About Mandy Majors

Mandy Majors grew up in a small Indiana town and graduated from Indiana University with a BA in political science and criminal justice. She's been happily married to her best friend, Matt, for seventeen years, and together they're raising two kids in a quaint little Texas community. Mandy is the founder and executive director of nextTalk, a nonprofit organization passionate about helping parents prepare for the next conversation with their children. Mandy’s time is split between researching, team building, speaking, writing and talking to her family about everything. And she’s completely addicted to Diet Coke.

Let’s Talk about Roblox

We need to talk about Roblox. It’s a rapidly-growing game with millions of kids playing each day, and a whole lot of fun! It’s creative because users can create their own games and content changes frequently. Kids seems to love that — it doesn’t get old or boring. Roblox is the server or the umbrella, but under that, there are many games (over 15 million according to their website) created by users.

First, I need to tell you the story of what prompted this post. My kids have played this game for several months as we’ve all been learning it. They always “game” in an open area of our home (no screens behind closed doors are allowed). They have their accounts in privacy mode. According to the Roblox website (see pic below), “locked privacy settings prevent contact from people they don’t know. These players must first become friends with another user before certain activities are allowed, such as messaging, following into game, and playing in private servers.”

This gives the impression that our kids are protected from strangers. They are not. It’s a false sense of security. Strangers still got to interact with my kids within the game!

A couple months ago, my child’s private account had a stranger in the game who started asking personal questions. I was in my kitchen, she was at our kitchen island. A stranger reached out to my daughter literally right in front of my face, and I wouldn’t have had a clue if she didn’t tell me!! Think about if a stranger came up to your kid in the grocery store and started asking her name, city, school, etc. — we would flip out!! We need to be on guard, Parents!!

My child knew what to do because we continually talk about online strangers. She wrote back “Stalker! Bye Felicia” (ha!) and reported the activity. By the way, I LOVE the Roblox reporting screen — I took a screenshot for you (see pic below). We highlighted “personal question” because that’s not allowed. We reported it.

After all this happened, I’ve been researching this in more detail. Here are my primary concerns with Roblox:

1) Content. There are many, many different games to play created by users within Roblox (which is why it’s so fun and creative). Some of the game content is inappropriate. They change often and new games become available so it’s a constant monitoring situation for content. Their website says Roblox is for ages 8-18. I do not want my third grader shooting others with guns on a screen (Prison Life) or killing people (Murder Mystery). Also, cussing is all over the place so the younger your child is, the more you want to talk with them about it (as you can see, swearing is at the top of the list for the reporting screen). Strangers playing along your child can basically write anything they want. When you’re not in privacy mode, you can even move to a private area to play.

2) Strangers. We have to keep talking to our kids about online strangers. People will lie about who they are to build a relationship with your child. I’ve been talking to my kids for years (even before my oldest had her own phone) about not talking to people online. I often say, “You wouldn’t open the front door of our house without mom or dad so don’t ever talk, text, comment, chat, etc. with someone you don’t know online.” This morning, had I not had all those conversations, it could’ve been the start of a relationship forming with a complete stranger.

We must also maintain a balance. I’ve learned that going into crazy mom-mode doesn’t solve anything. It puts up walls and destroys the parent-child relationship. Normally, our kids don’t want to report bad stuff to us because they’re afraid we’ll take away the app. If my child does nothing wrong, I don’t punish them! I actually reward them. Create a teachable moment from it. Talk again about the dangers of online strangers. Do your research. I didn’t make my kids delete Roblox. They are still playing. BUT, I said to them, “You have been given this freedom because you are reporting and not talking to strangers. If I check your accounts and find otherwise, you will no longer play.” Then, I shared a real-life story of a kid who has taken by on online stranger.

We see it over and over again. Every site. Every app. I had my settings set to the highest security. Bad content or questionable material (a stranger asking way too many personal questions) still got through to my child. Restrictions are a tool to use, but they’re not THE answer. The answer is OPEN COMMUNICATION. My new book, TALK: A Practical Approach to Cyberparenting and Open Communication, points to this solution as I cover each topic individually.

Also, I need to add — when I reached out to parents, I found that most are YOUNGER kids on this app. In fact, there are tech-savvy parents on our team who have older kids (late middle and high school) but have never heard of this one. It’s new and our YOUNG elementary kids are playing it!

FYI — You can go to the Roblox website for more information. Click on the “FAQ” tab.

*I wrote this back in Jan on the nextTalk FB page, but wanted to post it on my blog so it could be easily found. You can find more info about our nonprofit organization at nextTalk.org.

Book is now available!

I haven’t written a blog post since Feb 2016 because I was busy writing a book!

It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. I wanted to quit often. There were tears. I talked myself out of it more times than I can count.

I wrote for about seven months. My goal was 50,000 words, but I ended around 77,000. When the draft was finished in August, I thought it was done. This newbie author was so naïve. Little did I know that my editor, who has been in the publishing industry for more than 30 years, was going to challenge me at every turn. Can I tell you a secret? Editors are behind-the-scenes heroes in the publishing world. Heroes. She questioned every cite, quote, statement and word. She was patient with me and all my comma splices. I’m so grateful for her and the entire publishing team. After another five months of editing and proofreading, it is finally ready!!

So, what is this book about? I’ve been on a crazy journey. It started four years ago. I’m continuing to learn, but I write in real-time about what I’m discovering because it’s so critically important.

