I have a 7 year old who patiently explains to me that if something is sick, it’s actually good, while my 10 year old bolts from the room if anyone actually mentions sick or does a throaty cough.
I’m not sure what, if anything, this means but I know it means I’m getting left behind by the modern age. It’s bad enough half the time when I get a blank response from quoting a TV show or movie at work I realise the person I’m quoting it at wasn’t born when the show was first broadcast.
Getting old is inevitable though, getting irrelevant shouldn’t be so I guess I need to up my game a bit!
I think the general consensus among parents I talk to is that their kids should be spoken to and rationally convinced that they shouldn’t look at naughty stuff on the internet. It’s the modern, involved, right on option to take. The problem is, any kid is only a couple of clicks away hot anal action or instructions on how to make homemade explosives either by accident or intent. And lets face it, we don’t want our kids either looking at that sort of stuff or conflating the two to come up with hot anal explosions do we?
There are a couple of options available to parents: all internet access is done in the communal living space and fully supervised. Who’s got time for that? Or you can use some sort of filter. Some routers now have basic filtering settings to weed out problem sites. There are also subscription services like Disney’s Circle that do device by device filtering. I’ve tried a few of these and they’re…. okay. If you’re a bit more technically minded you can even switch your DNS servers to OpenDNS and put site/category specific filters in, though this isn’t for the faint hearted.
Synology made their name in network storage but their router carries the user friendly interface across and it comes with some great apps, including the rather useful Safe Access. This allows you to assign devices to individuals, give the individual time limits, a curfew and filter the content to remove anything you don’t want them to see. The best part is you can customise the block screen that comes up when someone searches for something they shouldn’t…
It’s a fact of modern life that your children probably already spend a large amount of time online. With the internet, every member of the household now has a device to browse the online, stream Netflix or play games. It’s also a fact of modern life that the headlines are full of reminders of the dangers of the internet – from cyberbullying and identity theft, to internet addiction and predators.
This can be worrying for parents, as they want to endeavour to keep their children safe online but can feel overwhelmed by the amount of web trends and apps that they are using. And for every fun game, app or social network that becomes popular, there can be negative impacts of the internet too.
How do you keep your family safe? We have some ideas that you should consider taking onboard to keep your family secure on the internet.
Secure your Wi-Fi network
Your broadband network allows your kids to access the internet from any room in your house. This can make it that little bit harder to keep an eye on them and see what they are up to. As well as this, if the network is not secure there is the danger of intruders either using your bandwidth or compromising your security and infecting your household computers with malware.
In order to combat this, you should know all about what speeds and bandwidth that your broadband provider gives you, so you can keep an eye on your usage and speeds. You should also ensure that your Wi-Fi is highly secure using a strong password on your router and enabling encryption to restrict access to it.
Teach your kids safe social networking etiquette
When your kids become old enough to use social media, it’s worth teaching them how to keep safe while using it. It goes without saying that you should be keeping an eye on their friend list, but there are other things to consider too. For instance, you should teach family members to restrict their personal information on the internet; never use their full names or addresses on their profiles.
You should also teach them not to talk about identifiable details on social media, such as holiday plans or weekend activities, and try avoiding checking-in to public places.
Ensure a safe gaming environment for your kids
You probably have a kid or two that likes gaming online. This can be a great hobby, but it also comes with its own dangers. Live online games allow people to interact with other people all over the world, and this can expose them to a variety of security dangers such as bullying and harassment.
To protect against this, ensure that your gamer children don’t reveal their identities while playing games, and you should always check out who they are playing with – if possible, you should make sure that they only play with friends and family members that they know in real life. Often, a lot of games and consoles offer parental controls, so you can restrict certain features, so always check if these options are available.
Securing your house
Even adding virus protections, parental controls and passwords to every device in the house, it can still be hard to secure the internet completely. You should have an open and trustful relationship with your children when it comes to the internet, so that if anything does happen that they can come and tell you of any issues. Being forewarned will help keep them safe while online.
If you’d like to educate your family a little more on broadband, including speeds and what they mean for your family, then Hoppy has created an informative video which you can watch below!
