Social Media

Keeping Your Family Safe Online As A New School Year Commences

A new school year is upon us and the first thing many families want to do is share that first school day through social media. In my opinion, that should not be the first thing that comes to your mind. You should be thinking about the conversation you will have with your kiddos after the first day of school. It’s those conversations around the supper table that make a positive difference in the lives of our kids. Here are some tips to keep your family safe online and help you enjoy the new school year.


If you take a photo of your child with other children around them, it may not be ok to share it on Facebook. One of the first arguments I hear from any parent or grandparent is, “I’m only sharing with my friends.” Well, they must have missed the memo that Facebook is part of what is known as the World Wide Web. Hence, nothing is sacred in our online world. Screenshots are so easy to take today and it’s not smart practice to share photos of other minors without permission from the parents. We do not know what is going on in the lives of many kids. By not sharing a photo, you may save a child’s life. Many kids are in the middle of custody battles, have parents dealing with stalkers, and the list goes on and on. Be the protector and keep your photos to yourself.


I cringe every single time that I see a photo of kids boarding a school bus with the bus number and street sign clearly visible. Quite often the social media post also includes the time of day the bus arrives. DO NOT do this! A photo with all of this information makes it very easy for someone to know where your kids are during every single moment of the school day. We put our trust in school bus drivers, teachers, and other school personnel to keep our kids safe; when often times, it’s the parents and/or grandparents actions that put the safety of their kids at risk.


The cute photos with your front door surrounded with beautiful flowers make it very easy for a “bad” guy to find your kids. Often times, your house number is right there in the photo. Find a bush or tree, something very generic to take a photo that you do want to share on social media. You can share the photo, but give away zero information in regards to the location. This means that the location setting on your smartphone also needs to be turned off.

Here’s to a safe school year as new adventures await you and your family. Be safe and smart. It’s up to parents and grandparents to be good online role models. My challenge to each of you is to limit the time you spend on social media and make memories that don’t always involve a smartphone or camera in tow.



Michele on stage

Dr. Michele Borba, Best Selling Author, Parenting & Bullying Expert Is Coming To North Iowa

Dr. Michele Borba is coming to Mason City, Iowa on September 28, 2016. Best selling author Dr. Michele Borba offers nine proven habits to help nurture empathy in children- from birth to young adulthood- and explains why developing empathy is a key predictor of which kids will thrive and succeed in the new global, digital driven world.

Dr. Michele Borba

Caring about others isn’t just about playing nice; it’s a skill that’s vital for children’s mental health, leadership skills, and continued well-being, today and tomorrow. Dr. Borba’s nine-step plan for raising successful, happy kids who also are kind, moral, courageous, and resilient provides a revolutionary new framework for learning empathy and is culled from 30 years of research and traveling the world to find the best solutions. Her findings show that empathetic kids will thrive in the future, but the seeds of success can be planted today- one habit at a time.

Best selling author, Dr. Michele Borba’s book Unselfie, offers a 9-step program to help parents cultivate empathy in children, from birth to young adulthood—and explains why developing a healthy sense of empathy is a key predictor of which kids will thrive and succeed in the future.


Unselfie book


Dr. Borba is an internationally recognized educational psychologist and parenting, bullying and character expert whose aim is to strengthen children’s empathy and resilience, and create safe, compassionate school cultures. She has spoken to parents and teachers on five continents and delivered keynotes to over one million participants including Harvard, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, USA-FA, Common Ground,, Kaiser Permanente, Johnson & Johnson, Girl Scouts of America, Wal Mart, McDonalds, Santa Clara University, and at a recent TEDx talk. She is a regular NBC contributor appearing 135 times on the Today Show, featured on three Dateline specials as well as Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Dr. Drew, The View, NBC Nightly News, The Doctors, Fox News, The Early Show, CNN and others. A best- selling author of 24 books and former classroom teacher, she is a wife and proud mom of three sons.

Social Connections, LLC has partnered with the Mason City Community School District and the Mason City Police Department to bring you this event. I firmly believe that when a community learns to embrace empathy, the culture changes. Dr. Michele Borba is an excellent presenter and I guarantee you, that you will change how you think about others when you attend this event.

There will be more information to come, as this event gets closer. If you would like to be a financial sponsor of this event, please email and we will figure out how you can best contribute. Thank you to everyone for helping bring Dr. Michele Borba to North Iowa.

Financial Contributors:

Mason City High School 7-12 PTO

Laura Weers

All of These Apps, What’s A Parent To Do?

It’s no secret, kids are using apps day in and day out. Often times, it’s parents that hand over their smart phones and tell their kids to be quiet and surf the net. How often do you see a child three-four years old holding a smart phone while their parents are shopping in the grocery store? If you look around, you will see this quite often.

