What You Need To Know About Sarahah.com

NOTHING IS ANONYMOUS. Snapchat messages that “disappear” can be retrieved, and there is even already a hack that reveals users in the new “anonymous” app called Sarahah.

WHAT IS THE SARAHAH APP?  Sarahah was created by a developer in Saudi Arabia to collect honest opinions and thoughts from your friends. Sarahah means honesty in Arabic. Teens are using this app by connecting the link to their Snapchat to get anonymous texts from their friends. One of the reviews I watched states “Sarahah is a fun way for your friends to tell you something they wouldn’t face to face.”  My opinion: Uh … this is fun how?

What teens do is they attach the app link to their story on Snapchat and at the bottom of the screen it says swipe up for Sarahah.com. Their friends swipe up and it gives them a blank screen to text ANYTHING THEY WANT. Their username does not appear but it’s relatively easy to figure out who wrote what “when you see the order at which your friends watch your story. Some of the comments are pretty obvious from who they’re from” (random teen I interviewed). If you use this app you have to be confident at heart and laugh off the hater comments because your friends will send them.

The developer thought it would be a fun and creative way to get feedback from friends and employees (eye roll). When complaints rolled in saying this is a bad idea for cyberbullying, they updated the app by adding the feature to be able to block users who send hate (double eye roll).

What’s the point? The point of the app for our teens is it’s a game. Just an alternative way of getting attention from your friends. You can’t reply to the comments and you can’t see the user who sent the comment … until now. Like I said in the intro: NOTHING IS ANONYMOUS. Someone has already figured out a hack to reveal usernames on Sarahah.

Just watch this video and see for yourself:

So what do we do? Nothing. Understand it, talk about the possible negative impact, hope for your teen’s better judgment and wait for the next novelty.

(Eye roll)

Be Aware Of Snap Maps on Snapchat!

Be Aware Of Snap Maps on Snapchat!

Cybertip.ca’s take (read and scroll below for Natalia’s take):

The Canadian Centre for Child Protection, through its Cybertip.ca program, wants to make parents aware of a concerning new location-sharing feature on Snapchat, an app that lets users send photos, videos, and messages that disappear after a set time. Snapchat is hugely popular with teens and has more users than Twitter.

What is the concern?

If location services have been turned on, “Snap Maps” reveals your current location by showing your Bitmoji character on a map or a shadow-figure if a Bitmoji character has not been created. This opt-in feature allows friends to look at shared stories (created by a combination of Snaps, both images and videos) taken by multiple users at the same event or location, or see where other friends are located. Users can select who sees where they are – all friends, a select group, or none (ghost mode). You can zoom out far enough to see a whole world map, and close enough to see street names, parks, and other landmarks.

There is a real safety concern in others being able to track your daily movements, including where you go to school, the route you walk every day, and where you live. Users may not realize this feature is on all the time and updates your location each time you open the app, not just when sharing to “My Stories.”

What can parents do?

Talk to your teen about:

  • Setting the app to “Ghost Mode” which keeps their location private (the Bitmoji does not appear on the map).
  • Ensuring their “friends” on Snapchat (and all social media) are people they have met in-person
  • Making sure they have downloaded Snapchat Kids (for those under 13), a limited version of the app that lets them to take photos and play with the fun filters, but does not allow them to connect with other users.

Share this important information with other parents and encourage others to sign-up for Cybertip.ca Alerts.

Natalia’s take:

When my teen showed me this new feature (which is set to reveal your location by default unless you set it to ghost mode yourself), I was shocked at the detail of the maps! I could see exactly where your children were yesterday. I knew who was in school, who was hanging out with whom, etc. The maps are so detailed I could even see the shape of your driveway and the shape of your home. I believe this will cause a lot of drama for teens who wish to have some privacy about what they do. It will cause issues where their friends or parents will say: “I know you weren’t there! I saw you on Snap Maps!” — but maybe the kid just left their phone at home.

This prompted a conversation last night about the future of privacy. Will people have to pay for privacy? Think about it… Think about how much money app developers could make if they started charging a fee to take yourself off the grid. What if at some point they remove the location services feature off our phones and charge us for privacy? There certainly would be money to be made there …

Please share this article with all your friends and family!

