Keeping Kids Safe in a Digital World


Published:

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

There’s a general consensus in the parenting world: We want what’s best for our children, and we want more for them than we had growing up. This desire to supply our kids with the best of the best is personified in the wide array of electronic devices available to them. Our children can hold the entire world in their hands, with access to knowledge and entertainment mere clicks away. And let’s face it — these devices also help keep our kids wrangled long enough for us to get a few things done.

Sure, the internet and all its collective wonders can do a world of good for our children, but it can also serve up a lot of negatives. Are we successfully teaching our kids how to navigate the internet and social media responsibly when they encounter cyberbullying — or cyber strangers who have inappropriate intentions?

The Stats

Brain Balance Achievement Centers — a network of educational facilities that address behavioral, social and learning difficulties in kids by integrating sensory motor stimulation, academic stimulation and nutrition — recently surveyed 2,000 American parents about their children’s screen time habits. According to the results, 92 percent of kids spend more than an hour in front of a screen each day, which can significantly alter their developing brains. Brain Balance Achievement Centers believes more than two hours of screen time per day can cause a child’s brain to shrink and lose volume, leading to a brain imbalance.

According to the data:

• 22 percent of the children in the families surveyed are addicted to screens.
• 70 percent get one to three hours of screen time each day.

• 22 percent get more than three hours.

• 16 percent of the parents surveyed have used a TV or iPad to pacify their children. This statistic goes up to 23 percent for children who have certain difficulties.

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that provides education and advocacy to families to promote safe technology and media for children, has also collected data that supports and even extends Brain Balance Achievement Centers’ findings. A 2015 Common Sense Media report states that children ages 8-12 use media for entertainment purposes an average of six hours a day, and teenagers ages 13-18 use it for entertainment purposes an average of nine hours a day. This does not include time spent using media for schoolwork or homework.

Furthermore, a 2017 Common Sense Media study found that 98 percent of children ages 8 and younger live in a home that has some type of mobile device, and 95 percent of families with children in this age group have a smartphone. Clearly, today’s tweens and teens are experienced digital media consumers, which opens them up to challenges unlike any their parents experienced during childhood.

Cyberbullies and Dangerous Minds

Cyberbullying comes in many forms — ranging from verbal abuse on social media to encouraging “suicide games.” A game known as the Blue Whale Challenge is particularly disturbing. When playing, teens are given increasingly intense tasks to complete for 50 days that lead to self-harm and culminate in suicide. Terri Erbacher, a clinical associate professor in Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine’s department of psychology, describes this troubling trend.

“Teens challenge each other to play via social media, and players are assigned game administrators who elicit their personal information that may later be used against them,” she says. “Players are required to upload photos of the completed tasks and, if they refuse, game administrators may threaten to harm family members or come and do the task for them. It becomes extremely difficult to say no.”

Laura Tierney, president and founder of The Social Institute of Raleigh, says that while keeping kids safe online is harder now than ever before, open dialogue between parents and children is still one of the best ways to combat cyberthreats.

“I believe the greatest threat facing kids online today is associating social media with actual self-worth, because it affects their mental health,” Tierney says. “Let’s take a second and think about what that feels like as a teenager. Remember passing around your yearbook to classmates for their signatures? You were excited to see what your close friends would write. You worried about what your crush would write. You were anxious about what old friends would write if you didn’t hang out with them anymore. You’d rather have lots of people sign it rather than no one. Now imagine that happening 100 times a day in a yearbook that all your friends can read whenever they want.”

Tierney says it’s no surprise that in The Social Institute’s survey of 1,700 students in grades 7-12, 29 percent reported feeling that they’re under a lot of pressure to get a high number of likes, shares and comments on their posts.

“Social media allows us to socialize and connect with friends, but it also allows us to associate our self-worth with public feedback,” Tierney says. “It’s more important than ever to talk one-on-one with our children about social media every day, while encouraging them to continue pursuing extracurricular hobbies that strengthen friendships and personal self-esteem.”

Parental Monitoring Programs

These research findings, while not entirely shocking, are mission-critical to parents everywhere who face a scary reality: When kids use their devices, they may not be using them alone. Tweens, teens and even younger children can be prey for cyberbullying and the most volatile online predators.

T.J. Lane of Durham, an adoptive parent, middle school teacher and tennis coach, recognizes the dangers facing his adolescent son. After extensive research, he purchased a parental control program called Qustodio.

“I can monitor every single tap he makes with his little fingers — from texts to web searches,” Lane says. “I can even see when he changes his wallpaper or lowers the screen brightness. It’s amazing.”

