The Social Media Guide for Parents of the Sharing Era

Social media is increasingly present in our lives. Sharing our routines, what we eat, who we meet and what we are listening to has become the norm, so much so that there are now many people who have turned this into their work and source of income. Amidst all this, certain necessary precautions have been taken for granted, especially by parents and people who live with kids

The internet provides great things, such as support networks for parents, for instance — however, there are certain behaviors that need to be reviewed and questioned. Is it healthy for children to grow up with so many moments of their lives exposed on the internet? The main tool to find a healthy balance on social media is common sense. 

That is why we have brought here part of an article from the Common Sense Media website, A New Parent’s Guide to Social Media. Check out below.

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A New Parent’s Guide to Social Media

By Caroline Knorr

This is a reproduction of part of an article originally published on the Common Sense Media website. No copyright infringement intended. 

Keep your head in the game of social media

Think through your posts – really. To you, an ultrasound image or the story of baby’s first giggle is the most precious thing ever. To the rest of the world, it’s just content. (Cute content, but still.) Social platforms track data, your followers judge what you post, and just like anything else, your information can be copied, shared, or misused. Ask yourself the three questions below to determine whether you need to share smaller. If so, you can send your picture to specific people, make an invite-only private group, or just set your profile to private.

  • How will this make others feel? Maybe you have followers struggling with fertility who aren’t ready to share your joy. Maybe your friends are over your baby (sorry). Maybe folks disagree with your choice to share baby pics at all. 
  • How wide is my network? You could be connected to people you barely know – friends of friends of friends – and there’s no guarantee that those people will have your family’s best interests at heart. 
  • Is my profile public or private? Stories about people’s kids’ photos falling into the wrong hands — for example, stock-photography brokers looking for baby pics to sell or internet trolls misusing images – are a growing risk. The bad guys get their stuff from public profiles.

Avoid “over-sharenting.” What’s over-sharenting? Pictures of poop, constant updates on every gurgle, livestreams of intimate moments such as breastfeeding, bath time, and potty training. Be thoughtful about what you’re sharing and how often. And make sure to comment, like, or otherwise interact with your friends’ and families’ posts about their lives.

Know when to go to the pros. It’s fine to get input from your online pals, but for anything that has major importance – feeding, health and safety, money, education – call your pediatrician, child care provider, financial advisor, or your mom. Anything with minimal consequences, such as when to put baby in shoes or the best time to clip their nails, is OK to crowdsource.

Be careful about baby’s “digital footprint.” Some parents create social media profiles for their babies with the idea their kids will use them when they turn 13 (the age of consent for social media). While it can be fun for relatives to get an update “from baby,” a profile creates a digital footprint, which invites data tracking, marketing, and other privacy issues. If you decide to create a profile, make sure you include only minimal information, use strict privacy settings, and avoid any photos that are potentially embarrassing.

 Here are some things to consider:

  • You might love the photos of baby in the tub, but how will they feel about them when they’re older?
  • Tweens or teens might be upset that you used their names to create profiles they didn’t actually consent to.
  • Social media sites are for users over 13 because companies use data – basically, who your friends are, what you click on, and where you go on the web – to build a demographic profile, which they then sell to other companies for marketing purposes. The data isn’t personally identifiable, but it’s still Big Brother-ish to think they’re tracking your baby’s online movements. 

Be Practical 

Join a photo-storage service. You’ll post about 7 billion photos of your kid before they’re out of diapers. Photo-storage platforms such as FlickrPhotobucket, and Google Photos have the advantage of free or low-cost storage, plus the ability to share with only certain people or groups. (Every online platform has privacy issues, though, so make sure you’re comfortable with the terms of any service you join.)

Preserve memories digitally. You can do this a few ways. Some parents like to grab the opportunity to create an email account under baby’s name. Once they have an email address, you can use it to send messages, photos, and videos so they are all collected in one place. Or, consider an electronic scrapbook or journal such as Notabli, 23snaps, and eFamily, which offer a secure way to collect and share photos, videos, and stories.

Protect your well-being

Get rid of triggers. The highly curated photos and posts from friends whose lives seem more fulfilling can make moms feel sad, jealous, and angry. Unfollow anyone who doesn’t make you feel good. Instead, seek out groups, advocates, and thought leaders who nourish your soul. 

Tweak your settings. Most social platforms allow you to hide posts (see fewer posts from someone); snooze (temporarily stop seeing posts); mute (turn someone off for a while); and do not disturb (temporarily block a person).

Manage notifications. Constant pings on your phone can overwhelm and distract you. You can turn off notifications entirely, allow only important ones, or batch them so you receive them on a schedule.

Connect with the growing anti-perfection movement. Real Simple’s public Instagram profile, #womenirl, shares photos from people’s real (messy) lives.

Step away. The impact of social media isn’t fully understood. New parents are emotionally vulnerable because they’re tired, unsure, and perhaps suffering from postpartum depression. If you feel crappy more than you feel good, and sharing photos from your life doesn’t make you feel better, talk to a professional about what you’re going through.

The amount of cuddling babies receive can affect their DNA

This is a reproduction of part of an article originally published on the ScienceAlert website. No copyright infringement intended. 

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Babies Who Get Cuddled More Seem to Have Their Genetics Changed For Years Afterwards

by David Nield

The amount of close and comforting contact that babies young infants receive doesn’t just keep them warm, snug, and loved. A 2017 study says it can actually affect babies at the molecular level, and the effects can last for years. Based on the study, babies who get less physical contact and are more distressed at a young age, end up with changes in molecular processes that affect gene expression.

