How To Use IFTTT To Protect Your Kids Online

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.”


If Bullying Was A Disease Would We Have A Cure Already?


There is no federal law for bullying or cyberbullying. Few state laws are clear enough to actually do anything. We need more than window-dressing.

I think 2013 will be the year the national conversation about bullying and cyberbullying comes front and center. Sure, people have been talking about bullying and the effects of cyberbullying for a few years. We have all the YouTube videos of kids and their cards telling horrific stories of being bullied. They get passed around on social networks and are part of conversations for a few days. Then we move on and go about our business. There’s no call to action, other than some type of social share.

At the beginning of March, Anderson Cooper started what will likely be a sea of change. He dedicated one hour of his show to the movie Bully. There was a live discussion on Twitter under the hashtag #bullyeffect. It got the conversation started on a very public national level. I watched it and was blow away at how much the movie was able to capture. Kids have killed themselves. 11-year old kids who are bullied in school or on the way to or from school. This movie is mainly about the physical and verbal acts of bullying that occur at school. I came away from this program horrified at how out of touch some school officials are when it comes to how they should deal with reports of bullying by the kids and their parents. I was angry and frustrated that the program didn’t offer much in the way of how we can stop this epidemic. I haven’t seen the full movie, so I’m hopeful there is more information about taking action.

Prior to the Anderson Cooper program, my friend Christi and I had been talking about ways we can help with this antibullying message in the school our daughters attend. While our girls haven’t been physically beaten, the fact is that my daughter has been bullied by a few classmates and her daughter has often been the one to help ease the emotional effects. Together, our girls have been trying to develop an anti-bullying club at their school for the past several months. To the school’s credit, the teachers and principal have been willing to hear both of us. And while the teacher is doing a great deal of classroom management, we don’t feel that the school, as a whole, is understanding the full import the long-term effects of bullying will play in their lives.

When it comes to the cyber issues of bullying, that’s not an issue for BabyGirl. For the most part. She has had a blog, which I moderate, since she was 6 (although she doesn’t post to it now because she wants to change the name) and she has been allowed to chat online with select people we know in person. She does not have her own phone. And while she does have access to a phone that has texting capabilities, she rarely is anywhere without me, CycleGuy, or AuntZoni so there really is no need for her to be texting people.

When I was offered the opportunity to screen the producer’s cut of Submit: The Documentary, I wasn’t sure how relevant it would be for me. The movie is about cyberbullying. I’m here to say the movie is exceedingly relevant to every parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, teacher, principal and educator. How our kids communicate with each other isn’t how we grew up. Many teens and tweens are more tech-savvy than their parents, leaving them vulnerable because parents don’t know what these technologies are capable of doing to our kids.

Kids are using technology in a different way than adults. The permanent nature of technology hasn’t sunk in to most kids. And, sadly, too many parents don’t fully realize the permanence that comes with texting, chats, forums, social networks, photo and video-sharing, and even creating cyber communities in online games. While many parents are concerned with adult predators online, we’re not educating ourselves about how all this technology works and is used by the kids.

It doesn’t matter how WE use it, it’s how THEY use it that matters!

Submit: The Documentary features the story of Megan Meier, the 13-year old girl who committed suicide because of the actions of an adult neighbor who posed as a teen boy. The country was heartbroken by her story. That was 6 years ago! 6 years and we’re stilling reading stories of kids taking their own lives because of bullying and cyberbullying. Why?

Documentaries often dig deep into the subject matter. The best part of Submit is the candid conversations with students. Honestly, there should have been more of that. The experts are necessary, as are the stories told by parents whose children have taken their own life due to cyberbulling. This documentary does that “next step” and discusses ways to prevent or stop bullying or cyberbulling. The key to changing the course of this epidemic is to say ENOUGH! And the way we do that is by no longer being a bystander. Every kid is affected by bullying either as a victim, a bully or onlooker. We have to rid ourselves of the thought that our kids don’t see this behavior. They do. And they’re not being educated or empowered to do anything. Submit, for the first time, suggests that the bystander is the key to solving this problem. Professor Sameer Hinduja suggests that bystanders who step up are the heroes. It’s the first time in a bullying education program I’ve heard clear support for encouraging our kids to stand up.