Girl with phone

Have you heard the words Yik Yak while riding in the car with your kids? Here’s a wrap of what this app is all about. The app Yik Yak allows users to text “Yaks” up to 200 characters per message. These “Yaks” are then viewable by anyone else who is a Yakker, and has a GPS location closest to the person who wrote the “Yak”. One of these messages usually reaches up to 500 people. Although “Yaks” are anonymous, there is potential that kids might start revealing private information to strangers. 

Snapchat is fun! I think we are on the cusp of watching this social media platform morph into something amazing for businesses. Millennials are on this platform day in and day out. Businesses have an opportunity to grab onto them on this platform. These short video clips can be fun and can make great marketing material. Here’s where the problem lies. Many youth under the age of 10 are on this platform, with no education or direction. If your kids are using Snapchat, get on it and start snapping with them! Are your neighborhood kids on Snapchat, follow them and start snapping with them. Cyberbullying does not have to happen, be aware of what is going on!

Something to think about when you or your kids are taking selfies. Selfies are posted from anywhere and in anyplace. Do you want the address of your home showing up in a selfie? Do you want everyone around the world to know that you own a large gun cabinet? Do you want your prized collection of coins released to the world to view?

Business connections through social media

And then there’s whisper. Whisper is an anonymous confession app. With this app, you can place text over pictures and share your thoughts and feelings. The shared photos display the area you are posting from. The app has a feature that allows you to search for others who are posting from within a mile of you. This app provides strangers access to your child’s location and thoughts.

I don’t know about you, but trying to keep up with all of these apps can be exhausting. And we all know, kids will find a way around anything and everything, when it comes to hiding things from mom and dad. One more tip while we are talking apps. Make sure your Amazon account is set up so a password has be entered to buy movies. Yes, kids of all ages can push a button and buy a movie!

Most importantly, talk to your kids offline. Yes, kids need to know how to talk to people without a screen. When our boys were younger, I made them order their meal in restaurants. They had to look at someone and talk to them. Sounds simple, but in today’s crazy, busy world, it’s often easier for mom or dad to place the child’s order.

Tell me. How are you engaging with your kids on social media? I’d love to hear how you are engaging with them and showing them how to use them in a smart way.



Tips For Finding A Job Online

You can find a job online. I found one, a few years ago, when I was not looking for one. Did you know that businesses have a hard time finding people that know how to behave online? I learned early on, that many do.

I hopped on the Twitter train several years ago. It was quite evident that a lot of Twitter users did not comprehend that Twitter was a doorway to the world wide web. Several people that I followed were swearing and being very rude. Now, what could be debated, is what is rude in the year 2016 and what is not. Respect goes a long way in my book!

I later had a discussion with the company that hired me. I asked them, “Why did you ask me to come work for you?” Their response was, “You were the only person that had been engaging with us that had a trail of clean Tweets”. Really? I was stunned. I do not swear on social media channels, simply because, it’s not going to get me anywhere.

Social Media

If you choose to swear on your social media channels, keep this in mind. Many reputable companies will not hire you. Business owners want people that will respect themselves and others. How you behave online shows your true colors. It’s true… look around, you will quickly see what I am referring to.  If you have an online business and are looking to work with other companies, keep in mind, your online behavior is the first thing they will be looking at.

I often hear millennials say, “It’s how we are.” OK.. I understand that. But, I can also tell you that I know several millennials that are getting some very nice jobs because of their positive behavior online. The ones that are not getting the jobs they desire, are the ones complaining that nobody will hire them.

Think about it…. I would not be where I am today had I started swearing on my Twitter account seven years ago. I was hired because of my positive online behavior on Twitter. At that point I had not hopped on Facebook, and Instagram was not even a thought in 2009.

If you are not getting the jobs that you are looking for, you may want to look at your online behavior. If it’s less than respectable, change it now. In today’s online economy, you need to be smart and safe online. If I was looking to hire someone today, the first thing I would do, would be to comb through their social media channels. Photos and words speak volumes. The Grandma rule matters! If you don’t want to share it with Grandma, why post it online?


Boy With Tablet

Three Reasons Why You Should Care About Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is technically bullying that takes place using technology and it amazes me that I continually run into people that say, “Why should I care?” Here are three reasons why you should pay attention to this matter.

  • It is a fact that kids that are bullied online or offline, have a rough time socially. This in turn creates serious problems that often times include problems with the law.
  • Youth that are cyberbullied often have self esteem issues accompanied by depression.
  • Citizens in communities need to learn how to be upstanders, not bystanders.

