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.

In a world of perfectionism, Instagram proves large self-esteem crusher

By Katie Mest

Instagram fabulously documents a teenager’s life. It shows the highs of every event: the laughs, the candid moments, the wide smiles.

What could better serve as the diary for an adolescent, impressionable young soul?

The answer? Just about anything else. Because while Instagram looks fun on the surface, the need for “the perfect looking life” takes a terrible toll on the self-esteem of teenagers (and let’s be honest, adults, too).

For those of you who may not be aware of a typical night scrolling through the Instagram Explore page, I’ll go through it for you.

The Explore page is catered toward your personal interests. The more you search something – say a television show – the more you will see actors associated with the show and clips showing small parts of the show. It’s meant to be harmless.

Until your searches get the better of you.

Since beginning my college break, I’ve decided to spend my time trying to get back in shape. This past semester didn’t leave me with a lot of time to keep up with a good workout regimen, so I’ve used the free time to go for a couple of runs. Now, I find myself clicking on more posts on Instagram that have to do with fitness.

The only problem is that the people who run Instagram fitness accounts look FANTASTIC. Seriously, I don’t understand how some of these girls look so good when they’re working out.

I’ve learned that a lot of people my age, especially women, fall into this hole. The so-called “Instagram models”. They acquire enough followers to get sponsorships to promote items like slimming tea and hair vitamins. They also display their perfectly thin waists and impeccable sense of style that no normal teenager or young adult would be able to maintain or afford.

I wanted to look up new workouts or get some fitness inspiration. And I found that. But what I also found was a sense of self-hatred and inadequacy.

And I’m not the only person who thinks like this.

“I’ll never look like that.”

“I’m not good enough.”

“I don’t look like her, so I must be inadequate.”

And probably the worst thing to think while trying to better yourself:

“I’ll never look like her, so why even bother trying?”

Why? Because fitness should be for health reasons not for appearances!!

But I digress.

With New Years resolutions in full swing, I urge you to reach out to your children if they’ve expressed an interest in improving themselves via health and fitness. I guarantee they will find themselves on the Instagram Explore page sooner or later.

Want to hear some more thoughts on this? Look here.

You can help. Here are some things to keep in mind when discussing this with your kids:

1. Instagram is not real life. Yes, those might be real people, but picture-editing apps make up a large part of the Instagram experience, and that should not be forgotten.

2. Your child’s personal journey should not try to match anyone else’s. That fitness model has been training for years, and there’s no way you’ll be able to do as many reps/have those abs right away/look as effortless as that model does. If they really want to have someone to workout with, help them find an able friend who can be their workout buddy.

3. They should separate social media from any form of bettering themselves. Maybe try a social media cleanse. Help them manage their time on social media. It will help their goals in the long run.

4. Posting their own pictures isn’t always a bad thing, especially if they have an amazing group of friends as a support system. Friends love to hype up their friends. Just make sure your child is doing it through confidence and not the need for validation and likes. (Note: This is a very slippery slope.)

5. Going off No. 4, making a group chat with friends can be a good alternative. Teenagers rely on their friend’s opinions for everything, so creating a chat with the main purpose of restoring each other’s self-esteem could play to all of the friends’ benefit.

The worst thing that can happen is your child loses motivation to reach their goals or surrenders their self-esteem. Once that is lost, social media has an even greater grasp on the child. Don’t let your child fall into the pattern of looking at themselves as subordinate.

For more information about Instagram and social media pressure, check out these links. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/instagram-can-lower-self-esteem-make-you-unproductive-heres-how-to-break-away/articleshow/66130212.cms

For more of our commentary on social media, check out http://www.decodingtodaysyouth.com/cyberbullying-or-cyberbullied/

Or

http://www.decodingtodaysyouth.com/finsta-a-fake-instagram/

Finsta? A Fake Instagram

by Morgan Rihn

It is very unlikely that you as a parent know about finsta’s. What is a finsta? A “fake” Instagram account used for posting content that your children don’t want on their “real” Instagram page. From personal experience I can tell you that content usually includes random unedited pictures and captions of their life. Often pretty harmless stuff.

But might (and have) strayed to posting inappropriate pictures involving nudity and drugs/alcohol. Typically girls have finstas, although boys can have them too. They typically set them to “private” and give them an unusual name so only their closest friends can see what they post. Finstas have been around for a while.

Why do teens have finstas?