We need kids to step up and say they won’t tolerate the behavior. But we also need educators, administrators, law enforcement and laws that back up the bystanders who become up-standers. Bullying and cyberbullying won’t stop until the consequences of the bullying behavior are significant to the bully (and possibly their parents). We already know the consequences for the victim can be grave. What happens online does happen in person, and we’ve yet to figure out how to stop bullying. We can’t be naive and think that “if” it happened off-line we’d fix this – because it does happen off-line and we haven’t fixed it.

We can have all the anti-bullying clubs and wear [insert color] to support anti-bullying day. But until we demand that physical, emotional and verbal assaults by children toward other children is treated as the crime it is when it occurs between 2 adults we’ll be talking about this for years to come. And if we don’t see the cyber equivalent of bullying equally as serious we’re completely missing the boat.

The emotional toll of bullying doesn’t end when you’re no longer bullied. We don’t need studies to tell us that bullying affects us for our lifetime. We don’t need experts to rattle off statistics or data. We know. If you were bullied you’ve carried that with you.  I’m sure you can still recall the bully’s name, certain incidents, and even the name of those who stood up for you.

Why have we been so powerless? The lawmakers are our classmates from childhood. They know what happened. They know the long-term effects of bullying. They’ve listened to the stories of victims taking their own lives. They’ve heard the experts. Are we not loud enough? Are we not clear in what we want?

Then let’s change that! What can you do? Watch a FREE Screening of Submit: The Documentary and you’ll understand how together we can eradicate the disease we call bullying (both face to face and cyber). Then share it with your friends. I’m on Facebook and Twitter, I read blogs and I see all the shares about bullying. I know it impacts you, your family, your friends because it impacts me, my friends and my family.

Map image courtesy of

Images with statistics courtesy of Submit: The Documentary

Disclosure: I was provided free access to the producer’s cut of Submit: The Documentary. I was not provided compensation for this review, nor was I required to write about the movie. All thoughts and opinions are mine. This article was not reviewed or edited by a third party. 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.


Because I Respect Her Privacy, I Deleted My Original Post


I wrote a post for today but decided not to publish it. As my daughter gets older and I write things about her, about parenting her, I’m concerned it could be used against her one day. Mainly by other kids who can be cruel and mean and take things out of context. I realize by openly discussing sexual assault I’ve opened the gate. But I’m willing to defend her on that, and I’m confident she’ll let me. It’s the other, more mundane, aspects of growing up and maturing as a young girl where I don’t know if I can be there all the time that gives me pause. So I erased what I wrote. Not out of shame, but because I don’t want her innocence used against her like it’s something bad.

I read too many stories about kids being bullied because of who they are. Being in a self-contained gifted program brings with it looks and snide remarks. Those she’s been able to handle so far. As time moves on, though, the comments are likely to change. The possibility that her just being a kid and the quirky behaviors that are common among the highly and profoundly gifted become more visible. The differences may seem more significant.

Despite the fact that she’s growing up, she’ll always be my BabyGirl. But that doesn’t mean her life is open for me to always write about. Kids can be mean to other kids. And it’s a shame I have to be worried about that.


The Pink Elephant In The Room: Hazing in the MOM Sorority


Woman Head In Hand

When I was in college I thought about being in a sorority. For a hot second. But I had enough of the ‘being mean for being mean’ sake when I was in high school. I didn’t need my ‘friends’ to put me down all in the name of belonging.

So here I am, 8 years into motherhood and this group is a lot like a sorority. And it’s call MOM. And like most sororities there are chapters. That is no different within MOM, as evidenced by the various groups – SAHM, WAHM, Working Moms, Ladies who Lunch, Homeschooling Moms, Mom of Special Needs, Mom of Gifted, Mom of Boy, Mom of Many, and the list goes on.

Like me, you probably belong to several of these ‘sub-chapters’. Which only brings on more group dynamics that need to be managed. Personalities that need to be stroked and massaged. As well as those to be avoided. More people to work with so that we somehow ‘fit in’. Many people to judge. And be judged by.

I never knew about the hazing in the MOM sorority though. Not that it would have changed my decision to become a mom. But knowing that this dynamic existed would have been good to know. Unfortunately, it’s more like a secret society and no one talks about what happens.

