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Category: Social Media Safety

An Incredible Holiday Gift – And it’s Absolutely Free!

the free holiday gift

This holiday season, there is one gift you can give the world that doesn’t cost one cent. Be nice. Being nice is easy. It can take many forms. You could use your graphics program to create a thoughtful message and stick it in the lockers at school. You can shovel the walks of elderly people you know.

You can even use social media. Consider posting messages of goodwill to as many people as you can. The trick is to post positive messages to people you may not like or even get along with.

“Be nice? No way. I hate him.” That might be true, but think about this: There are people who like and even love that person that you hate. No matter how you feel about a person, someone else sees good and worthwhile qualities in him or her.

Remember, that guy or girl you dislike has friends, family, neighbors and co-workers who like them. And people you dislike probably dislike you! And you know in your heart that you are a good person, just like people you don’t like think that they are a good person.

Still think it is impossible to be nice to someone you hate? Then you need to hear an amazing story about soldiers being nice to people they were trying to shoot.

Go back in your mind to World War 1, December, 1914. On one side of the battlefield: The Germans. On the other side: British, French and Belgian troops.

Soldiers were huddled in the cold dirt, in trenches on both sides. Late on Christmas eve night, the moon was bright and magical. Someone on the German side rose from his hole in the ground to start singing Christmas carols.

Other German soldiers soon joined in. When they were done, the other side—the Allies—sang a Christmas carol in return. Soon, the men were out of their trenches, singing carols and exchanging their meager supplies as goodwill gestures and shows of holiday spirit.

Of course, the commanders far away from the fighting did not approve of such behavior, but the soldiers there face to face with the enemy set aside their hostilities to be kind and thoughtful human beings, even in the face of war and death.

Reports on what happened the following days vary, but all agree that the front-line soldiers on both sides declared an unofficial truce. In some reports, the soldiers even played soccer on the battlefield.

Of course, sadly, the war resumed. For years to follow, soldiers fought for freedom in Europe. But in 1914 for the Christmas holidays, the soldiers set down their rifles and sang to the enemy.

Google the Christmas miracle of 1914. Then ask yourself if it truly is impossible to spread peace and goodwill for the holidays, even to people you hate.

This holiday season, there is one gift you can give the world that doesn’t cost one cent. Be nice. Being nice is easy. It can take many forms. You could use your graphics program to create a thoughtful message and stick it in the lockers at school. You can shovel the walks of elderly people you know.

You can even use social media. Consider posting messages of goodwill to as many people as you can. The trick is to post positive messages to people you may not like or even get along with.

“Be nice? No way. I hate him.” That might be true, but think about this: There are people who like and even love that person that you hate. No matter how you feel about a person, someone else sees good and worthwhile qualities in him or her.

Remember, that guy or girl you dislike has friends, family, neighbors and co-workers who like them. And people you dislike probably dislike you! And you know in your heart that you are a good person, just like people you don’t like think that they are a good person.

Still think it is impossible to be nice to someone you hate? Then you need to hear an amazing story about soldiers being nice to people they were trying to shoot.

Go back in your mind to World War 1, December, 1914. On one side of the battlefield: The Germans. On the other side: British, French and Belgian troops.

Soldiers were huddled in the cold dirt, in trenches on both sides. Late on Christmas eve night, the moon was bright and magical. Someone on the German side rose from his hole in the ground to start singing Christmas carols.

Other German soldiers soon joined in. When they were done, the other side—the Allies—sang a Christmas carol in return. Soon, the men were out of their trenches, singing carols and exchanging their meager supplies as goodwill gestures and shows of holiday spirit.

Of course, the commanders far away from the fighting did not approve of such behavior, but the soldiers there face to face with the enemy set aside their hostilities to be kind and thoughtful human beings, even in the face of war and death.

Reports on what happened the following days vary, but all agree that the front-line soldiers on both sides declared an unofficial truce. In some reports, the soldiers even played soccer on the battlefield.

Of course, sadly, the war resumed. For years to follow, soldiers fought for freedom in Europe. But in 1914 for the Christmas holidays, the soldiers set down their rifles and sang to the enemy.

Google the Christmas miracle of 1914. Then ask yourself if it truly is impossible to spread peace and goodwill for the holidays, even to people you hate.