Recently, USATODAY.com talked about how older teens and college students have a finsta because of the fear that employers monitor what their employee does on social media. I think that probably does not apply that often. Maybe that’s why people with finstas from their high school life keep them. But most people I know that have a finsta have one because they don’t want boys or their parents to see what their posting.

Interestingly, finstas are kind of the opposite of people’s real Instagram account. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution observed, “Everyone kind of knows that no one’s Instagram life is their real life… You’re really tailoring all the photos and editing them and making sure that they look perfect. On your Finstagram, it’s supposed to be like the complete opposite.”

This tendency to let your finsta be more raw and unedited may be the reason sometimes inappropriate content appears.

Should you as a parent be concerned?

One source, Blog.hubspot.com doesn’t think finstas are all bad. They recently wrote about how finstas might allow your child an opportunity to express the unedited side of their life with their trusted friends. Maybe its a good way from to practice expressing themselves. I think if your child is using their finsta for fun, instead of hiding inappropriate things, you may have nothing to worry about. But of course, how would you know, is the big question.

I CAN report that my friends seem to post random photos of themselves on their finstas with captions about boy troubles, stressing out about school, etc…. Most do not post anything inappropriate. It is more of a “spam account” where they can rant about daily struggles to close friends.

So the bottom line is, like any social media account your child has, you may want to keep on eye it. The trouble they can get in to is just too big to ignore. But hopefully, if things are within bounds, you’ll respect their privacy. In their eyes it might be like reading their diary. Want to raise that question with them?Maybe you can explain that, unlike a diary, people don’t usually post any inappropriate pictures in their diary. And a diary really is private. Unlike a finsta.

Check out these links for more on finstas:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/talkingtech/2017/10/20/does-your-kid-have-finsta-account-why-its-big-deal/783424001/

https://www.ajc.com/news/national/what-finsta-teens-and-their-secret-instagram-accounts/2l2ZJwcVj0rLfxPzkApkTK/

https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/finsta

Is Your Kid Vaping?

by Erick Lauber

Vaping: Part I

Ok. Here’s a startling statistic. Teen vaping increased 80% last year in high schools. Here’s another one. It increased 50% in middle schools. This is according to the U.S. FDA, so I’m going to believe those numbers.

Ironically, those two numbers don’t include my two boys (who are now in their twenties) who also started vaping in the last few years.

What’s going on here?  It’s quite simple. This is a new drug delivery system that has not yet been adequately regulated. By “drug” I don’t necessarily mean illegal drug. Some vaping devices put out something similar to vegetable oil. But that’s not what I’m hearing about. Most kids are not vaping vegetable oil. The ones I know are vaping nicotine and THC, the mood altering chemical from marijuana.

Is it legal to do this? No. Not if you’re under 18. And recreational THC is still illegal in many states.  But that hasn’t stopped anyone. Vaping has come on super-fast and its catching many parents off guard.

In fact, the FDA has gotten so frightened by the numbers that its recently imposed huge new restrictions on many e-cigarette/vaping manufacturers. But in my town, it’s too late. Vaping is everywhere. And though the chart below says 4.7% of teens vape, more recent data says 12% or higher. Oh, and what’s starting? Unlike smoking cigarettes, vaping is done more by the young!

What’s scary is young people are smoking these MORE than older people!

High school and middle school teachers and administrators are telling me they’re confiscating as many as a dozen vaping devices a day.  And they don’t know what’s in them! There is no testing device they can use to determine if their cigarette policy, their marijuana policy, or perhaps neither should apply!

And where are kids getting these devices? Well, until the FDA recently changed the law, they could be bought in gas stations, convenience stores, etc… They’re still available online. And at vape shops. It’s easy to get a vaping device. And also easy to get it with nicotine or THC.

Will you know if your kid is “smoking” one of these in their room? No. Probably not. The devices don’t have to give off a smell. One kid smoked a THC vape right in front of me and I had no idea. No smell whatsoever. And they don’t have to produce a big cloud of vapor either. Some kids can just blow the tiny vapor up their sleeve. In class! I know. I’ve seen it.

So, is it dangerous?

Yup. But I’ll get into that in another blog post. Look up “popcorn lung” while you’re waiting. And don’t get me started on addiction to nicotine or THC.

Hey parents. This was not around when you were growing up. Get informed. Get a household policy in place. Get with your kids.

Don’t let vaping get your kid.

