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Tips For Parents: Facebook Privacy For Teens

Facebook Privacy TeensWhat is the most scary thing for parents of teens? Lately, it seems to be their kids using social media and other online platforms to network. Online social platforms, including Facebook, are now one of the key ways teens socialize with their friends. Beyond protecting privacy, there is also the issue of teens over-sharing information online that they later regret.


My first tip for parents regarding their kids’ online social networking habits is to first educate themselves and THEN educate their kids. Regular dialogues with your kids about online safety is an important step in keeping them safe. The next step is set up family rules and communication guidelines. In our family, we have rules about privacy settings in each of the social networking applications. Our rules also include positive reinforcement: to earn their freedom to use a new platform, they need to show their responsibility by coming to us first to discuss privacy and safety.


In conversations with my three boys about their use of social networks, I want them to feel safe coming to me with questions and issues. If they feel threatened or lectured to, the conversation quickly ends. So I explain to my sons that there is no “real” privacy online and anything they share should be appropriate for a future employer to see it and STILL give them a job! At the same time, I tell them that mistakes happen and it is best to talk about them and develop a strategy so the mistake is not repeated. I even share real life horror stories to show them what HAS already happened to some teens and stress the importance of understanding the privacy settings of all online networks. We also spend time going over the settings in each of the networks they use to set up appropriate privacy controls.


Facebook is one of the main platforms I use to network with friends and family online so I supported my kids to use it as well to network with their friends after they turned 13. When I received a recent press email with some details about Facebook privacy settings I was thrilled because it was something I was looking into to help educate my kids. Here are some privacy setting and graph search tips from Facebook to help start the conversation with your kids!


Tips for Helping Set Up Your Teen’s Facebook Account from FACEBOOK:

1. It may sound obvious, but help your teen be selective with profile information. This includes photos—cute is okay, provocative is a no-no. You can also navigate to “update info” in the blue menu bar with your name and edit basic info, contact information, work and education, and interests, making sure the privacy setting is always “Friends” and not “Public.” It may sound obvious, but no contact info (email addresses, phone numbers, etc.).
2. In this same vein…you can help adjust his or her privacy settings. Click on the little wheel next to the “Home” button; from the dropdown menu, hit “Privacy Settings.” Here you can change the default privacy settings for when your teen posts photos and updates, and control whether his/her account pops up when people do public searches. Note: DON’T forget Timeline and Tagging privacy settings—always make sure tags are restricted to “Friends” so that photos other people post of your teen are only seen by his/her friends.
Facebook Privacy settings
**Note – The image above is a screen shot from my Facebook account as visual example..
3. Have your teen set up login approvals and notifications (via the Security Settings page), both extra security features:

o   With login notifications, Facebook sends you an alert each time someone logs into your account from a new place.

o   Login approvals are like login notifications, but with an extra step; if you turn on login approvals, you’ll be asked to enter a special login code each time you try to access your Facebook account from a new computer or mobile phone. After you log in, you’ll have the option to give that device a name and save it to your account.

 o   You won’t have to enter a code when you log into any of these recognized devices. The benefit here is so that Facebook can be sure it’s you logging in from an unrecognized device, and not an impostor you; you’ll also receive an email confirming you logged in from an unrecognized device so in the instance you can always be sure you’ll know when and from where you’ve logged in.



And, when all is said and done, the most important way to keep your teen safe online is by starting a conversation. After all, technical controls don’t always solve every problem. You don’t need to be a social media expert to ask questions and begin an ongoing dialog. Have these conversations about safety and technology early and often, in the same way you talk to your teens about being safe at school, in the car, etc.



One way to begin this conversation is to ask your teen why social media is important to him or her. You might also ask him or her to show you how to set up your own Facebook Timeline, so you can see what it’s all about. Discuss what’s appropriate information to share online—and what isn’t. Ask them about privacy settings, and suggest that you go over them together regularly.



Facebook Graph Search: A safe, secure way to discover new things online

Teach your teens how to use Facebook Graph Search (the basics):

1.       Click on the search bar at the top of any Facebook page

2.       Begin typing your search (ex: Friends who live in Walnut Creek and like soccer)

3.       As you type, a list of search suggestions will appear below the search bar

4.       Choose one of the suggested options or finish typing and hit Enter

5.       Click “Refine This Search” to narrow your results by things like location or date



Types of things your teens can search for using Graph Search:

You can search across people, Pages, friends, photos and other content shared with you on Facebook, such as their education, hometown, current city, interests, as well as places, restaurants, books, movies, games and music they like



You can explore Graph Search in a variety of ways, like putting together keywords for things that are of interest. Some examples of things you can search include:

o   My friends who live in my city

o   Ski resorts visited by my friends

o   Restaurants nearby that are liked by my friends

o   Photos of my family members



You can also combine phrases together, or add things like locations, timeframes, likes and interests to get more specific; for example:

o   Movies liked by people who like my favorite movies

o   Photos of my friends in June 2011



Graph Search privacy

Keep in mind Facebook has a feature called secure browsing, which is turned on by default (https). This feature makes it harder for anyone else to access your Facebook information without your permission.



