Technology enables parents to find part-time work and life balance

Whether it is online retail, in-home data entry, or remote class instruction, technology has changed the game for parents who want to work outside of a traditional office setting, and be their own boss. It is now very possible to launch your own business venture out of your home and build your brand while the kids are napping or off at school.

In this article on BayState Parent, we examine how this trend has grown over the last decade, and why it has been life changing for many parents who otherwise would be limited in their opportunities to earn some extra income for the household. In this article, we see examples of several “mom-trepeneurs;” one runs an an online skincare products site, one works as a part-time writer and editor, and our last example is a pair of mom friends with a flair for decor who met and developed a design business through email and social media. Now it’s a thriving home interior and design store!

Facebook adds messenger app for Tweens, kids


Facebook has launched an app that allows kids under 13 to message with other users their parents approve. Facebook still requires members to be 13 and older. The new app, called Messenger Kids, allows users under the age of 13 to send texts, videos and photos; they can draw on the pictures they send and add stickers.

More information in the following articles:

Facebook ‘Messenger Kids’ lets under-13s chat with whom parents approve

New Snapchat feature shares user location. Is that OK for privacy and security?

Snapchat has a new feature that allows users to see where their friends are posting from. But this new location sharing feature has some concerned about privacy, and broader implications like stalking and bullying.  The good news is you can disable it. Check out these stories for more information on how to do that:

5 holiday cyber scams to avoid

As you and your family kick off the holiday shopping season, it’s a good time to review the common scams that circulate this time of year.

Unless you live in a cave, you probably know today is Black Friday, the day when stores try and lure in early shoppers with great sales on many popular items. It is followed by Cyber Monday, the first Monday after the Thanksgiving break when many workers return to their office computers and, presumably, start their holiday shopping online.

But each year, cyber criminals find new ways to try and ensnare consumers with a number of sneaky tricks. Here are some common ones to keep your eye out for, and to warn your older, tech-savvy kids about, as they are also likely to come across them in the coming weeks, as well.

Holiday ‘giveaways’

No, you are not going to get a free iPad or iPhone. Nor is Southwest Airlines going to give you free round-trip airfare. These are the kinds of scams we see on Facebook year round, but they are often repackaged with holiday wrapping and a pretty bow this time of year to seem like holiday-related give-aways. They are no different, or less malicious, than any other Facebook scam making the rounds all year.

What to do? Avoid them. If you see something on Facebook that claims you will get something amazing simply by clicking “like” or by sharing it with other friends? Don’t. Just don’t. Remember my mantra: If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Instead of a free iPad, if you click on a link, there is a good chance you have just downloaded some kind of malware onto your computer that can be used to steal data from you.

Fake sales

Hot items, like Apple devices or popular video games and consoles, provide holiday opportunities for crooks to fools consumers. This time of year, ads claiming to have a popular item at a deeply discounted rate can be found. Just because you found it with a Google search doesn’t mean it’s legit. Criminals have been poisoning search results for years now with the hope of getting their fake ads to show up when someone searches for a popular term.

Your best bet? Go directly to reputable web sites, such as or Best Buy or Target. DO NOT purchase an item from a web site you are not familiar with, or even follow a link to a sale that claims to take you to a reputable dealer. Instead of the item, you can end up paying for something you never receive. And since you have likely passed on your credit card information, it sets you up for further fraud down the road.

Bad QR codes

A QR code, or Quick-response code, are those nifty barcodes that are popping up everywhere, attempting to get you to scan them and then find out more about a product or service.

But, of course, now that they are popular, malicious web sites containing QR codes for mobile apps starting cropping up earlier this year, too. The bad codes are being used to lure people into downloading malicious apps. So far, it has been seen primarily on the Android platform.

What can you do? Think twice about QR codes. If you really want to use them, be savvy. There is a free app called Red Laser that you can download and use to check out the web site that the QR code takes you to. If it is a web site with an .exe in the address, do NOT go there.

Bank/credit account alerts

“Your Bank of America account has been compromised! Your Paypal account has been suspended!” the alerts will scream. But have they? Doubtful. It’s just another ruse to get you to “click” on a bad link that will take you to a phishing site. Here they will ask you to enter your account number, password and everything else they need to get the keys to your financial kingdom. Don’t do it. If you think your account has been compromised, look up the bank’s number yourself (do NOT use the phone number the email has provided) and speak to customer service. Don’t click on any links contained in emails warning you your account has been compromised.

Shipping notifications

“Fed Ex deliver failed.” I get these in my spam folder all the time. Do you? It’s another common ruse – but it upticks this time of year, when folks are expecting shipments. Continue to ignore. Please. Don’t worry. If Fed Ex (or UPS, or DHL, etc.)was unable to ship something to you, they will try again.

