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Without a doubt, kids coming of age in 2016 will be exposed to many amazing and wonderful experiences through technology. The scope of their new world can also put them at risk for emotional or physical harm. The best way to help our children navigate social media and technology is through explicit instruction of our expectations for their behavior in this realm.

Many parents will find it helpful to create a plan that sets them on a path to become trusted guides as their children explore the digital world.

It begins with you

Remember, from the time they are babies, your kids are watching your every move. Your child is learning habits and life lessons with you as their role model. Therefore, it’s incredibly important to model respectful use of technology and devices.

We all feel the magnetic pull toward our cell phones or computers. We want to check: did that friend respond to my text? Have I gotten more work emails? What’s happening on Instagram? As you stare into your screens, think about how your kids see you from the other side. 

It’s difficult to set boundaries around screen time for our kids when we cannot follow our own rules. As a parent and role model, if I say that there will be no screens during meal times or after a certain hour in the evening, I need to be clear that the rules also apply to me. When I slip up, I take responsibility and apologize for my mistakes.

As we come to grips with our own dependence on screens, it’s important to understand the neuroscience between screen “addictions” and dopamine release. Talk openly and honestly with your kids, from a young age, about how the addictive nature of screens affects everyone in your household.

Set boundaries and expectations at the outset

Start setting boundaries with any screen time (including TV!) when your children are very young. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently set new screen time guidelines that can help parents gauge appropriate levels of screen time for their kids at different developmental ages.

My kids are allowed one hour of screen time, after homework and before dinner, on the days that I work. Because my kids know exactly when and for how long they can expect to watch TV each week, they don’t bother to beg or whine at other times.

As parents, we all know the pressure of wanting our children to behave, especially in public or when there are other things our our minds. I’m much more likely to break our family’s screen time rules when I’m hosting a dinner party or waiting in line at a doctor’s office. I do try to acknowledge, even to my kids, when I use screens as a pacifier or for behavior modification.  When the goal is the development of my kids’ executive functioning and self-regulation skills, I’m not doing them any favors if I just hand them my cell phone to keep them quiet.

Wait… as long as you can

The effects of screen time on the developing brain depend on the type of screens being accessed. More dopamine is released with interactive screens (such as playing video games) rather than passive screens (watching television). 

When you open the door to iPad apps and gaming, it’s open forever. I think of a skiing analogy: once you’re skiing on black diamonds, the thrill of a green circle is gone. My rule of thumb has been to limit my children to passive screen time for as long as possible.

The average age that a child obtains a smartphone has dropped from 12 years old in 2012 to age 10 today. Even if I can hold out against my kids’ pleas for a new device, I’m aware that they will be exposed to uncensored media content from all sides. For this reason, I want to teach my children to have self control with technology, to recognize the risks associated with the cyber world and to understand that the privilege of using technology comes with many responsibilities.

Teach digital citizenship

Start the conversation about digital citizenship early. While being sensitive to their developmental receptivity, I have talked to my kids about drugs, sex, social inequalities, and real-life dangers since they were tiny. 

We have a plan for where to meet if there’s a fire in our house or what to say if a stranger tries to lure them into a car. We have practiced my phone number and our street address so that they can get help if they are lost. We work so hard to make sure our kids are safe in the physical world, yet we often make the assumption that they will somehow know what to do in the cyber world without a plan in place.

To start the conversation about cyber safety, it is essential to agree upon a  common language, using up-to-date vocabulary like “digital citizenship,” “digital footprint,” “social media,” “cyberbullying,” “allies/upstanders,” and “respect for self and others.” By getting to know your school district’s technology policies, you can align your language with the lessons that your kids are being taught by other trusted adults.

Consider a contract

There are many parenting experts who suggest ways to tie device privileges to contracts (money for data plans, missing assignments in schools, etc.). At the most basic level, I believe that it’s important for me to make clear that if I’m paying for a smartphone and data plan, then I own that phone.

That doesn’t mean that I’ll be asking for passwords and reading their texts. But it does mean that if my child doesn’t follow whatever contract we put in place, I can confiscate his phone or simply stop paying for data.

The long-term consequences of children’s digital behavior can be both positive and negative. I want my kids to know that I trust them to make good decisions in the cyber world and I’m available for support when they don’t.

My goal as a parent is to keep my children emotionally, physically, and psychologically safe. I am not interested in instilling fear stories or predator worries in my kids’ brains. I want to impart an understanding of the cost-benefit analysis of screen time. Then I want to say yes… to apps, websites, and online tools, whatever, as soon as my kids demonstrate that they’re ready to use them responsibly.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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Baby stuff comes in such cute prints these days. Gone are the days when everything was pink and blue and covered in ducks or teddy bears. Today's baby gear features stylish prints that appeal to mom.

That's why it's totally understandable how a mama could mistake a car seat cover for a cute midi skirt. It happened to Lori Farrell, and when she shared her mishap on Facebook she went viral before she was even home from work. Fellow moms can totally see the humor in Farrell's mishap, and thankfully, so can she.

As for how a car seat cover could be mistaken for a skirt—it's pretty simple, Farrell tells Motherly.

"A friend of mine had given me a huge lot of baby stuff, from clothes to baby carriers to a rocker and blankets and when I pulled it out I was not sure what it was," she explains. "I debated it but washed it anyway then decided because of the way it pulled on the side it must be a maternity skirt."