The team from the University of British Columbia in Canada emphasizes that it’s still very early days for this research, and it’s not clear exactly what’s causing the change. But it could give scientists some useful insights into how touching affects the epigenome – the biochemical changes that influence gene expression in the body.

During the study, parents of 94 babies were asked to keep diaries of their touching and cuddling habits from five weeks after birth, as well as logging the behaviour of the infants – sleeping, crying, and so on. Four-and-a-half years later, DNA swabs were taken of the kids to analyse a biochemical modification called DNA methylation. It’s an epigenetic mechanism in which some parts of the chromosome are tagged with small carbon and hydrogen molecules, often changing how genes function and affecting their expression.

The researchers found DNA methylation differences between “high-contact” children and “low-contact” children at five specific DNA sites, two of which were within genes: one related to the immune system, and one to the metabolic system. DNA methylation also acts as a marker for normal biological development and the processes that go along with it, and it can be influenced by external, environmental factors as well.

Then there was the epigenetic age, the biological ageing of blood and tissue. This marker was lower than expected in the kids who hadn’t had much contact as babies, and had experienced more distress in their early years, compared with their actual age. “In children, we think slower epigenetic aging could reflect less favorable developmental progress,” said one of the team, Michael Kobor.

Roblox: The Complete Guide for Parents

Roblox is one of the kids games of the moment, despite all the controversy around it. For this reason, we have brought here an article from Common Sense Media so that parents can better understand what it is and how to let their kids enjoy this online platform safely

This is a reproduction of an article originally published on the Common Sense Media website. No copyright infringement intended. 

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Parents’ Ultimate Guide to Roblox

By Caroline Knorr

Offering both intense multiplayer gaming and a sophisticated game-building tool, Roblox (which boasts some 150 million users worldwide) delivers variety, creativity, competition, and socializing — much of it for free. You can even make money on the game.

Though Roblox has the potential to be a learning tool, similar to Minecraft, it has its downsides. Because all of its content is user-generated, kids can be exposed to a range of material. Much of it is age-appropriate for tweens and teens. Some of it is just annoying, such as advertising and incessant demands to buy “Robux,” Roblox’s in-game currency. And some of it is very concerning, such as predatory behavior and sexually explicit user forums

However, with careful attention to red flags, privacy settings, and other safety precautions, kids can have a rich and thrilling experience playing Roblox. But your understanding of how it works, and how your kids can use it safely, is key. Learn more about the pros and cons of this immersive, creative, and powerful multiplayer gaming service.

What is Roblox?

Roblox is an online gaming platform where you can play games designed by other users and create and share your own games using Roblox’s proprietary game-developing tool, Roblox Studio. Once you sign up, you can play an infinite number of games, build and share creations, and chat with other users – all for free. Some of the most popular games include Adopt Me!, MeepCity, and Work at a Pizza Place, which all boast billions of user visits. If your kids are serious about the game, they’ll need Robux, and they’ll probably want to subscribe to Roblox Premium, which provides additional features for a membership fee.

How does Roblox work?

Roblox offers two equally compelling modes: playing games and creating them. After registering, you have unrestricted access to both modes (however, most kids are just there to play). You can choose from a never-ending and continually evolving supply of creative and fun challenges in various categories, from shooters to murder mysteries to sports to fighting games. (Frustratingly, you can’t sort games by genre, so finding ones you like is often a process of trial and error.)

Gameplay can be uneven, but good creators tend to rise to the top of the feed. Some amateur developers use the platform as a kind of portfolio to showcase their work for potential employers. For kids who are interested in creating their own games, Roblox offers a lot of instructions, a wiki, and a helpful player community. Creators can monetize their games to earn revenue, both by charging people to play their games and by offering pay-as-you-go in-game purchases — usually needed to get ahead in the game.

What age is Roblox for?

Roblox doesn’t specify a minimum age. Users of any age can create and join groups, chat, and interact with others. The company’s commitment to the theory of “constructivism,” which promotes the educational benefits of curiosity, designing, and building, is – in theory – appropriate for anyone who can navigate through a game. In practice, though, such an open approach can pose some risks to kids, especially younger ones. And though Roblox has some safety precautions in place, it remains a target of people with less-than-good intentions. Still, because of the learning potential the game offers, Common Sense Media rates it OK for users age 13+. We urge parents to help kids protect themselves by enabling privacy settings, teaching them how to recognize the methods that online predators use to win kids’ trust and exploit them, and showing kids how to report bad behavior and block users.

What are Robux?

Robux are Roblox’s in-game currency. You use them for a range of things, including special outfits or animations for your avatar, unique abilities in games, weapons, and other objects. There are different ways to get Robux: You can buy them, get them as part of a Premium membership, trade for them, or have someone donate them to you. You can also earn them by charging the users to play games you’ve created and by charging for items in your games.

How much does Roblox cost?

Roblox uses a freemium/premium model. You can do a lot for free, including play tons of games and use the Roblox Studio game builder. But doing anything beyond the basics, such as animating your avatar or buying and trading weapons, requires Robux. The company offers three subscription levels in its Roblox Premium membership, which includes a Robux allowance:

  •  $4.99 per month includes 450 Robux
  • $9.99 per month includes 1,000 Robux 
  • $19.99 per month includes 2,200 Robux

Are there parental controls?