The Life of a 13 Year Old Girl in the Social Media Jungle

Her alarm goes off – much too early. She was up texting with her girlfriends into the early hours of the morning, stifling her giggles so mom and dad wouldn’t hear. She didn’t want to miss a single confession or inside joke, not to mention the late night activity on Twitter and Snapchat.

There are just as many posts after bedtime as there are during school hours, and she would feel pretty stupid at school if she missed out on something big from the night before. Drama actually happens pretty frequently online and over text when she’s burrowed under the covers with only the light of her cell phone – whether it’s an ugly feud between best friends, a rude meme about someone at school, or a nasty breakup with insults flying.

After snoozing once or twice, finally rolling out of bed at the angry threat of her mother, she stumbles through her morning routine, slowing only to double and triple check her appearance in the mirror.

She needs to look cute enough to be popular and desired by the boys; she can’t break the school’s dress code, and she also can’t look like she’s trying too hard or looking too promiscuous or else she’ll risk being called a slut. She knows what her friends say about other girl’s outfits behind their back.

She splits her attention between her teacher’s lessons and the constant stream of texts and snaps she hides under her desk. When she passes up the worksheets at the end of science class she hears stifled laughter from the punk boys behind her.

They’re always cheating off her papers and getting her in trouble. She looks down at the stack of papers in her hands to see that they also handed up a scrap of paper with a very giant and detailed drawing of private parts. She feels sick but just rolls her eyes at them, crumpling the paper into the trash can down the aisle as she leaves.

On the bus ride home from school she sits next to her next door neighbor, Summer, and they pass the time by showing each other Instagram accounts of cute boys at neighboring schools. They talk about the ones they know from church or sports groups, the ones they’ve talked to through direct messages or texting, and the ones they follow but don’t actually know at all.

She’s surprised to hear that some of these boys have also asked Summer for nude photos – she’s had a few of those requests of her own.

“Did you send them?” she asks nervously.

“Well… no. I was too scared.” Summer replies sheepishly.

She feels relief that her friend also turned down the not-so-polite request from these teen boys. She frequently wondered if any of her friends had delivered on the request.

Charging her nearly-dead phone upon getting home, she has an hour or so of uninterrupted homework before a phone-free dinner – her parent’s rule.

“How was your day today sweetie? School good?” her dad asks between mouthfuls of peas.

“It was good. Just a regular day.”

It’s critical to talk to your teen girls – and not just about their homework. Social media has turned their world into something most parents wouldn’t recognize. Talk to your daughter about her friends, social media, boys, drugs, and even the taboo subject of her body.

You won’t regret the extra effort, even if it feels awkward. She needs you, and those conversations, to keep her rooted in a world of confusing values and social media.


Tyler Jacobson is a husband, father, freelance writer and outreach specialist with experience with organizations that help troubled teens and parents. His areas of focus include: parenting, social media, addiction, mental illness, and issues facing teenagers today. Follow Tyler on: Twitter | LinkedIn

Her alarm goes off – much too early. She was up texting with her girlfriends into the early hours of the morning, stifling her giggles so mom and dad wouldn’t hear. She didn’t want to miss a single confession or inside joke, not to mention the late night activity on Twitter and Snapchat.

There are just as many posts after bedtime as there are during school hours, and she would feel pretty stupid at school if she missed out on something big from the night before. Drama actually happens pretty frequently online and over text when she’s burrowed under the covers with only the light of her cell phone – whether it’s an ugly feud between best friends, a rude meme about someone at school, or a nasty breakup with insults flying.

After snoozing once or twice, finally rolling out of bed at the angry threat of her mother, she stumbles through her morning routine, slowing only to double and triple check her appearance in the mirror.

She needs to look cute enough to be popular and desired by the boys; she can’t break the school’s dress code, and she also can’t look like she’s trying too hard or looking too promiscuous or else she’ll risk being called a slut. She knows what her friends say about other girl’s outfits behind their back.

She splits her attention between her teacher’s lessons and the constant stream of texts and snaps she hides under her desk. When she passes up the worksheets at the end of science class she hears stifled laughter from the punk boys behind her.

They’re always cheating off her papers and getting her in trouble. She looks down at the stack of papers in her hands to see that they also handed up a scrap of paper with a very giant and detailed drawing of private parts. She feels sick but just rolls her eyes at them, crumpling the paper into the trash can down the aisle as she leaves.