Here’s some links if you want more information:

https://truthinitiative.org/news/e-cigarettes-facts-stats-and-regulations

https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/15/health/fda-vaping-ecigarette-regulation/index.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-44295336

Cyberbullying or Cyberbullied? (Both are bad…)

 By Morgan Rihn

Odds are your child will become part of a cyberbullying scheme at some point in their young life. It’s unfortunately just one of the consequences of the new “digital age”.   The only question that is relevant is: will they be on the giving end or the receiving end?
(I’ll admit for the moment there may be a few in the middle just “watching”.)

So what is cyberbullying?

By definition it is bullying that takes place over the internet, cellphones, or social media. Yes, these things overlap. Social media is on their phone, etc… Cyberbullying is posting or sending inappropriate, negative, or private information about someone to threaten, harass, or embarrass them.

My personal story about cyberbullying

I was in middle school and a new girl moved to my school. That girl and I were similar in ways and I became envious of her. I accused her of stealing my friends. Of course, I now realize my friends liked her because she was just like me. I can now confess we both did our share of cyberbullying each other. Usually on social media or via text message. A lot of hurtful things were said, and because of it, we both lost some friends.  We did not get along for quite a while and we did get in trouble with our parents for the way we were acting.

Looking back on the situation, it was ridiculous.  None of those things needed to be said/written, and all of those things are still out there – in/on the internet somewhere.

Of course, we eventually got over it and became good friends. Nobody changes as much as a teenager.

So isn’t it ironic that the ever-permanent internet is where today’s teens spend so much of their time?  Teens need to change. The internet is permanent. Not really a good match.

What should you be concerned about? Everything…

Anything your kid posts on the internet can become public and it might affect online reputation. Don’t believe them when they say “it will disappear in a few seconds on Snapchat”.  (Read our blog post about Snapchat  to learn more.)

Stopbullying.gov says cyberbullying is persistent, permanent and hard to notice. Dr. Lauber told us a story about when he left school, he was safe from bullying as a young kid. But his kids experienced even in his house because they were online. There’s no longer any safe place!

Did you know…

  • the 2015 School Crime Supplement (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics) indicates that, nationwide, about 21% of students ages 12-18 experience bullying?
  • the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) indicates an estimated 14.9% of high school students were electronically bullied in the 12 months prior to the survey?

Cyberbullying is not always easy to catch. Unless your child shows or tells you, or you’re very knowledgeable on their social life (texting, social media, etc…), you may be unaware of what is going on. Parents and children use technology differently. This makes it difficult to know when cyberbullying may be happening. Below is a graph from cyberbullying.org on cyberbullying victimization, along with some signs of cyberbullying and some helpful tips.

Is your child bullying or being bullied?

Cyberbullying happens to children of all ages at least once in their lives and at any time of any day.  KidsHealth.org  mentions some signs of cyberbullying:

  • being emotionally upset during or after using the internet or the phone
  • being very secretive or protective of one’s digital life
  • avoiding school or group gatherings
  • changes in mood, behavior, sleep or appetite
  • wanting to stop using the computer or cellphone
  • being nervous or jumpy when getting an instant message, text, or email
  • avoiding discussions about computer or cellphone activities

So what can you do?  I confess, I’m not a parent yet. And maybe my generation will be more prepared for it, since we’re the first generation to live through it. But here’s what I found (and Dr. Lauber endorses these tips!)

  1. Be open and honest with your child. Be someone they can come to for help.
  2. Offer your comfort and support.
  3. Praise them if they seek your help.
  4. Talk to someone like a principle or guidance counselor at their school.
  5. Encourage your child to “be the better person” and not retaliate.
  6. Keep evidence.
  7. Provide punishment for those who are bullying.
  8. Limit technology time and monitor it.
  9. Learn more about online safety.
  10. Set a good example yourself.

No one wants their child to be bullied or to bully others, but it happens. I believe it always has and always will. But I hope I’m wrong.

All you can do is try your best and help your child make good choices. The good news is I lived through it. Your child will to.

But start the conversation!

Some useful resources:

https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/what-is-it/index.html

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/cyberbullying.html

See our blog post on family dinners.

Stressed and Depressed: Checking In On Your Child

 By Katie Mest

Parents: Here’s my story.

Sitting alone in my bedroom, I finally allow myself to release all the tension and built-up stress from the longest day of my week. It’s days like these that make me sometimes question my ability to accomplish even the smallest of tasks.

Thursdays are rough.