The mom-on-mom judgment, snark and eye-rolling is horrible. It’s bad enough that many of us doubt ourselves. But to add insult from people who know what we are going through, to me, is repugnant. Women who have experienced the doubt, the struggles, the frustration yet look down upon and judge other women do nothing to help.

No one wants to talk about it. We turn a blind eye. I don’t find many credible sources of information that looks at this dynamic. The behavior is nothing we’d encourage for our children, yet women across the country engage in what has become much like a rite of passage similar to many sororities. Grown women. Adults who know better. Women who don’t want to be degraded, put down, judged or blamed for their mothering choices. But do so to other moms.

Maybe I’m naive, but I just don’t get it. Why does it matter to anyone else what brand of diaper bag I have? And if I didn’t spend $1,700 on a stroller, do I deserve you looking down your nose at me? And don’t get me started on the buzzing that happens when a young child is seen with a cola drink. Bring up breastfeeding in public and the gloves are off.

I’ve been on the receiving end of some of this hazing. The moms who ask the brand of clothing BabyGirl is wearing and then roll their eyes, reply with rude or snarky comments or even worse, just walk away talking to her friend like I didn’t even exist. The moms who think they’re better than me because they go to the gym and have their ‘pre-baby’ body while I don’t. And, of course, those moms who somehow think my decision to homeschool is a personal affront to them that they need to put me down for my child not having opportunities to socialize like their kids have.

I try not to take their judgment, snark and bullying personally. But it’s hard not to. The saddest part of all of this Mom on Mom hate is that many of these women call themselves my friend.

When did it become acceptable for moms to be mean to other moms ‘just because’?


Note: Thank you to my husband for coining the phrase “The Pink Elephant in the Room”


Is It Possible to Bully Yourself?

Brain Scan

I think I’m a bully. Not to other people, to myself. I’m hyper-critical, see flaws and point them out, question actions and roll my eyes at my own thoughts sometimes. Is it possible to self bully?

If I treated anyone like my thoughts there would be a full-on war waged against me. I’d have been taken to task by countless numbers of people. I’d even want to punch myself out.

But when the bullying goes on inside my head and no one hears it, is it really happening? It’s like my own little hate parade in my brain some days. And it comes fast and furious. I can only imagine what I must look like with my eyes darting around, the grimaces and smooshed up face. It’s really loud in there, I can tell you that.

I’m not a bully and I don’t bully other people. But, really, I do bully myself. And have for years under the guise of being critical and wanting to learn from my mistakes or errors. It’s the same stuff I would never heap on anyone else or allow to happen to my daughter or friends that I wrap up nice a pretty in my brain and deliver it by special messenger all too often.

As long as it stays in my brain, it’s OK. Right? No, not really. But I can’t make it leave. Sometimes it’s off for long periods of time. But it seems to feed off of the insecurities that arise when the real-life bullies start hurling their venom and my brain sees and hears it. As if it were the truth. It’s not the truth. I know it. But I must not fully grasp that it’s a bunch of nonsense that deserves no power.

I give these words power. Inside my brain, it’s an electric power plant giving power to these neuron-bullies that bombard me. I’ve tried t make them stop. I’ve argued with them and have told them they’re wrong. I should be stronger than they are. Some days I am. I want more strong days. Lots more strong day.

But I can’t seem to make this bully go away. I can’t see the bully but it is me. Not the good me. Not the loving and caring and friendly me. This black cloak wearing skulky kind of me is what I imagine. Never seen face to face, only in shadows. And I don’t know how it came back. It was gone for a very long time. But as quickly as it left, it seems to be back. Now, to make it go away since I know it’s there.

How? I can talk back to it all I want but it’s not a good listener. I can ignore it but it’s still there and that seems to annoy it even more. Do I reason with it? I’ve heard you can’t really reason with a bully. Should I really treat it like it’s separate from me or do I just need to look at myself and stop hearing the bully?

I make mistakes and the bully laughs. I forget and the bully mocks. I cry. The bully doesn’t.

I’m bigger than this. I’m stronger than this, I tell myself. Everyday.

Now, I don’t really hear voices nor do I wage a mental battle. I’m not in need of a padded room. Seriously, I’m not. It’s just that for some reason I’m letting negativity get to me and I really want it to stop.