I don’t often publish instructionals and this one is even more out there as it’s from the BBC’s comedy show The Daily Mash (itself spun out of the satirical website of the same name).
However given the press recently on all sorts of shenanigans on the internet from kids not believing that Madeleine McCann was actually a real person, to what’s known as “redpilling“, it’s probably more relevant now than ever that we keep an eye on what our kids are up to online. Let’s face it, you don’t want to get down the line and long for the nostalgic days when all you had to worry about was your kid googling for “boobies” on the internet. Whether it’s right wing/racist/fascist stuff on YouTube, or endless conspiracy theories that younger people find hard to differentiate from the truth from poppycock, the important thing is to talk to your kids about it.
Which brings us on to the whole “incel” subculture in the video. I was terrible with girls at school but that was due to shyness, I didn’t feel the need to construct an entire narrative or reality around the way human interaction works to justify my crapness, I just knew I was shy. The whole incel movement, “involuntarily celibate” boys who go to rather extreme lengths to convince themselves that the world is ganging up on them reminds me rather of an old episode of Red Dwarf where Rimmer does the “worm do” joke from the 1,001 chat up lines book he has, and Lister tries to point out to him that women aren’t an unknown different species who have to be tricked into liking you.
That’s what I like about Rachel Parrish’s monologue above; although she rightly ridicules the whole movement, she doesn’t dismiss it and actually ends up with some (tongue in cheek) pointers to potential incels to stop them going down that crazy path.
And so my journey to owning my fear of an early death is drawing to an end and also entering a new and exciting chapter. My six months of blog posts and support calls from Becky at AXA PPP healthcare are drawing to an end but the process of empowering myself to continue the journey is ongoing.
When I started my journey back in January I was more interested in tips, tricks and shortcuts to getting my health back on track; I was hoping AXA PPP healthcare and Becky would be able to give me the professional equivalent of those “one weird tip the experts don’t want you to know” adverts you see out there, but as I began to buy in to the process, I realised it was as much a change of attitude as it was in the record-able metrics of what I wanted to achieve: setting myself up to fail by designating a weight loss target as the goal wasn’t a great idea because it ignored the reason for it, and the reason (wanting to be there for my kids) was more important and required a change in thinking, not just in eating.
I’m going to sound like one of those old hippies but in this instance the journey was definitely more important than the destination. And I say this with some authority, as the man who once reviewed a Slendertone in a not entirely serious manner much to the irritation of everyone who found it on the front page of Google for several years.
Once I entered the mindset of owning my fear of a premature death, I was liberated in that I could face the elephant in the room and do more than a desultory attempt to address it because lets not forget, a fear pushed to the back of your mind and not properly acknowledged won’t be dealt with properly and will demotivate you all the way as you try to change things.
There are four key things in the Own your fears campaign that worked really well for me:
Admitting to myself that I had a fear and it needed facing in the first place;
Embracing the positivity that the admission created and using it to drive change;
Having practical help in terms of support and guidance from Becky; and
Having someone to be accountable to.
Going forwards, now that my series of coaching calls has finished, I can still manage one and two, three is okay as I’ve got the practical help sitting in my G Drive, but point four was always going to be the issue- just who do I find to hold myself accountable to?
In the end the answer was obvious and staring me in the face for the whole time. After all the reason I decided to own my fear in the first instance was for my children, and the two older children are of an age that they can hold me accountable but also encourage me. I may have had one two many enjoying the football on a sunny Friday afternoon recently- when I got back home, my two eldest told me off. The younger made me drink two pints of water and the elder did an impromptu quiz (what’s the weight of Saturn? Is diamond harder than titanium? You know, sensible questions) to ascertain how naughty I’d been. He even wrote down my results and rated me. That’s the kind of being held to account I need, although he’d have done better had he removed my dinner plate from me before I decided to have a quick nap.
The best thing about owning my fear is I feel light. Weight wise I haven’t lost as much as I hoped to but that’s not really what I’m talking about. It’s about the metaphorical weight that’s been taken off my shoulders.
