Deeply Connecting with Our Kids: Moving Beyond “How Was Your Day?”

Deeply Connecting with Our Kids: Moving Beyond “How Was Your Day?”

Easy Dinner Conversation-Starters for Families


By Hannah Herring and Melody Bergman

How many times have you asked your child “How was your day?”–only to receive a one-word response? This can be frustrating to us as parents, but our kids are worth learning new skills to engage them!

One of the best things that parents can do is to set an example of communicating openly–being willing to talk about anything and being willing to truly listen to our kids.

Our emotions and our experiences show in our faces and especially in our interactions with our family members. I have learned so much just listening to my children talk to each other at the dinner table. For instance, one of my sons started telling his brother about how a “griefer” attacked his friend’s Minecraft. He seemed really upset and was so frustrated about it. After listening for a while, I started asking questions. I learned that “griefing” involves unprovoked, random attacks where players–often strangers–destroy others’ creations in the gaming realm. My boys were more than happy to involve me in the conversation because I showed interested in what is happening in their lives, rather than belittling strong emotions over a video game.

Kids are curious! They want to know what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and why you’re doing it. It’s okay to start conversations with a question about their day. But if they don’t give a long answer, don’t get discouraged! Continue the conversation by telling them something about your day.

For example, sometimes when my children get home from school I have information pulled up on my computer related to my work. Lately I’ve noticed that my oldest son likes to sneak a peek over my shoulder to see what I’m doing. Instead of brushing him off, I will often stop what I’m doing, make eye contact, and engage him in conversation about it. He might say, “Mom, what are you working on?” and I’ll tell him about the article or briefly explain the research I’ve been looking through. And, just like I enjoy listening to him talk about his school day, friends, video games, or the books he’s been reading, he seems to enjoy listening to me talk about my work. It’s fun connecting this way–for both of us!

Dinner has always been a fun time for my family. We’ve been known to sit and talk for hours or debate our way through the meal. I’ve laughed so hard that I’ve fallen off of my chair and collapsed under the table (courtesy of some siblings). Most of our long-lasting and most loved, memorable conversations started because someone shared an experience or a funny moment from the day and it started a domino effect. (To read about more benefits of open communication and other ways to show your children that you care, read Four Simple Ways to Strengthen Your Relationship with Your Child This Year).

Nowadays, because of how familiar kids are with technology, that domino effect can be started by sharing experiences or funny moments related to our technology use. So many opportunities for good questions and conversations have opened up to us. We can ask questions that invite our children to consider the good of technology as well as the bad things about technology. We can help them think about where they are and where our family (and personal) standards are in relation to our technology. And we can start those conversations from our own personal experience.

Here are some ideas for tech-related conversation-starters:

  • “I saw the funniest meme today. (Share the meme). What is the funniest meme you have seen this week? Who showed it to you/where did you find it?”
  • “Yesterday I was looking at the news and I saw a video of (fill in the blank). It was really inspiring. What is the most inspiring or inspirational thing you saw on social media today? This week?”
  • “An old friend added me on Facebook today. I haven’t talked to them in years! It was so good to catch up. Did anyone add you on your social media accounts? How did you meet them?”
  • “I follow (name a person or group) on Instagram and they posted the greatest picture today. I’ll have to show it to you after dinner. Who is your favorite person/group to follow on social media?”
  • “I was talking to Mrs. So-and-so across the street after school today and she said that her family just implemented some new rules about their video games. (Share one or two of the rules that stuck out to you.) I really liked that. What do you guys think about it?”
  • “What are some rules that your friends’ families have about social media and technology? What do you think of those rules?”

You can also make it a little more fun! Try some of these:

  • If you had to pick one gaming character to be, who would you be and why?
  • What is the best thing about your smartphone? The worst?
  • What meme do you think best describes you?
  • If you could only play one video/computer game for the rest of your life, which one would you pick? Why?
  • If you had to lose every piece of technology except for one thing, what would that one thing be?

For more amazing conversation-starters that help build connection in your family, check out 30 Days to a Stronger Child.

It’s not always easy, but opening up communication over the dinner table–whether your kids are 2, 12, or 18–will be a huge benefit to your parent-child relationship. As we build meaningful connections with our kids, we begin to understand how best to help them, serve them, and show love for them. As we come to know our kids, we can come to love them more. So talk!

For more information about questions and types of questions you can ask your kids, check out Parents: Use The Power of Response Questions.


Hannah is from Utah and is a student at BYU, majoring in Family Studies. She is preparing to apply to graduate programs in Marriage and Family Therapy. She hopes to go into counseling with an emphasis in addiction recovery and mental health. From a large family, she loves children and their protection and education is top priority.

Melody Harrison Bergman is a mother and step-mom of three awesome boys, founder of Media Savvy Mamas, and a member of the Safeguard Alliance for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications and has been writing and editing since 2002. Her mission is to motivate leaders and community members to educate and protect children and families.



Fritz, J. @. (2017, April 25). Family Dinner Conversation Starters. Retrieved May 19, 2018, from

Hyatt, M. (2015, September 14). How to Have Better Dinner Conversations. Retrieved May 10, 2018, from


Beyond Electronics: Gifts that Teach, Inspire, and Stretch Your Kids

Beyond Electronics: Gifts that Teach, Inspire, and Stretch Your Kids


By Courtney Cagle

In our tech saturated world, electronics seem to be the only gift to give, which greatly limits our ability to give individualized gifts that go beyond screens and buttons. This holiday season, let’s lead our kids toward empowering and educational gifts that foster creativity, intellectual growth, and overall health!

We’ve compiled several gift ideas you can give or make for your children this holiday season that can be empowering for the whole family. These gifts will help your children gain confidence and mental dexterity, improve hand and eye coordination, stretch themselves creatively, and inspire them to be better people, as well as provide opportunities for family time.

Put together an outdoor basket. Outdoor baskets are a great way to keep kids outside and active, and they will provide fun for the whole family. Here are some suggestions: water slides, climbing center kits, supplies to build forts, a ziplining kit, a swing, a trampoline, and there is much more; check out this website for supplies. Some other suggestions are: a gardening kit with seeds, trowel, and watering can; mud pie kit with plastic dishes and pans; a kite flying basket. Make it your own, and have fun with it!

