Author Archives: Sue Scheff

About Sue Scheff

Sue Scheff is an author and Parent Advocate. She founded Parents' Universal Resource Experts, Inc in 2001. Her expertise is educating parents that are struggling with their out-of-control teenager and Internet safety for both kids and adults. In her book, Wit's End! Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-of-Control Teen, (Health Communications, Inc), Sue journals her own difficulties with her teen, as well as offers prescriptive advice for parents at their wit's end. After being victimized online and cyber-stalked due to her advocacy work, Sue won a landmark case for Internet Defamation and Invasion of Privacy. Since then, her name and voice has become synonymous with helping others that are being destroyed virtually as well as educating kids and adults about their online reputation. As a Parent Advocate, Sue believes that parenting teens today is a challenge and parents need all the help and resources they can get. An educated parent is a prepared parent. She is a contributor to many publications and has been featured on a variety of TV shows regarding her work.

Watching Over My 12-Year-Old’s Instagram Account

What is wrong with the title of this article?Camp_0386 crop

It’s simple, Instagram is not for children under the age of 13 years-old, but some parents are allowing their children to create social media accounts prior to reaching this legal age requirement.

What message does this send to your child?

Are you children above the rules online?
or
Just because you believe the child is ready for this social media, you can over-ride the rules?

What is the lesson that will carry into your child’s future?

Rules, guidelines and boundaries are given to us for a reason. Whether we are adults or children, safety should always be a priority.

The Internet isn’t any different; it has rules and regulations for our own good. Sometimes known as code of conduct or terms of service (TOS), these guidelines are implemented to protect their users and age restrictions are put in place for a reason. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was enacted to protect children under the age of 13. COPPA actually makes it illegal for kids to sign-up for Instagram and other social media sites that have age restrictions.

What parents need to keep in mind is this is not about Instagram not liking little kids; it is about what is in the best interest of their children. Maybe parents don’t understand what is truly lingering on these sites — it may not be for little ones’ eyes. Remember, even with the best privacy settings, there can be mishaps in cyberspace.

Monitoring our children online is part of parenting today. Prior generations didn’t have to worry about texting, tweeting, emailing, or other digital habits. We have decisions to make today that our parent’s never had:

• When should we give our child their first computer?
• When should we give our child their first tablet?
• When should we give our child their first cell phone? Smartphone?
• When should we allow our child on social media sites?

In many families the first few questions may come down to economics, which is reasonable, combined with the responsibility of your child.

Keeping Up With Our Digital Children: Behind the Screens

Parenting in all generations has had its’ challenges, however in today’s digital society it has created a new world of parenting concerns—in addition to offline parenting. It’s back to school, and our children’s digital devices and online access is only going to increase in the coming days.  How do we keep up?  It is all about what happens behind the screens and offline parenting that is important.

It’s a fact, having
“the talk”
 doesn’t only mean about the birds and the bees anymore.  Before any child is handed a keypad of any kind, parents should discuss; digital citizenship, cyber-safety, how to report online abuse and above all your child needs to know that having any type of tech gadget is a privilegenot a right.  If they abuse this privilege, there will be consequences. Having a family Internet safety contract in place is recommended.

Be very clear on your consequences and always follow through.  It is important that your child know that as a parent you will be monitoring them.  This way there are no surprises, it isn’t about not trusting them, it is about their safety and well-being.

Monitoring verses snooping

Your child’s safety is a priority. Monitoring is parenting. When safety trumps privacy, snooping is your last resort.

As I mentioned in an earlier article, many teens don’t tell their parents they are being bullied online for a variety of reasons. This can cause for emotional scarring that is unnecessary if addressed early.

You may notice behavioral changes such as:

  • Secretive and withdrawn
  • Change in appetite
  • Changing friends
  • Failing, underachieving in school
  • Sadness and signs of depression

Keeping up with the latest digital trends

Kids and teens are usually ahead of their parents when it comes to apps and tech trends.  An open dialogue with your kids is better than spying and snooping.  This starts early with a genuine interest in their digital lives.

The truth is monitoring systems and parental controls are only useful to an extent. This is why it is imperative that your child is taught digital awareness offline so that when they are faced with difficult situations online they are better equipped to handle them. This is not to discourage parents from having monitoring programs in place, but you have to face the reality that especially teens are cyber-savvy and will find ways to escape monitoring systems. This is why it is so important they have cyber- skills to make good choices when you are not arounddigitally.

Teens & Screens Part 3: Who Sees What Online

The following is the third in a three-part series on how to help safely navigate the world of social media with your kids from Sue Scheff, a mother, author, parent advocate, and expert in internet safety education.

Summer camp is not only a time to meet new friends and people, your children will have memories and experiences for a lifetime.  Many will want to capture them in photos and videos – especially in today’s digital world.

