Your PTA Can Help With Your Kid’s DIGITAL Life

pic of Erick Lauber
by Dr. Erick Lauber

Have you checked out your local Parent Teacher Association (PTA), or maybe the national PTA website? I recently had the chance to observe an excellent “Digital Families Community Event” held locally by the local PTA president, Kammi Cooper.

Kammi’s PTA Program for Horace Mann Elementary School

The program was provided by the National PTA, but tailored to the local community. It was interactive and fun for the kids and very informative for the parents. The families got to talk about screen time, creating and sharing passwords, favorite apps and social media sites, and what to share and not to share on the Internet.

Kammi was able to put on such an excellent program because she attended a PTA conference and was awarded a small grant to make this program happen. However, you don’t have to wait to benefit from the wonderful resources the National PTA has put together. I went to their website and clicked on the “Family Resources” and then “Digital Safety” buttons.

There I learned that the PTA has multiple programs sponsored by such Internet powerhouses as Google, Facebook, and AT&T.  I particularly liked one called “Smart Talk” put together by LifeLock.

The Smart Talk Program

It is an online learning module you can do with your kid. It helps you answer questions such as:

  • How much screen time is appropriate?
  • How to determine who should “friend” or “follow” your account?
  • When to share photos or videos online?
  • How to respond to negative comments or posts on social media?
  • Whether to use location-based services on apps?

At the end, you can print out the decisions you’ve come to and have it as a record (or kind of contract between you and your kid.) I thought it was excellent!

Go Get More Information

Raising a kid in a digital world is tough. You want them (and you) to be aware of how they spend online. You want them to be mindful of their online presence and footpring.

Check out your local PTA and see if they are hosting any of these programs. If they aren’t, why not initiate one yourself? 

And keep learning. This isn’t the exact same world you grew up in!

Useful Links:

https://www.pta.org/home/programs/connected

https://www.pta.org/home/programs/connected/smart-talk

Are Instagram “influencers” influencing your kid

By Katie Mest

We’ve already taught you what an influencer is (http://www.decodingtodaysyouth.com/what-is-an-influencer-and-whats-it-got-to-do-with-your-tween/). Influencers are either celebrities or ordinary people who are paid by a company to promote its products on social media.

Maybe what you don’t know are all the harmful products and practices that are popping up on your teen’s social media timeline as a result.

The big player in this game is Instagram. It works well for the influencers (and companies) because of its flashy pictures and cleverly worded captions. It screams “if you use this product, you too can have an Instagram profile as flashy or a body as perfect” as this person.

Well, Instagram recently released some news. And this going to 100 percent affect your kids.

 Soon you and your kids will see more influencers that you aren’t even following. That’s because soon brands will be allowed to promote their influencers’ posts and project them onto the screens of the young and impressionable.

 In a way, this is nothing new. Instagram already has sponsored posts that show up on your feed in between pictures of your friend’s cat and your coworker’s beach vacation. But now these will be labeled “paid partnership.”

Hey, we know you’re already worried about the kind of material your kid/pre-teen is taking in when they spend hours upon hours in front of their cell phones. So here’s a quick list of some products and ideas that have shown up on your kid’s timeline because of influencers.

Flat Tummy Tea

As the name suggests, this company wants you to believe that by drinking this tea, you will lose weight quickly and easily. A few of the Kardashians have come under fire lately for promoting this product. The company sells lollipops, shakes, and supplements as well as tea.

At this point, many experienced social media users know that Flat Tummy Tea is not only not effective, but it’s dangerous and unhealthy, but these are high school and college students. Younger kids may not be up on this kind of promotion. I think the products either “curb hunger” or “help with digestion,” which means to me maybe they make you sick.

Many influencers don’t actually try the product. They just post a picture with a caption that the company told them to include. Read more about Flat Tummy Tea’s Instagram empire here.

See also: any product that claims to be healthy while making you cut weight crazy fast.

