Monthly Archives: October 2009

It’s Not Easy Being a Good Parent in the Digital Age

I’m turning my blog today over to Kim Komando.  She is a nationally syndicated talk show host, focusing on the Internet and digital consumer electronics.  Kim and I whole-heartedly believe in protecting children and below she details some very important points parents need to be aware of in this digital age.

It’s Not Easy Being a Good Parent in the Digital Age
Kim Komando

I received a call on my national radio show a few weeks ago. A concerned father wanted to know about a particular site on the Internet where his 11-year-old son was chatting online. It seemed harmless. His son created a cartoon-like representation of himself called an avatar.

Dad approved of it. But soon, the son was buying virtual goods for his avatar. Dad took a closer look at what his little boy was about to purchase. Good thing; they were sex toys.

Far too often, parents don’t get involved with their children’s online activities until something bad happens. They dismiss the warning signs. They don’t monitor what the kids are doing because they don’t have the time, their child would never do that, or some other lame excuse.

I am still astounded by the parents who don’t want to invade their child’s privacy. They don’t think it is right to snoop on their child’s Web travels, e-mail and text messages. They usually liken it to reading a teenager’s hidden diary. “No one should do that,” they say.

If only it were that simple.

With the Internet now in our homes and on our phones, this wonderful digital world has brought the inappropriate and criminal elements directly into our lives. What seems harmless and fun can quickly turn into a pedophile’s dream and a parent’s nightmare.

For instance, you may be unaware of Web sites where kids use Webcams. In effect, they broadcast live video and audio from their bedrooms. The people using the live broadcasting sites can watch them. They can leave comments. You can bet pedophiles are watching them, too.

Pedophiles have actually helped kids set up sites. They have arranged credit card acceptance through online payment sites. The children perform sex acts, broadcast with Webcams. The pedophiles pay to watch.

The other day my 8-year-old son Ian received a text-message from his friend John. John wanted to know if he downloaded a particular free game from iTunes. The rule in my home is that before anything gets downloaded, Ian and I learn more about it. I need to approve it.

The game these two boys were talking about had a plot something like this: A convicted felon escapes from prison. He is roaming the streets of downtown Los Angeles. He needs to make money to survive and go on missions. To do this, he has to kill people.

Needless to say, that game didn’t make it onto his phone.

Social-networking sites are less dangerous. But you still have to watch what children say. They have profiles. Be sure they’re not including their phone numbers and addresses.

Again, the best protection is alert parents. Don’t wait for trouble! Be proactive!

Need some help? Here are tips to help you get in front of the issues.

* Find out if sex offenders live in your area http://www.komando.com/kids/tip.aspx?id=2306
* Cell phone plans that put you in control and even tell you where the phone is located http://www.komando.com/kids/tip.aspx?id=3861
* Figure out text messaging lingo http://www.komando.com/kids/tip.aspx?id=3496
* Control kids iTunes use http://www.komando.com/kids/tip.aspx?id=4092
* The free tool that I use to block inappropriate content in my home http://www.komando.com/tips/index.aspx?id=6501

The Kim Komando Show (www.komando.com) is the largest nationally syndicated weekend talk radio show. Kim Komando focuses on the Internet and digital consumer electronics. Komando also distributes the Kim Komando Digital Minute, a one-minute consumer update on digital news.  

Quote of the Week

Today is National Boss’ Day:

There is only one boss.  The customer.  And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.
               – Sam Walton
                  American businessman and entrepreneur
                  Founder of WalMart

Inspiration from a Teenager

The Hartford Courant recently published an essay by Justin Verrier on a Connecticut female teenage swimmer.  “After swimming laps at a recent practice in the Glastonbury High School pool, Rachel Grusse told her coach, Suzi Hoyt, her shoulder felt sore.  Hoyt responded as she always does to such concerns by her swimmers, instructing Grusse to put on flippers and ‘kick for a little while’ to rest her arms.  ‘I just looked up at her and told her, Um…I don’t think I can do that, Grusse said, smiling.”

Remember the word smiling.  When Grusse was 16 months old, it was discovered that she was born without a spleen, and she contracted a form of bacterial pneumonia that cut off the blood flow to her extremities, which resulted in the cutting off of her legs at the base of her knees, as well as the last joint of her fingers.

Now, many teenage girls with just a few pimples would hide in their bedrooms, but not Rachel.  With the help of prosthetic legs, she has participated in all types of sports, including soccer and, most recently, wheelchair basketball, but swimming is her passion.  Since she has to rely on her upper body for swimming, she does a lot of upper body strengthening, like…walking on her hands!

Her comment?  “I’ve just heard some people say that I’m an example to other kids.  But to me, I don’t feel like I’m any different.  I’m just doing what I can, and doing the best that I can.

She swims against “normal” swimmers and rarely wins, but she loves the sport anyway.

She swims against others who are disabled and often places, but not always, and she loves the sport anyway. 

Since she has no memory of having had legs, for her, it is kind of “normal” – the real amazing quality of hers is her attitude to just do what she can and do the best that she can.

Disabled or not, that is the winning attitude in life that ultimately brings you happiness.  She does what she loves and does the best she can at it.  Period.  There is a lesson in that for everyone.

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

“Stupid is as stupid does.”  Those are sage words from the fictional Forrest Gump.

And stupid does some interesting things in America.  Here are two great recent examples of stupidity:

Before I tell you the first story, I want to preface it with a memory from my middle school years.  We Long Island neighborhood children took the bus to school.  I walked two blocks to the bus stop.  In the winter, it was freezing, but fortunately, one of the kids I went to school with lived in that corner house right where the bus picked us up.  The mom would leave the garage door open (the cars were already gone) so we could all huddle out of the wind and chill until the bus came.  It was very kind of her.

