Kids and the Internet – Keeping Them Safe

Computers and the Internet have become an important part of our lives, and our children’s lives. An estimated 77 million American children and teens are now online, according to the U.S. Justice Department.


Kids spend time online messaging, chatting, searching, and surfing. Although most of these Internet experiences are likely positive, parents need to be aware of the dangers to better protect their children. Children and teens can become victims through online chat rooms, according to the FBI. A computer-sex offender can be any age, male or female, and kids often don’t realize the potential danger of these contacts.


Warning signs

How can you tell if your child might be in contact with an offender? Here are some possible warning signs:


  • He spends a lot of time online, particularly at night. This is especially true for kids who are in chat rooms for long periods.
  • You find sexually explicit material on your child’s computer. If the computer is used by other family members, your child might try to hide the material.
  • Your child receives phone calls from adults you don’t know, or receives mail or packages from someone you don’t know. Some computer-sex offenders have toll-free numbers so potential victims can call them without the phone calls showing up on the family phone bill.
  • Your child quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room.
  • If you suspect that your child is communicating with a predator online, talk to them and share your concerns. Look at the files on your child’s computer, including e-mails. Use Caller ID to find out who is calling your kids; you may also be able to block specific numbers.


Here are some ideas from the FBI on how to limit the chances that someone online will take advantage of your child:


  • Talk to your kids about the potential online dangers.
  • Spend time with them online and have him or her show you favorite Web sites and online destinations.
  • Keep the computer in a room used by the entire family, not in their bedroom.
  • Use the parental controls that your Internet service provider offers, as well as blocking software. Monitor chat room use.
  • Maintain access to online accounts and randomly check e-mail and instant message histories.
  • Find out what safeguards are in place at other places where your kids may use a computer: school, public library, friends’ homes.
  • Talk to your teens about avoiding sex talk online. Research shows that teens who don’t talk about sex with strangers online are less likely to come in contact with predators. In fact, researchers have found that predators usually don’t pose as children or teens, and most teens who are contacted by adults they don’t know find it creepy. Tell your kids not to hesitate to ignore or block them and report any such contact to a trusted adult.
  • Tell your kids never to arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they’ve met online; send photographs to strangers; or give out identifying information such as name, address, school name or telephone number.
  • Tell your kids that what they might be told online may or may not be true.


Kids and Online Socializing

Social networking sites, chat rooms, virtual worlds, and blogs are how teens and tweens interact online; it’s important to help your kids learn how to navigate these spaces safely. Among the pitfalls that come with online socializing are sharing too much information or posting comments, photos, or videos that can damage a reputation or hurt someone’s feelings.

Following are some tips to help your kids apply real-world judgment and minimize those risks:


Remind Kids that Online Actions Have Consequences

  • The words kids write and the images they post have consequences offline.
  • Kids should post only what they’re comfortable with others seeing.
  • Their profile may be seen by a broader audience than you — or they — are comfortable with, even if privacy settings are high. Encourage your kids to think about the language they use online, and to think before posting pictures and videos, or altering photos posted by someone else. Potential employers, college admissions officers, coaches, teachers, and the police could see their posts.
  • Remind kids that once they post it, they can’t take it back. Even if they delete the information from a site, they have little control over older versions that might exist on other people’s computers and could circulate online.
  • Tell your kids not to impersonate someone else. Let your kids know that it’s wrong to create sites, pages, or posts that seem to come from someone else, such as a teacher, a classmate, or someone they made up.


Tell Kids to Limit What They Share

  • Help your kids understand what information should stay private. Tell your kids why it’s important to keep some things — about themselves, family members, and friends — to themselves. Information such as their Social Security number, street address, phone number, and family financial information — say, bank account or credit card numbers — are private and should stay that way.