Go on an outing to a museum, play, or musical. This is a great way to spend time as a family. It teaches kids about many different fields including art, music, history, science, and more! It all depends on what you decide to do as a family. It can help children to discover their interests and increases family connections. Make a disposable camera and scrapbook a part of the gift, and then work together as a family to make a memory book of the experience.

Create a building and construction basket. Help build your child’s hand-eye coordination in a fun way. In this basket, you can include toys like LEGO, K’Nex building sets, building blocks, and much more. Construction and building toys are fun and help kids develop their fine motor skills, while feeling accomplished by the creations they are making. These are for both boys and girls (Olden, 2018).

Put together a journal kit. Teach your kids their words matter, so much so they should be written and kept for posterity. Plus, writing in a journal each day helps to reduce stress, understand your thoughts and feelings better, know yourself better, resolve arguments, and solve problems effectively (Purcell, 2018). It’s best if we can get them started as soon as they are able to write a few words, usually first grade. Get them a journal, pen, and maybe some stickers (if they are younger). Have a time each day or week when the whole family can dedicate five or 10 minutes to writing in their journal.  

Create a yoga gift basket. This basket can include a yoga mat, athletic clothes, a yoga block, a yoga video or membership at a gym or studio, a yoga towel, and any other yoga-necessities. Do yoga with them and learn the basics with them. Teach them how to meditate and use yoga as a tool to relax the mind and the body (Orden, 2018).

Create a fun puzzle basket. Give them puzzles of all shapes and sizes. Puzzles are great for the mind and help kids to pay attention to detail. You could make a fun scavenger hunt out of the puzzles for a fun game on Christmas. They can look for the puzzle pieces, and once they put the puzzle together, it will tell them where their gift basket of puzzles is hidden. It will get them excited to do puzzles (Orden, 2018).

Create a music basket online. Give them the option to download classical music, sheet music, and any other music online that is beneficial to helping them learn or progress in the instrument they play. If they don’t have an instrument but are interested in one, you can buy them one. It can be expensive, but there are options to obtain an instrument without breaking the bank. Instruments can often be rented or even purchased second hand. Playing a musical instrument is great for kids. It requires focus, dedication, and practice and is a phenomenal way to get your kids to do something more meaningful and explore their talents.

Put together a craft basket.  This is a basket you could really go crazy putting together; the possibilities are endless. You could gear it more toward sewing, which could include needles, thread, sewing templates, and fabric. You could pack an art basket to include paper, colored pencils, paints, brushes, canvas, and an art book. Even younger children will enjoy a simplified version with crayons, glue, glitter, scissors, and paints. If there is anything crafty your children may be interested in, pack it up in a basket, and get their creativity flowing.

Create a book basket with empowering books. Give them books to educate them and inspire them to be better. We have great books that will empower your kids. For a book about media literacy, check out Petra’s Power to See: A Media Literacy Adventure. We have two body image books, one for boys and one for girls: Messages about me: Wade’s Story, A Boy’s Quest for Healthy Body Image and Messages About Me: Sydney’s Story, A Girl’s Journey to Healthy Body Image. Kids love technology, so if you do decide to give in and purchase electronics, make sure to include our book Noahs New Phone: A Story About Using Technology for Good in their book basket. This will help your kids understand how they can use technology to do good in the world. These books will help guide your children to making positive decisions that foster happiness.

Engaging stories, great discussions!

There are so many innovative and personal gifts to give your kids this Christmas season. Take the time to give a gift that will help educate and inspire your children. Don’t feel pressured to buy them the usual tech just because, “That’s what everybody is getting this year.” Think outside the box and foster your child’s creativity!

For ideas of what to get them, check out these websites:

Young Explorers


Great Educational Gifts for All Ages, 2017–18 Edition

Imagine Toys

Educational Toys Planet


Courtney Cagle is a senior at Brigham Young University-Idaho graduating in Marriage and Family Studies. She loves kids and wants to help create a safe environment for all children to learn and grow.


Orden, T. V. (2018, January 14). Finding the Perfect Gift for Your Kids this Holiday Season. Retrieved July 7, 2018, from

Purcell, M. (2018, March 22). The Health Benefits of Journaling. Retrieved July 9, 2018, from


Snapchat and Teens: What You Need to Know

Snapchat and Teens: What You Need to Know


By Courtney Cagle

One day, my friend opened up her Snapchat and BAM! There was a picture of a penis there.. No warning, no signs, no message in the photo, just a picture of a penis. She was shocked! It was one of her friends from high school who loved to party and was probably drunk at the time, but it’s something that she will never forget. Incidents like this happen frequently while using the app and can easily happen to your teen.

I’m sure you’ve heard of Snapchat. It’s a messaging app that enables you to send snaps (photos, texts, and short videos) to your friends, which disappear in 1-10 seconds.You can post stories where the photo or video shows up for all of your friends (unless you block them from that story) and lasts for a day, but can be taken down at any time. You are able to see how many people have viewed your story and when someone takes a screenshot of a photo or video. It also has articles that can be viewed on the home feed. It’s an extremely popular app for people between the ages of 13 and 25 years old (Teensafe, 2017). Snapchat can be a quick, fun, and easy way to talk to people, which is why so many teens love to use it.

Snapchat has many features that make it exciting for teens to send photos and videos. It’s how they talk. It’s not about pictures and how good they look; it’s about having a conversation through pictures and videos. Snapchat also allows for people to maintain a streak between them and another person. This pushes more people to use Snapchat every day because in order to have a streak with another person, they must send a snap to one another every single day.

Many of our kids are most likely using Snapchat, whether we realize it or not. Maybe you see them on their phone a lot taking photos or sending messages. Do you know what they’re sending or who they’re sending it to? It’s likely that they are on social media of some form and Snapchat is among the most popular.

Should you worry? Snapchat’s messages quickly disappear within 1-10 seconds meaning that photos and texts seem to be gone forever, but this isn’t the case. People can take screenshots or use other apps to save pictures from Snapchat. It is also possible to grab another device, and take a picture of the screen. Many teens use Snapchat to trade nudes (a practice previously known as “sexting.”) This is a dangerous practice and usually what people end up screenshotting pictures of. Predators may trick kids into sending inappropriate pictures. Teach your kids to be careful about what they send and who they send it to.