Smart Phones Have Us All By The Balls

Smart Phones Have Us All By The Balls

MacMillan dictionary states that to have someone by the balls means: “To have complete control over someone, so that they have to do what you want.” When sitting down to write the title of this blog I couldn’t decide whether it was social media that has us by the balls or our smart phones. What is it exactly that makes us constantly reach for this attachment object like an adult pacifier? It’s not just the notification dings from social media, it’s also for emails, texts, games, news, calendar events, phone calls and weather alerts.

Smart phones are not just benign objects. We actually have a connection to them because they represent so much more to us. They are designed to be compelling and we are hardwired to respond to the notifications, the dings, the red lights you get with new emails because every time you receive these reinforcements you get a dopamine surge. It feels good that something you posted has garnered attention. That’s what makes smart phones so appealing.

For teens, it represents their social life. It helps them manage homework, their contacts, their whole schedule. As we know, social approval is very important to them and social media is their dominating source of validation. If a post does not receive over 100 likes, you’re considered “a loser.” I’ve heard teens say “Oh, I feel so sorry for her because she only got 75 likes.” As if the teen years were not hard enough to navigate before social media existed, now teens have so much more on their plates to deal with: the fear of missing out; the anxiety experienced if they misplace their phone; the insecurity felt when a text isn’t answered within two seconds; always satisfying impulses. All of these new stresses stem from having smart phones yet we can’t live without them.

There’s a lot of research by Dr Larry Rosen (Author and Psychologist) that’s starting to prove that our addiction to our smart phones is actually re-wiring our brains. Our brain is HIGHLY activated when using technology. It’s even worse after playing video games. For the brain to develop in a healthy way we need to make time to consciously take time away from technology to learn communication skills, creative thinking skills and calmness. Some concerns shared by experts about the future implications on our kids are: underdeveloped communication skills, bad learning habits, shallow thinking because of task switching and partial attention spans.

Dr. Rosen conducted a study where students who were asked to study for 15 minutes (without being told NOT to use their devices). Overall, the students could focus for no more than 3-5 minutes before checking for emails or texts. Those that had study strategies scored higher. Those that task switched a lot scored lower. Students who checked their Facebook JUST ONCE had the worst score on the test. The reason? Because Facebook is where their social world is. Once their focus had shifted to the irresistible distraction of technology, it took a long time for the brain to come back and fully focus on the study task because it was now in a state of stress and anxiety. This is a challenge for students today who believe they can handle “multi-tasking.” It’s not uncommon to see students studying with a laptop open (with iTunes running, their iMessages window open for texts and social media open as well). What they believe is multi-tasking, Dr. Rosen calls “task shifting.” Task shifting keeps your brain in a constant state of anxiety which “fosters bad learning habits, shallow thinking and partial attention spans.” If we were to take away the laptop, they could still perform all these tasks with their smart phone.

We don’t need to experience boredom anymore – our phone pacifies us. We don’t have to wonder anymore – Google tells us. We don’t need to learn long division anymore – we have calculators on our phones. We don’t have to feel alone – there’s always someone online that’s only a tap away. Perhaps in 20 years time our species will have an inability to delay gratification and boredom. We will be a species with high distractibility, lower patience and poorer memory. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Many parents feel powerless and unsure to take away phones because they fear it will cripple the teen on so many levels. You have to find a middle ground:  

– Make it less tempting. Not having smart phones in the bedroom overnight is a really good way to remove temptation.
– Turn off alerts when studying.
– It’s becoming a real social faux-pas not to answer a text right away. Some kids feel anxiety about not responding. Manage that anxiety by telling your friends you’ll be offline for a bit.
– Role modelling by the parent is HUGE too. One of the top reasons kids turn to devices for comfort is they see their parents doing the same thing.

We don’t HAVE to allow our smart phones to have complete control over us so that we have to check it every time it sends us alerts. It’s a choice.

What’s NEW for Fall 2017 at Natalia Coaching You? “Understanding and Overcoming Our Obsession With Technology” A talk with new study findings that explain our obsession with technology and how parents can help their kids stay in control. Click HERE FOR MORE.


Signs That Video Games Are Taking Over

Signs That Video Games Are Taking Over

Summer means abundance in leisure and for some, leisure = video games. Many parents (including myself) sometimes struggle with how much is TOO MUCH? Well, it’s not as complicated to gauge as you might think, but it takes a little bit of effort on our part (this article will focus on video games and next week I will focus on social media).