To double-check you have secure browsing turned on, go to your Security Settings; click the Secure Browsing section; make sure the box provided is checked:

o   When you have secure browsing turned on, the address bar in your browser should begin with “https://”



Who can look for posts in Graph Search?

o   The people you’ve shared your posts with can see them in their Graph Search results

o   For example, posts shared as Public can be seen by anyone (including people not on Facebook) and can show up in anyone’s Graph Search results.

·         You can adjust what others can see on your Timeline and who can see the things you share, and you can choose who can search for you using your email address or phone number. You can also limit the audience of past posts and make it so that only your friends can see these photos or status updates you’ve previously posted.

·         A great resource is the privacy shortcuts, which are accessible from the lock icon and offer common privacy tools – like Activity Log which lets you review who can see or find things you’ve posted or have been tagged in.



How does it work for minors?

o   Like adults, minors can appear in search results, but Facebook protects sensitive information about them (contact info, school, Birthday) from appearing in search to a public audience.




How does your family handle setting up privacy settings on online networks? Do you have regular family conversations about privacy with your kids?




Disclosure: This is a press post.




Creating Chore Lists Using Office 365 Home Premium


Our busy family of five keeps organized as long as our schedule is managed and under control. A messy schedule results in a messy family life. I use technology to create a workflow and make sure everyone understands their responsibilities. Listed below are some of my tips on how to use technology to create a family workflow. To see my family using our family chore tech in action, check out this video:





1. Create a digital chore list: Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel from Office 365 Home Premium are two of my favorite tech tools for keeping the family on the straight and narrow. Staying on top of things is much easier when the family is organized and everyone knows their responsibilities. Using the Office 365 Home Premium child’s chore chart template, I can individually color everyone’s duties.



Office 365 Chore list Template



We put homework on the chore list because it was a central way to keep track of daily duties. They can then either use the mouse or the stylus on our touch screen Windows 8 devices to check chores off when complete so my husband and I know what has been completed and who needs a reminder. Because I store the chore list on SkyDrive, we can access it on any device (no need to print a chore list anymore – that always seems to get lost!). I use the Excel To-do lists to help me manage family projects.



Microsoft Excel Office 365 Home Premium To do list



There are so many great Office 365 Home Premium templates to choose from, I am always finding new ones to use to help organize my family life. I also store my Excel To-do lists on SkyDrive so I can access them across my devices, and update them wherever I am!



2. Tie completing chores to screen time or other activities: Some kids get their allowance for completing chores, but in our house we decided instead to use incentives. Our kids value screen time and other special activities, so we set up a system that allows them to earn time with electronics by doing chores. One of my kids enjoys Minecraft, so he knows to do his daily chore first and then check it off on the To-do list before he can play his game. My other young son likes to go to the Radio Shack hobby section and buy electrical supplies for experiments. He earns money to buy his supplies only after checking off his chores on the list.



Incentives for Chores



My teen, on the other hand, likes to choose his screen time depending on how he feels that day and how much homework he may have – so he knows to check off his chores before he socializes online or plays games on the family PC.



3. Add music to liven up the chores: Doing chores seemed to be a strain for my kids… until we suggested they listen to music while doing their work. All three kids lightened up and started dancing to the music while working. My teen can rock out to his favorite group, Green Day, while cleaning the dishes and one of my hip hop obsessed twin 10 year-old boys can listen to hip hop while he “hops” around mopping the floor after dinner. My other twin son prefers to vacuum, so he decided to listen to music on his MP3 player using earphones. We use a few different platforms to manage our family’s music from our Windows 8 PC. My favorite Windows 8 music apps are:

  • Slacker Radio: While I prefer my kids listen to the Slacker Radio Classical Music light station, they prefer classic “rock” instead. We all enjoy listening to the Slacker Radio festival channel. So even though we can’t go to festival like SXSW Music, that does not mean we can’t feel like we’re right there just by listening to the music on our PC!
  • iHeart Radio: If we feel like listening to the radio, we use the iHeart Radio app to listen to our favorite local stations.
  • Xbox Music: We enjoy Xbox music to stream songs on our Windows devices.
  • Shazam – We installed the Shazam app on our Windows devices to help identify the names of songs we don’t recognize.



How do you manage your family chore list and what incentives do you use?




Top Tools To Keep Kid’s Homework on Track



Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium at 1

With my busy life as a working mom, I am always on the move. This requires my technology to be flexible, fit my lifestyle and be available for the kids especially when it’s homework time. Finding the right technology tools can help my family have more productive days. Using Office 365 Home Premium is not only a game changer for families, but it is a great way to keep my kid’s homework on the right track.