Often, teens think Snapchat is an easy way to send inappropriate pictures or trade nudes without any repercussions. However, we need to teach our kids that everything on the internet stays on the internet FOREVER. There is no way to know where your photo went, so it’s better not to send any inappropriate pictures at all. Some teens may not realize this, so it’s important for you, as their parent, to have this discussion (Roberts, 2016).

With so many kids on Snapchat, it should not surprise you that the porn industry advises its own actresses and producers to use snapchat as a marketing tool. As Lauren MacEwen of Xbiz reports in her article about which social media networks are most porn-friendly, “Snapchat is definitely accepting of adult content. This can be a great platform for performers to give free content, or reward their followers with content” (Alexander, 2016)

Cyberbullying is another issue that occurs on Snapchat. Since the photos don’t last very long, most kids won’t get the evidence they need to show that they are being cyberbullied. People can say mean things or save bad photos of others to use against them later. It’s a quick and easy way for bullies to do what they do best (Everything Parents Need to Know About Snapchat, 2017).  

Here are 6 ways to help keep your kids safe on Snapchat:

1) Educate yourself about Snapchat. If your kids have asked you for it, download Snapchat onto your phone and play around with it. Get to know Snapchat and discover what your kids are spending their time doing. You could even add them to Snapchat and send them fun snaps. In order to be involved, you have to understand what you’re up against! You have to realize the draw to Snapchat and what makes kids want to keep doing it. If you download it and play around on it, you are allowing yourself to dive into their world (Smart Social Team, 2017).

2) Talk to them often about safety on Snapchat. Communicate with your kids about how their actions cause a ripple effect! Talk about healthy boundaries, the potential of technology, and how to stay safe (Alexander, 2018). This is so important in all aspects of parenting, but especially when it comes to social media. Predators go where our kids are, and our kids are on social media. Help your kids to be discerning. Teach them to keep their information private and to not trust strangers. Online safety is extremely important. Teach your kids that when they post something online, people can always access it. Things marked “private” may not actually be private (Smart Social Team, 2017).

3) Give them social media access at a later age. Children should get a social media account while living at home so that they can understand how to navigate the social media world under your guidance, but we recommend not letting them have social media under the age of 13. It depends on your individual family and the maturity of the child, but the best age would be around 15, 16, or 17. Kids make split-second decisions every day on social media that have the potential to change the rest of their lives, so it is a good idea to allow them to develop a sense of maturity before they encounter that kind of responsibility. (Alexander, 2018).

4) Set limits on their Snapchat usage. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “nothing good ever happens after midnight,” and that goes for Snapchat as well. The later it gets, the easier it is to send messages and pictures you wouldn’t have sent during the day when you are thinking clearly. I know this from experience! Have kids keep their phone downstairs after 10 pm or whatever time works best for the family. Make sure that they don’t have access to Snapchat late at night. Also, have times during the day where everyone has to be off of their phones. This will limit their Snapchat usage and will encourage them to have more face-to-face interactions with their friends.

5) Teach them how to be responsible with the messages they send. If you allow your kids on Snapchat, explain to them how to be good digital citizens. Show them how to use Snapchat in a way that is healthy and fulfilling. Encourage them to hang out with others face-to-face, instead of just Snapchatting and sending messages to others online. Teach them about the dangers of sending inappropriate pictures or mean messages to others. Teach them kindness and show them how to handle disagreements (Alexander, 2018).

6) Teach them to avoid the “Discover” section. The Discover section of Snapchat contains many articles and photos that kids can click on and view. There are also links to other websites. This is an easy way for kids to find pornography through Snapchat. Help your kids understand the dangers of this section and help them to avoid them. Teach them about the dangers of pornography.  

As we instruct our children in these ways, they will be better equipped to navigate social media safely and will learn how to think more critically about the way they communicate with others. These are essential skills in our digitally saturated world!

Here are some additional resources that can help your children stay safe on social media:

Lesson for Families: Using Technology For Good

The Most Dangerous Apps of 2018

Why Kids Are Leading Double Lives

30 Days to a Stronger Child: Topics covered include boundaries, empathy, honesty, friendship, and much more!

Engaging stories, great discussions!

Noah’s New Phone: A Story About Using Technology for Good


Courtney Cagle is a senior at Brigham Young University-Idaho graduating in Marriage and Family Studies. She loves kids and wants to help create a safe environment for all children to learn and grow.



Alexander, D. (2016, February 01). Porn Industry Trends – Where Will They Target Your Children Next? Retrieved from

Alexander, D. (2018, February 19). Teach Your Kids About Online Ripples: Our Actions Always Matter. Retrieved July 3, 2018, from

Alexander, D. (2018). Social Media and Teens: The Ultimate Guide to Keeping Kids Safe Online. Retrieved June 25, 2018, from

Roberts, K. (2016, April 27). 6 Reason Why Kids Sext. Retrieved from

(2018, March 07). Everything Parents Need to Know About Snapchat. Retrieved June 25, 2018, from

Smart Social Team. (2017, August 22). Instagram & Snapchat Safety Tips from 7 Experts. Retrieved June 25, 2018, from

Teensafe. (2017, May 08). Everything a Parent Needs to Know About SNAPCHAT. Retrieved June 25, 2018, from


Teaching Our Kids Gratitude: A Simple Way to Keep a Family Journal

Teaching Our Kids Gratitude: A Simple Way to Keep a Family Journal


By Mattie Barron

Journaling is a great way to document your life. When I younger and playing at a friend’s house, I remember her mother gathering the whole family, including me, to discuss our days with one another. She brought out a notebook and asked each one of us the sweet, sour, and spiritual parts of our day. She wrote our responses in the notebook.

I LOVED this! I was blown away at how simple, yet substantial, this type of journaling was. It allowed us to reflect and capture just about all that occurred in our day. In that moment, I realized journaling doesn’t have to be pages of in-depth entries. It can be three simple lines that highlight our day.

That day, I began documenting the sweet, sour, and spiritual parts of my day in my own journal. In recent years, I have added service and silly moments of my day as well. I now like to call it “The 5S Journal” (sweet, sour, spiritual, service, and silly). Instead of documenting life on a phone, writing it down, makes it more valuable and easily accessible to look back on and remember moments that occurred in your life.