Roblox offers account controls that let parents restrict how kids can interact on the site and the types of games they can play. You can control whether kids can be contacted, who can message or chat with them, and a few other things in the contact settings. To enable these settings, you add your email address to your kid’s account and create a PIN that prevents kids from changing the settings back. The account controls are optional; kids of any age can create an account on Roblox with no parental restrictions. On accounts of kids under 13, Roblox automatically defaults to stricter settings, but a kid could change these if there’s no parent PIN.

Can you make real money?

Yes, you can make real money on Roblox. In fact, dedicated creators can earn major bucks. Roblox offers a few different revenue-generating models, including charging others for access to games you create, charging incremental fees within your game, and trading rare items that other players are willing to pay for. To earn money, you have to be older than 13, hold a Premium membership, and have at least 100,000 Robux in your account. Then you can trade the Robux into the company for real money. 100,000 Robux is worth $350.

Is there chat on Roblox, and is it safe?

Roblox encourages users to interact through its Chat & Party function. All chat is filtered, which means inappropriate language is replaced by hashtag symbols. Chatting in accounts of kids under 13 is more heavily filtered. Roblox also employs human monitors who keep an eye out for inappropriate language and content. However, even with the monitors and filtered chat, people have figured out ways to bypass this, so knowing who you’re talking to is vital for safe interaction.

What are “ODers” in Roblox?

“OD” stands for “online dater.” These are folks who join social networks, including gaming sites like Roblox, to find romantic partners. Games on Roblox can even be designed expressly for ODers. Roblox doesn’t explicitly forbid ODers, and ODers aren’t necessarily preying on kids. (They may be solely looking for other ODers.) Roblox‘s monitors look out for inappropriate conversations and content. And its community rules prohibit chat that’s sexual in nature. If your kid wants to use Roblox, it’s critical that you review online safety, such as how to identify potential predators, how to report and block users, and how to spot “grooming” behavior, which predators use to get their victims to trust them.

How do kids find out about Roblox?

If your kid likes Roblox, he or she can find lots of Roblox-related videos on popular gaming platforms such as Twitch, Miniclip, and YouTube Gaming. There are Let’s Plays — where gamers livestream themselves playing Roblox games — as well as how-tos, news, and analysis by Roblox fanatics. Some of these videos have off-color language, so check out our YouTube guide for tips on keeping kids from overexposure to age-inappropriate content.

Are sexual predators a big problem on Roblox?

There are predators on Roblox, as there are on many extremely popular social networks. Predators take advantage of Roblox‘s easily accessible chat to target their victims. (All you have to do is sign up for Roblox to start chatting, and the Chat & Party window is featured on nearly every page of the site.) Roblox uses human monitors as well as technology to weed out the bad guys, but they still crop up occasionally. To avoid being contacted by a predator, and to play as safely as possible, kids should enable the most restrictive contact settings (found on the Privacy Settings page). You can prevent anyone from contacting you by turning off chat entirely or limiting interactions to only friends. You should coach your kids to not chat with people they don’t know (unless they can verify they’re actually a friend, or a friend of a friend, in real life) and to not accept private messages (PMs) from anyone they don’t know. Make sure they know never to give away personal information, trust their instincts if someone makes them uncomfortable, and never move a conversation to a different platform (a telltale predator red flag). 

Updated March 9, 2021

Is homework effective for young children?

It is rare to find children who enjoy doing homework. We know the phrase “Have you done your homework?” is a pretty common household question and is usually followed by an argument between parents and their children. 

Nowadays, increasingly younger kids are coming home from school with piles of work. Is studying more important than playing and resting? To what extent is homework really effective and necessary?

The text below is an article originally published on the Salon website and it discusses research on the extent to which homework is beneficial to elementary school children. 

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The text below is a reproduction. No copyright infringement intended.

Homework is wrecking our kids: The research is clear, let’s ban elementary homework

By Heather Shumaker

“There is no evidence that any amount of homework improves the academic performance of elementary students.”

This statement, by homework research guru Harris Cooper, of Duke University, is startling to hear, no matter which side of the work debate you’re on. Can it be true that the hours of lost playtime, power struggles and tears are all for naught? That millions of families go through a nightly ritual that doesn’t help? Homework is such an accepted practice, it’s hard for most adults to even question its value.

When you look at the facts, however, here’s what you find: Homework has benefits, but its benefits are age dependent.

For elementary-aged children, research suggests that studying in class gets superior learning results, while extra schoolwork at home is just . . . extra work. Even in middle school, the relationship between homework and academic success is minimal at best. By the time kids reach high school, these activities provides academic benefit, but only in moderation. More than two hours per night is the limit. After that amount, the benefits taper off. “The research is very clear,” agrees Etta Kralovec, education professor at the University of Arizona. “There’s no benefit at the elementary school level.”

Before going further, let’s dispel the myth that these research results are due to a handful of poorly constructed studies. In fact, it’s the opposite. Cooper compiled 120 studies in 1989 and another 60 studies in 2006. This comprehensive analysis of multiple research studies found no evidence of academic benefit at the elementary level. It did, however, find a negative impact on children’s attitudes toward school.

This is what’s worrying. Homework does have an impact on young students, but it’s not a good one. A child just beginning school deserves the chance to develop a love of learning. Instead, homework at a young age causes many kids to turn against school, future homework and academic learning. And it’s a long road. A child in kindergarten is facing 13 years of homework ahead of her.

Then there’s the damage to personal relationships. In thousands of homes across the country, families battle over homework nightly. Parents nag and cajole. Overtired children protest and cry. Instead of connecting and supporting each other at the end of the day, too many families find themselves locked in the “did you do your homework?” cycle.

