Your Brain on Social Media – How to make online interaction better for your health

Your Brain on Social Media – How to make online interaction better for your health

More than half the world now uses social media sites such as Facebook, X, and Instagram every day. The average user spends about 2 hours and 23 minutes on these platforms clicking, liking, and replying to content sent from around the world.

Research has demonstrated, however, that too much social media can have negative effects on mental health. This appears to be especially true for children and young adults. Here are some ideas to help ensure social media use does not become a problem, especially for your children.

  • Limit time. At least two separate studies have shown a correlation between more than two hours of daily social media use and negative mental health symptoms. Consider limiting your family’s use to less than two hours a day. Many in the tech community say no to their children using these social media platforms all together. Others require phones and electronic devices to be checked in when at home and restrict their use during the school week.
  • Set bedtime limits. Stop all social media use for at least one hour before bedtime. Then turn off all electronics and place them outside of bedrooms to avoid disruptions. Neither brightly lit electronic screens nor upsetting online content right before bed tend to promote restful sleep.
  • Discourage mobile use. If excessive social media use is common in your family, consider deleting the apps from your phones and only allow social media use from a home desktop computer. This will help you control the amount of use and avoid the distraction throughout the day.
  • No private social media. Ensure you have access to all social media accounts of your children and review them periodically.
  • Use real names. Having you and your kids use your real names and identities when using social media may seem risky, but experts at the youth social media advocacy group SmartSocial.com say it actually promotes positive use and avoids negative interactions and communities. It also helps teach kids to be responsible users who are conscious of the risks and consequences of online activity. But beware of the downsides as well. This includes targeted bullying and potential stalking.
  • Find real communities. Use social media to join communities devoted to your favorite hobbies and interests. Talk to your kids about the communities they’ve joined and the interactions they’re involved with to make sure they are using social media for positive experiences.
Raising a Financially Savvy Child

Raising a Financially Savvy Child

If you have children or grandchildren, you have an opportunity to give them a jump-start on their journey to becoming financially responsible adults. While teaching your child about money and finances is easier when you start early, it’s never too late to impart your wisdom. Here are some age-relevant suggestions to help develop a financially savvy young adult:

  • Preschool – Start by using dollar bills and coins to teach them what the value of each is worth. Even if you don’t get into the exact values, explain that a quarter is worth more than a dime and a dollar is worth more than a quarter. From there, explain that buying things at the store comes down to a choice based on how much money you have (you can’t buy every toy you see!). Also, get them a piggy bank to start saving coins and small bills.
  • Grade school – Consider starting an allowance and developing a simple spending plan. Teach them how to read price tags and do comparison shopping. Open a savings account to replace the piggy bank and teach them about interest and the importance of regular saving. Have them participate in family financial discussions about major purchases, vacations and other simple money decisions.
  • Middle school – Start connecting work with earning money. Start with activities such as babysitting, mowing lawns or walking dogs. Open a checking account and transition the simple spending plan into a budget to save funds for larger purchases. If you have not already done so, now is a good time to introduce the importance of donating money to a charitable organization or church.
  • High school – Introduce the concept of net worth. Help them build their own by identifying their assets and their current and potential liabilities. Work with them to get a part-time job to start building work experience, or to continue growing a business by marketing for more clients. Add additional expense responsibility by transferring direct accountability for things like gas, lunches and the cost of going out with friends. Introduce investing by explaining stocks, mutual funds, CDs and IRAs. Talk about financial mistakes and how to deal with them when they happen by using some of your real-life examples. If college is the goal after high school, include them in the financial planning decisions. Tie each of these discussions into how it impacts their net worth.
  • College – Teach them about borrowing money and all its future implications. Explain how credit cards can be a good companion to a budget, but warn them about the dangers of mismanagement or not paying the bill in full each month. Discuss the importance of their credit score and how it affects future plans like renting or buying a house. Talk about retirement savings and the importance of building their retirement account.