Farrell still wasn't 100% sure if she was right by the time she headed out the door to work, but she rocked the ambiguous attire anyway.

"When I got to work I googled the brand and realized not only do they not sell clothing but it was a car seat cover."

The brand, Itzy Ritzy, finds the whole thing pretty funny too, sharing Farell's viral moment to its official Instagram.

It may be a car seat cover, but that print looks really good on this mama.

And if you want to copy Farell's style, the Itzy Ritzy 4-in-1 Nursing Cover, Car Seat Cover, Shopping Cart Cover and Infinity Scarf (and skirt!) is available on Amazon for $24.94.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy.You've got this.

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Daycare for infants is expensive across the country, and California has one of the worst states for parents seeking care for a baby. Putting an infant in daycare in California costs $2,914 more than in-state tuition for four years of college, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Paying north of $1,000 for daycare each month is an incredible burden, especially on single-parent families. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines affordable childcare as costing no more than 10% of a family's income—by that definition, less than 29% of families in California can afford infant care. Some single parents spend half their income on day care. It is an incredible burden on working parents.

But that burden may soon get lighter. CBS Sacramento reports California may put between $25 and $35 million into child care programs to make day care more affordable for parents with kids under 3 years old.

Assembly Bill 452, introduced this week, could see $10 million dollars funneled into Early Head Start (which currently gets no money from the state but does get federal funding) and tens of millions more would be spent on childcare for kids under three.

The bill seeks to rectify a broken childcare system. Right now, only about 14% of eligible infants and toddlers are enrolled in subsidized programs in California, and in 2017, only 7% of eligible children younger than three years of age accessed Early Head Start.

An influx of between $25 to $35 million dollars could see more spaces open up for kids under three, as Bill 452, if passed, would see the creation of "grants to develop childcare facilities that serve children from birth to three years of age."

This piece of proposed legislation comes weeks after California's governor announced an ambitious plan for paid parental leave, and as another bill, AB 123, seeks to strengthen the state's pre-kindergarten program.

Right now, it is difficult for some working parents to make a life in California, but by investing in families, the state's lawmakers could change that and change California's future for the better.

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When a mama gets married, in most cases she wants her children to be part of her big day. Photographers are used to hearing bride-to-be moms request lots of pictures of their big day, but when wedding photographer Laura Schaefer of Fire and Gold Photography heard her client Dalton Mort planned to wear her 2-year-old daughter Ellora instead of a veil, she was thrilled.

A fellow mama who understands the benefits of baby-wearing, Schaefer was keen to capture the photos Mort requested. "When I asked Dalton about what some of her 'must get' shots would be for her wedding, she specifically asked for ones of her wearing Ellie, kneeling and praying in the church before the tabernacle," Schaefer tells Motherly.

She got those shots and so many more, and now Mort's toddler-wearing wedding day pics are going viral.

"Dalton wore Ellie down the aisle and nursed her to sleep during the readings," Schaefer wrote on her blog, explaining that Ellie then slept through the whole wedding mass.

"As a fellow mother of an active toddler, this is a HUGE win! Dalton told me after that she was SO grateful that Ellie slept the whole time because she was able to focus and really pray through the Mass," Schaefer explains.

Dalton was able to concentrate on her wedding day because she made her baby girl a part of it (and that obviously tired Ellie right out).

Ellie was part of the commitment and family Dalton if forging with her husband, Jimmy Joe. "There is no better behaved toddler than a sleeping toddler, and she was still involved, even though I ended up unwrapping her to nurse her. I held her in my arms while my husband and I said our vows. It was really special for us," Dalton told POPSUGAR.

This is a wedding trend we are totally here for!

Congrats to Dalton and Jimmy Joe (and to Ellie)! 🎉

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The internet is freaking out about how Peppa Pig is changing the way toddlers speak, but parents don't need to be too worried.

As Romper first reported, plenty of American parents have noticed that preschoolers are picking up a bit of a British accent thanks to Peppa. Romper's Janet Manley calls it "the Peppa effect," noting that her daughter started calling her "Mummy" after an in-flight Peppa marathon.

Plenty of other parents report sharing Manley's experience, but the British accent is not likely to stick, experts say.

Toronto-based speech and language pathologist Melissa James says this isn't a new thing—kids have always been testing out the accents they hear on TV and in the real world, long before Peppa oinked her way into our Netflix queues.

"Kids have this amazing ability to pick up language," James told Global News. "Their brains are ripe for the learning of language and it's a special window of opportunity that adults don't possess."

Global News reports that back in the day there were concerns about Dora The Explorer potentially teaching kids Spanish words before the kids had learned the English counterparts, and over in the U.K., parents have noticed British babies picking up American accents from TV, too.

But it's not a bad thing, James explains. When an American adult hears "Mummy" their brain translates it to "Mommy," but little kids don't yet make as concrete a connection. "When a child, two, three or four, is watching a show with a British accent and hears [words] for the first time, they are mapping out the speech and sound for that word in the British way."

So if your baby is oinking at you, calling you "Mummy" or testing out a new pronunciation of "toh-mah-toe," know that this is totally natural, and they're not going to end up with a life-long British pig accent.

As Dr, Susannah Levi, associate professor of communicative sciences and disorders at New York University, tells The Guardian, "it's really unlikely that they'd be acquiring an entire second dialect from just watching a TV show."

It sure is cute though.

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