When this activity comes prematurely, it’s hard for children to cope with assignments independently—they need adult help to remember assignments and figure out how to do the work. Kids slide into the habit of relying on adults to help with these activities or, in many cases, do their homework. Parents often assume the role of Homework Patrol Cop. Being chief nag is a nasty, unwanted job, but this role frequently lingers through the high school years. Besides the constant conflict, having a Patrol Cop in the house undermines one of the purported purposes of homework: responsibility.

Homework supporters say this teaches responsibility, reinforces lessons taught in school, and creates a home-school link with parents. However, involved parents can see what’s coming home in a child’s backpack and initiate sharing about school work–they don’t need to monitor their child’s progress with assigned homework. Responsibility is taught daily in multiple ways; that’s what pets and chores are for. It takes responsibility for a 6-year-old to remember to bring her hat and lunchbox home. It takes responsibility for an 8-year-old to get dressed, make his bed and get out the door every morning. As for reinforcement, that’s an important factor, but it’s only one factor in learning. Non-academic priorities (good sleep, family relationships and active playtime) are vital for balance and well-being. They also directly impact a child’s memory, focus, behavior and learning potential. Elementary lessons are reinforced every day in school. After-school time is precious for the rest of the child.

What works better than traditional homework at the elementary level is simply reading at home. This can mean parents reading aloud to children as well as children reading. The key is to make sure it’s joyous. If a child doesn’t want to practice her reading skills after a long school day, let her listen instead. Any other projects that come home should be optional and occasional. If the assignment does not promote greater love of school and interest in learning, then it has no place in an elementary school-aged child’s day.

Elementary school kids deserve a ban on homework. This can be achieved at the family, classroom or school level. Families can opt out, teachers can set a culture of no homework (or rare, optional home activities), and schools can take time to read the research and rekindle joy in learning.

Homework has no place in a young child’s life. With no academic benefit, there are simply better uses for after-school hours.

My kid is shy and an introvert. What now?

This is a reproduction of an article originally published on the Quiet Revolution website. No copyright infringement intended. 

For Extroverts: 15 Ways to Be a Better Parent to Your Introverted Kid

By Jennifer Granneman

You’re confused by your kid. She doesn’t act the way you did when you were growing up. She’s hesitant and reserved. Instead of diving in to play, she’d rather stand back and watch the other kids. She talks to you in fits and starts—sometimes she rambles on, telling you stories, but other times, she’s silent, and you can’t figure out what’s going on in her head. She spends a lot of time alone in her bedroom. Her teacher says he wishes she’d participate more in class. Her social life is limited to two people. Even weirder, she seems totally okay with that.

Congratulations: you’ve got an introvert.

It’s not unusual for extroverted parents to worry about their introverted children and even wonder if their behavior is mentally and emotionally healthy. Of course, children can suffer from anxiety and depression, just as adults can. It’s important to be aware of the symptoms of childhood depression; sometimes withdrawal from friends and family and low energy signal something more than introversion.

Many introverted children, however, are not depressed or anxious at all. They behave in the way they do because of their innate temperament. The more you embrace their natural introverted nature, the happier your child will be.

How to care for your introverted child

1. Know that there is nothing unusual or shameful about being an introvert

Introverts are hardly a minority. Numbers vary based on a study, but introverts make up 30-50 percent of the U.S. population. Some of our most successful leaders, entertainers, and entrepreneurs, such as Bill Gates, Emma Watson, Warren Buffett, Courteney Cox, Christina Aguilera, J.K. Rowling, Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa, and Mahatma Gandhi, have been introverts.

2. Understand that your child’s temperament is due to biology

Think your child can just “get over” hating raucous birthday parties? Think again. Introverts’ and extroverts’ brains are “wired” differently, according to Dr. Marti Olsen Laney, author of The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child. She writes that children’s temperaments are innate (although parents play an important role in nurturing that temperament).

Introverts’ and extroverts’ brains use different neurotransmitter pathways, and introverts and extroverts use different “sides” of their nervous systems (introverts prefer the parasympathetic side, which is the “rest and digest” system as opposed to the sympathetic, which triggers the “fight, flight, or freeze” response). Furthermore, a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that introverts have larger, thicker gray matter in their prefrontal cortices, which is the area of the brain associated with abstract thought and decision-making. If your child tends to be more cautious and reserved than her extroverted peers, rest assured that there’s a biological reason for it.

3. Introduce your child to new people and situations slowly

Introverts often feel overwhelmed or anxious in new environments and around new people. If you’re attending a social event, don’t expect your child to jump into the action and chat with other children right away. If possible, arrive early so your child can get comfortable in that space and feel like other people are entering a space she already “owns.”

Another option is to have your child stand back from the action at a comfortable distance—perhaps near you, where she feels safe—and simply watch the event for a few minutes. Quietly observing will help her process things.

If arriving early or observing isn’t possible, discuss the event ahead of time with your child, talking about who will be there, what will likely happen, how she might feel, and what she could say to start a conversation.

If your child is nervous about starting a new school year, visit your child’s classroom, introduce her to her teacher, and find the bathroom, the lunchroom, and her locker before the hustle and bustle of the first day of classes.

No matter what new experience you’re getting him accustomed to, remember: go slowly, but don’t not go. “Don’t let him opt out, but do respect his limits, even when they seem extreme,” writes Susan Cain about introverted children. “Inch together toward the thing he’s wary of.”