On the bus ride home from school she sits next to her next door neighbor, Summer, and they pass the time by showing each other Instagram accounts of cute boys at neighboring schools. They talk about the ones they know from church or sports groups, the ones they’ve talked to through direct messages or texting, and the ones they follow but don’t actually know at all.

She’s surprised to hear that some of these boys have also asked Summer for nude photos – she’s had a few of those requests of her own.

“Did you send them?” she asks nervously.

“Well… no. I was too scared.” Summer replies sheepishly.

She feels relief that her friend also turned down the not-so-polite request from these teen boys. She frequently wondered if any of her friends had delivered on the request.

Charging her nearly-dead phone upon getting home, she has an hour or so of uninterrupted homework before a phone-free dinner – her parent’s rule.

“How was your day today sweetie? School good?” her dad asks between mouthfuls of peas.

“It was good. Just a regular day.”

It’s critical to talk to your teen girls – and not just about their homework. Social media has turned their world into something most parents wouldn’t recognize. Talk to your daughter about her friends, social media, boys, drugs, and even the taboo subject of her body.

You won’t regret the extra effort, even if it feels awkward. She needs you, and those conversations, to keep her rooted in a world of confusing values and social media.


Tyler Jacobson is a husband, father, freelance writer and outreach specialist with experience with organizations that help troubled teens and parents. His areas of focus include: parenting, social media, addiction, mental illness, and issues facing teenagers today. Follow Tyler on: Twitter | LinkedIn

A Teens Guide to Social Media Safety

social media safety teens

Parents can worry about a lot. Like everything else in this world, social media is something that the adults in your life will get nervous about. While there’s good reason for that, it’s not easy for you to understand why Facebook or Twitter is such a big deal.

(This article is directed at teens. Parents, read what you can do here).

There are many different reasons why social media can be a dangerous playground. While the horror stories all focus on kids being lured or abducted, there are far more threats that are less severe. No matter your age or sex, it is important to follow some important rules for social media safety.

Before you roll your eyes, please know these guidelines exist to protect you! It’s not about telling you what you can and can’t do… it’s about offering guidelines to protect you from being ripped off, bullied, disrespected, scammed, or worse while you’re just trying to have a good time online.

Check Your Privacy Settings

In most cases, the default privacy settings will give your posts the most public exposure which can be very dangerous.

Important Privacy Setting Resource Links:
Facebook Privacy Settings / Twitter Privacy Settings / Control Visibility on Instagram

Why It’s Important

If you’ve never checked or updated your privacy settings, then people you don’t even know can see your posts. Even if you think you are being careful about what you post, it’s common for teens to post sensitive information without even realizing it. It could be something as simple as an identifying background in one of your pictures… but online predators find easy prey in public profiles.

In a nutshell, keep your social profile strictly private… the best settings are where only friends can see what you post because you never really know who your friends are friends with online, so the “Friends of Friends” setting can leave you exposed and vulnerable.

Be Cautious of Friend Requests

Sure, it’s great to connect with new people through social people… but isn’t there something suspicious when a complete stranger sends you a friend request?

Play it safe and only accept friend requests from friends in the real world.

Apart from the obvious (more severe) threats… friend requests from strangers more commonly turn out to be spam bots (meaning you’ll be spamming your friends). Fake profiles are also created for cyber bullying. So when a new friend request comes in, and you think you know the person, be sure to check their profile first and see if anything looks fishy.

Think Before You Post!

Limit personal contact information in your profile and posts. Never give away your phone number or address. Keep private information private. If you want to share this information with a friend, do it directly by phone or text.

Why It’s Important

Teenagers tend to have a reckless, impulsive approach to social media. (No offense.)

That’s why it’s important to think first before you post what you are thinking or feeling. Even though you can delete something (a post, picture, comment, etc.) you can never permanently erase something that has been published on the internet. That’s also a good reason why you should face your problems instead of Facebooking them. 🙂

More Tips for Online Safety:

  • Avoid using location services like Foursquare and disable location services on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. when posting photos. It’s cool, sure… but it’s not necessary and the risk is greater than the reward.
  • Avoid posting that you are going on vacation, or posting pictures while on vacation… until you are back home. Be also aware of the ramifications of using your cell phone at school and discuss responsible behavior within school guidelines.
  • If you do meet somebody new online, never agree to meet them off line. If somebody you met online sends or requests provocative pictures, tell an adult. You have to approach online friends (who you don’t know in the real world) as a potential predator… because even if it feels like you know them; you really don’t know who they are.

