How Technology can Help you Focus on what Really Matters

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Having a business that involves staying current with online trends and digital updates requires me to spend a lot on time… well… online. It also requires that I remain mindful of my time online so I can reap the benefits technology has to offer but also stay grounded to what matters most. After the loss of my beloved bulldog, then suffering through the sudden death of my dad, followed by my resignation from a successful career, I have come to realize where I want to invest my energy.  

Experiencing life with my family, connecting with thoughtful, passionate people and staying rooted to nature are my priorities. By committing to these values, the grieving process has directed me on a path that involves being very mindful about where I place my attention.

Technology has evolved in such a way that we can now use our digital devices to help us take back control of our time. Being mindful of how technology assists us with the demands of every day living is one step. Noticing how our actions online and the relationship we have with our tech is the the next step.

If you feel like you could benefit from a bit of a digital detox or you would like to be more connected to those things that matter most to you, here are some useful apps that promote a more mindful online experience:

Moment - allows you to keep track of how long you are spending on your device. The first week after I downloaded this app, I averaged 3 hours a day. I’m happy to say this last week the average time I spent looking at my phone every day was 1 hour and 37 minutes.  

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Forest - takes the temptation away from checking your phone while you are trying to work. A tree or bush is planted when you start the timer and start working. That tree will die if you interrupt its growing process - by becoming distracted and checking another app. Being a nature lover, this app really resonated with me and also increased my productivity!

Stop, Breathe & Think - lets you check in with how you are feeling that day. You can then select a meditation that is best suited for your emotions. It’s easy to take 5 minutes out of your day to check in and improve your mental health. I also like that there is a kids section in this app. These meditations are short and ideally suited for younger kids (5-10 years).

Bedtime feature on the iOS Clock app - it will send you a reminder that it is “Time for Bed.” I have my reminder set for 60 minutes before my ideal bedtime. This reminder triggers me to put away my phone and laptop and start getting ready for bed. Sixty minutes is an appropriate amount of tech-free time so you can get a decent night’s sleep. Otherwise it is easy to get lost on social media or the google machine. Before you know it, you have traded some much needed shut eye for a website that will still be there the next day.

While technology keeps us connected and up-to-date, it can also keep us disconnected. Notice how you can incorporate a bit of mindfulness to your digital habits and place your attention on what matters most to you.

Watch more sunsets than Netflix
— Author Unknown
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What Parents Need to Know about Yellow

Yellow app has been coined “Tinder for teens.” And yes... teens in Edmonton are using it!

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Yellow is a social media platform aimed at kids aged 13-17 and it's claim is to meet new friends. The description on iTunes includes “Friendship is going to the next level! It's like being in a party and meeting cool people every 10 seconds.”  Just the thing to make parents cringe!

The app is very similar to the popular dating app Tinder, in that you swipe left if you are not interested in a user's profile and you swipe right if you are. If both parties swipe right on each other's profiles, Yellow connects the users through their Snapchat or Instagram accounts.

Being the analyst I am, I decided to try Yellow out. But not without reading the Terms and Conditions first. Yellow clearly states that it has the right to “host, store, use, display, reproduce, adapt, translate, amend, edit, distribute, in whole or in part” any content provided by the user. So once a photo is uploaded to Yellow, they can use it however they please. This is another good reminder to talk to your kids about what they share online. Once, it’s out there, it’s out of their control.

It didn't take me long to find lots of Edmonton teens using the app, posting some suggestive photos and sharing their private information like full names, birthday, city, and profile names. After a bit of digging, I was able to find one boy's Facebook profile, address, parents' names, and hockey schedule.

There is also a group video feature in Yellow in which users can have a live feed with four friends. As I did not have any Yellow friends, I was unable to try out this live broadcast feature. However, in the Yellow Parent Guide, it states that during the live feed, any Yellow user can view the broadcast and users can add the creeper… I mean viewer… as a friend.

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The good news is that I was "reported" by Yellow Authorities because my profile picture was of a flower instead of a person and I could no longer search within the app. The bad news is that I couldn't actually delete my account. They just kept giving me another chance to change my profile pic!

So what does this mean for parents? Talk to your kids about the importance of keeping their private information private. It didn't take me long to find the names of that boy's family members. By posting too much info, teens can be risking the safety of themselves and other members of their family. Remind them that people online are not always who they claim to be. It might be a creepy 39 year old mom that they are chatting with instead of a fellow 13 year old!

If your child is using Yellow or is interested in the app, go through the Teen Guide with them so they have a better understanding of how to stay safe.

How to Identify if your Child is a Victim of Cyberbullying

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The thought of a child being teased, tormented or threatened online will make any parent’s inner grizzly bear come out. With the threat of danger, we will do whatever it takes to protect our little cub. The problem with victims of cyberbullying though is that they don’t always come to their parents when an incident arises.

In the 2015 study, Young Canadians’ Experiences with Electronic Bullying, by Mediasmarts, Telus and prevnet.ca, it was found that 60% of youth witnessed others being electronically bullied at least once in the previous 4 weeks. Those youth in the study who had been bullied were less likely to find it helpful to talk about electronic bullying with their parents.

Why don’t kids come to their parents when they receive a mean or hurtful message? Dr. Alissa Sklar, operator of risk(within)reason, a Montreal based consultancy project focused on teens, technology and risky behaviours states there are two main reasons kids don’t open up. The first one being shame. Dr. Sklar states that “kids know their parents think they are wonderful and may feel ashamed to tell their parents that others are saying mean and hurtful things. They don’t want them to worry.”

The second reason is fear of reprisal. Victims of cyberbullying worry that their parents might make the situation worse by becoming involved. Dr. Sklar states that “from about 4th grade onwards, there is intense social pressure against being a “snitch” and parents need to explain the difference between tattletaling (to get someone in trouble) and telling (to get someone out of trouble).”

Parents must engage with their child and come up with a solution that involves taking action their child is comfortable with. “Forcing the bully and the victim to work things out or punishing the victim are inappropriate methods of handling a bullying situation” Dr. Sklar says. She stresses that parents and teachers should also “work with bystanders and other classmates who side with the aggressor out of fear of being targeted themselves.”

So what is a parent to do? Here are some tips to recognize the potential signs that your child is experiencing problems online:

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  1. Hiding devices or being secretive of online activities. If your child hides their screen when you walk into the room, there may be something concerning going on.
  2. Highly emotional. If your child is getting upset or showing increased signs of aggression, they may be reacting to more than just an online game or video.
  3. Avoiding friends. Avoiding a group of friends your child normally enjoys being with or an activity they like participating in may indicate they are keeping their distance from a bigger issue.
  4. Changes in eating or sleeping habits. Interruptions in your child’s sleep or eating patterns may indicate a source of stress.
  5. Lack of confidence. A hurtful remark aimed at a child online can be devastating for them and affect their self-esteem.

When your child does approach you and shares that they have received a mean, hurtful or strange message, keep your inner mama bear restrained. Take a breath, stay calm and genuinely listen to what they are telling you.

Taking their device away, overreacting or dismissing their concerns as just “drama” or “silliness” will likely solidify the fact your child will not feel comfortable approaching you again in the future. Instead, try to see the situation through their eyes and create a plan together. Talk to your child’s teacher or principal about the situation. Contact the social media platform the bullying is happening on and take screen shots of the messages. If your school has a School Resource Officer, talk to them about the bullying or contact police if the situation escalates.

Taking an active interest and staying engaged with your child’s digital life will strengthen your connectivity with them both online and off.

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