4. Remind your child that she can take breaks from socializing if she feels overwhelmed or tired

While extroverts feel energized by socializing, introverts can feel drained. If your child is older, she can excuse herself to a quieter part of the room or a different location such as the bathroom or outside. If she’s younger, she might not notice when she’s tapped out, so you’ll have to watch her for signs of fatigue.

5. Praise your child when she takes a social risk

Let her know you admire what she did. Say something like, “Yesterday, I saw you talking to that new boy. I know that was hard for you, but I’m proud of what you did.”

6. Point out when she ends up enjoying something she was initially afraid of

Say, “You thought you were going to have a miserable time at the birthday party, but you ended up making some new friends.” With positive reinforcement like this, over time, she’ll be more likely to be able to self-regulate her feelings of nervousness and dread.

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7. Help your child cultivate her passions

Your child may have intense—and maybe even unique—interests. Give her opportunities to pursue those interests, says Christine Fonseca, author of Quiet Kids: Help Your Introverted Child Succeed in an Extroverted World. Softball and Girl Scouts may work well for some children, but don’t forget to look off the beaten path and consider writing classes or science camps. Intense engagement in an activity can bring happiness, well-being, and confidence (think Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s state of flow), but it also gives your child opportunities to socialize with other children who have similar passions (and perhaps similar temperaments).

8. Talk to your child’s teachers about her introversion

This will help your child’s teachers know how to interpret her behavior. Some teachers mistakenly assume that introverted children don’t speak up much in class because they’re disinterested or not paying attention.

On the contrary, introverted students can be quite attentive in class, but they often prefer to listen and observe rather than actively participate.

Also, if the teacher knows about your child’s introversion, the teacher may be able to gently help her navigate things like interactions with friends, participation in group work, or presenting in class.

9. Teach your child to stand up for herself

Teach her to say stop or no in a loud voice when another child tries to take her toy from her. If she’s being bullied or treated unfairly at school, encourage her to speak up to an adult or the perpetrator. “It starts with teaching introverted children that their voice is important,” Fonseca says.

10. Make sure your child feels “heard”

Listen to your child, and ask questions to draw her out. Many introverts—children and adults—struggle with feeling “heard” by others. Introverts “live internally, and they need someone to draw them out,” writes Dr. Laney in her book. “Without a parent who listens and reflects back to them, like an echo, what they are thinking, they can get lost in their own minds.”

11. Be aware that your child might not ask for help

Introverts tend to internalize problems. Your child might not talk to you about a difficult situation she’s dealing with at school or with a friend although she wishes for and/or could benefit from some adult guidance. Again, ask questions and truly listen—but don’t pry or make your questions feel like an interrogation.

12. Don’t label your child as “shy”

“Shy” is a word that carries a negative connotation. If your introverted child hears the word “shy” enough times, she may start to believe that her discomfort around people is a fixed trait, not a feeling she can learn to control. Furthermore, “shy” focuses on the inhibition she experiences, and it doesn’t help her understand the true source of her quietness—her introverted temperament.

13. Don’t worry if your child only has one or two close friends

Introverts seek depth in relationships, not breadth. They prefer a small circle of friends and usually aren’t interested in being “popular.”

14. Don’t take it personally when your child needs time alone

Anything that pulls your child out of her inner world—like going to school, socializing, or even navigating a new routine—will drain her. Don’t be hurt or think your child doesn’t enjoy being with the family when she spends time alone in her room, perhaps reading a book, playing on the computer, or playing an imagination game. Most likely, once she has recharged, she’ll want to spend time with the family again.

15. Celebrate your child’s temperament

“Don’t just accept your child for who she is; treasure her for who she is,” writes Cain. “Introverted children are often kind, thoughtful, focused, and very interesting company, as long as they’re in settings that work for them.”

Mindfulness: a solution to social media stress

This is a reproduction of an article originally published on the Child Mind Institute website. No copyright infringement intended. 

Managing Social Media Stress With Mindfulness

by Rachel Ehmke

It’s hard to imagine life without social media. It has become essential to connecting with our friends, getting updates about what’s going on in the world and being entertained. We can barely remember (if we’re old enough to remember!) how we stayed in touch without it. But teens and young adults are increasingly reporting that social media can also be a source of stress.

What we hear a lot about, especially from teenagers, is that when they’re scrolling through feeds they are often (consciously or unconsciously) comparing themselves to others. People tend to post the highlights — the perfect hair, the perfect friends, the perfect pre-gym selfie—and it’s fun to scroll through them.

But it can also hurt your self-esteem when your life doesn’t feel as perfect as everyone else’s looks. It can make you start overanalyzing your own social media presence, counting the likes your latest post got and pushing yourself to look effortlessly perfect, too, regardless of how you’re really feeling.

Similarly, people are talking so much about the fear of missing out that there’s an acronym for it. Social media is FOMO’s best and worst friend. If you’re worried about missing out, social media is great because you can stay connected to everything, wherever you are. But since there’s always something new, you never feel like you’ve seen everything and you can take a break.

Staying connected 

When everything is online you also sometimes get proof that you are, indeed, missing out. When you see your friends hanging out without you, it feels bad. Watching an ex starting a new relationship hurts.

If spending time on social media is causing stress, the usual advice is to unplug. And while that’s good advice, it’s not very realistic advice, especially for teenagers, who do a huge amount of their socializing online.