Expressing gratitude through a journal benefits families and children because “grateful people [have] less depression and anxiety and greater family quality of life” (Stoeckel and Weissbrod, 2015). Also, as you keep a gratitude journal, you will “report greater life satisfaction and positive affect” in your life (Stoeckel and Weissbrod, 2015).

It’s a reciprocal process. As you open your eyes to the 5 S’s, the more visible they will become. And as you and your kids express gratitude, the more grateful each of you will become. As we keep a gratitude journal in our families, our children will begin to understand the significant impact gratitude has on our lives.

How to Teach the 5 S’s of Gratitude to Our Kids:

Sweet – The sweet times are the easiest to recall. As we reflect on the sweet times, we are unconsciously already expressing our gratitude. Teach your kids how to reflect on the sweet times. With younger kids, you can ask them “What made you happy today?” For older kids, you can ask them “What was the best part of your day?” These questions will help guide the discussion of the sweet times.  

Sour – As we state and reflect on our tough times, we became even more grateful for the sweet times. Also, sour moments often will represent an overall larger trial we may be facing. Showing gratitude during the tougher times will enhance our attitude and coping during those times. Documenting the sour times and looking back on them after the trial has passed also can help teach children the perspective that trials are preparing and shaping us in a way that leads us to an undeniably better path. You can ask younger children, “What didn’t you like about your day?” and older children, “What was the worst part of your day?”

Spiritual – This is unique to your own personal belief system. You can ask your children, “How do you feel today?” or “How do you feel toward your inner self?” or “What characteristics and values of yours are you grateful for today?”

Service – Whether you did an act of service or were the recipient of service, each opportunity and/or act is a chance to practice gratitude. Acknowledging your children’s good deeds will help your children recognize service is necessary and one of life’s great opportunities.

During the holiday season, we often see individuals standing in front of grocery stores ringing a bell and asking for donations. When I was a child and went grocery shopping with my mother, she never hesitated to give a few dollars. Because of her example, I grew up donating as well. A simple, positive role model in service will motivate your children to participate in service activities themselves. Help them reflect on their feelings associated with service by asking, “How did this opportunity to give make you feel?”

Silly – I’ve recently added this due to the fact that my family makes humor a priority. We love to laugh and make each other laugh. Laughter should be just as appreciated as the other S’s. Teach your children the value of uplifting laughter. To help them recognize its significance, ask them, “How did laughing as a family make you feel? Do you feel closer together?”

This journal is an overall great way to for families to express their gratitude while also reflecting on their day. It’s a win-win.

How to Make the 5S Journal a Priority:

  1. Buy a journal for the whole family to share. If possible take your kids on this outing and have them help pick it out. If your kids are older, they may wish to have their own journal in which to record events.
  2. Print out a few family pictures and ask each child to help personalize/decorate the journal.
  3. Set a specific time every night that is designated to reflecting on each family members’ day. Consider setting an alarm to remind you.
  4. Place the journal where it is visible to all family members.
  5. Be as mindful as possible throughout your day. Knowing you’re going to be talking about specific parts of your day will help you better look for and retain the moments you desire to share.  But don’t beat yourself up on those days that fly by without being able to recall anything super significant.
  6. Have Mom or Dad write what each member says This way every member is voicing their day rather than passing the journal to just have everyone write in it.
  7. Keep it simple. Each daily entry might be only 1-3 lines per family member or maybe even five words.
  8. As years pass, take time to look back in your family journal and reflect with your family on the great and not-so-great moments that have made your family unique and special.

The 5S journal was an answer to me on how to keep track of my grateful heart. Implementing this journal into your family life can help you teach your kids to appreciate all events that occur in their lives rather than simply being grateful for only the sweeter moments. Looking for more ways to teach your kids gratitude, community, empathy, and more? Check out our book, 30 Days to a Stronger Child. Featuring great discussions and activities, you can find it here.

Available in print or Kindle.


Mattie Barron is a senior at Brigham Young University-Idaho pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science in Marriage and Family Studies. She is from Tri-cities, WA and has a passion to help create and ignite strong families. She hopes to work in the school system and aid in the support of children and families.



Stoeckel, M., Weissbrod, C., & Ahrens, A. (2015). The Adolescent Response to Parental Illness: The Influene of Dispositional Gratitude. Journal Of Child & Family Studies, 24(5), 1501-1509.

Lesson: Helping Your Child Develop Empathy

Lesson: Helping Your Child Develop Empathy


Empathy is a critical component in developing emotional intelligence. We develop this skill as we become aware of other people’s feelings, needs, and concerns. Empathy is important because it helps us to understand how others are feeling and how our actions might impact them.

It’s important for building relationships with friends and family. Experts are concerned that too much screen time may be causing a decline in empathy because we are replacing the role of real live friends with virtual ones (Swanbrow, 2010).

Great Discussion Points:

Empathy is often confused with sympathy; however, they are not the same thing. Sympathy focuses on offering comfort even when you are not feeling the same emotion as the individual with whom you are interacting. Empathy goes beyond comfort and focuses on having a personal understanding and sharing emotions with someone.

Download the Lesson Here!


Looking for an engaging story that will tug at your child’s heartstrings and empower him to use technology to uplift and empower others? Check out Noah’s New Phone: A Story About Using Technology for Good.

Available in paperback or Kindle!

Child ID Theft: Could Your Family Be At Risk?

Child ID Theft: Could Your Family Be At Risk?

What is child information and how is it vulnerable?


By Brent Scott and Dina Alexander, MS

Imagine the following situation: Your child is getting ready to go and spend some time with friends at the mall.  Before they leave you give them a hug and on their back you place a large sticker that includes your child’s name, age, nicknames, birthdate, address, social security number, banking information and other personal and private info. You may question what parent would ever do such a thing. The answer is: all of us, unless we have certain safeguards in place.

