August 26, 2014

IFTTT Recipes To Protect Kids Online

VZW Disclosure

Kids and tech. Like every other aspect of parenting, talking about kids and tech brings about some very strong opinions. More specifically, bring up kids and cell phone or kids and texting and everyone has something to say or horror stories to share.

Recently, I was having a conversation with a few online friends about back to school and how tech is used for bullying among tweens and teens. Bullying is something that scares most parents. The stories we’ve all read and heard on the news are heartbreaking. Even those that parents have been able to get involved with early are stressful and scary.

I shared with them an application that I’ve used for awhile for personal notifications, but in that conversation realized it would be great tool for parents to keep track of their kids. I know there are some who will disagree with me, but I think there are positive uses for keeping track of how kids are using their mobile devices.

The app I was talking about was If This Then That, or IFTTT. IFTTT is an application with thousands of recipes to help automate many of the things we rely on our tech to do. IFTTT has both a desktop version as well as mobile app for iOS and Android.

In talking with my friends about bullying, one of the problems that kept coming up was the deleting of texts, photos, or social media posts. Evidently, kids will post comments or updates on social media and leave it up for awhile, just long enough to get the attention of their target, then they’ll take it down if they believe an adult will see it. Taking screen captures are also a concern, but they’ll risk that to post an update for a short while.

As a parent, going to police without evidence is just a waste of time. But how to you get the evidence you need if it’s deleted by time you find out about it when you child comes home from school, a sleepover, or party? That’s where IFTTT comes in.

Like I said, I use if for a variety of purposes to automate a few things. I’ve often wondered why some of the recipes (the formulas you set up are called recipes) are used. I’m sure sending all posts on Instagram to Dropbox is a great way to archive photos. And I know saving tweets in a spreadsheet comes in handy for social media consultants needing to track a hashtag or client handle. But, I started to realize many of these recipes would be great for parents who need to keep up with what their kids are doing on tech.

I get that some will bring up privacy issues and respecting independence. But the truth is, there’s a big difference between spying on your kid and being informed. Trust is important, but sometimes our kids make mistakes. And sometimes things are happening with our kids but they don’t want to tell us. So I’m sharing with you 7 helpful IFTTT recipes parents can use to track or record what our tweens and teens are doing with their mobile devices.

7 IFTTT Recipes To Protect Your Kids Online

1. Save Instagram photos from a specified user to Dropbox. This is a good way to keep a record of what’s being posted. This can be used along with the recipe that will send a text when your Dropbox is updated. You may end up getting a lot of text messages because kids can be quite prolific. But if you’re trying to get evidence of something specific you’re probably not so worried about getting text messages with this information.

2. Save Instagram photos tagged with a specified username to Dropbox. As mentioned, sometimes kids will tag other kids as a way to taunt or bully them.

3. Save Snapchat screenshots to Dropbox. Snapchat has a very negative reputation among parents, but many kids like to use it. I know a few people who use it for totally legit communication. But, for the most part, there are reasons to be concerned about kids using Snapchat.

4. Save sent or received SMS text to Google Drive. Texts are very easy to delete before mom or dad sees them. Whether it’s bullying, sexting, making plans for something they shouldn’t being able to see the texts and act and do those tough parenting things this recipe could be very helpful.

5. Upload Android or iOS screenshot to Dropbox. This is a good way to get a backup incase photos are erased from the device. While you’ll need the device to set up this recipe, you don’t really need to give too much info to your child if you don’t want.

6. Receive an SMS if username tagged on Instagram. I use this one. I want to know when I’m mentioned so I can reply appropriately. But even though that’s more of a business use, the ability to get a text message (although there is a delay, so don’t expect it in real-time) if your child is tagged is really important if your child is being taunted or bullied on IG. What’s also great about this is that it goes to your device so you don’t even have to tell your child you’re keeping tabs.

7. Receive a text when an Instagram user makes a post. Even though kids may change out their IG usernames frequently if they’re using their account to bully someone, again this is another way to keep tabs on what’s going on. I use this to get a text when several of my friends post to Instagram, because I don’t want to miss their posts. But as a parent, this could be a way to get information about what’s going on with your kids.

What’s great about most of these is you can set them up without having to install anything on your child’s device. You will need to have access to it for a short time to set up some of the recipes. And while most of the notifications and saves are not in real-time but are delayed a few minutes, they’re a great way to keep tabs on what’s going on. Again, this isn’t about spying on the kids. It’s about knowing what’s going on so if something does go wrong you can know about it sooner than later.

Do you use IFTTT? If you do, what other recipe suggestions do you have? If you’re new to IFTTT, I hope you give it a try.

Disclosure: I am a member of the Verizon Insider team and received a device to facilitate my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



August 19, 2014

Vacation Memory Lessons

Disclosure: This post is my entry into a contest with Mom It Forward for a chance to win an upgraded suite at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel in Orlando for the Family Forward retreat.

I remember one vacation from my childhood, a trip to California with my grandparents. That family vacation was everything to me, not just when I was 7, but for many years to come. Even today it takes me back to 1977.

So when I became a mom I wanted BabyGirl to have more than just one vacation to shape her childhood memories. About a year ago, as I talked to her about memories from our recent vacations I learned a big lesson. My desire to make memories for her, no matter how big or amazing or magical or fantastical were just that. My memories. She needed to make her own and instead of trying so hard I needed to let go.

5 vacation memory lessons from an 11 year old

  • Kids will remember things differently than parents but it’s supposed to be that way.
  • A child’s idea of fun may not be the same as mom and dad.
  • Memories are personal and can come from experiences both big and small.
  • Parents’ joy and excitement, as well as my other emotions and feelings, shape the memories others make.
  • Kids aren’t thinking about making memories, they’re just trying to have fun in that moment.

Tween Vacation Collage

Out of the mouth of babes, yes? These kids are so much smarter than we give them credit. Which is why my upcoming family vacation and the Mom It Forward Super Hero Family retreat at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel will be much different from vacations of the past. Shared experiences can turn in to memories. But as a parent my job is to provide opportunities to create memories, not to force my ideas of what should become her lifelong childhood memory.

Tween Statue of Liberty Selfie

Here’s to superhero families and childhood memories to last a lifetime!

Disclosure: This post was created as an entry into a contest with Mom It Forward. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



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