YouTuber Logan Paul visiting a Japanese suicide forest

Yes, you read that correctly. Logan Paul posted a YouTube video of himself in the Aokigahara. This is a forest in Japan where many people go to take their lives. Regretably, he showed a body he had come across while filming.

To make matters worse, he kept the same attitude of his other videos and made jokes along the way. If you want to read more about it: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2018/01/02/youtuber-logan-paul-apologizes-for-showing-body-in-japans-suicide-forest/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.b3cd12d5162e.

Using natural disasters to gain or keep attention

When wildfires broke out in California, many influencers took to social media to send “thoughts and prayers” to those affected.

While the captions might have matched the situation, some of the photographs definitely didn’t, such as selfies or perfectly posed, professional photographer pictures. It was a way for the influencers to stay on top of a trending topic while also gaining likes from being “sympathetic.”

So what can you do?

  1. Research. If your teen wants to buy something that they saw promoted on social media, do your own investigation before purchasing. Look up reviews. If it’s something that will be ingested, like a supplement or diet tea, check the ingredients and find out what’s really in it. Also, look for any possible side effects.
  2. Talk. Ask your kid what kinds of things they’re seeing on social media. How do they feel about them? Do they think the influencer actually uses the product or just gets paid to post about it? Open up the conversation so they know that those influencer reviews aren’t always truthful or thorough.
  3. Be present on social media. Not in a snooping way. But it won’t hurt to make your own account just so you know what’s going on in that social media universe. Follow news stations. Follow celebrities. Get a glimpse of what your teen is seeing on their screen.

Here are more helpful links:

Get our free guide: “What is new in your kid’s world?”

We’ve put a lot of time building a 12-page booklet with some of our most important topics. Fill in the form, and we’ll get you “What is new in your kid’s world?” right away!

pic of parent guide

Twelve pages of our best content!

Quizlet: A new study tool? Or the easiest way for your kid to cheat?

By Seth Woolcock

In a world where technology is supposedly making learning “better and better”, is it “better” if every quiz and test is suddenly “easier”?

Welcome to the new world of online test help – the free app Quizlet.

It’s an app initially created to allow students to study items with online flash cards. It now also has a variety of learning tools and games.

But Quizlet is today so much more than a study aid. It’s actually one of the easiest ways to cheat on a quiz ever invented.

But is it popular? Does my kid even know about it?  Yes. If not now, then soon. Quizlet itself says more than two-thirds of high school students and one half of undergraduate students use Quizlet. 

I first heard about Quizlet my senior year in high school.  My accounting teacher told me a fellow classmate of mine had put all of the vocabulary cards on Quizlet. She said I could use it to study if I wanted to. I didn’t. I preferred old fashioned paper back then.

But once I got to college my use of Quizlet changed dramatically. Suddenly it seemed whenever I couldn’t find the answer to just about any general question, from any class, I could find it on Quizlet. From “Intro to Theater” to “Chemistry For Everyone”, Quizlet always had my back.

What is Quizlet?

So, a guy named Andrew Sutherfurland made Quizlet back in 2005. I’m sure he never imagined it would become as big as it is. Quizlet was originally just a site for virtual flashcards. Like the classic paper flashcards, these cards have two sides; one side with a term or a question and the other side with the answer.

After creating the cards, you could just test yourself or play a game like Match and Gravity.

Quizlet recently expanded by introducing Quizlet Diagrams and Quizlet Learn. Quizlet Diagrams is exactly as it sounds; diagrams that help you study. Quizlet Learn is powered by Quizlet’s new learning assistant platform that helps create an individualized study plan for each student. For more information about Quizlet try this Wikipedia link, or the Quizlet website.

How does Quizlet help enable cheating?

 After you make a set of cards you make them public.  Most students seem to do this. However, most students simply re-type the questions they see in the book or get handed back to them on quizzes or tests.

