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Real Safety Solutions for Kids Growing up in a Virtual World

Real Safety Solutions for Kids Growing up in a Virtual World
    From dpape on flickr

    We live in a period where evolution is constant; where new technologies make their way into our lives ever so often, where online trends rise and fall and where almost everybody with access to the Internet is enthralled by the possibilities of the digital world.

    And that includes your children.

    The World Wide Web has opened up a host of possibilities for young minds. Children can turn learning into fun with the added element of exploration and discovery; connecting with interesting peers and understanding cultures from around the world is now possible like never before. Unfortunately, the net is also a landmine of risks for impressionable minds.

    There are two areas that could potentially upset children’s lives: inappropriate websites related to subjects like pornography and graphic violence, and online social networking, where all kinds of people establish and lead digital lives, including cyber bullies, scammers and sexual predators.

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    Mirror your kids’ online habits

    If you have young children or family members, it’s very important for you to understand the internet. How will you know about the dangers that Facebook poses if you’re not on it? Using the internet will help you discover the potential threats that lurk on the web. By setting up online accounts, participating in forum discussions and also mimicking your children’s online habits occasionally, could give you an insight into the what their online lives are like and how you could protect them from the dangers there.

    Besides, being an active user will give you the kind of technical prowess you need to monitor your children’s internet usage.

    Cyber Bullying, Suicide Forums, Online Grooming and other dangerous trends

    Over the last few years, online trends have changed and continue to change rapidly. From social networking to microblogging, you never know what’s going to be the next in-thing. As a busy parent, whose profession may or not involve using the internet, it will be hard for you to know what’s new out there and how it could affect your child’s life, unless you make a conscious effort to keep tabs.

    Dangerous cyber threats have emerged over the last few years with serious online consequences. Our schools have turned into battle fields with hierarchical structures, where the most popular or extroverted kids hold sway; as a result, fitting-in is top priority for most kids. These days, almost 90% of the children who are bullied at school, experience some form of online bullying by the same classmates too. In addition, unrelated cyber bullies prowl the web, pestering children to reveal passwords or battering their self-confidence. Besides, there are hundreds of online forums where unpleasant behavior is encouraged, like physical violence, eating disorders, self-harm and so on.

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    Child grooming, where sexual predators befriend children, earn their trust with the intention of abusing them, has taken an ugly online form. Most public chat rooms for young children and teenagers are frequented by predators. They will almost always lie about their age to earn the child’s trust and try to get to the most vulnerable in the group.

    Parents should join online parent networks or vigilance groups, take part in discussions with other parents on the web or subscribe to newsletters that dispense information about dangerous online trends. Staying in-tune with what’s going on, on the web, can help you watch out for signs of trouble or warn your kids about the same.

    Ask them, ‘Met anybody new on Facebook today?’

    As parents you can take the following precautions:

    • Limit the number of hours your kids spend on the internet
    • Encourage physical activities and hobbies that do not involve the computer
    • Do not permit computers in rooms of very young children
    • Watch out for signs like children switching off monitors or switching screens in your presence
    • Look out for other unrelated signs like withdrawal, unprecedented secrecy, long-distance calls to unknown numbers, calls from unknown adults and so on.

    However, there’s a limit to the amount of monitoring you can do and your monitoring efforts should be complimented with a healthy, trustworthy relationship with your child.

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    You should encourage chats about online safety, the sites your children might have visited and what they learnt from surfing the net that day or a new game they might have tried out.

    These regular conversations could keep you updated about their digital lives, which remain invisible to most parents. Just as you would ask them about their school, ask them if they met anyone new on Facebook that day. In an environment of open, healthy interaction about the internet, children may volunteer information if they have met people who are acting strange or are being bullied online.

    Is Privacy still important? You bet

    Most youngsters, especially teenagers today, are growing up in a world where there’s little value for privacy. With status updates, photo albums, blogging and other forms of online self-expression, most of them do not understand the importance of restraint. Help your children understand why privacy is important. Also, illustrate how online identities can be uncovered, addresses and phone numbers discovered, so they do not take risks on the web.

    Security software, family settings and other tools

    With the unfortunate evolution of online predators and unsuitable sites, technology has evolved too. Thankfully, parents can maintain some control over young children’s online habits with tools devised for this purpose. Family settings are available for internet use, online gaming and video viewing. With family settings, parents can control which games their children play, which movies they watch and even the duration that they can spend on specific activities like gaming or chatting.

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    Similarly, parent control software can help parents block adult sites, public chat rooms and set timers for surfing the net.

    Scammers can reach you through your kids

    Sometimes, it is not just kids but adults too who could be at risk. Ensure that your child does not have your bank details, passwords or other sensitive information. Sometimes, scammers and cheats can try to get to your finances through your kids. Help your children understand what online scams, phishing emails and identity threats are all about.

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

    More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

     

    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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