Social Judo, an app created by New England-based brain surgeon Dr. Matt Phillips, also alerts parents if a child conducts prohibited actions on his or her device, such as using profanity, searching for pornography, engaging in cyberbullying or sexting. Other applications that help parents monitor their children’s online activity include Net Nanny, Norton Family Premier, Kaspersky Safe Kids and Circle With Disney, to name a few.

Set Clear Expecations

Kate Paquin, an Apex-based family coach, says the best way to help tweens and teens navigate an increasingly digital world is to outline expectations with your child before you give him or her that first smartphone.
“The key is to establish strict guidelines, just like you would if they were driving a car or going out with their friends,” she says. “The guidelines can be loosened later on, but they must be set from the get-go.”

Paquin, who teaches a class called “Social Media for Parents of Teens and Preteens,” also offers the following tips for keeping your kids safe in a digital world.

Know your teen’s passwords. “If I can’t log in to one of my children’s phones, the phone is taken away,” she says. This is especially important because many teens know how to make multiple accounts for one app. Your child may have one Instagram account for their parents to see and a “Finsta,” or “fake Instagram” account, for their circle of friends to view.
Be aware of what teens are doing on any device that connects to the internet, not just their smartphone.

Keep the family computer in an open space.

• Use caution when posting pictures of children on Facebook and other social media accounts. “Parents should make profiles in Facebook private,” she says. “Your pictures of young children, vacation pictures, can be prime ground for pedophiles.”


This article includes reprinted information from “Digital Privacy: Is It OK to Spy on Your Teen,” published by Carolina Parent in February 2015 at carolinaparent.com/cp/digital-privacy-is-it-ok-to-spy-on-your-teen.

Lauren Ramirez of Lexington is a new mom, former teacher and current higher education professional.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

The Joy of Letters

The latest 'Father Figuring' column

4 Kids' Books to Get Into the Holiday Spirit

The latest 'Raising Readers' column

5 Ways to Address a Bad Grade on Your College Application

The latest 'College Transitions' column
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

December 2019

Wear your favorite holiday attire and dine with Santa Claus. Enjoy a delicious brunch, stories and crafts, and take pictures with the jolly man from the North Pole. 

Cost: $10/child. Free for ages 2 and younger

Where:
Joyner Park Community Center
701 Harris Rd.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Participants develop their naturalist skills and understanding of local nature. Ages 5-8 with parent. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Girls ages 5-12 take their favorite doll and have a creative time together preparing for the holidays. Register by emailing llpolkhouse2@gmail.com.

Cost: $22/attendee, $20/sister

Where:
Historic Polk House
537 N. Blount St.
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Telephone: 919-676-6368
Website »

More information

See dancers and a guitarist from Flamenco Carolina perform a Spanish style of music and dance.

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Website »

More information

Ebeneezer Scrooge was visited by three spirits, but what about the next Christmas? With heartwarming excitement, discover how the Cratchit family has fared in the year that has passed since old...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Renaissance Centre
405 S. Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

The Durham Medical Orchestra performs with special guest Joseph Alessi, principal trombone, New York Philharmonic.

Cost: Free

Where:
Baldwin Auditorium, Duke University
1336 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

As a Christmas gift to our community and surrounding area, Wake Forest Presbyterian Church delivers the true Christmas story in a stirring virtual “walk” through Bethlehem to the stable...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
12605 Capital Blvd
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Sponsor: Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
Telephone: 919-556-7777
Contact Name: Meghan Reynolds
Website »

More information

Fun for the entire family, enjoy this wonderful, witty retelling of a classic fairy-tale. With a score consisting of well-known pop songs, follow Snow White and her Seven Dwarves as they try to...

Cost: $10-$60/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
Website »

More information

The choir presents its 49th performance on Handel's "Messiah."

Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The first day of winter is right around the corner! Help us welcome the season by making a snow globe to take home. We will bring the materials if you bring the imagination! For all ages (adult...

Cost: For all ages (adult accompaniment required for all children); FREE. Registration

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850

More information

Children will enjoy this wonderful book written by John Denver reminding us not to forget about the wildlife this holiday season. We will make a craft then take a walk to look for our wildlife...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join RTOOT as it performs the music of great Italian composers as well as beloved Christmas classics. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $9/adult, $3 ages 12 and younger

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Dan the Animal Man brings some of his animals from his vast collection to entertain all ages. 

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Website »

More information

Help find candy canes hidden in Bond Park before the Grinch turns them green. Ages 6-12. Registration required online. Choose course #127871. 

Cost: $10/child

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Ages 1-5 and caregiver delight in the discoveries of nature. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Get into the holiday spirit by decorating cooking, making a craft and enjoying a holiday children's show.

Cost: Free

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Website »

More information

The Wake Forest Abilities Choir will present an evening of holiday music under the direction of director.

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Renaissance Centre
405 S. Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Celebrate pecans at the State Farmers Market.