Because the Quizlet items are public, when a different student types that exact question into a Google search bar, the Quizlet card, or an entire deck of cards, comes up. Click on the link and suddenly you’re on Quizlet with lots of potential cards that match your search phrase. If the page is long, then most student’s know they can simply hit Control+F (on PC) and Command+F (On Mac).  It searches for the first word of the question on the page and takes you right to the answer you want, bypassing all the other cards with ease.

Is this a real problem? Institutions of higher education think so. Read this link article about how rampant Quizlet cheating is. Warning: 12 students got suspended from college in this article.

 What can you do?

 As a parent obviously you want your kid to learn, not cheat. I would suggest monitoring their homework activities. Are they doing their homework with their phone or a computer out? If so, how are they using it?

Also, maybe have a conversation about the value of a true education. Explain that it will eventually catch up to them if they are the kid that didn’t learn the content and other kids did.

And, finally, talk about ethics. There is such a thing as a “slippery slope.” If you become comfortable cheating in this way, won’t it be easier for you to let yourself cheat in a different way, maybe on something more serious?

I wish you good luck parenting. Your kid’s world is not the same world you grew up in.

Some Useful Links

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quizlet

https://quizlet.com/help/2444083/what-is-quizlet-and-how-can-i-use-it

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/05/14/professors-warned-about-popular-learning-tool-used-students-cheat

Also try some of our other social media blogs:



What is an “influencer”? And what’s it got to do with your tween?

pic of Morgan Rihn

By Morgan Rihn

Maybe you’ve heard of an “influencer” – the newest big thing in advertising. It’s all the rage right now.

It starts with an average person (or celebrity) who has an opinion. They build a following, and finally, brands jump on board and pay them either with cash or free product to promote the brand’s products.

There are influencers in beauty, fashion, fitness, gaming and more. It’s a marketing strategy that’s becoming widely successful. And you should know about it.

Where are influencers seen?

Instagram is the most popular platform for influencers. Just scroll through your ‘Explore Page’ on Instagram to find numerous influencers you might like. But influencers are on other social media platforms, too. YouTube is a  popular place, and so is Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter.

Popular (adult) influencers

Influencers often are celebrities. This make sense. Its easier for them to get a large following. In general, more views = more business. Kylie Jenner is the highest paid celebrity influencer. She earns $1 million per sponsored Instagram post. Selena Gomez receives $800,000 per post and Christiano Ronaldo earns $750,000. Kim Kardashian West, Beyoncé, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and many more make millions from sponsored posts.

But many top influencers are not household names. For example, here are a few of 2018’s top influencers:

Huda Kattan
  • Makeup artist
  • Beauty blogger
  • Founder of Huda Beauty
  • 24.3 million Instagram followers
  • 2.2 million YouTube subscribers
Cameron Dallas
  • Actor in “Expelled,” “The Outfield,” & “Chasing Cameron”
  • Well-known for his Instagram content
  • 20.7 million Instagram followers
  • 3.8 million Facebook followers
James Charles
  • Male spokesperson for beauty
  • Covergirl’s first male spokesmodel
  • 2.1 million Instagram followers
  • 15.9 million YouTube subscribers
Joanna Gaines
  • HGTV’s Fixer Upper host
  • Magnolia Homes, renovation business, owner with husband Chip
  • Instagram reflects her work and personal life
  • 4.8 million Instagram followers
Do influencers influence youth?

There’s no doubt celebrities and influencers are having an effect on America’s youth. A company called Mintel (link) has reported that one third of kids aged 6-17 consider their top role models to be social media stars, i.e. influencers. This outranks actors, athletes, musicians and even the President.

Also, for kids, YouTube is the second most common source of information about new entertainment and toys, behind only TV commercials. This is not really a surprise. The current generation of youngsters already represent buying power of over $44 billion (link) with an additional $600 billion of family-spending also influenced by this generation.

Is there a problem here?

Maybe. Many parents don’t know that the FCC regulates TV content for children. However, they don’t have a say over Internet content. For example, there have been long standing rules about how much time in each TV show can show commercials, whether a TV show can show a product (called “product placement”), and if there was any compensation for that product placement. The regulators and protectors of children have long had their eye on TV.