Listed below are my homework tech tips and video of my family in action ( click below to view the video).





Tip 1 – Homework storage and document management: The first step for homework management in my house was to create a storage and document management system. It’s important that I can access and review my kid’s homework from anywhere, and now I can do this with Office 365 Home Premium, as it is now integrated with SkyDrive – Microsoft’s storage in the cloud.



Microsoft Office 365 Skydrive



Once we store our Microsoft Word, OneNote, PowerPoint or Excel documents on SkyDrive, my family can even view and edit them using Office Web Apps from a browser! How cool is that?





Office 365 Home Premium web apps enable classmates (or anyone we want to share documents with) to edit or view group assignments by using the links we send them.



Microsoft Office 365 Skydrive



If we happen to be out of the house using a PC that has Windows 7 or higher, logging into our Microsoft account will allow us to stream a version of Office 365 Home Premium to that PC for a one time use.



Tip 2 – Organize Homework Tools: I set up a system to help my kids have the right tools for homework and know where to store digital documents. We have homework supplies such as paper, pencils, paper clips, stapler, rulers and pens in a desk drawer of our family room desk (where our shared family Windows 8 desktop is located). With Office 365 Home Premium, our family has all the most current Office tools (Word, Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint and more) and all their work is stored on SkyDrive in organized folders. They use OneNote for gathering information, Word to create their essays, PowerPoint to create presentations and Excel for spreadsheets in math class. Our kids use OneNote, to create “homework” notebooks that allow them to write and edit using touch, type or stylus.



Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium OneNote



For some math work, a good old fashioned pencil and ruler is good enough. But when my kids work on equations, they enjoy using OneNote’s equation editor on our Windows 8 touch desktop, allowing them to use a stylus to write the equation and then have it converted to type.



Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium OneNote



They also use OneNote tools to record audio and video.



Microsoft Office 365 OneNote Home Premium



My kids’ OneNote notebooks are also the place they can gather information about their projects, including links to web pages, inserted photos and even embedded Excel spreadsheets that update the original spreadsheet when changes are made. Word allows my kids to insert online pictures to their essays and the resume reading feature allows me to utilize small pockets of time during the day to review their book reports, and resume each time at the same place I left off. There are also great templates for my kids to use when creating their book reports.





With PowerPoint my kids can give their presentations with the advantage of using Presenter mode.



Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium Powerpoint



With Excel, kids can use formulas, charts and tables to represent math equations and percentages. Using those tools to represent math assignments helps them understand the concepts. And it looks great when turned into the teacher!





3. Set Up Ways to Move and Work – to Help Keep Kids Focused: Some kids need movement to focus and get work done. One of my boys responds very well to homework breaks where he is really exercising his muscles and alternates between jogs around the house and bouncing on a mini-trampoline in the back yard. Then, quite by accident, I discovered that he finishes his work more quickly if he sits (ok… bounces) on my big, inflated yoga ball when attacking his math and writing assignments. He now looks to that yoga ball as his favorite chair, and is able to focus on his homework for longer periods of time because he moves when needed. He even learned to type while bouncing! My next purchase may need to be a balance ball chair. For longer sessions requiring significant writing or typing we ask him to use a regular chair. When sitting, he is usually squeezing a small hand therapy ball for some stationary “hand exercise”. At least that keeps him seated!





4. Teach Your Kids How to Get homework done From Anywhere. With all of our afterschool activities (and especially during Spring Little League), we can’t seem to find a regular time during the week to sit down and do homework together. It is especially challenging when I am at work or a meeting late in the day for my sitter to spread out his time between all of my kids. Luckily our documents are on SkyDrive (in the cloud), so I can help my kids with homework (and “remind” them about their assignments) even if I am not at home. When they have questions on their homework and provide me with a file name, I can take a look and help. Even though they may not especially like that I can always see the latest version of their homework files, they DO appreciate that we can edit together so their assignments get done. After my kids saw how I use Office 365 Home Premium to get assignments done no matter where I am, they started asking to do that as well. My older son figured out that while my twins are playing a baseball game during a school night, he can be there to watch but also work on school projects using one of our Windows 8 devices. Learning to get work done by utilizing available segments during the day is an important skill not only for my kids’ homework but also for their future careers. This also enables our family to check off our list of work each day, so that we can have quality time at night before bed, just talking – no tech in sight.




PATUE Meetup: Assistive Tech Tools To Support Learning

On Nov 27, I was excited to participate in the Palo Alto Tech Using Educators (PATUE) weekly edtech conference series. The organizer of this discussion was Sam Patterson (@LearningsLiving). His website, “Paperless Classroom”, is a great resource for information on how technology can help students learn. Meetups such as this one, hosted by PATUE, help both educators and parents like me interested in technology for kids with learning differences share important information.