Knowing about money — how to earn it, use it, invest it and share it — is a valuable life skill. Simply talking with your children about its importance is often not enough. Find simple, age-specific ways to build their financial IQ. A financially savvy child will hopefully lead to a financially wise adult.

Maximize Your College Financial Aid With These FAFSA Tips

Maximize Your College Financial Aid With These FAFSA Tips

A brand new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) made its debut on October 1st, featuring 60% fewer questions and a host of other changes that aim to increase the likelihood that you can qualify for financial aid.

As you prepare to complete this year’s application, here are some tips to maximize your FAFSA eligibility for financial aid.

  • File the FAFSA early. More than a dozen states award financial aid on a first-come, first-serve basis. Students who file the FAFSA in October tend to get more than twice as much grant aid on average as students who file the FAFSA later. Even better, by completing the FAFSA early you can time your financial requests to colleges with their varied due dates.
  • Minimize income in the base year. 2021 is the base tax year when filling out the FAFSA for the 2023-2024 school year. If you’ve already filed your 2021 tax return, consider filing an amended Form 1040 if there were deductions you may have overlooked that could reduce your income. Otherwise, file this knowledge away to best position your income for future years.
  • Reduce the amount of reportable assets. While assets aren’t weighted as heavily as income on the FAFSA, they could still affect overall financial aid eligibility. To decrease the amount of reportable assets, consider using cash in your bank accounts to pay down unsecured debt such as credit cards and auto loans, or maximizing retirement plan contributions. Keep in mind that certain assets aren’t considered when determining financial aid eligibility. This includes the home you live in, the value of life insurance, and most retirement plans.
  • Use 529 plans wisely. 529 plan owners will impact how the funds are reported on the FAFSA. If the account owner is a grandparent or relative, the funds are not counted on the FAFSA until the money is used. So timing the use of these funds is important. And remember if the account owner is a parent or the student, the balance of 529 plans is considered an asset of the parent on the FAFSA.
  • Spend a student’s money first. If a student does have cash saved or other assets, consider withdrawing money from student assets first before touching parent assets, since student assets are assessed at a higher rate than parent assets.
  • Plan for the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). If your family is eligible for the AOTC, try spending up to $4,000 in tuition and textbook expenses using cash. The AOTC’s maximum tax credit of $4,000 will be worth more dollar-for-dollar rather than using a $4,000 tax-free distribution from a 529 plan.
How to Protect Your Kids Online

How to Protect Your Kids Online

Do you know what your kids are doing online? That question may seem like it has a simple yes or no answer, but that’s hardly the case. With so many streaming platforms, social media outlets and new gaming options popping up every day, it’s nearly impossible to fully protect your kids from what they can encounter online.

The Federal Trade Commission has several suggestions for protecting your kids online. Here are some of its recommendations.

  • Overcommunicate. How successful you will be with your child’s online safety hinges on communication. Ask them about the newest apps and online trends. Be open about the dangers of the internet and teach them to be skeptical about every website and app. Encourage them to bring concerning items they find to you to have a discussion. The goal is to make your child as concerned about their online well-being as you are.
  • Limit where and how they use their devices. Most phones, tablets and computers have parental control options that allow you to set age, time and content restrictions. Spend some time to understand what’s available to parents and how it works. It can be hard to know where to draw boundaries for your children, but don’t let that discourage you. A good practice is to start by over-restricting and then becoming more lenient over time. In addition to what your kids can access, set rules about where they can use their devices.
  • Stress the safe-guarding of personal information. Most kids know not to openly share addresses, phone numbers or personal information online, but there are a few places where it happens inadvertently. One of those is in your profile you set up for a website or app. In some cases, your profile is made public to other users. Another place it can happen is in-app chatting. Most apps and games have a forum that allow users to interact with one another. Frequently ask your kids about who they are interacting with online and follow up on any suspicious online relationships. Never allow photos of your home or address to be shared or posted.
  • Observe attitude and behavior. Monitor your child’s activity and let them know you are doing so. If your child is struggling with something they came across online, or have found themselves in a dangerous situation, they may show signs through their behavior. If you notice them withdrawing emotionally, looking to access devices in private, or showing signs of anxiety or depression, your kids may need your help.