Parents can worry about a lot. Like everything else in this world, social media is something that the adults in your life will get nervous about. While there’s good reason for that, it’s not easy for you to understand why Facebook or Twitter is such a big deal.

(This article is directed at teens. Parents, read what you can do here).

There are many different reasons why social media can be a dangerous playground. While the horror stories all focus on kids being lured or abducted, there are far more threats that are less severe. No matter your age or sex, it is important to follow some important rules for social media safety.

Before you roll your eyes, please know these guidelines exist to protect you! It’s not about telling you what you can and can’t do… it’s about offering guidelines to protect you from being ripped off, bullied, disrespected, scammed, or worse while you’re just trying to have a good time online.

Check Your Privacy Settings

In most cases, the default privacy settings will give your posts the most public exposure which can be very dangerous.

Important Privacy Setting Resource Links:
Facebook Privacy Settings / Twitter Privacy Settings / Control Visibility on Instagram

Why It’s Important

If you’ve never checked or updated your privacy settings, then people you don’t even know can see your posts. Even if you think you are being careful about what you post, it’s common for teens to post sensitive information without even realizing it. It could be something as simple as an identifying background in one of your pictures… but online predators find easy prey in public profiles.

In a nutshell, keep your social profile strictly private… the best settings are where only friends can see what you post because you never really know who your friends are friends with online, so the “Friends of Friends” setting can leave you exposed and vulnerable.

Be Cautious of Friend Requests

Sure, it’s great to connect with new people through social people… but isn’t there something suspicious when a complete stranger sends you a friend request?

Play it safe and only accept friend requests from friends in the real world.

Apart from the obvious (more severe) threats… friend requests from strangers more commonly turn out to be spam bots (meaning you’ll be spamming your friends). Fake profiles are also created for cyber bullying. So when a new friend request comes in, and you think you know the person, be sure to check their profile first and see if anything looks fishy.

Think Before You Post!

Limit personal contact information in your profile and posts. Never give away your phone number or address. Keep private information private. If you want to share this information with a friend, do it directly by phone or text.

Why It’s Important

Teenagers tend to have a reckless, impulsive approach to social media. (No offense.)

That’s why it’s important to think first before you post what you are thinking or feeling. Even though you can delete something (a post, picture, comment, etc.) you can never permanently erase something that has been published on the internet. That’s also a good reason why you should face your problems instead of Facebooking them. 🙂

More Tips for Online Safety:

  • Avoid using location services like Foursquare and disable location services on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. when posting photos. It’s cool, sure… but it’s not necessary and the risk is greater than the reward.
  • Avoid posting that you are going on vacation, or posting pictures while on vacation… until you are back home. Be also aware of the ramifications of using your cell phone at school and discuss responsible behavior within school guidelines.
  • If you do meet somebody new online, never agree to meet them off line. If somebody you met online sends or requests provocative pictures, tell an adult. You have to approach online friends (who you don’t know in the real world) as a potential predator… because even if it feels like you know them; you really don’t know who they are.

CyberBullying: A Word for Parents

cyberbullying guide for parents

There was a time when bullying was something we all had to endure in school, on the bus, and hanging out with friends. It was always unpleasant. The next generation, our children, have an even worse type of bullying to deal with… and it’s so much more common than what we suffered!

About CyberBullying

Remember how frustrating it was in school when somebody was upset and reacted passive aggressively, usually by spreading a rumor? How the victim of a bully (maybe it was you, maybe it was one of your friends) would feel singled out, how hard it was to go to school and deal with the drama.

Your children deal with passive aggressive bullying all the time… because the internet brings out the passive aggressive in almost every young person. From shy kids to the straight forward, outspoken kid… cyberbullying can happen by accident. But as you remember about being the victim of a bully… the wounds never heal.

What’s even worse about cyberbullying is this. When a direct conflict among friends is resolved, you can forget and forgive the hurtful things that were said. However, you can never erase them from the internet.

With that in mind, it’s important to be very sensitive when talking about cyberbullying with your child. And yes, if your kid is using the internet than you do need to talk about this!

Teaching Your Child How To Not Be a CyberBully

As mentioned before, the internet brings out certain behaviors in young folk. Of course your child knows not to pick on somebody in person, but do they know not to rant and rave on social media when what they say could unintentionally hurt somebody else?

Watch for passive aggressive behaviors, and teach your children to face their problems (directly) rather than Facebooking them or through any type of social media.

If your child is 13 or younger, you should have their social media log in info, and don’t share the password with your child. This way, you can easily check in on them and you can also protect your child from being the victim of a “hacker” cyberbully by preventing anyone else from finding out how to log into their account.

Cyberbullying is even more common with older teenagers (age 14-17), especially when they have a smartphone that allows them to post on impulse. Teach them to think before they post, and make sure they understand how important it is to never post anything that could hurt somebody else… or could come back to haunt them.

What To Do If Your Child is the Victim of a CyberBully

Be the parent that a child can feel comfortable talking to if they are being harassed or directly attacked online. Be kind and understanding, and be sensitive to their needs. The rest is really up to you, as a parent.

If the harassment is severe enough, you can involve other authorities (the school or the police.) As you may remember, this could backfire on your child so it shouldn’t be your first choice. If the bullying has started over personal drama, encourage your child to confront the person in real life and come to a resolution. Do not “feed the trolls” or respond to cyberbullying online… bring it back to real world interaction.

To protect your child from becoming the victim of a cyberbully, encourage them to make friends with other children who are kind and respectful. Teach your children that friends who are always “surrounded by drama” can be dangerous… you never know when you’ll get sucked into it!

What can a child or teen do to empower themselves against a cyber bully? Have them read our article on CyberBullying: for Kids and Teens.

What can a child or teen do to empower themselves against a cyberbully? Have them read our article on CyberBullying: for Kids and Teens.

There was a time when bullying was something we all had to endure in school, on the bus, and hanging out with friends. It was always unpleasant. The next generation, our children, have an even worse type of bullying to deal with… and it’s so much more common than what we suffered!

About CyberBullying

Remember how frustrating it was in school when somebody was upset and reacted passive aggressively, usually by spreading a rumor? How the victim of a bully (maybe it was you, maybe it was one of your friends) would feel singled out, how hard it was to go to school and deal with the drama.

Your children deal with passive aggressive bullying all the time… because the internet brings out the passive aggressive in almost every young person. From shy kids to the straight forward, outspoken kid… cyberbullying can happen by accident. But as you remember about being the victim of a bully… the wounds never heal.

What’s even worse about cyberbullying is this. When a direct conflict among friends is resolved, you can forget and forgive the hurtful things that were said. However, you can never erase them from the internet.

With that in mind, it’s important to be very sensitive when talking about cyberbullying with your child. And yes, if your kid is using the internet than you do need to talk about this!

Teaching Your Child How To Not Be a CyberBully

As mentioned before, the internet brings out certain behaviors in young folk. Of course your child knows not to pick on somebody in person, but do they know not to rant and rave on social media when what they say could unintentionally hurt somebody else?

Watch for passive aggressive behaviors, and teach your children to face their problems (directly) rather than Facebooking them or through any type of social media.

If your child is 13 or younger, you should have their social media log in info, and don’t share the password with your child. This way, you can easily check in on them and you can also protect your child from being the victim of a “hacker” cyberbully by preventing anyone else from finding out how to log into their account.

Cyberbullying is even more common with older teenagers (age 14-17), especially when they have a smartphone that allows them to post on impulse. Teach them to think before they post, and make sure they understand how important it is to never post anything that could hurt somebody else… or could come back to haunt them.

What To Do If Your Child is the Victim of a CyberBully

Be the parent that a child can feel comfortable talking to if they are being harassed or directly attacked online. Be kind and understanding, and be sensitive to their needs. The rest is really up to you, as a parent.

If the harassment is severe enough, you can involve other authorities (the school or the police.) As you may remember, this could backfire on your child so it shouldn’t be your first choice. If the bullying has started over personal drama, encourage your child to confront the person in real life and come to a resolution. Do not “feed the trolls” or respond to cyberbullying online… bring it back to real world interaction.

To protect your child from becoming the victim of a cyberbully, encourage them to make friends with other children who are kind and respectful. Teach your children that friends who are always “surrounded by drama” can be dangerous… you never know when you’ll get sucked into it!

What can a child or teen do to empower themselves against a cyber bully? Have them read our article on CyberBullying: for Kids and Teens.

What can a child or teen do to empower themselves against a cyberbully? Have them read our article on CyberBullying: for Kids and Teens.

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