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.

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Short class advertising for local class   I am a mom and retired CPA who is passionate about teaching teens about the high cost of their choices. I teach a fun, interactive "Game of Life meets...

Cost: $225

Where:
Hope Community Church- Apex
2080 E Williams Street
Apex, NC  27539
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Sponsor: Beyond Personal Finance
Contact Name: Charla McKinley
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Azevedo Family Psychology and Kym Azevedo will host an Art for Life group each Thursday from 5:30-6:30PM beginning January 16 and running through March 26. This group is completely free, kid...

Cost: FREE

Where:
1903 N. Harrison Ave
Suite 201
Cary, NC  27513
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Sponsor: Azevedo Family Psychology
Telephone: 919-624-9568
Contact Name: Kym Azevedo
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Explore astronomy, biology, architectural and engineering principles, technology and so much more through our hands-on, play-based activities. Spend an evening with your preschooler, experiencing...

Cost: free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: Saint Rapahel Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Katie Mistele
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The goal of the How To Talk So Kids Will Listen Group workshop is to help you communicate more effectively with children.   In each session of the workshop you'll be introduced to an...

Cost: $12.95 materials fee

Where:
Wildflower School at Belle Vie Farm
3100 Damascus Church Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
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Sponsor: Wildflower School at Belle Vie Farm
Telephone: 919-260-6859
Contact Name: Shelley Welch
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Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
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Telephone: 919-962-7529

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Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
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Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
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Summer Garden Camps at the JCRA invite your child to investigate nature during half or full day camps.  Campers tend to the garden, harvest vegetables, catch insects, and create crafts from the...

Cost: Varies depending on camp week

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Rd
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Sponsor: JC Raulston Arboretum
Telephone: (919) 513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
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Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

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Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

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Join us for Family Trivia Night!  Test your knowledge of pop culture, books, music and more. Pizza and drinks provided.  Call or stop by to register: 919-245-2532. Best for kids ages 8 and up...

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

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Art Walk featuring local galleries and artist studios in historic downtown Hillsborough on the Last Friday of every month (no Art Walk in December).

Cost: FREE

Where:
Downtown Hillsborough (multiple locations)
102 N. Churton St.
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Hillsborough Arts Council
Telephone: 919-643-2500
Contact Name: Torey Mishoe
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Kids! Are you sick of the Winter? Enjoy a Summer's night at Peach Road Center. Enjoy a Summer-like evening with us. Get into the luau spirit and play summer games!  

Cost: Free

Where:
Peach Road Community Center
911 Ileagnes Rd
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: City or Raleigh Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-807-8545
Contact Name: Christy Famolare

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

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Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

Join our bird enthusiast, Vernon, for an easy walk while looking and listening for our feathered friends. Discover different types of birds and their habitats.​ No preregistration required. Meet...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

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How did people predict the weather before The Weather Channel, and can animals really help? Come to the Finley Center to put our colonial weather proverbs to the test and make a pop-up woodchuck...

Cost: For all ages; FREE. Registration is not required

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Summer Garden Camps at the JCRA invite your child to investigate nature during half or full day camps.  Campers tend to the garden, harvest vegetables, catch insects, and create crafts from the...

Cost: Varies depending on camp week

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Rd
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Sponsor: JC Raulston Arboretum
Telephone: (919) 513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Join us to meet the educators, see the farm and learn more about our Preschool for 3-5 year olds and Camps for 4-10 year olds. We'll have a campfire for some warmth but please come dressed for the...

Cost: 0

Where:
Longleaf Forest School
4826 Mt. Moriah Road
Durhan, NC  27707
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Sponsor: Longleaf Forest School
Contact Name: Tara Lawson
Website »

More information

Chinese New Year Festival, also Lunar New Year Festival. Largest public event in the Triangle. MAIN STAGE has vocal and orchestral music, folk dance, Lion and Dragon dances, martial arts, and comic...

Cost: $10 entry at door, military and senior discounts, kids<6 free

Where:
Dorton Arena, NC State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Enter Gate 1,2,4,5,11
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Sponsor: NC Triangle Area Chinese American Society
Contact Name: Michael, Shin
Website »

More information

Chinese New Year Festival or Lunar New Year Festival, largest public event in the Triangle. MAIN STAGE with musical and dance performances, Lion Dance Dragon Dance, martial arts, comic skits emceed...

Cost: $10 entry at door, military and senior discounts, kids<6 free

Where:
Dorton Arena, NC State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Enter Gate 1,2,4,5,11
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Sponsor: NC Triangle Area Chinese American Society
Contact Name: Michael, Shin
Website »

More information

Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Spanish Alive is providing Family Spanish classes starting in January! Join us to learn Spanish as an entire family in an immersive, fun environment. Our teachers are trained Spanish educators and...

Cost: $75-$216

Where:
Spanish Alive
156 E. Chatham St
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Did you know that Disney, Netflix, Google and NASA, just to name a few, are all using Python? Python can be used for creating web applications, automation, programming robots and artificial...

Cost: Free: registration required

Where:
, NC


Website »

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FEB. 1, 2020 | 1 – 4 P.M. | BLUE JAY POINT COUNTY PARK Spend a winter afternoon getting to know Blue Jay Point County Park at our Winter Open House. Whether you’re a regular visitor or have...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Road
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Telephone: 919-870-4330
Website »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

Come on out to support the NC State Gymnastics team as they take on North Carolina in a RED out on February 1st! The first 300 fans in attendance will receive an exclusive red NC State Gymnastics...

Cost: $3-$7

Where:
Reynolds Collisuem
2411 Dunn Ave.
Raleigh , NC  27607
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More information

Come on out to support the NC State Gymnastics team as they take on North Carolina in a RED out on February 1st! The first 300 fans in attendance will receive an exclusive red NC State Gymnastics...

Cost: $3-$7

Where:
Reynolds Collisuem
2411 Dunn Ave.
Raleigh , NC  27607
View map »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

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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.