Sharing your summer experiences with friends and family is expected, however when it comes to the World Wide Web, precautions need to be taken.

Over-sharing is a common mistake that many people of all ages make on social media.

Prior to posting videos, talk to your child about things they need to consider before posting each photo and video:

  • Setting-up a private group for their camp group viewing only
  • Double checking their privacy settings
  • Thinking about who is in the photos/videos?  Will they mind their picture on a social media site?
  • Sharing selectively
  • Creating an online photo album entitled 2014 summer camp

The Teens and Screens survey revealed that many young people are still over-sharing personal information.  This is a very serious concern that parents need to discuss with their tweens and teens.  For example:

  • 50% posted their email address
  • 30% posted their phone number
  • 14% (which is 14% too many) posted their home address

Although 77% said they understand that what is posted online is public and permanent, they are still risking their keystrokes by sharing personal information.

Listen up, 80% of teens and tweens have had conversations with their parents about online safety.

So where are we losing cyber-ground?

We have to lead by example. 

Studies have revealed that parents are the number one influence on their children.  You may think they aren’t listening to you; they are and more importantly they are watching you.

Many parents are over-sharing.

As parents monitor their children online, kids are snooping on their parents – virtually. Have you thought before posting your pictures and comments?

Teens & Screens Part 2: Cyberbullying


The following is the second in a three-part series on how to help safely navigate the world of social media with your kids from
Sue Scheff, a mother, author, parent advocate, and expert in internet safety education.

teensnscreens2Cyberbullying is a concern for all parents.  We can’t be with our children 24/7 and the fact is our kids spend more time in cyberspace than they do with us. The most common form of cyberbullying among tweens and teens happens with cell phones. We need to equip them with the knowledge to handle cyberbullies and prevent them from becoming victims.

Since your child either just came home or will be coming home from camp soon, let’s be sure they are well-prepared to know how report online abuse and, most importantly, know they can come to you if they witness it or are a victim of cyberbullying.

Going back to the study of Teens and Screens that I referenced in my last post, in 2014 cyberbullying tripled.  24% of tweens and teens lack knowledge on what to do in the event they witness online abuse or are a victim of it.

According to Cyberbullying Statistics for 2014, 52% of teens report having been a victim of cyberbullying. Sadly, only 33% of those victims have reported bullying to parents or another adult.  A recent European study showed that over half of teens view some level of cyberbullying as a normal part of online life. By having open and frequent face-to-face chats with your child about digital citizenship, hopefully we can eliminate this opinion of cyberbullying.

First we need to understand why tweens and teens don’t tell their parents.

1)  Fear of consequences: Your child’s online existence is a critical part of their social life. With all their friends online, being excluded would be devastating them. They don’t want to risk you banning them from their friends and their digital lives.

2)  Humiliation and embarrassment: Our kids are human and have feelings. Although some kids portray a tough persona and believe they are invincible, deep down everyone feels hurt by cruel keystrokes. Your child may fear looking stupid or weak. If the incident gets reported to their school or camp, will they be able to face their classmates and campers? Imagine the horror of a child hearing from peers after being bullied that they somehow deserved it, brought it on themselves or should have just toughened it out rather than be a snitch.

Teens & Screens Part 1: Raising Smart Cyber-Citizens in Social Media


The following is the first in a three-part series on how to help safely navigate the world of social media with your kids from
Sue Scheff, a mother, author, parent advocate, and expert in internet safety education.

teens and social mediaDo you consider yourself a savvy digital parent? While your kids are away at camp during the summer, it can be a great time to get caught up on learning about the cyber-lives of youth today. The more you know, the more you can better communicate with your kids regarding their digital lives.

The results of a recent 2014 study by McAfee titled, Teens and Screens, should be a wake-up call for parents. Some of the staggering findings include:

  • 59% of tweens and teens engage with strangers online
  • Cyberbullying has tripled, yet 24% of the respondents admitted they don’t know what to do in the event of online abuse
  • Tweens and teens are still over-sharing their personal information, with 14% admitting posting their home address

Exactly what do you know about your child’s online life? Most know about cyber-safety 101:

  • Limiting screen time
  • Telling kids to never give out passwords
  • Parental settings/controls and monitoring kids’ and teens’ social media activity
  • Being kind online – explaining to your kids to think before they post
  • and other common cyber-security issues

This is all very important, but let’s look at some issues you may not have considered.

Some virtual friends are actually strangers.

At camp your child is meeting many new friends and people.  They will be expanding their social networking circles and it is fun learning about new people and their lives.

What your child needs to understand is that there are restrictions.  When they come home from camp and jump on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social networking sites to add their new friends—that it should be limited only their real friends from camp.

What does this mean?

Many kids can get distracted into friending or adding people that are friends of friends—and before they know it they are connected to hundreds of people they don’t really know and have never met.  Why is this not a good idea?