Boy With Tablet

When youth in communities continually have problems with the law, everyone suffers. People begin to congregate indoors, as they no longer feel safe outdoors. Kids no longer frequent playgrounds and a general feeling of being “unsafe” prevails. It’s a fact that kids who are cyberbullied often fear for their safety while at school, therefore; they skip school and cause problems in communities. Which in turn, leads to problems with the law.

Depression can be life changing and can begin to show up when a cyberbullying incident has occurred. If one cyberbullying incident can be prevented, one depression diagnosis may be prevented. If cyberbullying is the cause of your child or grandchild’s depression, would you think differently?

Everyone needs to learn how to be an upstander and not a bystander. Think about this. If you came across a video on Facebook that involved a child being beat up on a school bus, what would you do? Would you keep scrolling through the feed and hope the incident was a “mistake?” Or, would you report the incident to authorities?

When citizens step up to the plate and become upstanders, it’s a win, win situation in all communities. Families feel safer and there are fewer youth having issues with the law. I struggle with the comment, “Why should I care?” when the topic of discussion is cyberbullying. Are you a bystander or an upstander? I would like to think that you are an upstander, but reality tells me that we have more bystanders than upstanders. Please think about being an upstander and being a leader in your community when it comes to cyberbullying. If you see something that is trying to make trouble online with someone, please step up and make a difference. You can be the upstander and save a life or two along the way.

Parenting Through Apps Is Our World Today

Let’s face it, kids today are using smart phones day in and day out. And I am here to tell you that they are most likely not being used to call their parents. Apps are the reason most of our kids are using smart phones. The argument that parents have when it comes to giving their child a smart phone is the fact that they want their kids to be able to contact them. That is a true statement, as kids do make an occasional phone call, send text messages and they adore social media and their apps!


Just last week I had a parent tell me, “My child (11 years old) knows who to use the smart phone, so I don’t have too.” My jaw dropped. Seriously? Parents, wake up! Your kids are sexting, sending obscene text messages and they are not afraid to tell a friend something online that they would not want to say in a face to face conversation. Think about this. You, as a parent, probably have a few Facebook Friends. When you see one of them out and about, do you have a face to face conversation or walk on by? Its important for adults to have those real conversations, so our kids can see how important those face to face conversations are.

Did you know that it is not uncommon for our kids of today to share a nude photo of themselves online? Sexting recently hit the newswire in my hometown, and it sickens me that many parents do not see this as a problem. Seriously? Where is the respect for oneself? It is NOT ok to take nude photos and share them through social media. I cannot bear to hear the words, “It goes away after 10 seconds one more time.” Kids are hanging out on SnapChat because they assume these photos magically disappear. Lesson here- Parents, open up a SnapChat account and follow your kids and their friends.

Boy With Tablet




Instagram is an app that many young kids are flocking too. The best advice I can give a parent that has a child that wants to use Instagram is to follow them and their kids’ friends. I personally had a friend who saved the life of an 11 year old because she was following him on Instagram. His parents were not. In fact, his parents did not know what Instagram was, how to take a Screen shot and that Instagram was an app that their son could use. This 11 year old used Instagram as a cry for help, as he posted a “suicide” note through Instagram. That is reason enough for parents to learn how to use the apps that our kids are using.

Invest in a service that allows you, as a parent, to see where your kids are going online. Yes, this will be an added monthly cost to your cell phone bill, but worth it. If you can afford to give your child a mini computer, you can afford the $9.95 monthly fee (somewhat near that) to keep them safe while online.

I challenge you- be “that” parent! Be the one that is standing up to protect the kids in your community. Someone has to take the lead, why not you?

Educating Families On Cyberbullying And Bullying Matters In Every Community

Tonight I was part of a Cyberbullying/bullying presentation through our local YMCA. Sadly, there were no families in attendance. What I find so interesting is the fact that I see several folks complain online that schools, local organizations such as the YMCA, churches, and other places families frequent are not doing anything to assist when it comes to cyberbullying and bullying. Well, if that’s the case, where was everyone tonight?

What’s even more interesting is the fact that people are still saying, through social media, that our community does not care about cyberbullying and bullying. Sadly, these parents need to take a step back and look at what they are posting on social media. It’s true our tweens and teens don’t always post smart things, but parents are just as guilty. I have seen a teenage girl post on Facebook that she is afraid to go to school because of what her Mom has posted on Facebook.