And this adolescent socializing is more important than it looks. Teenagers are still figuring out their place in the world, and it is often through their relationships that they begin to make sense of their identity. It isn’t in their interest to stop using social media entirely. But finding a way to have healthy relationships and a healthy self-esteem while still using social media is. Sound tough? Learn how to practice mindfulness.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a technique for living in the moment and without judgment. It helps you become more aware of what is happening around you and how you feel. Taking the time to slow down and notice these details helps you regulate your emotions and stress levels. It also introduces a level of reflection and self-awareness that people often don’t have when they’re scrolling through feeds online.

And mindfulness isn’t just for taking a walk in the park or watching the sunset. If it is applied to the social media experience itself, says Jill Emanuele, PhD, a Child Mind Institute psychologist and mindfulness expert, it can help kids manage the emotion generated by all that information about what your friends are doing.

Dr. Emanuele recommends the following mindfulness strategies to make time spent online (and offline) happier.

Check in with yourself

Work on being more self-aware and prioritizing how you feel and what you think when you’re using social media. “The stereotype for using social media is you’re just going going going, not really thinking about the impact it’s having on you,” notes Dr. Emanuele. “You want to try to be mindful of that impact.”

Dr. Emanuele recommends asking yourself: How am I doing right now? How is this app making me feel? How did that picture make me feel? Try to be aware of changes in your mood, and see if you notice any patterns.

It’s okay if you notice that the emotions you are having are negative. Try not to judge how you are feeling, but do acknowledge the emotion. Acknowledging when you are feeling jealous or sad can be very powerful because it actually helps take some of the bite out of the bad feeling. It can also help you process your emotion — without getting carried away by it.

Mindful reality check

However, if something is consistently making you feel bad, practicing mindfulness can also help you identify that and then ask yourself why, and if there is something you can do that might help. Taking the time to notice — and value — how you are feeling is an important skill that will make you happier and more confident in all areas of your life, not just when you’re online.

Mindfulness can also give you reality check. For example, people often try to use social media as a way to cheer up when they’re feeling down or bored. So if you’re feeling bad about yourself, you might post something that’s totally opposite, like a cute selfie or a picture of your great friends. Sometimes projecting something different, or getting compliments online, can get you out of the funk.

But the satisfaction is often fleeting, and you can find yourself feeling like you’re just fooling everyone. If you notice that you actually feel worse afterwards, know that this isn’t uncommon, and look for more reliable ways to improve your mood.

Use technology

Using technology to track technology is another strategy Dr. Emanuele recommends. For example there are apps like Moment and Checky that are designed to help you track how you use your phone.

“Do an experiment to see how much time you actually spend on certain things,” says Dr. Emanuele. “When you’re on it, what are you actually doing? What are your emotions like?”

Likewise, mood tracking apps and diaries remind you to take time to check in with yourself. They also create a record of how you’ve been feeling, which you can revisit after the fact. Gathering data on how you use technology and how technology affects you will help you notice patterns and, if necessary, develop better habits. Seeing the data might be surprising, since we often aren’t aware of how much time we spend once we start scrolling.

If you want to try to learn more about mindfulness, Dr. Emanuele notes there are also apps that guide you through the basics of how to practice mindfulness. Headspace and Smiling Mind are two popular ones. Smiling Mind is designed for young people so it may be a better fit for tweens.

Go offline

The best way to get a little perspective is to take occasional breaks from social media. Do yoga, go for a run, spend time with friends in person, hang out in nature. Whatever it is, doing things in real life can be a big stress reliever and make you feel better about yourself in a way that scrolling through a feed never will.

Try to practice self-awareness during offline activities, too. Notice how you feel in the moment when you are being active, and note what really feels like fun to you. You might surprise yourself. And chances are you’ll find that experience is pretty addictive, too.

:: You can also read: Children’s Games: How Wonderful Are They? ::

Yoga for kids: more focus (and fun!) for the little ones

Childhood is a period filled with experiences that stay in our memory. Who has never remembered a game or activity from childhood and felt nostalgic about it? 

The importance of these games goes beyond their being part of our affective memory. Activities that encourage creativity and result in spontaneous discoveries leave a mark in other ways as well, providing countless benefits for kids to reap later in life. 

The dynamics created during early childhood can also stimulate behaviors which will be repeated for many years, even after the child has become an adult. 

Activities that involve body movements, for example, when practiced frequently, become a habit in children’s lives and are also directly linked to their physical, emotional and psychological development. We have explained here in detail about how games and physical activities during childhood are positive to kids’ health and development. 

Some activities, however, demand structure and specific orientations in order to be practiced. During today’s challenging times, those that can be executed at home have become an excellent option. For this reason, today we are going to talk about yoga practices for children. 

Practicing Yoga

Yoga is a practice that has existed for more than four thousand years. Those who practice it also follow philosophies that go beyond body movements. Yoga has gained visibility in the media over the last few years and, for that reason, most people already have an idea of its definition.

Proof of that is that yoga is part of the National Policy of Integrative and Complementary Practices (PNPIC), an entity created by the Brazilian National Board of Health, whose main goal is the implementation of alternative treatments based on evidence from the country’s public health network, by means of the Unified Health System (SUS – Sistema Único de Saúde). 

Children-oriented yoga has become more popular lately, precisely due to its benefits. The moments of concentration, breathing and stretching that are encouraged during yoga are extremely positive to kids. There are even some schools which have included yoga classes as part of their school programs.

The Brazilian Society of Pediatrics (SBP) has recently released a document in which the Workgroup in Physical Activity from the entity brings several tips and recommendations with respect to the practice of physical activity for children and teenagers. 

