July 3, 2015

Switchers Remorse

Disclosure: As part of the Verizon Influencer team I have been compensated to share with you a situation in my life where I made a decision I later changed or wish I had. Because, really, who among us hasn’t had at least one of these?

Have you ever listened to Snap Judgement? It’s a show on NPR and I love it. It’s addicting (fair warning)! Mainly because I think the stories are so different than anything I would do. It’s stories of people who make decisions that take them down a path they never imagined. It’s so fascinating, and usually throughout the entire show I’m on edge and my heart is racing.

I’m not a seat-of-the-pants decider, but I know how to make a quick decision. I’ve had my fair share of times when I’ve over analyzed or have gotten into that “analysis paralysis” mode and have made decisions I regret as soon as the words come out of my mouth. That being said, I will never have a story on Snap Judgement. Ever! Really, those stories are just that weird. Anyway, …

When I look back, I don’t have many regrets for the decisions I’ve made. That’s probably because I was raised to make informed decisions and believe I made the right choice. My grandfather was a missile instructor. Making the wrong choice when you launch a missile can have grave consequences. And since I lived with my grandparents, my grandfather had a lot of influence in my formative years.

The interesting part is that he believed you can correct course on most decisions when it came to life. And that’s what I was taught. Few decisions in life are fatal and those that are require serious attention. I’m a “serious attention” person for almost all the decisions I make. Although I can make quick decisions, I don’t make them without consulting as much information as I can within the time I have.

There are a few decisions I’ve made that I regret, but there are a few I wish I would have done differently. Fortunately, most are pretty low-level. But still, let’s take a look at a few decisions gone wrong. And don’t say you can’t relate.

SFH 1990Totally 80’s hair – Probably the best decade for hair. Unfortunately, some of us kept it well past its prime.

Shoulder pads – Melanie Griffith in Working Girl I was not. But I loved that “put together ” look. Looking back, I was probably a big ol’ “fashion don’t”.

Blue eye shadow – make that cheap blue eye shadow. Although it’s starting to make a comeback, no one ever really needed opalescent powder blue eye shadow.

Bonfire in the desert – maybe your high school wasn’t near a desert so you don’t know about these, but in parts of Texas they’re pretty popular. And by popular I mean a place for doing things you know you shouldn’t but you’re in high school so you know more than everyone else. Thank goodness there was no social media back then.

SFH 1987Hideous prom dresses – what were we thinking? These were more confections than clothing. No wonder there are websites now that totally mock our 80s clothing choices. Just wait, though, they’ll come back in style. Mark my word!

The Brick Phone – Please don’t make me feel old by saying you don’t know what I mean. First mobile phone, my friend. OK, I didn’t have enough money to afford one so I had the lame cousin of The Brick Phone, The Bag Phone. Yep, mobile phone in a leatherette bag. As if I was some undercover agent or something. I probably still had the 80’s hair and thought I was totally stylin’.

People who don’t understand distance – I’m serious with this one. The first month of college I needed to go to Target. I couldn’t get a ride so I figured I could walk there. I asked a few people who said it was “not far”. So I set out. About an hour later I stopped in a store along the way, and asked where the Target was. “Just up the road a few blocks” is what I was told. Liars! They’re all liars! If I was in a car I’d have been there in 20 minutes. But I was being transported by two size 8s and that darn Target store was like 5 miles away. And so now I rarely ask people for directions (thanks GPS!), because I walked 10-freakin’ miles for a stupid laundry basket and other random junk I likely didn’t need. Could I have turned back at any time? Sure. But the call of Target was strong! Not far, huh?

Volunteer MugHalf the times I’ve said “yes” to volunteering – Ugh! When people ask me if I’ll volunteer for things because I can’t say no. I grew up in a house where service to others and volunteering were part of the fabric of our lives. It’s so ingrained in me, it’s taken me until recently to actually say “no” or ask if I can get back to them. I’ve said yes to standing in sweltering heat handing out water bottles to band kids, of which I had none. I’ve said yes to getting up when it’s still night-time to help set up, and then when other people didn’t show I stayed despite being so tired. And while I always had a positive outlook and did my best, after a while I just started to feel like I was being asked because they knew it was more of a rhetorical question. But then my friend staged an intervention and gave me this mug.  Which I love!

