Category Archives: It’s Not Science But…

Bullying Is Not a Game

Bullying makes the news almost every week. It exists in schools, sports fields, playground and online. We’ve also recently learned bullying is also present in professional organizations like the NFL. Children who are bullied tend to withdraw and suffer emotional scars. In extreme cases, some become so desperate, they take their own lives.

Steve sat down with professional speaker and certified professional coach Laurie Flasko to talk about bullying and what we can do as parents and teachers to put a stop to it.

Continue reading

Have You Heard of Ask.fm? How to Navigate This & Other Teen Social Networks

By Blog Editor Susan Wells

Raising a child today is more complex than dealing with our childhood bullies who teased us and made nasty comments about us to others, but within our own earshot. Some even wrote nasty things about others on the bathroom stall walls. The bullies of our childhoods, as painful as they were, didn’t have half as many routes and opportunities as they do today. Yesterdays bullies couldn’t operate as anonymous and we had time to recover in the safety of our own homes.

Have You Heard of Ask.fm? How to Navigate This & Other Teen Social Networks

Today, teens and tweens deal with bullying around the clock, in the safety of their own bedroom as well as the school yard and even from those they don’t know.

Just as we began to get a hold on our tweens and teens Facebook and Twitter accounts, they began to expand into Instagram, YouTube, Vine, SnapChat, Tumblr, the list goes on and on. The latest network to catch fire in the under 18 crowd is Ask.fm. A network that is only recently becoming recognized by parents.

According to a report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, American teens are not concerned about their privacy  -

  • 91% post a photo of themselves, up from 79% in 2006.
  • 71% post their school name, up from 49%.
  • 71% post the city or town where they live, up from 61%.
  • 53% post their email address, up from 29%.
  • 20% post their cell phone number, up from 2%.

Teens aren’t the only ones guilty of over sharing online. Most of us on social networks have shared a piece of our privacy or personal issue without stopping to think about the repercussions.

Just as in school and person, teens are deeply vulnerable and malliable to the responses and comments shared with them.

That’s the basis behind Ask.fm, a network based in Latvia. Anyone can create an anonymous or fictitious account without providing personal information. This respects the privacy of the users, but opens up the network for anonymous and vicious users. The site is supposed to be a place for teens to ask all types of (embarrassing) questions anonymously and receive responses.

The site is instead becoming a place for malicious attacks and has been linked to two suicides in the United States and even more in Great Britain, including Rebecca Sedwick. She was 12 years old when she jumped off a tower to her death in September because of bullying on Ask.fm. Two girls, ages 12 and 14, have been charged with felony aggravated stalking.

In less than five minutes of surfing around on Ask.fm, we found attacks and negativity. Although the majority of what we found was innocent and teen stuff, there was a lot of disturbing chats and harassment.

Have You Heard of Ask.fm? Your Kids Have...How to Navigate This & Other Teen Social Networks

Here’s one teen’s perspective on Ask.fm from the Huffington Post.

But this isn’t the only site your teen or preteen is visiting, nor is it the cause for all suicides. There are several apps and networks where our young adults are spending time without parental guidance. Don’t you worry – once these are discovered by the parenthood, new ones will crop up without our knowledge. The key is to stay up with current teen trends the best you can and keep an open dialogue with your teen. If you don’t know your Pheed from your Wanelo, read this post on The Mirror.

Whatever you do, don’t turn a blind eye and bury your head in the Internet noise.

Have You Heard of Ask.fm? Your Kids Have...How to Navigate This & Other Teen Social Networks

Test Tube Desk Organizers for a Teacher or Science Fan

The main purpose of all of our products at Steve Spangler Science is to make science fun. It’s even our slogan. But not everyone uses our science supplies for their intended purpose. We always enjoy hearing about innovative ways that our customers are using our products.