Amongst their suggestions, the practice of yoga is mentioned. “Yoga, an ancient practice which may be performed by individuals of any age, represents a relevant tool for improving physical health as it encourages the development of flexibility and muscle strength. In addition, Yoga can be especially important for the current moment since it allows physical distancing during the practice and contributes to the stabilization of emotional and mental health, helping to cope with stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms,” informs the document. 

The document also reiterates its recommendation for children and teenagers to practice around 60 minutes of a physical activity a day, alternating between the intensity of these activities. 

How can yoga be fun and beneficial to my kids? 

The postures are inspired by animals and nature elements, characteristics that awaken children’s curiosity. The movements can be done in a playful way, with songs and stories, which makes yoga a quite pleasurable activity. 

The little ones are also more flexible and, therefore, performing the exercise sequences can be fun. The developing musculature is strengthened by doing the postures, which has an effect on children’s postural balance

The practice of yoga done by the kids happens in stages, which go through breathing, concentration, and only then does the introduction of the postures occur, which, in turn, evolve and become more intense over time. 

Respecting the limits of the body is also extremely important, since some movements tend to stretch a lot. 

The importance of breathing 

Breathing is one of the fundamental properties of yoga. For the postures, children will need to breathe through their noses and belly instead of their chests. This technique is beneficial for the breathing system and it also regulates the breath, resulting in tranquility and relaxation. 

Self-esteem improvement 

Due to it being an activity that does not involve competition, yoga can encourage self-esteem and self-confidence in children since the results are seen individually. 

Despite such individuality, the role played by the instructor, parent, or another person who is alongside the children during the activity also reinforces cooperation and collaborative learning. 

More focus 

As we have mentioned before, paying attention to the breath is fundamental in yoga. It is necessary to observe this aspect and also to keep the focus when doing the postures. This way, children develop their concentration and find that other spheres of everyday life become easier. 

How to practice yoga at home with my kids? 

Nowadays, technology has made this process easier. There are videos, apps and websites that introduce yoga in a very simple way. However, despite how easy it is to find these resources, it’s important to have caution. Check the source of these materials, and, mainly, if your children practice them, watch their reactions during the exercises: extreme pain and discomfort are not a good sign. 

By respecting the limits of the body and by having patience and willingness to learn, yoga can be a part of children’s routine in a light and positive way! 

:: You can also read: Balance with technology: how to find it? ::

Written by Débora Nazário

Translated by Mariana Gruber

Truth and Tales’ Subscription FAQ

Hello! You are probably here because you have a few questions about Truth and Tales’ subscription. Below are some of the main topics answered to help you clear out any doubts. If your question is not here, feel free to contact us. We will promptly respond!

Weren’t the stories from Truth and Tales free?

No. The Truth and Tales app has always been free, while its content, on the other hand, premium — that is, you need to pay in order to access it.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we made one of the stories available for free in the app to encourage reading and as a high-quality content alternative for kids during this period of social distancing. Such a discount applied only to one story while the other two kept their prices. 

Do I have to pay for Truth and Tales now? 

All Truth and Tales content is paid-for. You can still download the app for free, but in order to access all content, you need to subscribe to one of the available plans. Today there are two options: the monthly and the annual subscription plans. 

How does the subscription work? 

You can choose between the monthly and annual subscription. They make all the content of the app available during the time you choose to subscribe to.

If you choose the monthly plan, you will pay for the month and have access to all content during one month as of the date of subscription.

The annual subscription follows the same principle as the monthly plan, but it will last one year as of the date of subscription. 

How does the monthly plan work? 

By subscribing to the monthly plan, you pay to access all the content from Truth and Tales for a month as of the date of subscription. The subscription will renew automatically, that is, if you no longer wish to be a subscriber, you need to cancel it.

You can cancel your subscription whenever you want, but it is worth remembering that, even if you cancel just one week after the last billing date, you will be charged for the next billing month since you will continue to have the same access to the content and benefits of your subscription for the remainder of the current billing period. 

How does the annual plan work? 

By subscribing to the annual plan, you pay to access all the content from Truth and Tales for a year as of the date of subscription. The annual plan offers better value for money since the discount equates to two installments of the monthly plan.

The subscription will renew automatically, that is, if you no longer wish to be a subscriber, you need to cancel it. If you cancel your annual subscription before your one-year term is over, you will continue to pay the remaining installments of the package value. 

I bought the books before the app became subscription-based. Will I lose them? 

No one who bought the books before the app became subscription-based needs to worry because the stories will not be lost! They will remain available as normal even if you do not subscribe to any of our plans.

But beware that only the stories you bought will be available. The stories you did not buy and other new content will stay locked if you do not choose a subscription plan. If you only read the story which we had made available for free, please notice it will no longer be available in the subscription.

If you have an iOS device, you need to restore the purchases for the previously-bought stories to become available again.

How do I redeem the story I had already bought before Truth and Tales became subscription-based? 

If you have an iOS device, you need to restore the purchases for the story to become available again. In order to do that, open Truth and Tales and click on the round icon at the top-right corner of the screen.

Passing through the parental control, you will arrive at the Parents Area. When you get there, go to settings at the top-right corner and choose the last option, “RESTORE PURCHASES”. 

I already had Truth and Tales before it became subscription-based. Do I win anything? 

Yes, you get a special discount on the annual plan! Yay!

How can I cancel the subscription? 