Taking that first step is hard though, but with AXA PPP healthcare there to help, you don’t have to do it on your own. Go on, what are you waiting for? This could be the start of something special!
Last Sunday was the St Albans Half Marathon. I didn’t run the half marathon. I didn’t run in the 10K either but I did run with my kids in the 1.5 mile fun run, and that ladies and gentlemen is entirely down to AXA PPP healthcare helping me in owning my fear of decrepitude and channelling it into something positive!
Vangelis is blaring out; I’m running in slow motion, aiming for the 4(+6) minute mile and frankly I might as well be Roger Bannister. All five of us ran the fun run but the two older kids went off at blistering pace, and wifey followed to make sure they didn’t get lost in the throng at the end. That left we running with Ned, who is six. Ned is a natural at pretty much everything but his one weakness with running is not pacing himself. Fortunately, running with me he had no choice but to run a bit slower. Even so, we passed a lot of parents, kids, teenagers and sole runners, which was heartening.
I had a plan though, and it wasn’t entirely down to my fitness or Neds aged either. As we came into the home straight, with crowds down both sides of the course, I turned to Ned and said, “Do you think you can sprint as fast as you can to the finish?” and of course he could. He might as well be modelled on Dash from the Incredibles because when he started really running, I had to put everything into it to keep up with him. We must have overtaken 40 or 50 people on that stretch, me crying “Run Forrest Run!”, Ned weaving in and out of people and as we approached the finish line, being cheered on by the crowd, we held hands and crossed the line together!
I’ll tell you this, it might have been hard work getting even this far, but it felt damn satisfying to cross the finish line of a 14 minute run at full pelt, holding my six year olds hand.
My fear of dying prematurely and leaving my wife and kids on their own was crushing and it was holding me back in so many ways but I’ve owned it. Now you can too, you can submit your fears here on the AXA Own Your Fears website and start your journey too. Did you know that 60% fear dying early and leaving their children? I wasn’t alone and the chances are you aren’t either.
Just remember, pretending that everything is all right doesn’t make it so, and that anxiety will be sitting there at the back of your mind nagging away at you.
Aside from the culmination of the the fun run, this past month has seen me double down and concentrate on not stuffing up. For me apathy to change and general can’t be bothered-ness has always been a problem but having a target to aim for has helped tremendously.
Talking to Becky, my support from AXA PPP healthcare has given me some great tips for keeping going, focusing on the lifestyle I want to achieve, rather than just specific targets, like losing X kilos, or being able to run 10K. I’m never going to be the sort of bloke who appears in a shaving advert but I could easily be one of the people to appear in a popular lifestyle product advert if I put a bit more work in and that’s what its about in a daft way. It’s much easier to buy into a lifestyle than a set of dry specific targets and that piece of advice has really helped me a lot.
AXA PPP healthcare have made me realise that owning my fears is structured much like a blockbuster movie or bestselling novel, just without the film stars or edge of the seat action sequences (if you don’t count me out on my bike, which you shouldn’t as it’s not very action packed).
Any good film starts with the set up, the heroes find out their challenge and go about achieving their goals, suffer a potentially fatal setback but then struggle through to redemption at the end. Unfortunately I’m at the “suffering a potentially fatal set back” phase in the movie of owning my fears and I’m very much hoping I’ll be able to power through to the final act and big climatic finale but you just never know do you?
As I mentioned last time, my big issue has always been sticking things out. Whether it’s failing to watch Breaking Bad, or neglecting not to eat all the chocolate in the house (including the stuff badly hidden behind the aubergines and eggs at the back of the top shelf of the fridge), I always get off to a good start with the best intentions but fail to stick it out. I’ve managed to get off to a good start owning my fear of an impending early death by making adjustments to my diet and lifestyle but now I’m facing a set back, like our nameless movie heroes. That set back is my arch nemesis: Apathy.
I don’t know about you but I tend to suffer from the process that when an immediate shock wears off or the initial impetus of doing something dwindles, I convince myself that things will be all right in the long run because things always tend to sort themselves out in the end anyway. It’s a comforting lie but it’s a lie none the less.