I started my talk with a brief perspective as a parent who uses what is commonly called “assistive technology” to help my kids, each of whom has a different learning style. Speaking with me at the PATUE meetup was Shelley Haven of “Technology to Unlock Potential”. We met about a year ago when I attended one of her classes. Shelley is an educational technology consultant who provides assistive technology services including assessments, training, tech configuration, hands-on workshops, classes and more.


Her website is a great resource in this field and includes what she refers to as her Assistive Technology Toolbox, listing technology tools she uses with students and suggested resources. Shelley highlights on her website,, that “Assistive technology can be a great equalizer, helping to level the academic playing field. The right technology tools can reduce the impact of learning barriers, leverage a student’s strengths, or provide an alternative means to accomplish a task.”


The two topics I discussed were 1) the Immersion Reading feature of the Kindle Fire and 2) the new Livescribe Sky WiFi Pen. Immersion Reading is a feature exclusive to the newest models of the Kindle Fire. Readers who purchase a Kindle eBook as well as the corresponding audiobook from can listen to a professionally narrated book while watching it “come alive” with real time highlighting on the Kindle Fire. What I like about the Immersion Reading feature is the professional narration of the audio book making the story come alive, rather than a computer-generated electronic voice.


I stumbled onto this feature when looking into options for one of my fourth grade twins who loves stories but does not like to read. So for now, the Immersion Reading feature of the Kindle, when combined with audio books, is enabling my 9 year old “resistant reader” to listen (and follow) a new book every few days. When we ask him about the story he describes it in vivid detail, demonstrating high comprehension. He also is learning grammar and punctuation by following along in the text.

Here is a video on the Immersion Reading Feature:




The Business Wire press release on Immersion Reading explained:

“Academic research supports the assertion that all readers can benefit from listening while reading. In an influential 2007 study, “Learning through Listening in the Digital World,” neuropsychologist David Rose, Ed.D. and professor Bridget Dalton, Ed.D. drew upon cognitive educational research to report that “both learning to listen and listening to learn are critical to literacy in the 21st century as new technologies rebalance what it means to be literate and to learn.”


Professor David Dockterman commented on Rose’s and Dalton’s findings, “For struggling readers, narration can provide decoding support, but there’s an added benefit to well-narrated text that helps even competent readers. Hearing something read with expression provides additional clues to the meaning beyond the words themselves.”



The next assistive tech topic I covered was the new Livescribe Sky WiFi pen called Sky. This product is brand new and now has WiFi and cloud integration via Evernote. From the press release: “Livescribe smartpens digitally capture everything you hear and write, allowing you to simply tap your ink and play back everything you recorded at that moment.


“The Sky wifi smartpen wirelessly syncs your notes and audio with your Evernote account, making them immediately accessible on your computer, smartphone, tablet, or the web. When paired with your mobile device, Sky offers the natural feel and precision of writing on paper with the advantages of viewing, sharing, and saving handwritten notes on a tablet.”



Here is a video the demonstrates the Livescribe Smartpens:


Shelley Haven then discussed a wide range of assistive technology tools that can help “lower the hurdles” for those who learn differently. Shelley pointed out that even students who are successful at school may have learning differences, such as someone who can easily articulate an essay verbally but has trouble writing it down.


Some of the tools Shelley discussed during the PATUE meeting were audio textbooks from Learning Ally, electronic text and text-to-speech apps from (Read2Go for iPhone and GoRead for Android audio), Inspiration for visual mind mapping, Kurzweil 3000 for study skills, Microsoft OneNote and Evernote for digital organization and Livescribe Pens for capturing handwritten notes and synchronizing these with recorded audio, allowing students to target audio playback.


Do you use any assistive technology for yourself or your kids? If so, please share what you use.



Exciting Announcement: TechMama is guest columnist at Laptop Mag

For years, reading online and buying Laptop Magazine has been one of my regular stops to catch up on the latest in mobile tech. Laptop Magazine was (and is) an important part of my daily curation of family technology and social media.


Other then my personal blog ( and as a big fan of CoolMomPicks),  I was thrilled to be part of the team at their sister site CoolMomTech – the top tech shopping site for moms. It was also my dream as a tech blogger to contribute to a mainstream tech site.


I am excited to announce that I am a guest columnist at none other then Laptop Magazine (ok, yes I am giddy)! My first column discusses if Augmented Reality toys are bad for your kids. To find out my thoughts – you will need to check out Laptop Magazine online or the May magazine issue. Even better if you do both. As I head out on a business trip next week, I picked up my regular “plane” – shut off your electronics and read a magazine – reading. I must say, buying the recent issue of Laptop Magazine was extra special this time.