Frienedy, an all ages social network, puts parents in charge.

frienedy iconWhen I first started talking to elementary schools about digital citizenship, I rarely mentioned specific apps. With every year, I see more young kids with phones and tablets. So, I have added slides about Instagram and kik. While I understand why kids love these apps, these places are for people 13 years old and up. This is a tough environment to learn about digital citizenship where mistakes are easily shared and hard to erase.

A few weeks ago, I got chance to talk with Janel Patterson, a parent and CEO of Frienedy, who has created a better approach. She has designed a social network for all ages. Frienedy is for everyone and allows both parents and kids to create private social groups. These groups can center around family, friends, teams or classes. Within a group, members can share activities, photos, videos and documents. They can also post an event on a shared calendar as well as create a WishList for equipment and supplies.frienedy ex

Designing a social network for all ages is not easy. Because of COPPA, most social networks choose to simply limit users to 13 years or older. A few social networks cater only to young kids. Frienedy is unique in bringing both these groups together. Janel said they were able to do this by integrating privacy software directly into the site. Frienedy makes it seamless and simple for parents to provide verifiable consent for their children under 13 to have an account.

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Once kids are on, they can join and create their own groups under the watchful eye of their parent. As Janel explains, “Frienedy is designed such that parents have “view only” access to always oversee, but not participate in, their children’s groups. So, they are default members of every group a child joins or creates. However, there is not a risk to the child of being embarrassed by the parent, because the parent cannot comment, chat or upload photos or documents.”

On Frienedy, parents are their child’s digital coach. Overseeing their child provides the perfect opportunity to kick off the digital citizenship/cyberbullying conversation. Behind the scenes, parents can keep the digital talk going by teaching kids what to post and what not to post. If a kid makes a mistake or posts a comment that is misinterpreted, parents can immediately step in and work with their child to remedy the situation. Janel believes “that when, as parents, we have the opportunity and tools to teach our children how to be good digital citizens, we will inevitably see fewer cases of cyberbullying in the long run and fewer kids who post their way out of scholarships, colleges, and jobs.”

Frienedy is an excellent way for families, teams and classrooms to share information privately while teaching kids how to communicate responsibly on a social network. Right now, parents can sign up for Frienedy on their mobile friendly site. In July, they are coming out with their IOS app. For help with talking to your child about staying safe and sharing smart online, Talking Digital provides scripts and tips for kids from preschool to high school.

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20 Great Websites for Parents

spring cleaningSpring-cleaning always energizes me to look at everything with a fresh perspective. This past week, I did a little spring-cleaning on KidsPrivacy. I played with different themes, toyed with moving around widgets and contemplated adding new features. The result is a long list of things to delete, things to add and things to move. My first change launches today.

At the end of my internet safety talks, parents always ask me about my favorite websites. I have many. Every Monday, I go through all my bookmarked sites to find out what is happening online, what new technology is coming out and what should parents talk to kids about staying safe and sharing smart. So, I have built a  Digital Parenting Blogs Page. Here, I have links to 20 fantastic organizations and people who are writing for parents raising kids in a digital world.

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Please check out these 20 sites, add them to your bookmarks and set aside a day each week to peruse them. These sites will keep you up to date on the latest apps and give you some fresh ideas for managing technology. Be sure to bookmark KidsPrivacy. This is only the beginning, I will be adding more sites and features this summer. If you have questions or suggestions, please let me know.

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6 Essential Tips to help Tweens live a Healthy Digital Life

picture youthMy eldest is keeping a close count on how many school days are left. Today is day 40. Last night, I had my final middle school parent ed talk for this year. It has been a tremendous year for KidsPrivacy. I published my first book, expanded my blog readership and visited many middle and elementary schools. As I drove home, I kept thinking about next year. While it is exciting to think about new posts, talks and workshops, I still have 40 days left. Before I close out this year, I wanted share a few more tips from my book, Talking Digital, for middle school parents. Here are my 6 essential tips to help your tween live a healthy digital life. Continue reading

Celebrate Earth Day with these 5 Apps

earthHappy Earth Day! Today, April 22, is Earth Day’s 45th anniversary. For 45 years, people have come together to help our planet by supporting environmental programs, cleaning up their neighborhoods or living a more sustainable lifestyle. This year, I have 5 earth-friendly apps to celebrate Earth Day. Download these apps today to discover how to transform a water bottle into a piece of art, learn more about the environment or make healthier food choices. Continue reading

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Do most Teens have a Smartphone? New Study says Yes

pew study cover 2When my kids were little, I belonged to a co-op preschool. At the co-op, we had monthly parent education meetings. During these meetings, we shared what was going on with our little ones. I usually left feeling relieved that my child was not the only one who could not write their name and had a few strategies for how to make carrots more interesting.

Often I think back to these meetings, when I give my digital parenting presentations. My favorite part is talking with parents and hearing about what is happening in their house. Most parents are asking the same questions. Is my kid the only one who is on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat? Who are they sharing with on all these sites? Does everyone really have a smartphone? Usually, we discover most of our kids are doing similar things. For better or for worse, we are all in the same boat.

Last week, the Pew Research released Teen, Social Media and Technology Overview which answered some of these same questions. Pew Research asked American teens, ages 13-17, about what technology they used, what social networks they frequented and what they were doing online. As I read through this study, I found it reflected what I am seeing and hearing from parents.

Continue reading