What's Your Excuse? My Thoughts on the Word Bully

Friday, October 18, 2013

I don't usually write reactionary posts, but I felt this needed to be said. It's not my intention to make anyone mad. But it is my intention to (hopefully) make people think. If you have no idea who Maria Kang is or what the drama is about, read up first or this might not make sense. 

I opened my Facebook this morning and apparently I'm supposed to be upset over the photo fitness enthusiast Maria Kang posted of herself, her abs and her children on her Facebook page (more than a year ago). Well, I'm not upset but I am disappointed. People are outraged. How dare she put up a picture like that! Kang has been labeled a bully and frankly I don't think that's fair. 

Folks, it seems some of us, myself included, need to put the Internet on pause, go make a good cup of coffee and take some deep breaths. Maria Kang is not stretch mark shaming. She's not trying to make you feel bad about yourself. She's certainly not a bully. I feel what's happening here is her photo has poked the bear. Or, more specifically, the 'What's Your Excuse?' tagline used on the photo has. 

Am I carrying around extra weight? Definitely. Do I have body image issues? Yep. Do I wish I were living a more active lifestyle? For sure. Are any of those Maria's fault? Not in the least. When I look at Maria's photo and read the tagline, it doesn't make me mad. Good for her for working so hard at something that is obviously important to her. Whatever jealousy, insecurity or anything else that makes me feel even slightly 'less than' when I look at her picture is all on me. They're part of my issues. In fact, she's right. My personal answer to her tagline question is, "I don't have any excuses." I have several reasons, but no excuses. 

I feel that people (okay, women) are letting their insecurity, maybe a little guilt at not being more fit, maybe even a little anger at how often we feel we're not able to put ourselves first determine what filters they're looking at Maria's photo through. I would bet money that everyone who has a problem with the caption reads it as 'what's YOUR excuse?' and, through the little voice in their head, the word 'your' has been assigned a judgey, snarky tone. I read it as a straight question, with no emphasis on any of the words. It's all about perspective.

I also wonder how many people who are upset over the photo also have Words of Wisdom Pinterest Boards filled with quotes like, 'no one is in charge of your happiness but you;' 'the control center of your life is your attitude' or the biggie 'no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.' 


If you're one who has had a visceral reaction to this situation, ask yourself: has Maria harmed you in any way? Threatened you? Do you feel there is an imbalance of power? Are you intimidated by her? Physically harmed? I could go on but I think you get my point. Please stop referring to Maria as bully. It dilutes the word and diminishes the experiences people, particularly children, are having with actual bullying. 

"It is estimated that 160,000 children miss school everyday due to the fear of attack or intimidation by other students - 2 out of 3 teens are verbally or physically harassed every year. - 58% of teens have had hurtful things said to them online and over 40% say it’s happened more than once."

Our children are in crisis. They're experiencing depression, missing school and attempting and committing suicide because they're being bullied. This is not okay! I think the word bully is being used more and more as a catchall phrase and it's doing more harm than good. I think there's a fine line between someone being mean and being a bully.  

It seems that, as a society, we've gotten so sensitive that negative statements, any type of confrontation, thought or idea that makes us uncomfortable or forces us to confront our own demons (like Maria's photo), puts us on the defensive and are automatically getting labeled as bullying behavior. I think that's wrong. There's a difference between bullying and being a jerk. It may be slight, but in my mind there's a difference nonetheless.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Take a moment to reflect on the word bully and what it means to you. Think about how you're using the word and in what situations. What terminology and phrasing have you used when talking with your children about bullying? Bullying is serious. We need to treat it seriously. Please don't use the word so casually. Our children are counting on us and we can't afford to have the word lose its true meaning. 

For information on bullying visit Pacer.org, Stomp Out Bullying.org, National Education Association.org and StopBullying.gov. Quoted statistics from Do Something.org. Image via freedigitalphotos.net and David Castillo Dominici.