Parenting has undergone a seismic shift, forcing us to address issues that previous generations of parents never encountered. No matter when you decide to give your child a phone (and that is entirely your choice), we all must recognize that online exposure has changed the entire landscape of parenting. If your kids don’t have their own devices, they interact with kids who do. My daughter, who did not have her own phone at the time, was given details about a pornographic video when she was nine years old. Yep, fourth grade. We must face this new reality of cyberparenting.

book-release-meme-3

In part 1 of the book, we dive into the emotional roller-coaster ride of my own cyberparenting journey. In my search for answers, I made so many mistakes. I felt like a failure. But that search led to a deeper walk with God and an amazing discovery that transformed my approach to parenting.

I recognized that monitoring and restrictions are great tools, but they’re not THE answer. Open communication is the secret weapon. It isn’t about family meetings or formal discussions; it’s about creating a healthy, ongoing dialogue between you and your child. It’s a practical, proactive, on-the-go approach to parenting. Amazing things happen when parents and kids begin to talk.

Open communication isn’t as simple as it may sound. It’s a complicated process that requires time and hard work. In part 2, I unpack four key steps that will help you pave the path for open communication in your family. This section is all about grit and facing it. God showed me that He wasn’t going to change my whole family dynamic without requiring me to look in the mirror first. Ouch!

In part 3, we address some of the most difficult topics parents encounter today, and I share how I handle them with my own children. I also offer some ideas for conversation starters and taking things deeper after the discussion gets going. I created this section as a topic list for easy access so that when you’re dealing with a specific issue and need a refresher, you can quickly flip to that chapter. Here are some of the questions we’ll be addressing:

  • When should my tween get a phone?
  • How and when should I warn my child about pornography?
  • How am I going to monitor social media?
  • How and when should I talk about sex with my tween?
  • How do I respond to questions about homosexuality, bisexuality and transgender?
  • How do I address mass shootings and terrorism?
  • What do I say about addiction? Do I have to worry about screen addiction?
  • How do I start the conversation about cyberbullying and suicide?
  • How in the world do I talk about all these difficult topics without causing confusion and fear?

No topic is off limits.

The whole idea of the book is to bring awareness to the new challenges of cyberparenting and create more open communication in families. I’m not an expert telling you how to parent. YOU are the expert on your child. I’m a mom, in the daily trenches, trying to figure out how to address complicated issues at earlier ages because of online exposure. In reality, I’m just trying to answer my kids’ questions over here!

In regard to how I address specific topics in our own family, I do write from a Biblical perspective because that’s how we parent. BUT, please hear me on this: I state throughout the book that it’s your family, your choice.

We may come from different faith backgrounds. That’s okay. We can model mutual respect, even when we disagree. We need everyone, regardless of their beliefs, to be engaged in this conversation and aware of the shift that’s taken place in parenting this generation.

Can you tell we have a lot to talk about?

You can order the book here:  TALK: A Practical Approach to Cyberparenting and Open Communication

Moms, You Need a Mom Squad!

Here’s your PSA for the day: Parenting is tough. Really tough. Don’t go it alone.

When my children were little, I didn’t make a lot of time for friends. With the lack of sleep and chasing toddlers all day, it was an exhaustive time. As they’ve grown and become more independent, I’ve had time to invest in sweet friendships.

This wasn’t an overnight process. Don’t expect best friendships and trust to be built instantaneously. It’s been years of meeting other moms and investing time into others. God eventually knit together a group of moms who truly help and inspire me.

I used to call them “my peeps.” But, my tween recently told me that wasn’t cool anymore. They call it a “squad” now. Whatever you want to call it, it’s your village. Your tribe. Your inner circle.

You need one of those.

Friends you can call at 2am when your world falls apart. Friends who can finish your sentence and know your thoughts. Friends who keep everything confidential. Friends who encourage and support you, even when you make mistakes. Friends who give you constructive criticism, but it’s wrapped in love and grace. Friends who have your back. ALWAYS.

Here’s what my inner circle looks like:

*I have two friends who have slightly older children than me. HUGE BLESSING. I call these my “heads-up mamas.” They tell me what’s getting ready to happen. They guide me much more on the technology side because they’re just a year or two ahead of where I am (and parenting technology changes quickly). Before my daughter started middle school, both of my heads-up mamas said, “Get ready, Instagram is popular!” So, they taught me how to use Instagram. I wanted to know it thoroughly before I even thought about my daughter joining that social platform. Here’s a post I previously wrote on keeping your kids safe on Instagram: Click here for Instagram Safety Tips

*I also have two mentors for this parenting journey. For me, it’s important that my mentors have a solid Biblical understanding. These are people I go to when I need to know, “Why do we believe this?” or “What does the Bible say about this?” They are wise, seasoned women. They’ve raised great kids who are now amazing adults.

*The remainder of my inner circle are moms, just like me, in the daily trenches trying to figure it all out. Have several moms you trust. Because we’re all busy, and it takes a village. We continuously learn together, encourage and support each other.

For me, my squad shares a deep love for Jesus, and we believe the Bible is our moral compass. In fact, the Bible directs us to choose our inner circle carefully.

“Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.” Proverbs 13:20mom-squad

Do you have a mom squad? What are characteristics you look for in developing your inner circle?

If you don’t have a mom squad yet, can I encourage you? I often felt lonely as a mom before I found my village. I prayed about it and sought out ways to meet other moms. Keep trying! When I moved to San Antonio 11 years ago, I felt like I had to start over with friendships. It took me years to find my people here. I promise, there are moms who need you in their inner circle! You have specific gifts, life experiences and stories that God is going to use in your own squad.