Encourage Online Manners

  • Politeness counts. You teach your kids to be polite offline; talk to them about being courteous online as well. Texting may seem fast and impersonal, yet common courtesies like “pls” and “ty” (for please and thank you) should be included where relevant, just like offline.
  • Tone it down. Using all caps, long rows of exclamation points, or large bolded fonts are the online equivalent of yelling. Most people don’t appreciate a rant.
  • Cc: and Reply all: with care. Suggest that your kids resist the temptation to send a message to everyone on their contact list.


Limit Access to Your Kids’ Profiles

  • Use privacy settings. Many social networking sites and chat rooms have adjustable privacy settings, so you can restrict who has access to your kids’ profiles. Talk to your kids about the importance of these settings, and your expectations for who should be allowed to view their profile. Set high privacy preferences on your kids’ chat and video chat accounts, as well. Most chat programs allow parents to control whether people on their kids’ contact list can see their status, including whether they’re online. Some chat and email accounts allow parents to determine who can send messages to their kids, and block anyone not on the list.
  • Create a safe screen name. Encourage your kids to think about the impression that screen names can make. A good screen name won’t reveal much about how old they are, where they live, or their gender. For privacy purposes, your kids’ screen names should not be the same as their email addresses.
  • Review your kids’ friends lists. You may want to limit your children’s online “friends” to people they actually know.

Talk to Your Kids About What They’re Doing Online

  • Know what your kids are doing. Get to know the social networking sites your kids use so you understand their activities. If you’re concerned about risky online behavior, you may want to search the social sites they use to see what information they’re posting. Are they pretending to be someone else? Try searching by their name, nickname, school, hobbies, grade, or community.
  • Ask your kids who they’re in touch with online. Just as you want to know who your kids’ friends are offline, it’s a good idea to know who they’re talking to online.
  • Encourage your kids to trust their guts if they have suspicions. Encourage them to tell you if they feel threatened by someone or uncomfortable because of something online. You can then help them report concerns to the police and to the social networking site. Most of these sites have links for users to report abusive, suspicious, or inappropriate behavior.


Southwest EAP can provide this and many other resources aimed at helping you and your family stay safe and healthy mentally and physically. We have provided employee assistance programs and risk management solutions to companies since 1978. Our commitment to excellence is founded on the belief that active partnership with our clients and delivering face-to-face services produces the best results. Visit us online at http://www.southwesteap.com

Categories:EAP Effectiveness

Tags:kids, online safety, internet, cyberbullying

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Manager Focus: Keeping Employees Engaged and Productive

According to Gallup’s new State of the American Workplace report, 33% of U.S. workers versus 70% of employees at the world’s top companies are actively engaged in their work. That’s a very staggering difference.


Each year, billions of dollars in productivity is lost because of disengaged workers, and employers incur enormous costs to replace talented people who become dissatisfied and leave. Employee engagement and employee satisfaction are important metrics for HR professionals, yet many struggle to answer some key questions:


  • What is the difference between engagement and satisfaction?
  • Is it better to have engaged employees or satisfied employees?
  • How can HR drive better performance across the organization by managing engagement and satisfaction?


Employee satisfaction measures tangible things such as how much workers like their perks and benefits. Employee engagement, on the other hand, is a little more fluid and is defined by how much your employees are connected to and invested in your company and its success. Both satisfaction and engagement are important, and they often blend into one another and should both be taken into account when assessing your workforce.  

A common problem among many organizations, however, is that they put too much emphasis on measuring engagement, rather than on improving engagement. In other words, they fall into the survey trap and continually check the temperature of their teams, but never really do anything about it. This is often a worse situation than not measuring at all because the employees see what’s (not) happening.


So, what’s an employer to do? How do you encourage your employees to get and stay engaged? Depending on the type of company, you can take a few steps.


Offer flex time

According to Gallup’s survey, more than half of employees (53%) say a role that allows them to have greater work-life balance is “very important” to them when considering whether to take a new job. Similar numbers of employees (51%) say they would change jobs for one that offered them flextime, and 37% would do the same for a job that offered them the ability to work where they want at least part of the time.