I wake up for my 8 a.m. class, which sometimes is immediately followed by a meeting with our project team. Luckily, I usually have approximately an hour or so to get lunch. From 12:30 to 3:15, my back-to-back classes occupy my afternoon, and after that I go to work…until about 11 p.m.

That’s just the skeleton of my Thursday.

In any free moment, I’m trying to finish the homework that inevitably did not get finished for that day’s classes. During downtime at work, I try to get a head start on the next day’s work, which never actually happens because there’s no downtime at work. For dinner, I pick up any unhealthy but quick meal I can get that won’t break my already low bank account.

None of this factors in walking time from academic buildings to my house (10-15 minutes depending on the building), which adds up at the end of the day.

All of this results in me coming home exhausted and delusional, only to bawl my eyes out at something small like accidentally knocking my glass of water off my nightstand.

It’s difficult. It’s draining. But it’s not unusual for someone my age.

Though my high-stress situations didn’t start until college, some students start experiencing them in high school or even middle school.

I know a good amount of people who regularly have mental breakdowns from the pressures of school. Some are on anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication. Some regularly see a therapist. Many would say that they have at some point felt overly stressed and depressed.

Some, however, deal with their problems alone, which is why it’s extremely important that you as a parent recognize if this is happening to your child.

The Facts

Anxiety disorders affect 25.1 percent of children between 13 and 18 years old, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, and can also occur with other disorders, including depression and eating disorders.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States.

If you suspect your child is getting overwhelmed with school, reach out. Acknowledgment on your part can go a long way.

BUT, you must be patient. Each case is different, so what you may have heard worked for someone else might not work for your child.

What Can You Do?
  1. Validate their emotions. It’s extremely discouraging to breakdown over a series of events when our peers are thriving doing the exact same things. Recognize and remind your children that they are doing their best.
  2. Look for symptoms. ASCD gave a great list of what to look for:
  3. Don’t stigmatize the situation. It can be a complicated topic to discuss, but the last thing you want to do is make your child feel like their emotions are something they have to hide from others. More people are going through this than you think.
  4. Encourage your child to reach out. To you. To a friend. To a teacher. Get them talking.

 

For more information about depression and anxiety, click here:

National Institute of Mental Health

To learn more about problems facing your teen, read up on the world of sports gambling:

Sports Gambling: Quickest Way to Teenage Bankruptcy

A Parent to Parent website about drugs: http://PtPDrugFree.com 

Diet Dilemmas: Do I have to have Family Dinners?

 By Lily Whorl and Erick Lauber

Growing up a child of three, it was always hard to get everyone together to eat a family dinner. Whether it was cross country practice or my sister’s dance class, it seemed we could never get together at the same time. However, the rare nights did sit down and eat a meal together are still ingrained in my head. That quality time was and always be important to me.

So, are you having family dinners?

According to the The Family Dinner Project, sitting down together helps children develop in numerous ways, including eating a more balanced and healthy diet. This group belongs strongly in this activity because of research on the physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular family meals. Research suggests the benefits include:

  • Better academic performance
  • Higher self-esteem
  • A greater sense of resilience
  • Lower risk of substance abuse
  • Lower risk of teen pregnancy
  • Lower risk of depression
  • Lower likelihood of developing eating disorders
  • Lower rates of obesity

It can be tough for some parents to get into the swing of family dinners. Fortunately, the Family Dinner Project has many helpful resources, such as recipes and conversation topics.

Maybe you noticed above we wrote that family dinners can help lower the risk of substance abuse.  A report done by CASA Columbia found that “teens who had frequent family dinners (5 to 7 per week) were more likely to report having high-quality relationships with their parents.” Researchers have also found that parental engagement is a key to keeping your child away from tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.

Brian Howard, a fellow parent blogger, has written “Many of our best parenting moments come at the dinner table. At the table, we teach our kids all sorts of things that will help them to be successful adults in society.”

As a 22-yr-old, I still remember those challenging conversations at the dinner table. I realize now they were parenting us without lecturing us. Those casual conversations were actually serious stuff.

There’s lots to talk about when it comes to raising healthy kids. Feel free to post a question. We’d love to hear from you.

 

Helpful links:

Brian Howard’s blog-  http://brianhoward.com/why-family-meals-are-important/

Family Dinner Project – https://thefamilydinnerproject.org/

Parent to Parent website about drugs: http://PtPDrugFree.com