Cost: Free

Where:
State Farmers Market
1201 Agriculture St.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us to learn about how Habitat for Humanity helps build houses, hear a Christmas tale and then build a graham cracker house of your own. Call to, 919-245-2532. Best for ages 4 and up with a...

Cost: free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

Is there a man in the moon, and is the moon made of cheese? Sip on some hot cocoa and listen to some of the stories people have told about the moon and find out if there is truth to them. Then...

Cost: For all ages; FREE. Registration is required for everyone, and adult accompanime

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Discover family traditions from North Carolina and around the globe. Create art, enjoy free access to Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism, and have a special visit with Santa.

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Museum of Art East Building and Museum Plaza
Raleigh, NC


Website »

More information

Bundle up and enjoy an evening around the campfire learning about creatures of the night and listen to Native American tales about some of our favorite nocturnal animals. Roast marshmallows and go...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Kids ages 5-12 enjoy indoor activities while parents enjoy a night out. Register online. 

Cost: $30/resident, $45/nonresident

Where:
Halle Cultural Arts Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Website »

More information

Wear white clothing and play games, tumble and dance. Enjoy pizza, drinks and more. Ages 5-10. Registration required online. Choose course #127487.

Cost: $18/child; $28 for two children per family

Where:
Middle Creek Community Center
125 Middle Creek Ave.
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Website »

More information

Friday, December 13, 6:00pm, at both the Millbrook and Wake Forest Campuses. Put on your Christmas jammies, grab a blanket and come out for a  festive night to watch the classic animated...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crossroads Fellowship
2721 E Millbrook Road
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Sponsor: Crossroads Fellowship
Telephone: 919-981-0222
Contact Name: Lorraine Entwisle
Website »

More information

Have some fun and make something great at the Clay studio (and parents can sneak away and grab a bite or do some shopping at Northgate Mall). Each kid will complete and paint a piece of pottery...

Cost: $18 per child per workshop

Where:
1058 West Club Blvd
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Telephone: 919-560-2726
Contact Name: Lauren Tannenbaum
Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Sing along with the band as they perform holiday favorites of Christmas, Hanukkah, the winter solstice and more. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Celebrate the love and joy that this season brings by creating art inspired by a Christmas tree. Register online. Choose course #126761.

Cost: $32/resident, $42/nonresident

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Give rugby a try. Take part in tag rugby pick-up games every Saturday morning at Baileywick Road Park, near the Second Shelter.  No experience necessary. All ages. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Baileywick Road Park
9501 Baileywick Rd
Second Shelter Field
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Redhawks Rugby
Contact Name: denise travis
Website »

More information

Our Reindeer Romp is open to the entire community and our Girls on the Run families. So join us! Celebrate as nearly 1,000 girls reach their end-of-season goals – the finish line is only the...

Cost: $30 - $35

Where:
Koka Booth Amphitheater
8003 Regency Pkwy
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Sponsor: Girls on the Run of the Triangle
Telephone: 919-401-6307
Contact Name: Jamie Botta
Website »

More information

Ages 5-12 make a picture frame for the holidays. Snack provided. Register online. 

Cost: $30/resident, $45/nonresident

Where:
Halle Cultural Arts Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 1-5 and caregiver delight in the discoveries of nature. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Travel with us to Puerto Rico with books, games and arts and crafts!  Join the staff of ISLA (Immersion for Spanish Language Acquisition) for a fun filled hour! Best for ages 3 and up with a...

Cost: Free Gratis

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

One ticket admits the entire family to decorate a special gingerbread house. Supplies provided. Workshops available at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Allergy-free workshop available at 11 a.m....

Cost: $40

Where:
Family Preschool
4907 Garrett Rd
Durham, NC  27707
View map »


Sponsor: Family Preschool
Telephone: 919-402-1500
Contact Name: Sue Henson
Website »

More information

Family Wildlife Series: Holiday Habitat Helpers Saturday, December 14, 2-3 Attract winter wildlife to your backyard by providing or improving their habitat.  Create simple outdoor decorations...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us as we watch for meteors during the Gemenids Meteor Shower. Local astronomers will help us observe these shooting stars and other phenomena in the night sky. As a bonus we may see or hear...

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Favorite Christmas songs are presented in authentic Nashville country style with dazzling guitars and fiddles along with soaring harmonies. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $25/person

Where:
Wake Forest Renaissance Centre
405 S. Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

See the choir perform beloved Christmas songs with guest vocal group AVANTE. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Newsletter Sign-Up

Stay connected to what's going on for families in the Triangle by signing up for our FREE e-newsletters!

Subscribe

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Directories

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2019-20 Education Guide offers 718 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. In our 2019-20 issue, explore 1,028 resources for family fun.