Ensure your management teams are effective

It’s often said that people don’t leave companies when changing jobs, they leave managers. This statement is true in many cases. Successful companies with great retention numbers have managers that inspire their employees’ performance. They establish clear goals that are aligned with the organization’s, and they’re collaborative and accountable, and expect the same of their teams. Communication, and ensuring your employees understand what is expected of them at work, is key to engagement.  


Enable your employees to be the best at what they do

Only 4 in 10 U.S. employees strongly agree that when they are at work, they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day. Make sure the right person is matched with the right job. Of course, every employee will have certain tasks and responsibilities that aren’t necessarily what they do best, but a good manager will ensure that the person’s overall role and career opportunities make the most of their talents and strengths and help them excel (and stay engaged).


It bears repeating that only 33% of U.S. workers are engaged. Raising that number creates a stronger workforce that, in turn, creates stronger companies.


Southwest EAP has provided employee assistance programs and risk management solutions to companies since 1978. Our commitment to excellence is founded on the belief that active partnership with our client companies and delivering face-to-face services produces the best results. Visit us online at http://www.southwesteap.com

Categories:employee engagement

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Manager Focus: How EAPs Can Help Reduce Absenteeism

Employee absenteeism remains a challenging problem that faces workplaces and HR departments, but it’s a normal cost of doing business. Unfortunately, few organizations can identify exactly how much it costs when it comes to their company’s bottom line. Industry experts estimate that absenteeism can have an enormous cost, with estimates ranging from 14.2 percent of total payroll to an annual

$3,600 per hourly employee and $2,650 per salaried employee. That figure reflects the direct costs of paying employees, such as salary continuation, benefits payout, and insurance premiums. The indirect costs of absenteeism, which include paying overtime, hiring temporary help, or a reduction in sales or profits due to lost productivity, can double or even triple that amount.


Gallup’s latest meta-analysis shows that business units in the top one-fourth of employee engagement are 21% more profitable, 17% more productive, have 10% better customer ratings, experience 41% less absenteeism, and suffer 70% fewer safety incidents compared with business units in the bottom fourth. Employees who access EAP services report 52 percent fewer absences than those who do not use such services. So, you can readily see why decreasing absenteeism among your employees can be a boon for your bottom line.


A solid EAP doesn’t cost money; it saves it. An EAP can provide your employees with the support they need to come in every day, and also, to stay fully productive when they’re at work because their lives are more manageable and balanced. While different EAPs offer varying services, most provide psychological support, referrals to services, financial counseling, elder care assistance, and substance abuse services. Employee counseling is an integral part of any EAP service. With the counseling provided in the program, your employees can address and resolve personal issues that can affect their job performance and attendance – whether those issues are related to the workplace or the employee’s personal life.


EAP Reduces Absenteeism and Other Financial Expenditures

Chestnut Global Partners, LLC, conducted a study (“EAPs Can and DO Achieve Positive Workplace Outcomes”) of more than 13,000 EAP users, and found that absenteeism was 46% lower among people who participated in EAP services. During the 30-day period before using EAP services, the participants missed an average of 12.2 hours of work. During the 90 days after participating in EAP services, the participants missed an average of 6.5 hours of work in 30 days.


Employers who invest in an Employee Assistance Program not only benefit from reduced absenteeism, they also reap other financial benefits, including:

  • Reduced health care expenses;
  • Lessening employee turnover and associated costs;
  • Facilitating a quicker return to work after extended absences;
  • Increases early detection and care strategies for illnesses and injuries;
  • Reduced incidences of workplace accidents.


Southwest EAP has provided employee assistance programs and risk management solutions to companies since 1978. Our commitment to excellence is founded on the belief that active partnership with our client companies and delivering face-to-face services produces the best results. Visit us online at http://www.southwesteap.com.

Categories:employee productivity

Tags:absenteeism, employee productivity, management issues

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