But that’s not the case with social media and Internet influencers. Regulators are only now beginning to ask: “Should there be a visible disclaimer if a social media personality is being paid to endorse a product? Should there be restrictions on how much ‘content’ is pure advertising? Should there be quality checks on content for effects on health and safety?”

But you’re probably saying: “But really, what’s the big deal? It’s just stuff my kid watches to entertain themselves? Is it really having any impact?”

“Yes” is the short answer. Though this is so new not many studies are out yet, one study did find that influencers can change what your child eats. (link)

And the Bloomberg news service recently had a panel discussion on how YouTube’s children-focused channels actually have a lot of paid advertising disguised as content.

Do you need to panic? We don’t yet think so. But it is a good idea to monitor closely what your child is consuming on social media. And to find out who they follow and why they follow them.

Be aware that your kid is marketed to just as heavily as every other target demographic. Companies want their business. Meanwhile, Internet regulations with regard to children are not nearly as sophisticated and ingrained as TV rules, so it’s a bit more “user beware” out there.

And don’t forget – they don’t call them “influencers” because they have NO effect on your kid – or the bottom line of the company…

Some other useful links:

https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/social-media-influencers-influential-2018/

https://influencermarketinghub.com/top-25-instagram-influencers/

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/07/31/kylie-jenner-makes-1-million-per-paid-instagram-post-hopper-hq-says.html

And check out our other blogs on…

Be Careful With Those Buy/Sell/Trade Apps

By Seth Woolcock

Hey parents. This one’s about YOU and YOUR KIDS. 

It’s always important that you keep up with the latest “technology” trends. Particularly if they might pose a risk to you and your family. A Twitter thread that recently went viral was posted by SaraSuze (@tragedythyme). It was a reminder about using apps to meet up with strangers.

pic of tweet by SaraSuze

(Here’s a link to the tweet: https://twitter.com/tragedythyme

Luckily, the tweet did not tell of an attack, but it did go viral. Probably because many women want men to know it isn’t as easy for them to do something that most men don’t worry about – like meeting a stranger to buy, sell or trade something.

Sara was using the app LetGo. It’s a very popular app. Currently #26 on the Apple App Store.  Many similar apps are also popular, like Offer Up, Vinted, and DeClutter.

It’s true that these apps are slowly phasing out traditional trading sites like eBay or Craiglist. And no one really thinks the younger generation is going to be reading the classified ads (if newspapers still exist). So it’s likely your kid will eventually use one of these apps.

On the positive side, the apps are easy to navigate, and many have filters that make them a more convenient buying and selling experience.  But it is still the case you don’t necessarily know who you’re communicating with. Fortunately, I’ve had mostly good experiences. 

For example, I’ve also used LetGo. It is a basic buying and selling app. Users post items for sale, communicate with potential customers, and hopefully sell the item once you meet up in person. The biggest con many might experience with the app is that you can’t pay within the app, so sometimes closing the deal can be a drag.

I bought a Long Board once using the app, and it was as easy as showing up at a lady’s door, handing the woman $25, and taking the board home.

I’ve also used Facebook’s Marketplace. Ironically, this might be one of the safer methods because you can easily check out the person’s profile before you meet with them. Of course, just because the person’s profile looks legit doesn’t mean it always is. There are some fake bot profiles that post items and vehicles that are too good to be true, in an attempt to scam you. But, I actually did buy my car off of Facebook Marketplace and it went surprisingly well. I got a reliable car for a great deal from an honest guy who was moving South with his family. But I’ve also had friends whose experiences did not go as well.

It doesn’t take much work to find a news story about a bad buying experience on one of these apps. Pooja St. Amand, of Middletown, Connecticut, told ABC News in a 2017 interview that she was robbed after attempting to sell an iPad. Although she took proper precautions by meeting the stranger in a populated community center parking lot, she still felt she was put in serious danger.  (link)

I’ve also used OfferUP.  It’s pretty much identical to LetGo, though some say it has worse customer service. I used this app when I sold some old KC Lights that go on top of a car. I had a good experience and the buyer came the next day to pick them up for his Jeep Wrangler.

