to use Snapchat. Watch it when the kids aren’t around to scoff).

Briefly consider software or aps that spy on your kids’ every online move, monitor their language in texts or keyword searches, and time on social media sites. If this feels just as distasteful as sneaking a peak at someone’s diary, settle for an app that sends you an alert if your teen is driving over the speed limit, and call it good.

Show your children every news story you come across about sexting and social media bullying and the consequences.

Talk to them about your own values, about how you feel about objectification of women in the media, about images of drug use, and violence, about misleading advertising. Wear a rubber band around your wrist to snap when your voice gets shrill.

Talk to them about how you feel about pornography. When you’re tired of everyone avoiding eye contact after one of those conversations, show them Russell Brand’s take on the subject. Because somehow it’s more okay to get a lecture on pornography from a grown man sitting in bed wearing nothing but a sheet, than it is to discuss with your mom.

If you need more advice, there are plenty of other resources, like:

  • Unsolicited input from anyone over fifty who sees your kid with a tablet or phone, regardless of whether the person has ever parented children in this century. Nod and smile when they talk about taking away their technology and sending kids out to play kick-the-can until dusk.
  • Your kids’ friends are also wellsprings of advice. They’ve learned the ropes and are currently being raised with no rules whatsoever, staying up all night if they please, online with all the other upstanding citizens who are also online all night. They’ll confirm for your kids the fact that you are, in fact, a Luddite whose rules are out of sync with today’s adolescents.

There you are. Easy peasy.

Gimme a high five.

This post was originally featured on Beth’s blog, Manic Mumbling

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We all have that one friend. You know the one who has been through everything with you?

She is the one who has seen you at your worst and loved you anyway. She’s gotten you through bad breakups, held your hair back for you after you indulged in five too many cocktails and laughed about all of it with you the next day. She has also encouraged you to be your best. She has congratulated you on your first “real” job after you both waitressed through college and she was on the other end of the phone smiling from ear to ear when you told her you were pretty sure you had met “the one.” She’s your go to girl.

Lifelong friends know more about you than you even want to admit. They are the friends you have fought with, laughed with, and cried with. They have been there for all the big moments in your life and while life is constantly changing there is probably no bigger change than having your first child. If you have a friend who tells you having a child will not change things, you might want to look for a new friend. Having a child changes all the things.

ALL. THE. THINGS.

I know this because I was the person who thought that having a baby was not in any way shape or form going to change my friendships. Let me tell you something, having a baby changes your friendships. Some friendships grow stronger and others become weaker.

Some become so weak that you wind up losing them forever while others become so strong you know they will last a lifetime.

My visions of bringing home my first baby were just that, visions! I had no idea how difficult those first few weeks were actually going to be. There was the sleep deprivation, the sore cracked nipples, the inability to pee without wanting to cry, the sleep deprivation, and did I mention the sleep deprivation? I can tell you without a doubt in my mind that if someone ever crosses my family I would wish sleep deprivation and sore cracked nipples on them for all of eternity.

Let that be your warning.

When I came home I was beyond overwhelmed. I had been one of those pregnant women who went on and on about my birth plan and the fact that I would only breastfeed. Here is another warning for you. Try not to scream these things out loud too much because I can promise you the universe is listening and laughing. You know that saying the best laid plans? Yeah. That.

Breastfeeding was anything but easy for me. I had a hard time making milk and I tried everything. My nipples were so cracked and raw I was certain they were actually going to shrivel up and fall right off of my breasts. My sore hard as a rock breasts were going to be nipple-less for the rest of my sleep deprived life. To make matters worse my son had acid reflux so getting him to latch on was beyond difficult. My husband worked 24 hour shifts as a Fire

Lieutenant and despite the fact that he was given a decent amount of time off after the baby came once he went back he was gone A LOT. I was lonely. Not just hey I’m bored where are all my peeps lonely. No. I was cry by myself and wonder how on earth I was going to survive this lonely.

One night as I sat in my living room with my screaming newborn and my dog staring at me with what I can only describe as a lady you have no clue what the hell you are doing face, I knew what I had to do. I picked up the phone and I dialed as fast as I could. When I heard her say hello all I could do was cry. The only words I got out through the tears were “This is so much harder than I thought it would be. I am so lonely and he won’t eat, sleep or stop crying.”

Ten minutes later there was a knock on my front door. There she stood with a bottle of wine, nipple cream, a smile and wide open arms. I am going to tell you something, there is no one that could have made me happier at that very moment in time. Had I opened the door to find Publisher’s Clearing House announcing I was the winner of the big prize there is a good chance I would have slammed the door and cried on the floor. Instead it was her, my lifelong friend ready to show me that having a baby changes a lot of things but that is not always a bad thing.

She came in and took my son, calmly swaddled him and somehow got him to fall asleep in his crib. She opened wine and passed me the nipple cream. She sat there while I cried until the crying turned into laughter. She stayed until my son woke up for a feeding. She helped get him latched on to my cracked sore nipples and we laughed about the fact that out of all the things we had been together in our lives this was by far the craziest of them all.

I learned two things that night. I learned that wine and nipple cream are like gold and that babies really do change everything. Change is not always a bad thing though. That night I learned that my friendship with my life-long friend was never going to be the same and for that I am forever grateful.

Friendships are valuable assets to people of all ages, children and adults alike. And when it comes to our kids, all we want to see and know is that they’re developing healthy relationships with individuals outside of their immediate family. (That’s right, we’re not their only friends…!)Monitoring their interaction with friends from school and clubs, though, can get tricky, especially when opportunities for parental involvement can be rather limited.

Watch as Dr. Shimi Kang explains how to achieve a fair balance when it comes to involving ourselves in our kids’ relationships, and how we can teach them about developing healthy friendships too.


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