In the last 3 months I’ve lost almost six kilos and feel much healthier. I’m also sleeping better (both in terms of length of kip and how deep I’m sleeping) and feel generally quite a bit more energised than I have in the last few years.
This month has seen me backslide slightly. My alcohol consumption has gone up from nothing to not very much and I’ve had a ****** (a calorific sandwich with lot of sauce from a popular fast food establishment). Many would poo-poo the consumption of a ****** but for me it’s akin to a gateway drug; the first step towards a downward spiral that will eventually see me sitting down with a four pack of lager and an entire KFC Bargain Bucket to myself. Nobody wants to be that person do they?
It’s been a struggle because there are things I miss like bingeing on chocolate (the pre-diabetes scare has held this in check), eating lots of chips, battered sausages and assorted other junk food, and sitting around on my backside playing video games and watching TV. When the news reports said drinking a certain amount of alcohol could reduce your life expectancy by a few months, I thought, well that’s a pretty good trade off because life probably isn’t going to be much fun when I’m a creaky old 80 year old.
And the thing is, it isn’t fairly weighted. If I want to eat a bag of crisps, something that can be done sitting on one’s posterior on the sofa, I have to be aware that it’s going to require 10 minutes of jogging to burn through those calories. That’s almost criminal and probably the single biggest reason that I’ve always reached the “potentially fatal set back” part of the movie narrative and failed. You don’t see that in the cinema, apart from perhaps at the end of Terminator 3, where Judgement Day actually does happen, much to everyone’s surprise.
This is where being held accountable to someone has really really helped. Becky from AXA PPP healthcare hasn’t only been there to hear my moaning (she hasn’t even been silently reproachful down the phone for goodness sake), but she has provided positive action to help me muddle through the difficult third album phase of my challenge.
Part of that is looking at it positively- I’ve consciously not used the word struggle because that has negative connotations- I can look behind me and know that I’ve succeeded so far rather than looking ahead and seeing failure. Becky has also helped in practical terms too, she sent me some really excellent advice on habit stacking, which you can see from the infographic below, involves taking an existing routine or habit and “stacking” a new positive routine you want on to it in order to make it stick more.
I am a creature of routine and this had never occurred to me but it’s genius, especially when the good habits you want to build aren’t particularly fun or something that might come naturally to you!
As I work in an office environment, it’s quite easy for me to append a 15 minute walk onto my lunch every day (weather permitting). I’m a creature of habit and always tend to eat my lunch at about 12:15 everyday, so at 12:30 I now go for a 15 minute stroll around the block. It’s a simple as that and after a couple of weeks I already associate lunch with a bit of exercise- hurrah! This is something I’m looking to extend to drinking a pint of water after my morning ablutions to make sure I’m properly hydrated and having a vitamin D tablet with my first cup of tea of the day in the office to make sure my vitamin D levels are kept up (I’ve tested low for this in the past).
In some of my other posts I’ve started off with a quote from a film and then applied that to my situation. I had a couple of ideas how to end this post with something similar. I was going to quote the rather excellent Hey Duggee! Stick Song:
Because sticking with something is really powerful but in the end, although my youngest loves Hey Duggee, I’m slightly less enamoured by it and there is no excuse to not shoehorn a Star Wars quote in wherever possible.
During the attack run on the Death Star at the end of Star Wars (or a New Hope if you’re not as old as I am), Gold Leader starts his attack run, covered by a couple of support craft, including Gold Five. Gold Five constantly reminds Gold Leader to “Stay on target” and that they’re “Almost there” as Darth Vader and a couple of Tie Fighters come to attack. Those words of encouragement are important because without support, we all have a tendency to doubt ourselves and once you start doubting yourself, you’re in trouble. Actually, thinking about it, that’s a bit of flawed analogy because Gold Leader, Gold Five and the rest of that squadron all get blown up by Vader, because nobody but the named hero, Luke Skywalker, is allowed to blow up the Death Star, but you get my point don’t you?
Napoleon and I have one or two things in common. I’m not a short French dictator with a complex but I’m pretty rubbish at a war of attrition, and good old Napoleon did rather famously fail in his invasion of Russia. Facing my big fear- my own mortality, and doing something about it- is in many ways akin to invading Russia. The first bit is easy but then all you see is the enormity of it and feel trouble – but it doesn’t have to be this way if you can just see past the initial panic.