Some other apps I haven’t tried include Vinted, a sales app used for trading older clothing and other vintage items specifically, and, Declutter, an online yard sale. There’s also thredUp, a newer app for selling secondhand clothing.

Tips to stay safe when buying and selling online

Although all of my online buying and selling experiences were OK, they did get me thinking after I read @tragedythyme’s tweet. What if they hadn’t? And what if I was smaller, or a woman, or teen? I was a guy, over 18 years old, and I did take a few precautions.

So after a little bit of research I discovered these tips for using buy/sell/trade apps:

Call your local police department to find a safe meet-up spot.

People used to say to meet a stranger in a public space, such as the parking lot of a McDonalds. It used to be just make sure there is enough light so you are visible.

But because of recent stories of assaults and robberies during meet-ups even in public areas, some local police departments have set up designated safe meet-up spots. Most of them are located in the parking lot of the police station. I agree – that should work.

Bring a friend.

Whether you’re the buyer or the seller, it’s always good to be on the safe side and make sure you or your kids are not meeting a stranger alone. The more the merrier, I think.

Use your phone.

That might feel obvious, but it bears repeating – always have your phone. And maybe make sure other people know you are making a transaction. Share your location with your friend, spouse or family member. And keep “location tracking” turned on.  To learn how to enable this on your iOS device or Android, click here.

Use cash and avoid giving out personal information.

I discovered you should only bring the agreed upon amount of cash. And while it’s always nice to meet a friendly face, don’t let your guard down. Also, avoid giving up crucial personal information, such as your address, bank information, occupation or social security number.

Trust your gut.

At the end of the day, you have to listen to that little voice inside your head. Be aware of your surroundings and leave if things somehow begin to go south. No amount of money is worth your safety and well-being.

Will this danger get worse in the future?

As time goes on, it seems likely the dangers of meeting strangers with buy/sell/trade apps will only grow. For example, very recently, three LetGo-related attacks occurred in a small Delaware community (link )

Most of these occurred while people were buying or selling a smartphone. The attackers took the victims’ cellphones and wallets. One victim was even injured.

 So, at the end of the day, YOU and YOUR KIDS need to be careful with these apps. You have to be sure to set a good example. And be aware of your kids online behavior. Are they going to start buying and selling things online? You’ll want to know.

For some of our other blogs on your kid’s technology, try:

Can the Internet be a Positive Thing for Your Tween?

pic of Morgan Rihn
by Morgan Rihn

The Good in The World is ALSO at their fingertips

In a world full of negativity, it can be hard sometimes to spot the positive. Media companies purposefully hype up the bad news because it gives them more customers (and therefore, more money through advertising). Why is that? Because, sadly, we want bad news.  Numerous studies have confirmed it (for example, click here and here) and when a news site goes totally positive, it loses readership big time (click here).

But positive things are happening every day. Sometimes they happen slowly, so they don’t make great news stories. For example, CNN recently thought of a few great things that happened in 2018:

  • North and South Korea ended the Korean War.
  • The United States’ unemployment rate was the lowest it has been since 1969.
  • Women in Saudi Arabia were finally allowed to drive.
  • Researchers developed a 10-minute cancer test.
  • 157 new species were discovered in Southeast Asia.
  • A record number of minority and gay athletes competed in the Olympics.
  • NASA’s Insight captured the first sounds of wind on Mars.

The Online World and your Tween

So, good things are happening. But what about the online world?  Any parent knows that today’s kids are more plugged in than ever before. In fact, one estimate is that, because of smartphones and computer screens, 1 in 3 Internet users are now adolescents or children.