For your favorite teacher or science fan - a Test Tube desk organizer | Steve Spangler Science

We decided to take a step back from our science focus and look at some of our products more creatively. Our Baby Soda Bottle Test Tubes and Rack are purchased for so much more than lab supplies. Some use them to store beads and buttons and other sewing items, fishing lures and hooks, jewelry kit accessories, earrings, travel products like shampoo and anything and everything that should stay dry and fit into the tube. A woodworker even recommended Baby Soda Bottles for safe small saw blade storage.

Here’s a new idea we came up with  for the science fan or teacher in your life – use Baby Soda Bottles and a Rack for a desk organizer. The test tubes will hold all of your small pushpins, staples, paperclips, rubber bands and anything else you want to stuff into them. It’s also a safe place to store scissors.

The Baby Soda Bottle Desk Organizer is an inexpensive and creative gift or organizing solution for disorganized teachers, students and science fans.

For your favorite teacher or science fan - a Test Tube desk organizer | Steve Spangler Science

For thirty science activities that use Baby Soda Bottles, visit the experiment page.

To purchase a set of six Baby Soda Bottles and a Rack, visit the Steve Spangler Science store. Office supplies sold at local retailers.

How to Reduce Homework Stress

By Blog Editor Susan Wells

My girls returned to school last week, and although it was nice to return to a regular schedule, I couldn’t help the knot in my stomach. A return to school means homework, frustration, missed assignments, confusion and a few tears. In this fast-paced world with a million distractions, it’s hard to stay on top of after school activities, play dates and homework assignments.

I swear this year will be different. I’m putting a homework plan in place and sticking to it. Here are a few tips on how to keep homework in check and at least dial down the stress.

Tips to Reduce Homework Stress | Steve Spangler Science

1. Keep a family due date calendar in a public area in your house. Write assignments and due dates on it. Get crazy if you want and color code each child or have separate calendars for each one.

2. Designate a place for homework. Give each child a folder and have them keep them together in a shared area. On-going assignments, research and more won’t get lost and you won’t spend time trying to collect everything.

3. Check backpacks every night for teacher notes and assignments. If I had a dollar for every time my kid answers “no” to the “do you have homework” question, I’d be rich. I always take a peek in the backpack and tend to find forgotten assignments or papers stuffed into pockets. Don’t always take them at their word. With older children, give them the responsibility of checking the backpack thoroughly every evening.

4. Schedule a homework time at the same time every day. This isn’t ground breaking or new, but it is important to find a quiet time when you and your child can focus on school work. It’s hard when soccer is on Monday at 5:00 p.m., piano Tuesday at 3:30 p.m., but work to find a time of day where distractions are limited. Obviously, parents should not be doing homework, but offer a resource for proof reading, finding math mistakes or giving guidance. It’s also helpful if you read a book, work on the computer or do something productive during that time. Then everyone is working and focusing at the same time and the television is off. Let your child decide what time and location is best for them.

5. Talk to the teacher if your child has difficulties routinely completing assignments. If your child is consistently getting overly frustrated or requiring continual hand holding to finish homework every night, investigate the why. Ask your child why they are struggling with the assignment – did they not understand the directions? Is the assignment too hard or above their level? Or did they not understand the skill when it was taught in class? Work on finding the basis for the frustration and then talk to the teacher. If a child is completely lost or confused about an assignment, write a note to the teacher explaining the issue and ask that they explain it again and give your child an extension on the due date.

6. Have a friend or teacher resource to double check assignments. Once again, if I had a dollar for every time my kids tell me they can’t remember how many pages they need to work on, or the due date or how many questions to answer…I have both of my girls pair up with a homework buddy. This is a friend, who is just as responsible or more so than my child to call when those questions pop up. Or encourage your child’s teacher to post assignments to a class Twitter account, website, blog or app.