Hitting send – I think we all have a story about hitting send when we shouldn’t have. Whether it’s work-related or personal, there really needs to be an “undo” button on anything we can send. In my younger years, it wasn’t all that much an issue because you had to schlep yourself to the post office and that time gave you an opportunity to think about all that would go wrong. But these days it’s so easy to be “keepin’ it real”. But “keepin’ it real” does go wrong. And while my moment of regret when I hit send wasn’t all that bad, it did require a meeting with one of the firm’s partners and an apology letter to a client. Which I why I never participate in those stupid forward-this-to-5-people-and-Bill-Gates-will-send-you-$5 million schemes. And why Snopes is one of my favorite websites.

I’m sure you have decisions you regret. Hopefully they’re nothing major and you were able to change course pretty easily. Or, at least, learn from them.

If you switched away from Verizon and are regretting it, don’t worry. They’re making it easy for customers to come back. For more information, head over to your local Verizon store and tell them you have #SwitchersRemorse.

Sara

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June 25, 2015

Teen Tech Parenting Safety

FTC Disclosure

June is Internet Safety Month. Not a day goes by that BabyGirl isn’t online in some fashion. The interesting thing is that I’ve also seen October designated as Online Safety Month. As the parent of a tween, though, every month is Internet and Online Safety Month. Tech minefields are discovered every day and we can’t wait for one month to sit our kids down and talk about staying safe online.

In reality, it’s not easy to talk to kids about online safety. For many parents, the nuances of tech safety are more confusing than trying to learn a foreign language. Parents use tech differently than their children, regardless of age. When it comes to teens and tweens using tech, these digital natives are often the ones teaching their parents. Lessons about online safety are often just examples of where other kids have gone wrong. And, well, our kids would never to that.

Ask any parent of a tween or teen and they’ll tell you how happy they are that social media and the online world didn’t exists when they were a kid. When I was a kid, we made mistakes and did stupid things. Sometimes our friends were with us. But we had something our kids don’t have today – the ability to learn from their mistakes.

Kids today aren’t allowed to make mistakes. The consequences are so high, as parents we’re often more fearful of our kid making a mistake than they are. They’re just kids and may not see the horrible consequences mistakes have had on other young people. We certainly have, though. Then again, they probably have too.

The online world has removed the ability to make a mistake. Gone are the days of “learning from our mistakes”. That’s just impossible with technology. At the same time, though, we know that kids don’t listen to everything we say and glean the important message we’re trying to get across.

Every word, click, double-tap, like, share, retweet, and action is under constant scrutiny. Not only from us, their parents, but from their friends and strangers alike. For as much as we talk about online safety, there really is no such thing for our kids. It’s more like how can we make it less dangerous because safety is about being protected from harm or danger and in the online world today that’s next to impossible.

Throwing our hands up and doing nothing is not an option. And banning them from all things tech isn’t either. So what do we do to make the internet and mobile technology less dangerous for our tweens and teens?

1. Talk to them. Yes, just like teaching them about personal safety and safe touch we need to talk to them about safety with people we can’t see or touch. It’s not easy to talk about anonymity and people lying about their age or gender, but we have to do it. It’s uncomfortable talking about sex and often even more uncomfortable talking about virtual sex and porn. Unlike our parents, though, who often left it to books, magazines, or sex-ed we don’t have that luxury.

2. Trust them. The news if full of horrible things kids are doing online. But the truth is not all kids are doing those things. Not every kids is bullied or bullying. Not every girl is sending compromising pictures of herself to boys. Not every anonymous gamer is on the FBI most wanted list. If we are talking to our kids and having meaningful and helpful conversations, we have to trust that them when they say everything’s cool.

3. Create Offline Opportunities. Kids can’t get all their validation and conversation from in front of a screen. There is an entire world out there to explore and people to meet. When their friends come over, figure out things they can do that don’t have them sitting next to each other texting or watching crazy online videos. Hands-on crafts, cooking or baking, making, and creating are all things that we did that helped to shape us into the people we are today. Kids today are no different. It’s fun to hang out in the virtual world, but there’s so much more depth learned by being present in the physical world.

Yes, these 3 simple things can help our kids immensely when it comes to tech safety. Sure, there are parental controls to limit access to online content. That’s a limited solution, especially for teens and tweens who know how to bypass parental controls. You can forbid them to download certain apps, but there are many decoy apps kids download to hide things from parents.

Honestly, though, it comes down to open communication and trust when it comes to keeping our kids safe (or just safer) online. You don’t need to spend tons of money on apps or special wifi to block their access. We just need to talk to our kids. Although, sometimes that’s easier said than done.

How do you help your kids stay safe online? Have you talked to them about the consequences of making mistakes online?

Sara

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