It comes back to balance and moderation. Yes there will be days when you have family or friends over for drinks and you’re enjoying yourselves (without watching the clock) while all the kids are in another room playing video games far past their usual limited time. And guess what? That’s OK!

On regular days however, giving your tweens and teens guidelines for gaming is essential for a healthy balanced summer. Without limits you may notice signs that your child is slowly slipping down a slope that’s very difficult to climb out of. Allow me to explain why …

Video games, especially the online interactive ones like Wold of Warcraft (WoW) and League of Legends are DESIGNED to be addictive. These games are goal oriented and humans love to have a goal to fulfill. We are driven to want to complete a goal and will mindlessly be driven to move towards it especially when the goals are just beyond reach. “Behavioral addiction (something we do compulsively that doesn’t involve ingesting a substance into our bodies) consists of: irresistible and unpredictable positive feedback; a sense of incremental progress and improvement; and tasks that become slowly more difficult over time” (Adam Atler, Author of Irresistible).

What makes it even more difficult to leave these games is the fact that you create teams with players from all over the world. Some teens will forego sleep because three of their teammates from Copenhagen, Tokyo and Mumbai are on an epic quest without them!

Real words from a WoW gamer: “You do quests and kill monsters for experience points and gold. Doing either of those require immense amounts of time, literally on par with a part-time job. To progress, you virtually have to marry the damn game. ‘Thanks for the invitation, but I can’t hang out this weekend. I have a raid, and if I miss it, you know how WoW gets. If you don’t spend enough time with it, it gets all bitchy and starts withholding the good loot.’”

Bennett Foddy, game developer and professor at New York University’s Game Centre, who’s played thousands of video games, is a brilliant thinker but still refuses to sample the charms of WoW for fear of losing months or years of his life…       So there.

What to look for if you suspect video games are taking over your child’s life:
Are there negative consequences with his use? Like health issues, mood issues, sleep issues, low academic performance?
Are you noticing withdrawal from your child from things he used to be interested in?
Is your child tired most of the time? Easily irritable when not gaming?
Does your child have a low tolerance for boredom?

What can you do to help your child stay in control of video gaming? (Balance and moderation)
Set gaming days and non gaming days (and be consistent).
Set time limits (give a 5 min. warning before shut down time to allow him to mentally prepare).
Keep gaming devices OUT OF THE BEDROOM overnight.

Let’s face it. Kids love video games and there’s nothing wrong with playing them. But when you start to see negative consequences as a result of playing too much, those are red flags. Don’t ignore the red flags.

Next week Natalia will share tips about signs that social media is taking over.

Do You Have a Cut-Off Time For Electronics?

Do You Have a Cut-Off Time For Electronics?

Five years ago I created the “10 Rules That Work” for tweens — outlining online safety tips and healthy habits. Through extensive research and a lot of effort my goal was to make these rules deep rooted fundamentals that would not expire over time. Let’s see how rule #3 and #4 fare out …
(I invite you to follow along every Saturday as I examine each rule one by one)

Rule #3: Set Cut-Off Times For Tech

The photo I used for this blog is an actual photo I took of all the devices I collected one night from my daughter’s sleepover. When the kids were younger the cut-off time for technology was 8:00pm. You will naturally change the cut-off time the older your kids get but it’s absolutely necessary to have one. The experts say we need to give our brain at least an hour of screen-free stimulation to properly allow it to wind down for bed. Playing Call of Duty killing zombies and running around shooting bad guys for an hour isn’t a soothing bed time ritual. It’s common sense if you think about it. The problem is not enough people do. So no video games an hour before bed.

Rule #3 (Set cut-off times for tech) goes hand in hand with Rule #4: No devices in the bedroom over night — I can’t talk about one and not the other. Not only is it good to cut off video games an hour before bed, but also social media and texting. Some people will argue that social media is not the same as video games and it’s “the way we communicate,” “it’s what I do to chill out.” It’s still a source of ongoing stimulation that does not allow your nervous system to shut down.

And you can’t help yourself — going back to check for new comments likes and shares feels SO GOOD. The more you get the more you want. Not to mention the irresistible alert dings from texts emails and games inviting you to play. I’ll never forget when a fifth grader stood up and said to me, “It’s really weird. I never get a good night’s sleep because my phone keeps dinging all night from game notifications.” My eyes nearly popped out of their sockets when he said that.