4 tips to help your kid stay stafe on Facebook

How young is too young for Facebook? The rules say no one under 13, but many parents seem to disagree

Facebook says you need to be 13 to have an account, but – rules be damned!! Many 11 and 12 year-olds are already using the social network, and, here’s a surprising little tidbit: Their parents are helping them create the account!

This is according to research out this month from the Internet journal First Monday. Researchers polled 1,007 parents of children between the ages of 10 and 14 about how they feel with regard to Internet-age restrictions.

Among their findings:

– Parents of 13- and 14-year-olds said, on average, their child joined Facebook at age 12.
– More than half of the parents of 12-year-olds said their child had a Facebook account; 82 percent of those parents knew when their child signed up; 76 percent assisted their 12-year-old in creating the account.
– More than three-quarters of parents said it was acceptable for their child to violate minimum-age restrictions on online services.

This goes against rules created by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), legislation passed several years ago which seeks to empower parents by requiring commercial Web site operators to obtain parental consent before collecting data from children under 13. But apparently, many parents with kids under 13 think their children can handle themselves on Facebook and are actually letting them fudge their birthdate in order to create a profile.

The authors of this study point out that many parents know, and are even enabling, their kids to get on Facebook prior to the age of 13. They say things like “all of my daughter’s friends are already on Facebook.”

I’ll let you read the study yourself to draw your own conclusions about whether or not you think kids under 13 should be on Facebook. But let me weigh in with my opinion, as your friendly Cyber Savvy Mom.

If you think your child is ready to use Facebook at an age that is younger than 13, that is your opinion, and I don’t think it is right or wrong. You know what your child is capable of and should act accordingly.

But, keep in mind the risks that exist once your child is on Facebook; where they will share information about themselves with other “friends” in their network. They will share photos, videos, thoughts, at times even their location. And there are no guarantees each “friend” will be who they say they are. Fake profiles are created all the time on Facebook. There are also scams all over the network that can trap unsuspecting members. Children would be very vulnerable to falling into some of these traps. Check out my list of scams to recognize the common traps.

That said, there are several steps I think parents need to take before allowing their kid, regardless of age, to create a profile on any site. Here are my basic recommended steps to encourage secure behavior on Facebook.

1.)    Use the network yourself: If you are familiar with the inner workings of Facebook and Twitter, you are more able to know what can go on, what mistakes can be made, what information kind of can be shared, and give advice based on first-hand knowledge. You run less of a risk of seemingly like the “lame parent” who “just doesn’t get it” if you are using the networks yourself.

2.)    Insist they give you their password, check it regularly: It is one thing to tell them you need to have their password. That’s a great first step. But then you need to do regularly, random check ins with to ensure that the one they gave you is still the actual password. If they have changed it without consulting you, that is grounds for losing computer privileges.

3.)    Keep computer use to common areas of the home: Children are more likely to engage in unsafe and questionable behaviors and conversations online when they are along. Computer use, particularly online activity, needs to take place in an area where the entire family is typically located.

4.) Have regular conversations: Talk with your child openly and regularly about issues such as cyber bullying, safe and responsible computer use and don’t be afraid to speak frankly about the type of people that can lurk on social networks, interactive games and chat boards looking for kids to target. Knowledge is power. You’re not trying to scare them, but they also need to be prepared for how to react if they are manipulated online by someone, or bullied by another peer.

Facebook, Twitter posts can come back to haunt you

OK, I admit I’m a day late in posting something about Halloween, but it’s an important message: What you say and do on social networks can come back to haunt you. And getting you to think before you post, act, respond and click online is what CyberSavvyMom is all about.

Let’s start today with  The site offers you a chance to link with your Facebook account and then watch as the application plays out a scene, using your Facebook photos and other information, of a dirty-fingernailed creep checking you out.  It ends with him getting information on where you live and then driving in a car somewhere, presumably to find you and do unspeakable things. It’s full-on freaky.

People use Facebook and Twitter with varying levels of involvement. I myself am on Facebook several times a day and I regularly post photos and status updates about my life and my family.  But of the several hundred friends I have on there, I observe use that starts at frequent and regular, like my own, to barely-ever-log-on types who maintain an account but almost never go on and never post a thing.

Which ever way you are going to engage on Facebook, the most important thing to keep in mind is to make sure what you are putting out there are photos, statements, links, that you would be comfortable with everyone seeing, whether they are friends, co-workers, family members – and even strangers.  Because even if you intend for what you post to be seen by people in your network only, or even just by certain people within your network, there is a saying that your security is only as good as your friend’s security.  Meaning, of course, if your friend’s profile is open to compromise, so is yours. And that means what you considered to be private, well, no longer is.