And I must confess: we here at 2020 Parenting have even written several blogs warning about the dangers of Internet “stuff”: Too much time on YouTube?, Is FOMO worse because of the Internet?, Is Instagram hurting self-esteem?, and so on….

But maybe it’s not all bad (as a recent Huffington Post article declared). A really cool book that came out in Jan. 2019 (link at bottom) argues that several good things are happening because your kid can access the Internet:

Learning is possible anytime.  As our own example, consider DuoLingo, a free app that allows anyone to learn a language on their phone 24/7. Dr. Lauber is currently using it to learn Spanish and he says he loves it. Your kid will have more opportunities to learn than any generation before. And online communities are forming around these platforms. This will allow your children to find friends who share their hobbies and interests.

Social media can help tweens strengthen their current relationships. Did you know that more than 90% of teens say they use social media to connect daily with people they know in real life? And that’s even true for gaming. More than 75% say they play with real friends and they feel more connected because of it. Teens say they are staying in close touch with their family members through the Internet. Again, our example? Dr. Lauber says he is hasfar better communication with this three kids, who have left the house, than he ever had with his own parents because of the Internet.

The Internet allows your child to participate in cultural change and social movements. Did you know Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl that got shot on a bus by the Taliban but went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, started at age 12 by blogging about girl’s rights in 2009? All over the world young people’s voices are being heard because the Internet allows that to happen.

Social media can also contribute to volunteering, voting, and donating. Many young people are civically engaged in their own neighborhoods and communities because of the power of social media. In fact, one 16-year-old created an app called “Sit with Us” to help kids find a group of students to eat lunch with so they would never again have to eat lunch alone.

Finally, creativity is also prospering through the Internet.  Apps and software for writing, photography, videography, and more, are popular with tween and teens. They allow even the youngest to discover their expressive and creative side.

What can you do?

We think you can help your tween by focusing on the good happening in the world. And by remembering that technology is just a tool. It can be used for good or bad. Teach them appropriate use of each app or software they install. And role model good behavior. Maybe you can show them how to learn about volunteering opportunities in their own community. Or how to turn their passion for any social cause into progress and action by learning how to communicate and possibly mobilize their community.

In the end you have a far greater influence on your tween/teen than they are likely to admit.  Keep it positive. Balance out all of that “bad news” media. And teach that an act of kindness really does go a long way. Even farther, in many ways, than the Internet.

For more good stuff like this, check out Diana Graber’s great book “Raising Humans in a Digital World”.

Is Your Tween Spending Too Much Time On YouTube?

By Lily Whorl

So, you may know the expression “going down the rabbit hole”. It means going into the unknown and perhaps having unique or disorienting experiences. It comes from Lewis Caroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”.

If your kid hasn’t already done this several times with YouTube, they soon will.

For example, imagine checking on your child. You’ve presumed their off playing with their toys or maybe their father. And instead you find them watching another kid on YouTube play with his toys – and perhaps his father.

Meet Ryan Toys Review. A 7-yr-old YouTube sensation with 18 million subscribers and an estimated net worth of $22 million.

Many of my younger cousins and nephews, and even the children I nanny for, are glued to their iPad or phone. Out of curiosity, I tend to peak at what they’re doing. I’d say about nine times out of ten they are viewing YouTube videos. Though I can’t lie and say I don’t enjoy watching YouTube videos also, I do find it mind blowing the amount of YouTube and screen time these kids will spend in a day.

And I know Ryan and his parent’s mean no harm by their successful YouTube Channel, it does get you thinking. Why would a child enjoy watching someone ELSE play with toys instead of just playing with toys THEMSELVES? I don’t have the perfect answer to that. Maybe it takes less energy. Maybe it’s about discovery and they already know about all of their own toys. I’m not sure.

But I did do a little research. Did you know kids between 0 and 5 only spend 50 minutes online but kids from 8 to 12 spend six hours a day? And it goes up to 9 hours a day for teenagers? (This comes from the website Common Sense Media .)  Sure, this can be the time you get your household chores done, but in the end, are you allowing a YouTube obsession to get started in your kid? 

And does it get better with age? Here’s a graph that shows over 25% of Americans visit YouTube several times a day. That’s a quarter of us!

Frequency of YouTube use in the United States

So, what do you want to do about it?

This is completely up to you. But I think the first step is NOT deleting the app or banning the computer.  I hope instead you consider simply limiting screen time. Plus there are parental controls in most of these apps, including YouTube. One thing you can do, for example, is turn off or pause the search history. This will stop new videos from magically appearing once the current video is done. That blocks the rabbit hole. Or makes it less inviting.

 I also think it’s important to sit down with your child and actually observe what they’re watching on YouTube. Many times it will be fine, though you may want to look out for videos that are essentially commercials. We all know that kids are a prime target audience for marketers and there are far less restrictions about what they can do on YouTube than they can put on TV, for example.

You may also want to subscribe for your child some educational channels. No harm in that, right?

And finally, why not sit and talk with your child about what they find so fascinating about their favorite YouTube videos? Maybe there’s a chance you could duplicate that intrigue in some real world activity? 

And wouldn’t that be cool. Instead of art imitating life, you could figure out to get life to imitate art. YouTube art that is.

Meanwhile, I’ve got to run now. Those kitten videos aren’t going to watch themselves!

Check out our blogs posts on Cyberbullying or how today’s social media contributes to FOMO.

Some Helpful Links:

https://health.usnews.com/wellness/for-parents/articles/2018-04-30/managing-your-teens-screen-time

https://www.verywellfamily.com/strategies-limit-your-teens-screen-time-2608915

https://www.statista.com/statistics/256896/frequency-with-which-us-internet-users-visit-youtube/

Venmo: The Payment App of Today

By Morgan Rihn

Venmo is a money sharing app that your kids definitely know about (even if you don’t!)  With Venmo you can pay and request money from people you know. All they need is a Venmo account. Finding your friends’ accounts is super easy: you just sync your contact list from Facebook and it automatically finds them.

The app can be used for lots of things. It makes splitting the bill much simpler, for example. Or you can reimburse someone for buying you a drink. Your Venmo is account is funded by your Venmo balance (what other people have paid you), your credit or debit card, or a U.S. back account. When you connect with your bank account, you can transfer your Venmo balance to your bank account.

Right now Venmo is used by 66% of young Americans (according to expandedramblings.com). Its parent company is PayPal and it has 27 million users, and its growing.  Just in the second quarter of 2018 its payment volume was $14 billion! Venmo is really easy to use. You simply describe what the payment is for (or use emojis) and pick the amount and the person. Click! It’s done. (The names have been changed from the actual screen shot below.)

Purchasing with Venmo

There are companies that accept payment through Venmo. Companies like Uber, Grubhub, Forever 21, and more, use this service. Also, any store that has the PayPal button will take Venmo. And online companies are starting to display the Venmo logo on their payment pages.

Pricing: Is Venmo Actually Free?

Yes, it’s free. Most of the time. You can send money using your Venmo balance, bank account, or debit card, free of charge. There is a standard 3% fee applied to credit card transactions. Venmo’s transfer service (to your bank account) is also free to use, but a 1% fee is charged for each Instant Transfer. Venmo.com also has a Venmo Mastercard, check out https://venmo.com/about/fees/ for more information about it.

Safety Concerns

Like everything else connected to the Internet, safety is not 100% guaranteed, especially when your bank information is directly connected. Investopedia,com says “Venmo uses data encryption to protect users against unauthorized transactions, and stores user information on servers in secure locations. Venmo also allows users to set up a PIN code for mobile application use for additional security, though it does not compel users to set one up, by default.” Of course, there’s always the chance a hacker may break through Venmo’s security measures, but that’s true for your Visa card too.  What I can say is nearly all teens aren’t worried about. Venmo is growing in popularity.  

Oh, and what can you buy with it? Anything. You describe what to call it in the app. If you buy alcohol form a friend, or pot, you can call it a cookie or a soda. So even if your parents see the transaction, or later, someone investigates, there is no evidence of anything other a transfer of money. But we’ll talk about that more in a future blog.

Helpful links:

https://help.venmo.com/hc/en-us/articles/221011388-What-is-Venmo-

https://venmo.com/about/fees/

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/032415/how-safe-venmo-and-why-it-free.asp

Today’s technology makes your child’s FOMO even worse!

By Katie Mest

What’s FOMO?

FOMO is the feeling that everyone else is a part of something you’re not. FOMO is the “Fear Of Missing Out”.

It’s all your friends hanging out without you, maybe because you declined to go in the first place or maybe you weren’t even invited.

Parents, does it feel like your child is spending more time at their friends’ house than at yours? Does it seem like they value the opinion of their friends more than your parental advice?

That’s natural. Kids pull away from their parents and look to their peers for acceptance.

FOMO is nothing new. Why are we bringing it up now?

Because your kids are more connected now.

They make plans with their friends in their group text and can see the progression of the plans before their very eyes. If they decline to attend the plans, they are now sitting on the sidelines as the rest of their friends excitedly chatter along, blowing up the phone of those who opted out.

“But they chose not to go”, you say.

Sometimes kids want to be responsible. (Yes, it does still happen.) They know studying for the big test will benefit them more than seeing the newest blockbuster.

Sometimes they can’t go without a choice. Family obligations, sports practices, after school jobs. Maybe you even grounded them from going out. Many times, plans with a big group of friends just don’t fit in the schedule or the budget.

The point is, even if your child isn’t there in person, they still see what’s going on. That little thing called social media that keeps your kids glued to their phones all day is the king at creating FOMO.

Snapchat stories. Instagram posts. The group text. They are all constant reminders of the event your kid diddn’t attend. The fun they’re missing out on. The inside jokes they won’t be a part of because “you had to be there to understand.”

Check out this link for a teenager’s perspective on FOMO.

FOMO can make people (of any age, not just teenagers) anxious. We get low self-esteem from constantly seeing what everyone else is doing. It’s hard to sit at home while it seems like everyone else is doing something exciting and Instagram-worthy.

You’ve definitely experienced it, too.

Come on, parents. You’ve had your friends ask if you and your significant other want to join them for dinner. Maybe a sporting event. And you’ve had to remind them that being a parent means you can’t always go somewhere at the drop of a hat. So you politely decline because it’s easier than figuring out who’s going to watch the kids and the pet. Then you come across your friend’s pictures of the dinner or game on Facebook and you feel a twinge of jealousy because they found someone else to take your place.

F. O. M. O.

But it’s constant for your kid. Their friends post way more than your friends do. And, of course, their teenagers. So they’re not always as polite about it as grown ups are.

They said “no” to plans. How can you help relieve some of the FOMO?

These tips might help.

  1. Distract them. Keep them off their phones while the plans are going on. If they’re studying, encourage a snack break and use the time to catch up with them about what’s going on in their life.
  2. Sit down with them and reinforce the idea that they won’t always be able to drop everything to go have fun. Remind them of the reason they can’t go out, like maybe sports or homework. This reason will be more beneficial to them down the line than whatever their friends chose to do that night.
  3. In the same manner as #2, have a real adult conversation with them if the problem is finances. Finances is a tricky topic to talk about with kids and teenagers. They are most likely still depending on you for the money they use to go out. Maybe they’re too young to realize that you have actual expenses that don’t allow for you to give 50% of what you make to your kid’s entertainment fund. It will get easier as they get older. Start teaching them how to manage their own money, and they will quickly learn how easy it is to spend money on frivolous things when more important things need your attention and earnings – and yet they can’t do that.

More great information on FOMO can be found at:

https://www.verywellfamily.com/how-fomo-impacts-teens-and-young-adults-4174625

If you like this article on DecodingTodaysYouth.com, check out the harm Instagram is causing your teens.