The Internet is a vast, intangible universe which our children will unavoidably explore. Unfortunately, there are predators lurking on the web waiting for children to share personal identification information (PII). PII can be any information that could be used to identify an individual. Examples include a Social Security Number, full name, driver’s license number, bank account, email address, etc. Once anonymous Internet scammers get a hold of your child’s PII, there could be a multitude of threats. Your child could face losing online accounts, having credit information stolen, or even worse, having their personal identity compromised. Children are at a serious risk for identity theft in part because of their clean financial records. A scammer can take that clean record and start fresh financially. Children are 51 times more likely to have their identity stolen than adults, according to a 2015 study by Carnegie Mellon University Cylab.   

How do children access and share information?

The growth of technology in the Digital Era has made it easy for our children to access and share information. At this point in time, it’s rare to find a teen who doesn’t have a cell phone. In fact, about 95% of American teens, ages 13 to 17, have a mobile phone and about 88% have access to a computer with online capabilities. The ease of access to the Internet allows our kids to share information whenever and wherever they would like. Some of the most popular social platforms where teens share information include Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, GroupMe, and Twitch. Children can also expose their PII through other online communities, such as gaming communities. Some children will give out information, intentionally or unintentionally, on systems such as PS4 or Xbox. These apps and communities are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to places where children can share information online.

How are children being exploited by the information they share?

As children play, watch, and stream online, they may encounter some strangers; some of these people will be on the hunt for their PII. Scammers may get them to click on a malware link, or have them give personal/account info in exchange for some reward. Kids, often believing the scammer will fulfill his promise, give up their information. Once the information is transferred, the cyber scammer can sell it on the dark web or use it to stalk, bully, or exploit the child’s identity. 


The anonymity of the cyber world allows people to bully without being identified. They can hide behind screens and keyboards, avoiding repercussions for their actions. If they do get a hold of your child’s info and are abusing them online, it should be reported right away. Read here and here for more information on Cyberbullying:


Cyber stalking is using the Internet to harass someone through repeated communication. Cyber stalkers are looking for information such as an email or location to talk to our children and possibly threaten them. 

ID Theft

When our children share their information online, knowingly or unknowingly, they are putting themselves at risk for identity theft. Using your children’s personal information, criminals can open fake accounts in their name, be charged with crimes under their name, steal financial information, and much more. Many times, this goes unnoticed by parents or guardians because many don’t think to check the status of their children’s personal information.

How to Identify and Resolve Issues Your Child May Face:

1. Monitor web use

It’s imperative to keep tabs on your child’s online activity.  It’s not nosey to be aware of what sites your child frequents, who they talk to online and what information they are putting on the web. It is not possible to always physically monitor online behavior but apps can be used to assist you in keeping track of online behavior. Along with Internet monitoring, consistently check personal financial statements to catch suspicious activity. 

2. Talk to our kids about sex earlier and more often

As soon as children begin to use tablets, phones, and iPods they are are at risk of exposure to hyper-sexualized images; it’s important to start talking to our kids about sex and the dangers of pornography at younger ages. Distributors of pornography actively seek to herd kids into their sites. Honest, open, and age appropriate conversations are a significant safety measure. Listed are some helpful  resources to help get the conversation going:

Talking to Younger Kids About Sex

Talking with Your Teen about Sex

3. Stay aware 

Stay aware of the latest apps kids are using to talk, date, and potentially bully. This can be done by a quick Google search, talking to other parents about what their children use, or simply asking your child what’s popular. The more you know, the better!

4. Enable parental controls

Many apps, online websites, and gaming platforms offer parental controls–use them! Based on your child’s activity, look into setting parental controls for their most used media sources. It can filter out a lot of nonsense, provide a history of activity, and protect them from identity theft while online.

5. Limit screen-time

The less your children are on screens, the less likely they will be targeted for identity theft or be exposed to inappropriate content. Set limits for screen time and stick to them. You should also encourage screen-free activities such as cooking together, socializing with friends or family, and joining extracurricular activities. 

6. Create a media guideline WITH your family

Creating media guidelines with the family, rather than on your own, is an inclusive, fair way to set rules. Make sure to set clear, measurable rules for which everyone is on the same page.

7. Don’t use screens as a pacifier

It can be easy for a parent to sit their child in front of a screen to save themselves from a possible headache. Don’t take the easy way out; screens should be a privilege for children, not something to get them to be quiet. 

8. Have the “difficult conversations” 

This isn’t easy, but it is necessary. Speaking to kids about the explicit content they may come across online can be awkward for parents. Check out this resource to learn more about how you can conquer this parenting challenge. 

Parents Unite

As parents, we are often overwhelmed when it comes to our kids and technology. We want to keep them safe, but we also want them to become capable, strong, intelligent adults.   The rapidly changing world of technology makes it critical for us to set specific rules for our kids, set up safety measures and parental controls on their devices, and most importantly, to talk about tough topics. As kids venture into the online world, they are bombarded by images, demands for their attention, and opportunities to compare themselves to photoshopped images of celebrities, and curated, filtered images of people who all seem to be living “perfect” lives. 

This is why we must be the first, best source of information when it comes to media, social media, gaming, and pornography–and its opposite, healthy sexuality. Some people fear that bringing these topics up will “give their kids ideas.” We want to give them ideas: healthy ones!

Give your kids the idea that you are a great source of reliable, honest information. Let them know through your words and actions that you can speak calmly, comfortably and rationally about human issues that affect all of us, namely, curiosity and sexuality. As you initiate discussions about these topics, share your personal experiences, spiritual values, and expectations kindly and thoughtfully. Your child will begin to see that you are ready to talk about “tough” topics and more importantly, listen to them. I promise you as you answer your kids’ questions openly and sincerely, they will come back to you for your wisdom and empathy.

Need Help with Tough Topics? We got you covered!


Dina Alexander is the founder and president of Educate and Empower Kids (, an organization determined to strengthen families by teaching digital citizenship, media literacy, and healthy sexuality education—including education about the dangers of online porn. She is the creator of Noah’s New Phone: A Story About Using Technology for Good, Petra’s Power to See: A Media Literacy Adventure, Messages About Me: A Journey to Healthy Body Image, How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography and the 30 Days of Sex Talks and 30 Days to a Stronger Child programs. She received her master’s degree in recreation therapy from the University of Utah and her bachelors from Brigham Young University. She is an amazing mom and loves spending time with her husband and three kids. Together, they live in Texas.


Anderson, M., & Jiang, J. (2018, September 19). Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018 | Pew Research Center. Retrieved September 22, 2018, from

Power, R. Child (N/A).Identity Theft: New Evidence Indicates Identity Thieves are Targeting Children for Unused Social Security Numbers. Retrieved October 22, 2018, from


Real Life Lessons Learned from Beauty and the Beast

Real Life Lessons Learned from Beauty and the Beast

By Marina Spears

Recently I woke up in the middle of night, unable to sleep. I turned on the television and began to scroll through a very long “My List” on Netflix–that I never seem to have the time to watch. Since it was 3 a.m. and sleep was nowhere in sight, I decided to watch Beauty and the Beast, one of my favorite films.

What an eye opener! I have always loved Belle’s character. She demonstrated strength, kindness, unselfishness, the ability to look beyond physical appearance, and most importantly the ability to see past the Beast’s faults and bring out his strengths. But this time it just felt wrong.  It wasn’t Belle’s responsibility to change the Beast, and certainly she should not be treated poorly in her attempt to “help him learn to love another.”

I began to think about this plotline: the girl who holds a magic key to change a rough, but good-natured guy and help him become the prince, she knows is really inside of him.  This message of “if a girl loves a guy enough, he will change” is the foundation for many abusive relationships and shifts responsibility from the guy to the girl.

It does not stop there…

Many portrayals of boys/men in media allow them a free pass when it comes to their behavior.  Think about how many times male characters ogle female characters in movies, or even worse peep on young women in locker rooms or showers.  The audience laughs with a “boys will be boys” attitude. And what about the male character who doesn’t take “no” for answer, and the audience views it as romantic?

Is it any wonder that girls often keep quiet when a boy makes a rude joke or touches her inappropriately? The messages they are bombarded with encourage their silence, make light of boys sexualized and/or aggressive behavior, and even worse push the responsibility onto the girl.

In a recent study reported by Huffington Post, more than 30% of teens report being sexually harassed online, yet very few ever report it. In the same study, 81% of women report some form of sexual harassment, and most of it goes unreported. Girls under the age of 19 are at greatest risk, and account for 51% of reported sexual assaults (Scheff, 2017).

As parents we must do all we can to change these statistics and change the societal attitudes that often lead people into abusive relationships. These changes start in our homes, with our attitudes, our example, and our open, honest communication.

Communicating with our children directly about these issues is vital. Plan a family night specifically to talk about gender roles in the media and abusive relationships. This will give you the opportunity to prepare and involve them in the planning. Conversations can also be very powerful right in the moment, after watching a movie with confusing depictions of relationships.

With Young Children:

Teach body safety. Use correct names for body parts and let them know that certain parts of their bodies are private.

Teach them to trust their gut. Talk about trusting feelings, and the importance for children to follow their instincts if they feel uncomfortable around someone, they should let you know.  We can unknowingly teach children to override their own safety sensors in trying to teach kindness and respect.

Teach them about healthy boundaries. Give them permission to say ”no”, when someone acts in a way that makes them uncomfortable.

Teach them with positive examples. Label examples of kindness, respect, thoughtfulness when it is demonstrated in media and in real life, teaching them how to treat others and expectations of how they should be treated.

Teach them where to go for help. Be a safe space for your children to come, even when they make mistakes, often children avoid talking to their parents because they fear they will get in trouble.

Teach them about healthy sexuality. Watch this video about Talking to Young Kids about Sexual Intimacy.

With Older kids:

Teach media literacy. Teach them to be discerning regarding media–especially social media— and discuss unhealthy depictions of relationships, take time to talk about something you have seen or heard together that reinforces damaging relationships.

Teach them about healthy relationships. Talk about qualities that make a relationship healthy: mutual respect, honesty, support, trust, good communication.

Teach them about unhealthy relationships. Talk about qualities that can make a relationship unhealthy: physical abuse, controlling behavior, obsessiveness, intense jealousy, lying.

Teach them about open communication. If you have experienced some form of sexual harassment share it, let them know it is okay to talk about it!

Teach them to be a good friend. Support them to support their friends and to stand up to inappropriate behavior.

Teach them about healthy boundaries. Teach them that boundaries are the rules of how we treat others and how we want to be treated, it includes physical, mental and emotional boundaries. Discuss ways to handle unwanted sexual attention/harassment. Help them to distinguish between being assertive and being mean, and let them know that they are not the same.

Teach them about healthy sexuality. Watch this video about How to Talk to Older Kids about Sexual Intimacy.

Our children are besieged by many confusing messages, in movies, songs, television, social media etc etc. Often when the good is mixed with the bad, like Beauty and the Beast, it can be very hard for children and even teens to sort it all out.  Remember, you as their parent are a source of clarity, so talk to them and listen to them. One discussion is not enough. Talk to your kids about these issues consistently, and make it an ongoing conversation. These resources can help:

All of the above talking points can be found in our books 30 Days of Sex Talks for ages 3-1, 8-11, and 12+.

Our book 30 Days to a Stronger Child, is a rich resource of lessons and conversation starters, all designed to strengthen your child’s ability to be resilient and reinforce your connection.

Petra’s Power to See, is a also valuable teaching tool in discerning underlying media messages.

Engaging stories, great discussions!


Marina Spears received her Bachelor of Science in Marriage and Family Studies from BYU Idaho.  She runs the student guidance program at the Summit School of the Poconos, and facilitates a support group for families of addicts. She is also a contributing writer and editor at Educate and Empower Kids.  She is the mother of five children and loves to spend time with her family.



Chatterjee, R. (2018, February 21). A New Survey Finds 81 Percent Of Women Have Experienced Sexual Harassment. Retrieved from NPR:

Scheff, S. (2017, February 24). Teens, Cyberbullying, Sexual Harassment and Social Media: The New Normal? Retrieved from Huffpost:

Sexual Abuse Statistics. (2016). Retrieved from Teen

Four Ways to Instill a Healthy Body Image in Your Children

Four Ways to Instill a Healthy Body Image in Your Children


By Emily Krause

In today’s media-saturated world, it can be difficult to sustain a healthy body image. We are constantly being bombarded with images of  “physical perfection”, which can take a toll on self-confidence and self-worth. This negative effect is greatest among our youth. In the world of social media, the “selfie” with just the right angles and perfect filters allows children to alter their appearance, which sends a strong and unhealthy message that a “perfected appearance” is the norm.  It is so important to teach our children to have a healthy body image, if we can instill these practices early on, they will reap the benefits for the rest of their lives.