Now, to today’s story:  A mom in Michigan allows the kids from three families to hang out before school at her house for about 1 hour before the school bus comes.  She’s not getting paid, although I sure hope she’s getting appreciation from the families who have to go to work before they can get their kids off to school. 

Believe it or not, she receives a letter from the Michigan Department of Human Services warning her that if she continues, she’d be violating a law aimed at the operation of unlicensed day-care centers.  She’s not getting paid!!  And she’s doing the neighbors a favor!!

This law says no one may care for unrelated children in their home for more than four weeks each calendar year unless they are licensed day-care providers.  The Department of Human Services warned her without even finding out the facts.  This is stupid.  Never mind that these kids, if left by themselves for an hour without adult supervision could be food for predators.  It seems also that this stupid stretch would preclude regular baby-sitting when parents go out to dinner and the movies.

There is good news here, though.  After the news media got hold of this story (and embarrassed the heck out of the state of Michigan), Governor Jennifer Granholm instructed the agency’s director to work with the state legislature to change the law. 

Since when is simply being a good neighbor a criminal activity?  Some neighbor (and we’ve all had this kind of neighbor) made a complaint, and started this non-common sense ball rolling.

The second stupid story is from Saratoga Springs.  Adam Marino, a 12 year old in seventh grade, and his mother are defying Saratoga Springs school policy by biking to Maple Avenue Middle School.  The school has a rule that kids can’t walk or ride a bike to school.  Adam’s mom and other parents want their kids to be less sedentary and to get exercise by walking or riding to school as a fitness activity. 

After Adam’s mom thought she had an understanding with the school board on this issue, she rode a bike with her kid to school, only to be met by a state trooper and school administrators.  You’d think she had been beating her kid or helping him play hooky.  Sheesh!

In reaction to this, other parents joined them in riding and walking their kids to school.  Once again, this got the attention of the news media, and the Board of Education is going to vote to amend this policy this week.

These arbitrary rules are just stupid, and frankly, ignoring the bigger picture of neighborhood safety and exercise for children.  Fortunately, however, thanks to the media spotlight, it’s all going to change.

Calorie Counts on Restaurant Menus Don’t Change Behavior

When I was on a working trip to New York City, some of my staff and I popped into a very lovely open-air sort of restaurant for lunch.  The menu was huge in size (I always wonder how they have all that food on hand), and I noticed something I had never, ever seen before:  calorie counts between the description of the food and the price!

I read each and every calorie count and was shocked at how unbelievably caloric many of the foods were that I had thought were healthy.  An appetizer of fried calamari had more calories than one should have in a whole day!  Even the veggie meals were stuffed with extra calories from oil, cheese and sauces.  Oh my!

Talk about being “scared straight,” like those kids in front of convicts who warn them to clean up their acts.  I immediately selected the healthiest thing I could find (boring, but healthy), ending up with a turkey sandwich on rye with lettuce and tomato – no mayo and no dressing, but with some salt, because I normally have low blood pressure.  I give callers high blood pressure, but mine is usually low. 

New York City was the first place in the country, I believe, to require calorie posting.  What have we learned from this experiment?

Researchers at New York University and Yale discovered that, although 9 out of 10 people who saw the calorie counts claimed they “made healthier choices as a result,” when the researchers checked the receipts afterward, they found that people, had, in fact, ordered slightly more calories than the typical customer had before the labeling law went into effect in July, 2008.

The lead research scientist said, “I think it does show us that labels are not enough.”  What?  What else do you want to do?  Send in the calorie police?  On cityfile.com, someone made a suggestion that restaurants could have scales for people to weigh themselves before sitting down to dinner (ohhhh, what  rude reminder!) or they should post pictures of what you’re going to look like if you have that lasagna in addition to  bread, butter or olive oil, a big salad with a cup of dressing and then cheesecake to wrap it up!

So, if calorie postings have no impact, except for the people who already are careful and appropriate in their healthy food choices, then what is the point of continuing them?  I still think it’s a good idea to continue.  Perhaps with patience, we will see people care about their bodies and their health as much as their family, friends and relatives do, and as much as the taxpayers who are not overweight and are forced to be burdened by the rising health costs brought on by illnesses associated with obesity.

President Obama Should Reject the Nobel Prize

Over the past two decades, the Nobel Peace Prize committee has become an anti-American organization that has sought to use its awards to influence world opinion and American policy to its own ends.

In 1994, one of the three recipients to whom it awarded the Peace Prize was Yasser Arafat, for his “efforts to promote peace in the Middle East “- peace through the promotion of terrorism?  Through the encouragement of the Intifada?  Through his corruption and theft of Palestinian assets for his own personal benefit?

In 2002, one year after 9/11, it awarded the laureate to Jimmy Carter, “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy [never mind about his love affair with Cuba] and human rights and to promote economic and social development.”  Efforts that have never borne any fruit!  Now where have his affections gone?  To NORTH KOREA!

In 2005, the committee awarded the laureate to Mohammed ElBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Commission for their work in preventing the development of nuclear arms.  Since then, North Korea has developed and tested nuclear weapons and Iran is much farther along in its nuclear weapons program.

My opinion is that this award is a political move to encourage Obama along the line of thinking like Neville Chamberlain rather than Winston Churchill in dealing with the world’s tyrannical and terrorist states.  I encourage President Obama to REJECT this award.

As the mother of a young man who has joined the Army to defend our country against our enemies, I am alarmed at any form of encouragement of our government to soften its stance against the world’s tyrannical and terrorist states.  Mr. President, turn down that award!