February 26, 2017

Dangerous Dozen, 12 apps all parents should be aware of

Technology can be an amazing tool for our young ones for learning, researching and connecting. It can also be a parent or educator’s worst nightmare. Although the internet and apps can be a great way for our students to explore and learn, it can also quickly turn dangerous.

In this ever changing world, we have to be vigilant to make sure our kids are safe on the web. It is so easy for kids to connect and communicate in ways that were not available when we were young; with the quick changes in technology it can be hard for adults to keep up and keep them safe.

In an attempt to minimize online dangers, we can monitor what our children are doing online and try to keep up with the latest apps and online trends. The better we understand the world of apps and online communication, the better we can protect our children.  

Here is just a few of the most popular apps (for now) among elementary school kids:

1. Youtube
Youtube itself isn’t necessarily dangerous, but without appropriate filters and parental controls kids can quickly be exposed to a plethora of inappropriate content that they are not ready for. Enabling YouTube’s Safety Mode Feature will filter out most of the inappropriate videos and comments left by other users.

2. Video Games
Children playing on Xbox or Playstation may seem harmless enough, however, kids are able to easily communicate with people all over the world through the click of a button on a headset. Many adults that mean to do children harm use this feature as a way to groom vulnerable children in an attempt to meet them in real life. The same dangers are present in interactive games such as Clash of Clans. We assume they are harmlessly playing with other children but sometimes this is not the case. The best way to avoid this is to hang out with your kid once in a while when they are playing and make sure they are staying safe. 

Pay special attention to if your child is playing Robolox. Perpetrators are using this game in specific to target children due to the characters in the game having the ability to be very sexually explicit. 

3. Snapchat
Children think this app is safe because they can send content to friends and strangers that “disappear” in about 10 seconds. It makes children feel secure in sending pictures and videos they may not normally send since the content cannot be saved or shared directly from the app. Children being as smart as they are, have found a work around for this feature. They screenshot the private content, have someone else take a picture of their phone and there are even apps now that allow you to save the pictures and videos without the sender ever knowing. 

4. Instagram/Facebook
The problem with Instagram and Facebook is that many kids are in competition with each other to see how many “likes” they can obtain. Not only does this cause them to leave their profiles on public, (public profiles have a higher probability of being followed by strangers leading to more likes) but it also allows predators to easily access their information and know exactly what to say to them based on their interests and posting patterns. Based on the child’s settings, both of these have location services that will potentially tell the world exactly where your child is posting their photos and status updates from.

5. Musical.ly
This app allows users to create their very own music videos. They can lip sing and dance to the latest hits and then share their creations with the world. As always, it isn’t as innocent as it sounds and kids have used the interactive component to cyber bully each other. Many hurtful messages are posted and shared through this app. If used correctly, it can be very fun and entertaining, just make sure your child isn’t using it to be mean behind the screen.   

6. Live.ly
This is made by the same people who made musical.ly. This app allows users to stream live video content to friends and strangers. The ability to live stream content has flooded this app with predators meaning to do children harm and proposition them in real time.

7. Kik Messenger
This app is referred to simply as Kik and is a free instant messaging service much like text messaging. This is a kid’s go-to app for cyber bullying since you can create an account and send messages, photos and videos completely anonymously to either one person or as a group message. Even if they do create an account in their name, it is easy to send messages and hide them from parents who go through your texts.

8. Whisper
People post messages known as whispers, and receive replies completely anonymously. People post confessions, information about other people, gossip, etc. Once you make a post, someone cannot contact or respond directly to you because they have no idea who posted it, they can only respond to the actual post.  This is a hotbed for cyberbullying because it is virtually untraceable making students feel invincible and able to post anything without repercussions.

9. House party
House party is a way for people to be together even when they are apart. Kids get together through the app and “live chill” from the comfort of their own bedrooms. Kids can live chat and see each other in real time. Beware of who your children are “live chilling” with and if they are people you’d want them to chill with in real life.

10. Ask.fm
People can anonymously ask and answer questions posed by other used. There is no way to increase the privacy settings, if you block someone they can still access your profile and view all of your interactions. This app has been labeled the worst app to communicate bullying, abusive, sexualized content and has been linked to the highest number of suicides among these type of apps.