Teach that healthy body image does not mean having a perfect appearance

Help children and teens understand that they do not have to be in “perfect shape” to like their bodies.  Encourage them to accept themselves as they are, and to recognize that no one person on the earth has a “perfect body”. Assist them to find things they love about their body and to consider all their body can do, not just what their bodies looks like.

Set goals  regarding abilities rather than appearance

Your children are so much more than their appearance: their goals should be too! Center their thoughts on how amazing their minds are, and of how much they are capable. Help them to create an all encompassing form of self love that does not revolve around body-focused goals.

Show respect to all types of bodies

Children are greatly impacted by the example their parents set regarding body image. It is critical in teaching healthy body image to be aware of how you speak about others and your own body. Be positive. Body shaming others and yourself is a powerful model that children and teens will follow. It can create negative self image when kids .. pick up on those negative judgements and internalize them. We should be showing our children that everyone deserves respect. Over time, our bodies reflect all of the amazing and noteworthy things we have done in our lives. Highlighting this fact to your children will eventually trickle into their own visions of themselves and others. Seeing the beauty in the diversity of every single body shows that even if they are different than the images they see in the media, they are completely, 100% beautiful!

Buy clothes you actually enjoy wearing

It may not seem like it, but the clothes you buy have an enormous impact on how you view yourself. Feeling content in what you are wearing can go a long way. This easily transfers to you being a completely intrepid woman. Once again, our kids pick up on everything. Investing in body-positive companies has the potential to completely change how you feel about yourself. And with that shows your kids another great example to better love themselves.

*Companies like Old Navy and JCrew focus on showing love to every shape and size. They focus on making clothes for real women, providing plus sizes for adults

*True & Co. is a company who offers bras that are formed to your body. They have a specific mission to make every woman feel confident in their own skin. They even provide an extensive quiz to select your actual bra size..

*There are also companies that are tailored specifically for your children’s changing body shapes. The Children’s Place and Land’s End have clothes for kids of all sizes. They even offer a section of extended sizes so a child of any shape or form can feel self-assured when they leave the house

Create an affirmations journal

It is very easy to slip into a bad habit of self-hate. Focusing on your flaws rather than your great qualities is something we are all guilty of! A great example you can set for your kids, is keeping  an affirmations journal. Showing them that you can speak to yourself with love and appreciation will inspire them to do the same. It only takes a few minutes every day to write out the things you’re proud of and positive thoughts about yourself. This can include your work, or even just something that made you feel good that day. By simply changing your self talk from negative patterns or harsh thoughts, to positive statements about yourself and your day will create a healthy environment for you and your child to thrive in!

Including these practices in our everyday lives can build the kind of inclusivity children need to see. Create a diverse set of images and role models for women and children everywhere. Let the world know who your true self is and you are not afraid to show it!

Check out the following books that can help children better under body positivity:

Messages about me: Wade’s Story, A Boy’s Quest for Healthy Body Image

Messages About Me: Sydney’s Story, A Girl’s Journey to Healthy Body Image

Social Media: A Highlight Reel That is Destroying Our Kids

Social Media: A Highlight Reel That is Destroying Our Kids


By Mattie Barron

Social media is often referred to as a “highlight reel,” meaning everyone shares their best moments in life. Because of this, comparison is becoming a common negative feeling, especially in kids. “Such comparisons may occur frequently with [social media] use because users tend to disproportionately represent positive life developments, portray themselves to be happier than they actually are” (Hanna, 2017). According to a study done on about 1,500 teens and adults, Instagram was rated the “worst social media network for mental health and well being” (Macmillan, 2017).

What social media doesn’t show is how everyone’s life is just as imperfect as our own. It doesn’t show our arguments with family members, your neighbor losing her job, or the moment your teenager gives you the “I hate you” look. And it isn’t capable of showing us the loneliness and isolation that many people are feeling.

Occasionally you may come across a post of a mom with her child’s spit-up all over her or a so-called “Pinterest fail,” but how common is it to see things like this?

Posts like these exemplify reality! They showcase a non-picture-perfect life. They are wonderfully relatable rather than comparable. Since the majority of posts are highlights though, it’s hard not to compare our worst to others’ best.

I’m scrolling through Instagram right now, and out of the first 20 posts I see, not one is being vulnerable. Everyone is smiling, showcasing a great moment in their life or looking confident as ever. If I’m having a bad day and I scroll through social media, I often feel worse about my day because I see everyone enjoying their life with no stress or struggles.

It’s almost impossible to remember that everyone is struggling when all I see is “happiness.” Now, I’m not saying we should to post every bad moment in our life or that we even need to. I just want our kids to stop comparing their life through the flawed lens of social media.

How can we teach our kids not to get caught up in comparison?

Limit Screen Time

“Several findings indicate that greater time spent on [social media] is associated with more social comparison, which, in turn, is associated with more depressive symptoms” (Hanna, 2017). From personal experience, the more time I spend on social media, the worse I feel about myself. Every kid should feel like they have a valuable life. Rather than having your kids spend their free time on their screen, encourage them to indulge in a meaningful activity such as art, music, dance, sports, or a hobby! This will significantly increase their self-worth far more than any time spent on social media. Limiting screen time will help kids combat depressive feelings.

Discourage the “Discover” Page

On Instagram, there is a “discover” page that highlights posts you may like. I have spent mindless hours on this page, telling myself nothing but negative things. “Wow, she’s so pretty, why can’t I look like that?” or “I wish I had that outfit” or “My photos aren’t as cool as hers.”

I have a near and dear friend who has embraced Instagram this last year. She’s gone from 500 followers to 18k in months. She loves to pose, edit, and inspire! Since she’s taken on the title of a “cute famous Instagrammer,” I had to ask, how she does it. If I were her, I would feel stressed to post a new picture-perfect photo every day. And I was surprised to hear that it’s a love/hate relationship for her.