 7. Refuse to get upset about homework and give your child an opportunity to earn free time. It happens in homes everywhere, every night. Screaming matches between parent and child over homework. No one likes to do something they don’t enjoy, but it is best to get the ugly out of the way and then move on to something satisfying. Homework is usually not enjoyed, so don’t expect your child to jump for joy when you tell them to turn off the television and get going on that math worksheet. Has your child ever responded with “thanks mom for yelling at me, I’m really ready now to sit down and focus on my homework.” Instead, calmly set parameters for your child and then step back., “From now on, homework is going to be on you. I’m not going to yell or get upset. You are capable of this work, but I am available to answer questions. If you calmly put in the time needed to complete your assignments, you will earn time on electronics. If you don’t, then you won’t be able to use the electronics in this house. Either way is fine by me.” Allow your child to make the decision about getting homework completed. If they make the decision not to complete homework, a price is paid at school and at home. This may not go over well in the beginning, but standing strong and calmly should turn things around.

8. Determine if your child is receiving excessive homework. The National PTA and the National Education Association endorse a 10-minute rule. The maximum amount of homework should not exceed 10 minutes per grade level per night. That is, a 1st-grader should have no more than 10 minutes of homework, a 6th-grader no more than 60 minutes, and a 12th-grader no more than two hours. If your child is taking longer than the recommended guidelines, look at the amount of work and their pace. If it seems excessive, talk to the teacher and let them know how long your child spends each night.

9. Don’t over schedule your kids. If your kids go from school to activities to homework after 9:00 p.m. and then bed somewhere around 10, stop and look at the balance in your lives. We have a tendency to schedule every minute to give our children a wide range of experiences and skills. The kids pay the price when they miss out on having free time to play and imagine and let go. It’s been said before, but strive to find a balance between school, homework, activities and down time.

10. Stay in touch with the teacher. Your child, their teacher and you, their parent form a team in your child’s education. Don’t be afraid of reaching out to the teacher and staying on top of your child’s progress. If the parent and teacher aren’t on the same page, the student will suffer. Share any concerns with the teacher and ask they they keep you in the loop.

Don’t look at this list of 10 and feel like it’s impossible. Pick a few topics and focus on those.  I can’t say I’m perfect in all of these areas. I struggled last year in helping my kids stay on top of their assignments and due dates. I took their word when they said they didn’t have homework. We had several panicked nights of trying to complete an assignment that was supposed to stretch over a few weeks. I also didn’t want to be THAT parent who constantly emailed and called the teacher. I tried to only touch base when things got really stressful. That was usually too late. Our principle encouraged me to stay on top of things this year with my child’s teacher. Don’t wait until it gets really bad – nip it in the bud before it has a chance to blow up.

What do you do to ease the homework stress?

Warnings of Smart Phone Photos Posing Privacy Risks is True

There have been many posts on Facebook and other social networks about the dangers of posting pictures of your children can inform the general public of the exact location of your children.

No matter if you are an extremely cautious parent who never shares your children’s names online or even you are more relaxed about sharing photos of your children with your online networks, this claim will grab your attention.

We were very wary at first to these claims, as so many of these fearful privacy warnings pop up on Facebook and other networks all the time, but Snopes.com lists this statement as true.

This privacy risk, however, is not new. Smart phones and some digital cameras have saved photo information like date, time, and shutterspeed along with geotagged photos for several years. This information is saved in a file called Exif. Geotagging provides precise information about where the photo was taken and attaches it to the image file. This can be a home address or school. People may have shared photos on a social network or blog not necessarily thinking about the geotag information included in the file.

These fears aren’t as prevalent as they were a few years back. Facebook and Twitter now strip most or all Exif file that contains location information from photos when they are uploaded to their sites. This function was added to help increase privacy protection.

If you upload a photo to another site or a blog, it might still contain the the Exif file and all of its information.

The best way to protect your privacy when sharing photos online is to turn off the GPS feature on your phone or camera. If your device doesn’t know where you are, it can’t attach information to that photo. Most phones also offer the option of turning off the geotagging on photos. To remove the geotag on an existing photo you can use an Exif metadata editor, photo editor or converter program that saves photos without the Exif file.