Facebook profiles get hacked all the time. Friends share things you have posted without your consent. You can’t ever assume what you are posting won’t be seen by eyes you never intended to see your posts, because privacy is virtually non-existent if you are using Facebook or Twitter. This message is particularly important for teens and twenty-somethings who are still new to social networks and may post things that could later serve as a source of embarrassment or, even a reason for a potential employer to choose not to hire them.  These things can and do happen.

Back to takethislollipop. Again, the message is clear: If you put something out on a social network, you should expect it will be seen by people you may not have intended it for. Frankly, I tend to be less concerned about my profile being used by some crazy person to stalk or hurt me and my family. I believe if that danger exists, it is not my pictures on Facebook that is going to be the reason someone wants to hurt me. Some may argue that putting it out there opens the door to more crazy lunatics being able to gawk at our stuff. Maybe. But I know the value and fun I get from communicating with others on social networks is, for me, something I am not going to give up for a scenario that is simply a “what if.”

What I do know is that I am never going to post anything on my social networks that I wouldn’t be comfortable with the entire world seeing. I won’t make disparaging remarks about someone I know personally who may have irked me that day. I won’t post, won’t allow others to post, pictures of me now, or in my younger days, doing things that look like its in bad taste (IE: taking an alcohol shot, dancing on a table). Not that I really live the kind of lifestyle that lends itself to risque behavior, but if I did, you can be sure I wouldn’t be posting snapshots of it – and I would insist people in my network not post pics of me I didn’t approve of either. You should do the same.

Again, these are lessons younger internet users often have to learn the hard way.  As parents, it’s our job to help them see the way.  Show them (I’d recommend to kids age 13 and over. It is not a site for younger children as it could scare them). It could serve as a great jumping off point to get the discussion going about what we post online, and to think before we click.

Recognizing Facebook scams

A Facebook friend of mine had a link posted this morning, excitedly telling other friends that Starbucks is giving away $50 gift cards in celebration of its 40th birthday! Yay! But, um, no.

First of all, is Starbucks really 40? Wow. I mean I know they’ve had a stranglehold on our morning addiction for more than a decade, but I had no idea they had been around for THAT long!  Hey, go on with your bad self, Starbucks!

But, trust me, a place that charges over $4 for a flavored latte isn’t going to give the masses $50 each to “celebrate” being in business for 40 years (because if they did engage in these kinds of celebratory-business practices, they wouldn’t have made it 40 years, right? Am I right?)

Welcome to the wonderful world of the Facebook scam. We’ll be talking about these a lot on this site.

Cyber Savvy Mom wants you to be able to recognize what isn’t OK on Facebook so you can protect yourself, and your family.

So here are a few introductory rules:

If it sounds too good to be true, it is.

Starbucks is not giving out gift cards. You will NOT win a free iPad for taking this survey. These ploys are typically just ways to get you to click on data harvesting sites that will try and get you to give up personal information, including passwords, birthdates, information that can generally be used to break into accounts or profiles.  Do not EVER give anyone your password or other sensitive information that you use to access things like bank accounts and email.

Is this you in this video?

No, it is not. And as soon as you let your curiosity get the better of you and click to see, you will likely be infected with some nasty malware (malicious software that gets dropped on your computer).  You will also spam the link out to other friends’ Facebook walls and put them at risk.

Besides, what are you worried about? You’re probably like me; so old that when you were out making a fool of yourself in nightclubs, they didn’t yet have the wonderful humiliator known as the cell-phone camera. Relax.

Justin Bieber Naked! You wish, pervert.

The Biebs is constantly surrounded by security, his mom, that clingy girlfriend from the Disney Channel, and others. No one is going to get a picture of his barely post-pubescent butt in the nude.

Nor will you ever get access to pictures of Osama Bin Laden’s dead body, video of Ashton Kutcher hooking up with that little tart (tarts?) he cheated with on Demi, or a scene that includes a girl who is OMG!! SO EMBARRASSED AFTER HER FATHER WALKED IN ON HER DOING THIS!!  If you see a link claiming to have this sort of celebrity/scandal/morbid pictures or video, DO NOT CLICK!

There are scores more examples, all of which the Cyber Savvy Mom will guide you through in months to come. For now, remember: avoid questionable links.  And, for those of you with teenagers who use Facebook, please, please, please fill them in. They are the ones who are much more likely to being ensnared by some of these scams.

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