Discussing the dangers of the online world with your child can be uncomfortable and awkward, but in today’s interconnected world, it’s imperative in order to keep them mentally healthy and physically safe.

Organized Business Records Save Time and Money

Organized Business Records Save Time and Money

Here are some suggestions to help you master the art of documenting and organizing your business now and in the future.

  • Document policies and procedures. Write down daily responsibilities, skills needed to complete tasks related to these responsibilities, and the location of all paper and electronic files. Appoint and cross-train backup staff to ensure these daily tasks are done.
  • Document your succession plan. It may not be for another 10 or 20 years, but documenting your succession plan is critical for both you as the owner and for your employees. Consider how much longer you plan on owning the business and who you have in mind to take over after you leave. If you currently don’t have a successor in mind, document your plan to either train or find this person(s).
  • Document your tax planning strategy. Be aware of possible tax incentives, such as credits for hiring certain workers and accelerated depreciation available for acquiring business assets. For example, for asset purchases, retain receipts and record the purchase details. These details include the type of equipment, the acquisition date, the amount of the purchase, the date you began using the equipment, and a schedule of related set-up costs.
  • Organize your daily documents. Organize your desk by shredding documents with sensitive information and scanning older papers into computer files. The most efficient method is to scan, file, and shred as soon as you are finished with a document. If you don’t have time, consider assigning document organization to specific employees and making it a task to be completed on a daily basis.

You’re busy, and you may feel that organizing your records will take more time than you have available. But spend a minute and consider how using these organizational tips may save you not only time, but money as well.

Ideas to Help the Virtual Learning Challenge

Ideas to Help the Virtual Learning Challenge

Virtual learning is a way of life again for many kids as we head towards winter.

Mayo Clinic psychologist Dr. Craig Sawchuk says that families will need to adapt to changing circumstances this school year.

“We’ve all been dealing with uncertainty,” Sawchuk said in a recent Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast. “We need to be flexible with the format of how our kids learn. It’s all going to look different, regardless of whether your kids are doing in-person, virtual or a hybrid learning model. And it’s subject to change.”

Here are some ideas shared by creative parents and experts to help maintain your family’s sanity, while trying to navigate virtual learning through the extended stay-at-home winter days.

  • Keep your kids moving. An absence of in-person learning means no recess and no gym class. Keep your kids exercising by scheduling 30 to 60-minute blocks of time for them to do their favorite activity. These activities can include, but not be limited to, walking, jogging, biking, skateboarding, rollerblading or riding on a scooter.

    Do it differently: Consider tracking student activity information on a spreadsheet, then teach them how to make charts and graphs. They can then see progress toward fun goals while learning how to work with spreadsheets.

  • Get crafty. Kids love anything that involves glue, scissors and building stuff. Set aside a dedicated area for your kids to build whatever they can imagine. Give them some latitude to get messy (as long as they clean up!).

    Do it differently: One of the more interesting phenomena of this year’s pandemic is our national coin shortage. If you have some spare change that you’re willing to part with, have your kids search online for DIY coin crafts.

  • Put on the chef hat. Turn your kitchen over to your kids. Yes, it might get messy, and your meatloaf may end up a little dry, but getting your kids to cook can spark their creativity and get them into the habit of helping prepare food for the entire family.

    Do it differently: Have your kids create their own cooking show. Set up a video recorder on a sturdy tripod and have them narrate what they’re preparing. If extra time allows, they can jump on a video editing software program and edit their TV show.

  • Thumb through an actual book. Textbooks have been replaced by tablets. Newspapers have been supplanted by websites. Physical books have given way to e-books. While your kids are at home, consider reading through an actual book, while sitting on an actual chair or sofa.

    Do it differently: After reading a book, have your children or grandchildren create their own story. Or have them create a different ending. You can record the story on your phone or be their scribe. They can then make their own book to share.
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