10 Steps to Setting Parental Controls for the iPod Touch

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My son doesn't have an iPhone, a fact he reminds me of all the time. Last year he got an iPod Touch for Christmas and that will have to do for now. We were hesitant to give him such easy access to the internet. My personal opinion is that children under the age of 14 shouldn't have unrestricted and unmonitored access to web. Even after age 14, I believe families should have guidelines in place and an understanding that the internet isn't always a safe place for kids to be. 
Internet safety for kids

We've tried to have an open dialogue with Tyler about why we're (or rather, I) am so strict on what kinds of things he's allowed to do with his iPod. I've told him it's not so much that I don't trust him, it's that I don't trust everyone else on the internet. I've explained and shown him examples of  the ways people are using apps like Instagram and Snapchat in way that the app creators didn't intend and in ways children don't need to see. 

We're alright with being thought of as the uncool parents if it means we're limiting his exposure to inappropriate (and sometimes flat out indecent) material. We decided the best we can do it set as many parental controls as we could, explain our rules and the consequences for not following them and monitor how he uses his iPod.  

The Settings and Restrictions tabs are your best friends. Get to know these areas. Most of the steps we've taken started here. 

1. Set a passcode lock
We keep it simple so we'll remember it. If he loses the iPod, at least we have a small measure of security in that hopefully no one else will be able to use it.

iPod parental controls

2. Link the iPod to your iTunes account
Having the iPod on my account means I can see everything on it. It also helps me keep it backed up and the software up to date.

3. Provide contact info
The lock screen reads "If found please call" with my Google Voice phone number.

4. Install Find My iPhone
I have this app on my iPad and my iPhone. If he does lose it the location based service, combined with the contact info hopefully would get it returned to us quickly.

5. Turn off in app purchases
My son uses his iPod almost exclusively for gaming. Many of the games he likes are free to play, but ask for real money to buy boosts and extras. He once spent $25 on gas cans for Battle Bears! Since his iPod is linked to my iTunes account, this is a way to ensure I don't get any surprises on my bank account. In app purchases can add up fast. I can monitor how much of his iTunes gift cards he's used and let him know when he runs out of funds.

6. Change settings for explicit content
Go to Settings --> General --> Restrictions and look for the content ratings. I believe the default settings are set to 'all,' which means if your child is searching iTunes or You Tube they may stumble across something with strong language or worse.

7. Set a Restrictions passcode
In addition to a main passcode, I set one specifically for the Restrictions are. This way, the settings for explicit content aren't changed. The passcode is one that only I know.

8. Turn off the ability to delete apps
I chose this option so he can't install and then delete an app before I can see it. I also want to make sure he didn't accidentally delete the Find My iPhone app. 

9. Delete some apps and settings altogether
I deleted YouTube, the ability to play multi-player games, the ability to add friends, Ping and iTunes. This was something I struggled with. I wanted him to have some freedom, but I also don't want him to have unlimited access to YouTube, and some of the games in the iTunes store seem like they are for kids but aren't. My hope is to prevent him from things like accidentally downloading the explicit version of a song rather than the radio version. 

10. Install a safer browser option 
This is a new one for us. Since he was 9 when he got the iPod, I really didn't want Tyler to have any access to the web. Now, he needs to go online for both homework and sports so I'm going to install a new browser after doing more research on the options below. 

Mobicip Safe Browser
AVG Browser
McGruff SafeGuard Browser
K9 Web Protection Browser

Since iPads, iPhones and the iPod Touch are very similar in function, I think many of these settings will work across the devices as you'll find them in the same areas. 

I know I seem mean and paranoid, but I'm not. We're really trying to balance Tyler's growing independence and desire for freedom and privacy with responsible use of the internet. Tyler and I have had many conversations about what a digital footprint is and how the things he posts online will live forever. He already knows what college he wants to go to and we looked up their social media guidelines. 

Phil and I are doing our best to impress upon him the importance of using the web the 'right' way. Plus, I think being a kid today is hard enough without the added distractions and pressures of the web and social media. I feel like giving our younger kids unlimited and unmonitored access to the web is forcing them to participate in conversations they're not yet mature enough to have. 

What about you? What precautions have you taken with your child's digital device? Are there any steps I missed? 

*Child photo from freedigitalphotos.net
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