It’s time for folks in all communities to work together, find solutions to work together so “home” is safe for everyone. With our ever connected communities through social media, online activity is a part of our homes today. Therefore, it’s of the utmost importance that we all watch how we behave online. For parents, it’s easier than ever to monitor the activity of their kids on line. There are a wide variety of apps available to parents everywhere, and yes they do cost money. Often times parents will say, “I can’t afford the app.” My response is, “If you can’t afford the app, you cannot afford the phone.”

I’m thinking back to when our boys were maybe 8 and 12. Our local police department had a program on keeping kids safe online, as My Space had came onto the scene. My boys and I attended, and at that time we were the only ones in attendance and one other parent. So, I’m thinking that I am a Mom that pays attention to online activity and others don’t. And maybe parents think smart phones are “cheap” toys to hand their kids. I guess I’m really not getting the whole picture, as to why parents don’t care about online safety. I’d love to hear where you get your information when it comes to keeping kids safe online. I’m assuming parents get it all online, as it’s harder to have a face to face conversation.

So, I’m curious. If you are a parent, are you concerned about cyberbullying/bullying? Are you open to working with others to make your community safer or do you know it all? I know, for a fact, that I have a lot to learn when it comes to cyberbullying and bullying as the apps are changing all the time. There’s always something new to learn when it comes to social media and I will continue to educate folks all across the nation on being safe online.

So, if you live in my hometown, join us on Monday, October 20th at 6:30 p.m. at our local YMCA where we will discuss cyberbullying/bullying and how we can make our community a safer place to call home.


Join In The Discussion: Cyberbullying/Bulling At The YMCA In Mason City

National Cyber Safety Awareness Month kicks off  in October. Our community here in North Iowa is not immune to cyber bullying and/or bullying. I am pleased to have partnered with the YMCA in Mason City, Iowa. We are presenting a program on cyber bullying and bullying on October 7, 2014, 6:30 p.m. in the Teen Room at the Mason City YMCA.

Cyber/Bullying Bullying


We will talk about all of the social media platforms that are out in cyberspace and discuss how families can take charge. Let’s face it, no family is immune to cyber bullying. Laptops, tablets, and smart phones are often within reach of all family members. We will talk about how we, as community members, can learn to be upstanders as opposed to bystanders.

We will discuss the privacy policies and terms of use for the social media platforms that our teens and tweens insist on using. Instagram is a particular hot hangout for young teens today. Facebook is still widely used by kids under the age of 13, because Mom and Dad think since their child’s friends are on it, it must be ok. We will address all of these issues.

This will be a start for our community here in North Iowa. Social Media has been very vibrant throughout the first six weeks of the new school year. Each of us needs to take a look at the examples we are setting for our kids and make sure our kids are safe online.

Join us…. hop in on the discussion! We are tackling cyberbullying/bullying head on, on October 7th at the YMCA in Mason City at 6:30 p.m. A brand new state of the net survey  shows that more than 1 million children were harassed, threatened, or bullied on Facebook in the past year. That, my friends, has got to stop! Our kids are our future and we have to stand our ground now. Be a part of the solution, as we strive to make North Iowa a safer place for families.

Your Kids And Online Safety

Each day I hear someone say, “I really don’t know how to handle this.” What makes my head turn is the fact that this person is referring to the internet and social media. The internet is a part of our lives and it is not going anywhere. We all need to step up to the plate and do our part when it comes to keeping our kids safe online.


There has been discussion that kids are leaving Facebook, when in fact they are still there and actively involved in several other social media platforms that Mom and Dad do not know exist. Sue Scheff, really dove into the Are Teens Really Leaving Facebook issue. If you ask kids, they will tell you they are everywhere when it comes to social media.

Here are two tips to keep you and your family a little safer online.

#1 Tip: There Are No Do-Overs When It Comes To Online Activity

From words to pictures, once these are posted online they are there forever. Kids like to argue that Snapchat is great because the photos disappear. Keep in mind, there are data bases and screen shots everywhere in our world today. Once it’s online, it’s there forever. This is something our kids cannot hear enough of, it bears repeating day in and day out.

#2 Tip: Know Where Your Kids Are Going Online

Most major cell phone carriers offer parental controls for smart phone users. Parents can follow where their kids go online and help their kids choose smart apps. If your kids are under the age of 13, you may want to think how they will utilize their smart phones. Most social media platforms are not designed for a child under 13 years of age. If you do opt to lie about your child’s age, be sure you have the passwords to all of their accounts. Should a cyber bullying issue come to light between kids, law enforcement often contacts the owner of the account. If you have been an active participant in your child’s online activity, you should have an idea that this visit was coming.  It’s beneficial for parents to understand where their kids are going online and how to use all of the apps themselves. My advice- If a parent does not understand how an app works, there is no reason for a child to have the app installed on their smart phone.