11. Omegle
This is a website and an app and its entire purpose is to connect you with strangers. Its tagline is “talk to strangers”, that alone should tell kids not to download but alas, they still do. People can chat through text or video with people they have never met before. Beware, just because they start out as strangers behind a screen doesn’t mean they stay that way for long. Predators use this site frequently to befriend and potentially harm vulnerable kids. 

12. Calculator% and Poof
As if all these apps aren’t scary enough and this information alone makes you want to search your kid’s phone with a fine tooth comb deleting every app you see, there is an app to hide all these apps from you. The two most popular are calculator% and poof. Calculator% is used to hide photos and videos that kids do not want parents to see. Poof is used to make apps disappear entirely. 

You can download a brief PowerPoint presentation of these apps, including pictures of what they look like when downloaded on a phone, table or computer HERE

I presented this information to the SAC/PTO at my school and they were shocked by what their children might be exposed to. Together, if we stay vigilant, we can work together to keep these kids safe. 

Let's connect: 

February 12, 2017

I'm Flipping over Flipbooks

Flipbooks have seriously become my new obsession. They are so quick and easy to use in the moment. A student came into my office the other day, mad as can be. He could not tell me why he was so upset or where the anger was coming from. He didn’t want to focus on any activities and was “too cool” for the games I had in my office. He told me, “I’m not doing your feeling games.”

I may have actually been kind of hurt had this kid ever been in my office before. I was really kind of lost as to how to help him. None of my usual tricks were seeming to work. He was a bit older than the kids I usually work with and a bit harder to connect with.
I figured I’d take a shot and give him a copy of the project I had been working on for some time, my anger control flipbook.

I casually asked him what his two favorite colors were, he said blue and green. I loaded blue and green colored paper into the printer and the flipbook came to life. I put the three printed pages in order, hoping he wouldn’t notice that a yellow piece had snuck in there, folded them over and stapled at the top. In less than a minute I had this resource in my hand, now to see if he would use it.
He was watching me as I was printing and folding; I could tell I had his attention. I flipped the first page open and acted like I was thinking really hard.

“Ms., Whatcha doing?”

I got his attention once he thought that I was no longer paying attention to him.

“Sometimes I get really angry too. I don’t always know why either. I thought maybe if I filled out this flipbook I found it would help me.”

Then I went right back to reading and silently thinking as he tried to catch glances at my paper. After what felt like forever but was actually about a minute and a half, he says, “I like to draw.”

“Really? I’m not very good at it, can you show me how you’d draw your answer for this?”
That’s all it took. I wanted to do a victory dance watching him draw and answer the questions in this book. In the end, we found out that he takes what other people say a little too personally and lets it affect his day. We role played how he could handle this in the future. I let him use the flipbook to guide our conversation.

He had never thought about some of the calm down strategies in the flipbook and asked if he could take the book home so he could memorize the strategies. 
I love it when an idea for a resource ends up really helping a child; even the ones who originally think they are too cool for your “little games”.

By using this flipbook, we explored and recognized his triggers, identified his unique type of anger, tested out new calming strategies, learned to better take control of his emotions and recognized which strategies might work best for him.

The best part about it was that our conversation and this flipbook seemed to have an impact on him. What more could I ask for?

Download your own copy HERE!

Let's connect: 

February 7, 2017

National School Counselor Week

This was sitting on my desk when I got to school this morning and it made my day!
It reminded me why I love what I do and why I do it every day.
Happy National School Counselor Week everyone.
Thank you for all that you do every day. 

February 1, 2017

February Counseling Plan

February Counseling Plan
Monthly Goal: Teach all students how to be honest with themselves when it comes to their failures while learning how to create a mindset for personal growth. Also, continue to create and close out small groups while being available to students for one-on-one support as needed. The character word of the month is honesty. 

Guidance Classes:
Kindergarten, First and Second Grade: 
Valentine's Day Flipbook

Third, Fourth and Fifth Grade:

Small Groups:
Growth Mindset Flipbook 

Check it out on my blog

Check it out on my blog

What's Your Superpower?
Self Affirmation Packet 
What Makes You Fintastic 
Sweet Dreams

School Wide: