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A Fab Foursome of Fun in Britain

by Alexandra Zega


RISMEDIA, June 27, 2008-(MCT)-Summer is the time that Americans celebrate independence and freedom from the Mother Country. Still, England remains a close relative. In the very heart of quintessential Englishness-the Cotswolds region in western England-visitors can find downright quirky places and personalities. You just need to know where to look. Here are four lesser-known tourism treasures to help you discover an unexpected side of Britain.

The Pudding Club

You don’t need to be a member to attend a weekly meeting of the Pudding Club at Three Ways House Hotel near the northern Cotswolds town of Chipping Campden.

Reservations, however, are required. It’s also helpful if you wholeheartedly support the 23-year-old club’s founding purpose-to prevent the demise of the great British pudding (a heartier version of American dessert). Otherwise, you might think it’s somewhat crazy to consume seven, albeit scrumptious, desserts in one sitting.

At a recent meeting of the club, 70 people from across the globe paid 28 British pounds each (nearly $55) for a place at the table. Each pitted their sweet tooth against a formidable line-up of traditional puddings, such as Very Chocolate Pudding, Syrup Sponge and Tutti Frutti. As in any contest, there are ground rules: You can have only one pudding in your bowl at a time, and bowls must be clean to get the next pudding. Tactical strategies ensure staying power, explained Peter Henderson, one of the hotel’s owners and the evening’s emcee and coach. “Have the chocolate pudding later in the evening,” he advised. “And, go ahead, have chocolate sauce on it. If you’re in that far, don’t give up.”

After sampling the seven, surviving guests voted for their favorites.

For help recovering from the marathon sugar intake, there are bedrooms upstairs in the hotel. Or guests can work it off-the Three Ways House coincidentally offers a series of walking weekends throughout the year.

Gloucester Cathedral

A trip to England isn’t complete without a visit to a cathedral. The choices are many, but only Gloucester Cathedral gives Harry Potter fans the bonus of deja vu. You have seen these hallways.

The cathedral’s beautiful cloisters, where monks once studied manuscripts, were transformed into the corridors of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the films of J.K. Rowling’s first two books-”Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” Of course, modern signs, light switches and stained glass had to be disguised or covered with a little Hogwarts magic.

Besides being known as a filming location, the magnificent cathedral, which has been a place of worship for more than 1,300 years, is renowned for its stunning Gothic architecture. The Great East Window, which is as large as a tennis court, shows Christ raising his hand in blessing, with angels, saints, bishops and monks.

And don’t be surprised to see the Stars and Stripes flying from the cathedral. John Stafford Smith, composer of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” was born in 1750 and christened in Gloucester Cathedral.

Abbey House Gardens

Check the calendar before heading to Abbey House Gardens in the historic town center of Malmesbury.

You’ll want to know what to wear. Or not. Owners Ian and Barbara Pollard, known as the Naked Gardeners, have now designated several clothing-optional days for visitors. Oh, yes, they’ll be clothed on other days, but as Ian succinctly explained the naked moniker, “Why not?” His wife added that the personal preference once was mentioned in a BBC report-and the tagline stuck.

Whatever the season, the five-acres of gardens demonstrate the Pollards’ creativity since moving into the 16th century Abbey House in 1994 and opening their gardens to the public. More than 10,000 species of trees and plants provide a year-round kaleidoscope of textures and colors. This is a must-see garden of ideas for horticultural enthusiasts. Or just relax.

The gardens, especially along the river, provide a wonderfully tranquil environment.

Footnote: The gardeners have a license as an approved venue for a civil marriage ceremony.

Potter Mary Rose Young

From her vivid pink hair to her vibrant, eclectic pottery, Mary Rose Young personifies her philosophy, “Life should be full of color.” And roses. Her trademark roses, along with her favored spots and stripes, are everywhere on her hand-thrown and hand-painted ceramics as well as in her home studio tucked away in the legendary Forest of Dean in western England.

She said her goal is to make pottery that is fun and childlike. But adults like it too. Her quirky, but captivating, pottery can be found in more than 150 U.S. shops as well as throughout the United Kingdom and Europe. (Online orders are accepted.)

Success, however, did not come overnight. Young graduated from art college more than 20 years ago and remembers the long hours of selling her wares in stalls in Bristol.

“I get a lot of pleasure now,” she said, “imagining my pieces winging their way around the world, equally at home in cottage or castle.”

If you go:

Don’t be pound foolish. Avoid weak exchange rates by paying for much of your British vacation in U.S. dollars before you leave home. VisitBritain offers free maps, brochures, vacation-planning advice, and a wide selection of passes and transportation tickets, including BritRail passes. Visit the Online Shop at or call toll-free at 800.462.2748.

Getting there:

Getting to the Cotswolds from London by train takes about one and a half hours from Paddington Station. Trains run every hour, seven days a week. There also is a direct link from Heathrow Airport. For timetable and fare information, visit or Driving by car from London to the Cotswolds takes about two hours.

© 2008, McClatchy-Tribune News Service.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Tips for Getting Your Teen a Hot Job in a Cool Market

by Alexandra Zega



RISMEDIA, June 23, 2008-(MCT)-At a time when parents are being pummeled at the gasoline pump and beaten down by a gloomy economy, their teenagers are about to be unshackled from their school desks, set free into the jubilance of summer. Whether they’re graduating or they just want to earn some of their own gas tank ching-a-ling-a-ling, many will be looking for summer jobs. The task can be dreary-especially if you’re not thrilled by the prospect of flipping burgers and folding pocket V-neck T’s at a mall store-but in this economic climate, it can also be tough.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate for 16- to 19-year-olds rose to 15.5% in April, one percent higher than a year ago. The overall unemployment rate is 5.1%, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“It really is hard, because a lot of jobs that kids would have during the summer … adults have taken those jobs, because they need two or three jobs now,” says Pat Fulkerson, youth contract manager for Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County, Texas.

Teens can still work at perennial employers like Six Flags Over Texas, even though there are fewer of those jobs, human resources director Marian Buehler said. But the jobs are there, Buehler says. “Mainly, we’re just looking for people that have customer-service skills, that will make good eye contact, that are polite.”

So there’s no need to panic. Just get busy, and get creative, and when it comes to finding work off the beaten path, take a look at the advice from these experts.

Think Outside the Bun

Lila Boydston, career resources coordinator for the Fort Worth, Texas, school district, says it’s easy for students to gravitate toward the typical places. “They think: `Oh, I just need to go to a grocery store or fast food.’ And there’s nothing wrong with those, but they should start to brainstorm: Where are the places you like to go for fun? Make a list, and why not apply?”

Cheri Butler, associate director of career services at the University of Texas at Arlington, tells students that if they want to attend college, they should try to look further down the road. Ask yourself what you are interested in right now. “I encourage them to think outside the box about things that they like to do that might lead them to helping decide on a career path.”

Start by talking to friends, family and acquaintances for ideas and connections. If a student really likes animals, Butler says, why not check out the Fort Worth Zoo or a vet’s office? If you’re interested in something like real estate, realty offices sometimes hire students for part-time, weekend receptionist jobs.

Butler added that working a summer job in a field you’d like to pursue may also help you realize that this really isn’t the career path for you.

Robert Rodriguez, 18, found his part-time job about a year ago after being referred by a friend: the Trimble Tech senior is a dietary aide at Cook Children’s Hospital. He prepares trays for the patients, and sometimes delivers meals to the kids’ rooms. He makes $8.50 an hour with benefits that include paid time off and sick pay.

Rodriguez’s advice to teen job seekers? “It’s always good to look at the hospital websites; they’re always looking for hired help.”

Be Your Own Boss

David Minor was a teenage entrepreneur. He’s now the director of Texas Christian University’s Neeley Entrepreneurship Center at the M.J. Neeley School of Business.

One of his first jobs as a teen was doing janitorial work, making minimum wage, which was then $1.65 an hour. The next summer, one of his friends told him how he’d started making money mowing lawns. Minor had a lawn mower, a buddy had a driver’s license, so a new venture was born. His hourly wage shot up to $8-$10 an hour. “The very first week I realized being an entrepreneur was the ticket for me,” Minor says. By the next year, he had his own license and the ability to go solo.

“I was able to make more money than I could on someone else’s schedule,” said Minor, who started Minor’s Landscape Service, which eventually grew into three offices. He finally sold the business when he was 39.

“Oftentimes creating your own opportunities is the way to go,” Minor says. “It gives you the freedom and flexibility to do what you want to do, when you want to, or when you can do it. It allows you to work around other extracurricular activities.”

If you want some ideas from people who really thought outside the box (and in some cases, might’ve had some start-up help from Mom and Dad), take a look at some of the winners of TCU’s Texas Youth Entrepreneur of the Year program at

The program recognizes young people who have started their own businesses, Minor says. “We bring about 20 (students) in, and we award six of them (college) scholarship money.”

This year’s winner bought and sold used, high-end foreign cars. “That’s obviously a very unique niche,” Minor says, adding that there was a mix of mundane and highly unusual businesses: lawn mowing, window washing, curb painting, website building, calf raising.

“One of our winners did Internet promotions for movies,” Minor says.

Just like any kind of entrepreneurial venture, Minor says, it’s first about zeroing in on a niche to fill-a particular service that people can use. Then comes the idea, and then you have to access the capital you need. “Obviously some of them are going to get a little help from their parents to start with,” he says.

And once you’re off with your idea, get out the word by going door to door, posting flyers and informing just about everyone you know.

If you’re leaning toward entrepreneurship, you might pick up a copy of “Prepare To Be a Teen Millionaire”, by Kimberly Spinks Burleson and Robyn Collins. The book offers tips from and interviews with people who created their own businesses as teens.

Where to Look?

We asked our employment experts for ideas on how to get the cash flowing this summer-whether it’s an entrepreneurial plan, or a 9-to-5 job doing something different or unusual. Some jobs might be internships, which often don’t pay-but if it’s something you’re aching to pursue, think of it as an investment in your future.

Animals / Outdoors

Local Zoo
Veterinary offices
Lifeguarding at pools or summer camps
Theme parks
Country clubs/golf courses


Museums (tour guides, reception desk, gift shop)
Movie theaters
Radio stations

Office Work

Law firms (research)
Realty offices
Beauty salons
Web design
Computer troubleshooting/repair


Pet and house sitting
Dog walking
Lawn care/landscaping
Martial arts instruction
Floral design
Artwork; design and produce T-shirts
Auto mechanics
Car detailing, customization



More Tips for Teens

Do …

- Look as if you took the time to pick out your clothes, not dressed as an afterthought.
- Be upbeat and high-energy; show your personality.
- Be well-groomed–hair and hygiene.
- Wear clothes that fit properly. Wear casual pants, not jeans, and solid shirts, not prints. Stay away from bright colors. Avoid sandals and flip-flops, and women should avoid open-toe shoes. “It all sounds very old-fashioned,” Boydston says, “but it’s still what employers are looking for.”

Don’t …

- Wear shorts, cologne or perfume. “A lot of people are allergic,” Boydston says.
- Overdo the makeup. It’s better to wear clear or no polish on neatly groomed nails.
- Overdo the jewelry. It can be a distraction. Guidelines for guys: a ring and a watch; for women, keep it simple: chain, one ring on each hand, one item per wrist.

In addition to personal appearance, Boydston says applicants should think about skills they have that could benefit the employer. Let them know you’re someone who wants to work, will come in on time, will take initiative and will learn the job. And it always helps if you have reliable transportation. “Just know yourself,” Boydston says. “Do you have good communication skills? Are your reliable? Enthusiastic? Do you enjoy helping others? Do you have good money skills-and how that would be a benefit to that employer?”

© 2008, Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Getaways: Five Summer Lists for Fun in the Sun

by Alexandra Zega


RISMEDIA, June 13, 2008-(MCT)-Everyone knows that summer really starts on the Friday afternoon before Memorial Day (Thursday night if you plan to call in sick) and comes to a crashing halt when the alarm clock rings on the Tuesday morning after Labor Day. So get out that big magic marker and mark your calendar to remember to mentally downshift from now to Sept. 2. In celebration, here are five must-read summer lists.

Five Cool Summer Spots

If you want to jump-start your summer, head to Phoenix, Las Vegas, Tucson or Dallas-Fort Worth, which have the highest average summertime temperatures. But most of us are looking for a place to cool down when things get hot. Here’s where to go to literally chill.

San Francisco: Mark Twain didn’t actually say “the coldest winter of my life was a summer in San Francisco,” but he’d probably like the turn of phrase. It sums up a truth: No part of a city in the lower 48 states is cooler during the summer than the west side of San Francisco. I can hear those foghorns now. October is actually warmer than July.

Seattle: The locals feel like it rains all the time (and even in summer, you can get doused), but this is a great time to visit Seattle. When the skies clear you will have beautiful shirt-sleeve days, a favorite time to visit Gig Harbor or one of the other spots sprinkled around Puget Sound or go out to Lake Crescent on the Olympic Peninsula. But the evenings will often see visitors grabbing a sweater for a night on the town. On a clear day you can see the snow on top of Mount Rainier, especially from the observation area of the Space Needle.

San Diego: Though it casts itself as a classic sunny, Southern California summer spot, San Diego is actually the epitome of meteorological mildness. Among major American cities, it ranks third, behind San Francisco and Seattle, for the lowest average daily high temperature during June, July and August. The summer thermometer readings usually top out at 75 degrees. Sweet.

Portland: Oregon’s biggest city can have hot spells, but it’s another Top 5 cool spot for average summer temperatures. If it does warm up, so much the better for the city’s well-known microbreweries and beer gardens, where the only sweat is on a glass of ale. If you want it even colder, head a few hours west to the coast, where summer by the Pacific Ocean won’t remind you of any Beach Boys song.

Fairbanks: An urban refrigerator much of the year, the Alaskan city thaws out for the short summer highlighted by long days. To the south is Denali, also known as Mount McKinley, the tallest mountain in the United States.

But the real adventures are to the north, courtesy of two of the most magnificent but least-visited national parks-Gates of the Arctic and Kobuk Valley. I prefer the latter part of the summer, around early August, when the unofficial state bird of Alaska-the mosquito-dies down.

Five Up-All-Night Summer Cities

If a town broils in the day, there is a good chance it has a warm summer glow at night. Some cities with brutal noon sun are my favorite nocturnal haunts on an August night.

Las Vegas: Triple digits in the desert and hordes on the weekends make a summer daytime on the Strip a hard, sweaty slog. Better to wait for the night, when America’s “city of lights” turns on and turns it up. My favorite neon: the Flamingo. Favorite nighttime hotel: the Palms. Favorite night’s sleep: Red Rock in Summerlin, far from the action.

Miami Beach: The beautiful people sweat out the day at the beach, but the action really starts up after dark, when Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue become rivers of people. The deco district has some of the best neon in the country. I love to visit but usually sleep elsewhere in town. It can be tough to get your beauty sleep when the volume of life is on roar around small boutique hotels like the Tides, Colony or Delano.

New Orleans: Summer starts sometime around March and lasts into October. Though ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, the old core of the city is on the rebound, and the people are glad to have you. At night, it is best not to wander far from the French Quarter, but my favorite nighttime spots are the jazz clubs and restaurants (especially Praline Connection) just to the east in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood.

Palm Springs: In the summer, that old “P.S., I love you” slogan is only good for the p.m. The 100-plus Fahrenheit days drive down hotel prices, especially midweek. The secret is to rest up during the day, take a dip in the hotel pool in the afternoon, then head out just when the sky over San Jacinto turns from dark blue to inky black. My favorite nighttime spot is actually in neighboring Palm Desert, where the El Paseo shopping and eating district stays up late.

Los Angeles: Smog so thick you can barely see the Hollywood sign during the day. Warm nights with all those red taillights streaking along the Sunset Strip. I’ve lived most of my life in Southern California, and as the Doors sang so long ago, Los Angeles is “the city of night.”

Five Great Summer Beaches in Hawaii

The weather doesn’t radically change in Hawaii, but one thing that does shift around is the surf. Winter means heavy pounding of northern shores on the islands, while summer means surf’s up on the south. Among the dozens of great beaches, a few favorites.

Poipu, Kauai: Across from Brennecke’s Broiler restaurant on the south end of Kauai is a pair of perfect beaches. Brennecke’s Beach is the place to go body boarding or roll around in the crashing surf. But just to the west is Poipu Beach, with a rocky shoal that creates a placid lagoon and gently sloping sands perfect for younger children. After you’re all done for the day, go to the broiler for mai tais (for the adults) and burgers (for everyone).

Waimea Bay, Oahu: The home of the biggest waves on the island during the winter is a placid bay with sailboats bobbing at anchor during the summer. The steep shore break can sometimes make swimming a little choppy, but much of the summer it’s not much more than an ankle slapper. Watch the brave ones jump off the rock at the west end of the bay. Come early for the best parking and check out the lei-draped memorial to legendary lifeguard and surfer Eddie Aikau.

Lumahai Beach, Kauai: I’ve been criticized by readers for mentioning this classic little beach at the bottom of a steep, wooded path on the north shore of Kauai. The surf can be surprisingly rough, especially in winter.

Even in summer, a rogue wave can reach up on the popular shelf of rocks where wedding photographers often take couples for photos. But the sand strand where part of the movie “South Pacific” was filmed is drop-dead gorgeous. Just don’t drop the wrong way into the ocean and end up dead. If you want to play it safe, stay upslope on the sand.

Makena Beach, Maui: My choice of favorite beach on the island that may have the best beaches in Hawaii has bounced around over the years: Kapalua, until the area around it became too developed. Hot but fun D.T. Fleming.

Kamaole Beach Park (actually three beaches, numbered 1, 2 and 3) near the condos in Kihei. Remote, tree-fringed Hamoa at the end of the long, twisting drive to Hana. The great hotel-fronted strip at Kaanapali. But in the end I come back to the first beach I ever loved on my first trip to Hawaii, the place some locals simply call “Big Beach.” At the end of the road south toward Wailea, it’s a nearly mile-long stretch of golden yellow sand and beautiful water. If you wonder why a stream of people are hiking over a nearby hill: They’re on the way to “Little Beach,” the popular but decidedly unofficial nude beach.

Waikiki, Oahu: Yes, it is packed, and a commercial strip is just a block away. But with Diamond Head in the background, it is America’s classic urban beach (sorry, South Beach). Summer is when the waves are biggest, which isn’t that big on this gently sloping beach. But perfect for the canoe rides offered at the beach boy stands near the statue of Duke Kahanamoku.

Five European Summer Favorites

I’m devoted to traveling to Europe in the off-season, especially the lovely autumn. Nothing seems as suffocating as a July weekend in Florence, where your $500-a-night, three-star hotel doesn’t even have air conditioning.

When I do go to Europe in summer, I head north or up into the mountains.

Scottish Highlands: Despite all the buzz about resurgent Glasgow, I still prefer the more sedate charms of Edinburgh. But my favorite is the long drive across Rannoch Moor through Glencoe to Fort William. In winter, this is the heart of Scotland’s ski area. But in summer, it’s just a cool, pretty mountain town.

Lofoten Islands: Take the Norwegian Coastal Voyage or fly in on a prop plane to the rocky, gray islands where summer literally lasts all day due to the northern latitude. I’ve been all over the islands, but I still want to go back to Reine, a picture-perfect fishing village on the south end of the string of towns that I missed on my last visit.

Grindelwald: Guidebook guru Rick Steves sends hordes to the nearby villages of Gimmelwald, Murren and Wengen. I prefer to visit in the slower spring season. Still, it is hard not to love the crisp, cool summer weather up in the Swiss Alps. I’d use the ski village of Grindelwald as my home base and take the unbelievably intricate network of rail lines to explore the mountains. Include a train ride all the way up to the observation deck near the 13,642-foot peak of Jungfraujoch mountain.

Dolomites: The mountains around Suisi and Cortina d’Ampezzo are unlike anything else in the “roof of Europe,” more vertical and jagged than the Alpine areas in France, Germany and Switzerland. The mountain huts are great for hiking from point to point (some are used by cross-country skiers in the winter). I’m more likely to do the famous loop drive out of Bolzano (called Bozen by the German speakers in the area), conveniently located off the superhighway through the Brenner Pass between Italy and Austria.

Tyrol: Politically split between Austria and Italy, this area to the west of the Dolomites is more of the classic Alpine experience. It was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, giving it a north-meets-south feeling. Rent a car in Innsbruck, Austria or Verona, Italy, and tour the region. If you have extra time, check out the wonderful Italian lake district, which would make this list if it were not for the unfortunate but entirely understandable crush of summer crowds. Still, taking the speedboats to the little villages around Lake Como is a treat worthy of a list all its own.

Five Great Summer Drives

Even with $4-a-gallon gas, I love a great summertime drive. Some are high mountain roads that can be driven only in the short summer above the tree line. Some are classic highways any time of year. While I love Pacific Coast Highway, I can’t handle the RVs and SUVs on the stretch between Cambria and Monterey, so it doesn’t make the list-I prefer spring for Highway 1.

Tioga Pass Road: In a good year, the snows clear enough at the high elevations of the California Sierra to open the road by Memorial Day. Don’t count on it this year-at press time there were still four avalanche zones. We’re talking cold country up there. The high road begins just south of Mono Lake off Highway 395 and climbs up to Tioga Pass at 9,943 feet before twisting down into Yosemite Valley. You end up in the heart of the great national park. Snow usually closes the road by November.

Going-to-the-Sun Road: It feels like driving 50 miles on the edge of razor wire wrapped around the sides of the Montana mountains. Your car is the automotive equivalent of the goats you’ll see clinging to the sides of the towering peaks in Glacier National Park. Hawks, moose and the occasional bear are often sharing the scenery, looking at you as you look at them.

This is the 75th anniversary of the engineering marvel, and a party will be held June 27 at Logan Pass, elevation 6,646 feet. Get there early for parking-and bundle up.

Beartooth Highway: I’ve never felt more alone on a road than on the loneliest stretches through the mountains between Red Lodge, Mont., and the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. The gravel-strewn high country above the tree line is a place where clouds seem to come at you sideways and lakes are still glittering with bits of ice well into June. There are 20 peaks over 12,000 feet that can be viewed from the highway, which goes over passes in both states that are above 10,000 feet. In good weather, you can do the 69-mile drive in two hours. But stop off at the high country general stores and enjoy yourself. A half day should do just fine.

Route 66: At first, the idea of going out of your way to motor 2,400 or so miles across ancient potholed remnants of the former highway between Chicago and Santa Monica doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. Add in blazing summers from southern Illinois through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona and you have something downright blacktop hellacious. Still, the draw of what’s left of the two-lane-and classic stops like Amarillo, Texas, and Seligman, Ariz.-make the “Mother Road” something that transcends weather.

Check out the great old La Posada hotel in Winslow, Ariz., a former Harvey House restored by a couple transplanted from Laguna Beach. When your wheels are spinning across the miles of pavement, turn up the radio and crank up the AC. Or if you can, just put the top down and drive fast.

Highway 61: Bob Dylan immortalized the “River Road” that runs beside the Mississippi River from Minnesota to New Orleans. My favorite stretches are the bluffs and forests north of Red Wing in Minnesota, the great riverside town of Davenport, Iowa (excellent minor-league ballpark and the birthplace of chiropractic adjustments), and the legendary Delta blues country south of Memphis to about Vicksburg, Miss. Stop off in Clarksdale, Miss., where legend says guitarist Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil at the “crossroads” with Highway 49. Maybe that explains why in summer, it’s hot as hell in these parts.

Have a safe and happy summer - Alexandra Zega, Realtor

Courtesy of Gary Warner - © 2008, The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.).
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

10 Tips for Keeping Kids Safe on Social Networks

by Alexandra Zega

june4homespunweb.jpgRISMEDIA, June 4, 2008-June is Internet Safety month. With hundred of millions of teens, pre-teens-and adults-around the world using social networking sites, there’s no better time for parents to be aware of the fun, the benefits, the powerful attractions, and the potential risks that MySpace, Facebook and other similar sites offer their children., a leader in Internet safety solutions, has assembled a list of practical tips parents can use to ensure a safe networking environment for kids:

1. Show Interest - Ask questions about how your child’s preferred social networking site or sites work. Kids are generally happy to demonstrate their knowledge if you show genuine interest. You can even ask your teen to show you how to set up your own social networking site-a great way to visit your child’s page and see what’s been posted there.
2. Encourage Instinctive Responses - Kids often can instinctively do the right thing, which makes them their own first defense against those who may take advantage online. Encourage your children to avoid contact with people they “feel funny about.” Tell them to not reveal anything online they would not want a stranger to know. Limit the posting of pictures and remind them that once something is placed online, it can never be taken back.
3. Know Your Kids’ Passwords - If your child changes his or her password suddenly and refuses to share it with you, that’s trouble. Insist on knowing how to access his or her accounts-then keep their confidence by not sharing the information with their friends or siblings.
4. Set Hours for When Kids Can Access Social Networks - Late nights are the favorite time for predators to seek out their adolescent prey. Set firm limits not only for the time of day, but also the total amount of time, that your children may access social networking sites.
5. Be Aware of Alternate Access Points - Kids don’t have to access their social networks at home. Libraries, friends’ houses, even cell phones make the Internet easy to reach today. Keep up with what’s happening on your child’s social networking page and be aware when changes have been made despite the lack of access from home.
6. Exercise Your Parental Right to Supervise - There’s a difference between being snoopy and ensuring safe activity. You don’t have to read every last word of a personal message your son or daughter sends to a friend. But you do have the right-and the obligation-to see who your kids are talking to, and to know the general subject matter.
7. Check for Photos - By clicking on the Windows “Start” button, you’ll find the “Search” tool. Click on “Pictures, Music or Video,” the box next to “Pictures and Photos,” and finally “Search”. Ask your child to identify any photos of strangers, or any other pictures you find questionable.
8. Install Filtering Software - PC products like Safe Eyes allow parents to block or record Instant Messenger chats, limit e-mail use to prescribed addresses, block objectionable websites (including peer-to-peer file sharing programs that often expose kids to inappropriate material), and receive alerts when kids post personal information on social networking sites.
9. Watch for CyberBullying - Encourage your children to tell you immediately if they are being harassed online. Children also need to know that it is not acceptable to be a party to cyberbullying-or to remain silent when they know others are being harassed.
10. Don’t Lecture - Finally, if you should find reasons for concern, don’t browbeat, insult or condescend to your child. Have a discussion about values and why they are important. Respect your child but be firm. And most of all, lead by example. Parents have a powerful ability to influence their child’s behavior-and nothing is more powerful than someone who not only talks values, but lives them.

“Parents should never feel that their level of involvement in their child’s social network activity is excessive. Since 1998, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline has logged over 33,000 tips about children being enticed online for sexual acts,” said Shane Kenny, President and COO of “Better that the parent error on the side of intrusion, rather than bear the consequences of doing nothing.”


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