Parents can lead the way when it comes to teaching their kids internet safety. By being active participants with their kids on their smart phones, families can utilize technology in a good way. If Mom and Dad are Facebook friends with their teens, it’s important for Mom and Dad to follow the rules, as well. The same rules apply to Moms and Dads that apply to kids, once it’s online it’s on the internet forever.

So, the next time you decide to post something online, maybe think about the “Grandma Rule.” If you would want to show your post to your Grandma, by all means, post it! If you even have to ask yourself, “Is this post OK?” Do NOT post it!

Are you and your family enjoying your smart phones or are you struggling with how to use them? I’d love to hear about your experiences, as I know we can all learn from each other.



Tips From The Best Of The Best On Being Safe Online

I recently spent a week-end in St. Augustine, Florida, surrounded with some of the best of the best when it comes to keeping all of us safe online. The community of St. Augustine is blessed to be home to CES (Community Empowerment Series). I wondered if I would come home thinking, ” Should I go offline?” Well, of course not. What it boils down to is being smarter online. When we take the time to educate ourselves, it makes our online experience a whole lot safer.

I am proud to call each of these presenters my friends. These folks are truly the best of the best and they are making a positive difference in the lives of many 24/7.

Stacey Honowitz shared about her passion in keeping kids safe as she addresses stranger danger and sex crimes. Stacey offered great tips for parents on how to address “tough” issues with their kids. These sex crimes can happen on and off line. Stacey Honotwitz  works hard 24/7 to educate families on awareness of a topic that many are afraid to address. Stacey’s books are designed to guide parents as they talk to their kids about sex crimes. Child sexual abuse is the fastest growing crime in the country, which makes child sex crimes a huge national problem.


Theresa Payton, author of Privacy In The Age of Big Data.Theresa embraced a nice sized group of people, as they had several questions for her. Theresa is a cyber security expert as she works to keep individuals and businesses safe online. Theresa engaged with folks and answered several questions in regards to being smarter online.

Theresa Payton


It’s important to remember to change your passwords on a regular basis. Never share your password with anyone. You would be surprised at how many folks share their passwords on a daily basis. There’s a reason they are called passwords, so make sure you own them, not someone else. Be careful about what you share through social media. If it’s not positive, helpful information ask yourself, “Do I really need to put this out in social media?”

The day moved right along and the topics really flowed together nicely. Dr. Sameer Hinduja, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University, spoke on a popular topic, Cyber-bullying.

Dr. Sameer Hinduja


I loved how he shared how kindness works so well online. Social media opens the doorway of anonymity, but everyone needs to realize, once it’s out there online, it’s out there forever. His latest book School Climate 2.0: Preventing Cyberbullying And Sexting One Classroom At A Time is available and one that families and educators should read.

Sarah Burningham launched her new book at CES, GIRL TO GIRL: Honest Talk About Growing Up And Your Changing Body.

Girl to Girl book

Sarah is a positive role model for young girls and moms looking for advice on the tween/teen years. Sarah is the “dear sarah” advice columnist for the ABC Family Network and is a regular contributor to many major media organizations.

Meet Sarah Burningham
Photo Courtesy of Sarah Burningham/CES


Mothers and daughters appreciated the information that Sarah Burningham brought to St. Augustine. I told you that this event had the best of the best…. the day just got better all day long!

Dr.  Michele Borba rounded the day out. Her message in regards to bullying is one that everyone should hear. Bully prevention programs are not working and she is on a mission to help communities change their attitudes about bullying. Take a listen!

Some statistics I took away from Dr. Michele Borba’s session.

  • 85% of students witness bullying when adults are not present
  • Bullies want an audience, it is not ok for bystanders to stand and watch
  • Zero tolerance is not working- empathy is not taught

Can you say wow? Then toss in the online activity and we’ve got ourselves into a mess. One big change that’s happening in our culture is the fact that narcissism is up and empathy is down. We all need to work on empathy, as that’s a HUGE contributor to success in everything we do!

Michele Borba is the author of several parenting books. Take a swing over to Michele Borba’s  website to view her books, upcoming events, and learn more from her.

This is just a small glimpse of my day at CES in St. Augustine, Florida. I wish every community in the United States had the opportunity to learn from these amazing people, under one roof, in one day! I am glad I made the trek to Florida to get to know all of these folks a little better. I learned so much and am much more educated on these serious topics thanks to the folks that put CES together and made it happen!

A special shout-out to my friend, Sue Scheff. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to your community. You are making a difference in the lives of thousands of people! Sue knows all about the good and the bad when it comes to being online. Read Sue’s book Google Bomb for insight into the untold story of the internet.