She expressed her enjoyment in photography, but also said, “It can be a lot to see so many images of people doing so many fun and different things, all with different styles and it can be easy to have yours lost and spiral down a hole of comparison.” Even my friend, who’s the cutest person alive, struggles with comparison.

Encourage Kids to Embrace THEIR life

Since I’ve stayed away from the discover page, I’ve embraced my photos and social media presence. Blurry ones, crystal clear ones, good lighting, bad lighting, etc. My Instagram page represents memories I cherish. It’s for me and my family, not to impress anyone else. Reminding our kids (many times) to keep this mindset will greatly help them not to compare.

I like to think of Instagram as a personal journal rather than a socializing network. Encourage your kids to be deliberate and authentic, but safe.

Help Kids Understand Reality  

We see beauty ads with women who have no pores or lines on their faces, yet everyone we see in person has pores. Ads aren’t showcasing reality. Just about every photo we see on social media is filtered and edited in some way. It’s important to teach our kids that media-even social media–is unrealistic. Our book, Petras Power to See: A Media Literacy Adventure, is a great resource for helping kids to better understand the reality of media illusions. It emphasizes how advertisements and social media is often littered with unhealthy messages.

If your kids can see a photo or video and understand that it has been edited to be unrealistically beautiful, this will help them not to play the comparison game.

Specifically, parents: take advantage of small teaching moments. If you’re driving in the car with your daughter and see beauty advertisements, let her know that the model is airbrushed, edited to be slimmer, and is showcased to be perfect, which just simply doesn’t exist. Teach her that it’s a false message being sent to her that she can look like that.

Teach Your Kids to Be Kind to Themselves

If comparison is too harsh on your children, consider helping them look for the positive in themselves. Doing so will ultimately help them feel better about who they are.

This can be done through positive self-talk, which is taught in our book, 30 Days to A Stronger Child. Self-talk is inward and validates our minds. It’s saying phrases such as “You can do this!” or “I will be better next time,” instead of  saying “I failed again.” It’s about turning our negative thoughts into positive ones. Tell your kids to think of uplifting songs, quotes, or memories once negative self-talk begins. This will help train their mind to look for and stay focused on the positive in themselves.

Empower your children to use positive self-talk by committing to it and practicing it yourself. Be their example and teach accordingly! Along with this commitment, know that the power of limiting screen time, discouraging the discover page, and helping kids embrace their life and understand reality, are substantial steps to help a child combat a life of comparison. Your kids may not understand the benefits of you being involved now, but will certainly thank you for it later.

A great resource! Available in Kindle or paperback.

Available in Kindle or Paperback!


Mattie Barron is a current Senior at Brigham Young University-Idaho pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science in Marriage and Family Studies. She is from Tri-cities, WA and has a passion to help create and ignite strong families. She hopes to work in the school system and aid in the support of children and families.


There are affiliate links in the blog post. When you use them to make purchases, we thank you for supporting Educate and Empower Kids!


Hanna, E., Ward, L. M., Seabrook, R. C., Jerald, M., Reed, L., Giaccardi, S., & Lippman, J. R. (2017). Contributions of Social Comparison and Self-Objectification in Mediating Associations Between Facebook Use and Emergent Adults’ Psychological Well-Being. Cyberpsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, 20(3), 172-179.

Macmillan, A. (2017). Why instagram is the worst social media for mental health. Time Website. Accessed May 16, 2018.


Teach Your Kids to Be Different: 15 Great Halloween Candy Alternatives

Teach Your Kids to Be Different: 15 Great Halloween Candy Alternatives

By Amanda Kimball

It’s the time of year again when I find myself wandering down the candy isle. Hypnotized by the bright orange and black packaging, I wonder, “What am I going to give my trick-or-treaters this year?” Do I go with my favorites (everything chocolate), do I give out the big candy bars and become the house everyone wants to go to the following year, or do I save a few dollars and give out small, simple stuff? I am in a whirlwind of candy overload. Even though I know I shouldn’t, I always end up getting something for myself. But is what I want for myself healthy for trick-or-treaters? Probably not.

It seems that every Halloween, kids are bombarded with candy, and every day those same kids are being bombarded with messages from the media. They can never get a break from seeing media everywhere they go: on TV, at every store, and even at school. They are told how to dress, how they should do their hair, how they should look, talk, and act, and even what they should be eating. Naturally, it has become normalized for kids to eat huge amounts of candy and indulge in every kind of sweet treat during the holidays. And it all begins at Halloween.

This year, I’m going to do better. I’m teaching my kids to question the messages they are receiving through the media. Some of the questions I am going to ask them include, “When you see a sign that shows a kid eating a big candy bar with a large smile on their face, what is this sign really saying? Does this mean that kids are only really happy when they eat that specific type of candy bar?”

If our children are not taught how to decode the messages from  media they encounter on a daily basis, they may begin to feel what they see, read, or hear must be true. They may think, “If I want to be happy, then I need to have that candy bar. If I want to be popular, I need to have those clothes. If I want to be beautiful, I need to make my body look like the model’s body in the picture.” We need to teach our kids to be different and learn how to break down what the media is selling.

What can I do differently for my neighborhood trick-or-treaters this year?  

Here are 15 fun alternatives to candy we can give out this Halloween:

  1. Mini Play-Doh
  2. Bubbles
  3. Halloween stamps
  4. Glow Sticks (Big hit!)
  5. Punch balloons
  6. Fruit leather
  7. Fake mustaches
  8. Glider airplanes
  9. Healthy, organic snacks
  10. Erasers
  11. A handful of change
  12. Witches fingers
  13. Spider rings
  14. Stickers
  15. Pencils


The “candy” the media is feeding our kids is not healthy and can hold some serious dangers. As parents we have the power to help our children see past the messages and realize that beauty is not skin deep.  

Check out Petra’s Power to See: A Media Literacy Adventure for a great story and more great talks on media, media illusions, social media, and more!

Also available: Messages About Me: A Journey to Healthy Body Image for a great story and great discussions about media and other messages that affect our body image.

Engaging stories, great discussions!

Amanda Kimball will be earning her bachelor’s degree in Marriage and Family Studies this winter. She is a mother of three children and is married to a loving and devoted husband of 11 years. She loves taking family trips to the beach and can not wait to start decorating her house for Halloween!