Teens can’t handle the fear of missing out of a text so much so that they sleep with their phones in their hands. We can’t allow this. We should teach them that the bedroom is their safe room, their sanctuary, their place of rest. Imposing a no devices in the bedroom rule is a gift of mandatory unplugging that fosters short term and long term benefits.

You also protect your child and other people’s children by taking ALL devices during a sleepover. Nasty pranks and inappropriate behaviours occur after 10:00pm that could have been avoided had parents enforced the no devices in the bedroom over night rule. Some teachers are having to deal with these issues at school because photos have been taken during sleepovers and passed around. And don’t think other people’s kids won’t try to push your boundaries. One night when I was collecting phones (including my daughter’s friend’s phone) my daughter said “But she’s a guest.” I laughed … but I still took her phone.

2017 – Has this rule changed for us?

What really helped was to have a tech bowl in our home that holds all the chargers, tablets, laptops and phones. Five years ago we were much stricter with turning all devices in to this neutral location. Occasionally I would hear sounds in the night (what I later discovered were footsteps) sneaking to the bowl to take a phone. I wouldn’t realize it until the morning. Then I started taking the bowl into my bedroom. Our tech bowl is still in the same spot and is still where we put all the electronics when they’re not spread all over the couches and counters.

However I find that because all the chargers are in a central area in the kitchen, the kids tend to leave their phones there automatically to charge over night so I don’t really have to demand that they go directly in the tech bowl. If I go to sleep before my 14 year old who’s still studying I’ll ask if her phone is in her room and it usually isn’t. At this point if her grades are still good and she’s not having a hard time waking up early, I trust she’s telling the truth. There does come a time when we have to show we trust them.

Do You Use A Timer?

Do You Use A Timer?

Five years ago I created the “10 Rules That Work” for tweens — outlining online safety tips and healthy habits. Through extensive research and a lot of effort my goal was to make these rules deep rooted fundamentals that would not expire over time. Let’s see how rule #2 fares out …
(I invite you to follow along every Saturday as I examine each rule one by one)

Rule #2: Use a Timer

The timer is the most ingenious yet most overlooked tool in our households. I’ve used a timer since my kids were toddlers for managing bedtimes, catching the bus, homework, you name it. What I love the most is its ability to take the focus off YOU as the bad guy. “Kids, when the timer rings it’s time for bed.” Timer rings, they go to bed. If there was ever “Awww! Come on!” I just said “You heard the timer. Time for bed.” End of story. Train them young, it becomes second nature.

When it comes to video games, Dr. Larry Rosen’s research shows that when you use the timer method it’s good to give them two warnings. Games are designed to keep us drawn in. Imagine that your child has been working really hard at something for an hour and all of a sudden you waltz into the room and say TIME’S UP SHUT IT DOWN. Of course they’ll put up a fight! What’s wrong with you? (Haha – just kidding). Dr. Rosen says you should have two timers. Once the first timer rings, let your child know that he now has 5 minutes to wrap it up and when the next timer rings he must shut down. The brain needs time to unwind. It has just spent the last hour on hyper stimulation and received copious amounts of rewards. Once we understand how it all works, it makes so much more sense.

The timer also teaches your child how to self regulate — having the ability to stop doing something even though you want to keep going. There’s no way your child will shut down their video games on their own. Use a timer to teach them the essential life skill of self regulation (which by the way all children should learn by the age of 12 says Dr. Madeline Levine … and I agree).

2017 — Has this rule changed for us?

Absolutely not. We still use timers probably because I’m obsessed with them. I’ll use a 5 minute timer when I put shirts and pants in the dryer then I’ll hang them otherwise they’ll shrink. Today at the age of 13, when my son plays video games he doesn’t sit with a timer next to him or anything but I’ll tell him to watch the clock and to shut down in after an hour (or two sometimes). If he doesn’t do it on his own (which is often), timer-obsessed-lady has one going in the kitchen anyway. After the hour has gone by I will tell him that he has 5 minutes and when he hears the timer he has to shut her down. And it still works to this day.

What do you think of the timer method? Do you use one? Share your comments below.