You can unsubscribe directly at the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.

I forgot my password. What do I do? 

To recover the password to your Truth and Tales account, you will need to go to the Parents Area. It is located at the top-right corner of the screen as a round, clickable icon.

When you click on it, you will need to enter your year of birth, which is the parental control. Once you have entered the Parents Area, you will click on the gear icon at the top-right corner of the screen.

A window providing several options will appear, and you will click on the last button, which says “Manage Account”. This section contains all the information about your account and subscription plan. If you are already registered, click on “Sign In”.

Once the login page opens, click on “Forgot Password?”. The app will ask for your email address and then send you an email with a link through which you can reset your password. 

If you only want to change your password, you can follow the same steps. If you have already signed in, click on “reset”, type your email address when the app requests it, and wait for our password reset email to arrive! 

What happens if I cancel my subscription before the end of the billing period?

You will be charged as soon as you subscribe to the monthly plan, marking the beginning of your billing period. If you cancel your subscription before the next billing date, you will still be charged for the whole month. But don’t worry! All the content and benefits of your subscription will also remain until the month is over. 

Why is reading so important?

Reading is a form of communication and the literacy rate is one of the world’s development indicators. But when it comes to children’s health and development, why is it so important? 

Reading is a uniquely human trait, and there is an area of the brain designated for the development of this skill. 

It stimulates the growth of the brain’s white matter — a set of nerve fibers that helps the brain to learn and function in general. Reading not only increases white matter, but also allows information to be processed more effectively.

There are broadly three kinds of intelligence: the crystallized, the fluid and the emotional. 

  • Crystallized intelligence is the blend of wisdom that shapes our brain. It’s the potentially useful pieces of information and knowledge that collaboratively form the foundation of our ability to navigate and prosper in the world. 
  • Fluid intelligence is the ability to solve problems, comprehend concepts and identify patterns. 
  • Emotional intelligence is the ability to read and respond to feelings, either yours or other people’s. 

Reading develops and sharpens these three types of intelligence. 

There are even more benefits to reading if we add other languages into the mix. Apart from developing communication skills, reading in another language increases the regions of the brain involved in spatial navigation and the process of learning. 

:: If you are interested: My children are addicted to cell phones. What now? ::

Why did Truth and Tales win the gold seal of the Mom’s Choice Awards?

We are proud to announce that Truth and Tales has won the gold seal of the Mom’s Choice Awards! 

The Mom’s Choice Awards is a platform that evaluates products and services developed for children, families and educators. The Mom’s Choice Awards is recognized for establishing the benchmark of excellence in family-friendly media, products and services. The Mom’s Choice Awards is a program from the United States, but it has already evaluated thousands of items from more than 55 countries. 

The items are reviewed by the Mom’s Choice Awards in terms of production quality, design, educational value, entertainment value, originality, appeal and cost. The evaluators of the Mom’s Choice Awards are interested in items that promote good will, that are inspirational and that help families grow emotionally, physically and spiritually. 

Truth and Tales has earned the gold seal of the Mom’s Choice Awards by meeting all of the requirements above with excellence, but we can mention some of the highlights. 

What are the Truth and Tales differentials? 

The type of stories

We can start with the quality of the books: the curation of Truth and Tales is done by neuroscientists, doctors and education professionals that attend conferences and events, being in constant update mode. 

That is why the teaching stories were selected for Truth and Tales: they contain important elements that not only assist in the literacy process and in the contact with reading, but also help the child to grow into a mindful human being

Truth and Tales acts in cognitive development, in emotional balance with emotion recognition and in negotiation skills, in addition to developing attributes such as empathy and perception

The narrative 

The narrative was considered so the child would be surprised by the characters: the villain who isn’t evil, the “mistake” which doesn’t go wrong, the adults who don’t know everything. It may seem like a detail, but with a plethora of stories bringing this dichotomy of good guy/bad guy, right/wrong, and adults who know everything/children who know nothing, young readers start to relate this to what happens in life and take it as gospel. 

The degrees of subtlety are also an important factor in Truth and Tales. The tales are profound and perception comes in waves – gradually and bit by bit. The child who read the tales at the age of 5 will have a different experience and perception after reading it later at the age of 8. The penny drops unhurriedly and in very specific and personal ways for each person. Each individual’s needs are quite different, and the teaching stories act in accordance with them. 

Inside Truth and Tales 

The design is undoubtedly one of the strengths of Truth and Tales: in addition its dazzle, it was crafted for calm and peaceful reading, with colors that don’t over excite children’s brain. All of this added to the animated and interactive features that allow for a rich and fun experience

The game mechanics were also very well-considered. Why isn’t it like a normal book, where the child turns the pages? We created an interactive book in which the child has the privilege to explore the characters and the setting. In the beginning of each book, we teach readers how this interaction works without them noticing and, from this moment on, each different touch on the book sceneries is a surprise. To give children the freedom to stop, appreciate, search for details and focus their attention on what they are doing was something we made sure to bring to Truth and Tales. 

Truth and Tales also relies on optimal font for dyslexia throughout the app. The karaoke tool also helps children who are in middle of the literacy process. While the narrator tells the stories, the sentences appear at the bottom corner of the app, turning yellow when the words have been read. 

Truth and Tales was conceived and produced based on the most up-to-date studies and research on games and children. The app was not created for children to never put the phone away, after all, it is not recommended that children between the age of 5 and 7 spend more than 1 hour a day exposed to screens and, between the age of 8 and 10, 1 hour and a half.