Fortunately I’ve not been driven to eating my own horse. That’s probably because I don’t have a horse mind you.
Feeling galvanised from my first conversation with Becky from the AXA PPP healthcare team, I finally got around to booking my 40+ health check at the doctors. Only three years too late but you know me, never put off until tomorrow what you can put off indefinitely. My fear of being told something was seriously wrong with me (I’m quite a bit overweight) made it much easier to avoid. But now I’m into the swing of facing my fears and using them to motivate myself, I thought it was entirely the right time.
So imagine my surprise when I received a phone call a few days after having my blood tests asking me to come in immediately as I was a high risk of diabetes. I happened to take the call while taking the cat to the vets to have the pus drained from a bite on his head, so couldn’t go in immediately. And the doctors being the doctors, immediately didn’t have the option of not quite immediately but very soon anyway. No, I had a wait of a week which reduced me to a nervous wreck. Fortunately I was able to draw on the expert help of Becky from AXA PPP healthcare, who as well as being a physiologist, also happens to be a pre-diabetes councillor.
Becky was able to talk me down from the cliff I’d put myself on (metaphorically, I’m scared of heights too), and pointed out that one in three people are actually pre-diabetic and there were some really practical steps I could take right away. For me fear is quite strongly rooted in passivity and the inability to effect outcomes, so having something practical to do before I saw the GP really really helped me. Sometimes you need a little help to own your own fears, and AXA PPP healthcare were able to provide that.
The biggest problem I have generally when it comes to achieving any goal is keeping the focus and not either backsliding or losing interest over a period of time. I have a short attention span, and even less sticking power. About the only thing I ever really finish are books, and I’ve lost count of the number of video games I’ve only ever played the tutorial on (hint: it’s most of the video games I’ve ever played).
That’s not to say I’m lazy (although my wife might disagree!) but I don’t easily see things through. For example if you were to ask me how good I thought Breaking Bad was, I’d tell you it was utterly fantastic and one of the best TV shows I’ve seen. I’d then go on to tell you that I got as far as episode six of season two and never got round to watching the rest of it for some reason or other. I am terrible.
This is were Becky at AXA PPP healthcare has really helped. Being held accountable, especially to someone I don’t really know, has helped me stay focused and the scare over being potentially diabetic has also played it’s part too. Knowing that I’m still in the woods as it were, and not free in the open has a certain immediacy to it that is helping.
With regard to the targets we set last month (get down to under 100KG, eat better lunches, and the third one?) I’m slowly getting there. I’ve lost three kilos in total, despite being busier at work and in the office longer. I’ve also enjoyed some great left overs and had some positive comments from others over what I’ve been scoffing. I’ve even managed to cut down the drinking significantly, not that it was excessive to begin with mind, but it all helps doesn’t it?
If you’ve been putting off something like a check up or a well being check, I can heartily recommend you grab the bull by the horns and make that appointment now. The simple fact you’re actually doing something will actually be empowering because the fear of being afraid of what you don’t know can’t be any worse than the fear of what you do know and are dealing with!
In the wake of the Florida school shooting it seems that the gun control laws are in the spotlight again. And so are violent video games, in what a cynic might think is an attempt to shift the blame to an area that’s not directly funding the Republican Party.
Still, cynicism aside, it is worth asking the question of whether video games are training our kids to be killers in a fair and objective manner, even if the common sense approach might be to think that participating in video game related violence might at best desensitise one to violence, at worst lead one to act out the content of a violent game. Common sense is all very well but it really does need to be backed up and supported by empirical research if we’re going to base policy on it.
This is the cherry picked highlight reel of violence in video games that the White House put together. I would strongly suggest if you are of a squeamish disposition do not watch it. View Full Post
Up until now I don’t doubt that the Xbox ecosystem has been much better than Sony’s Playstation set up when it comes to parental controls for kids using their own profiles. This is however about to change quite dramatically, you can read the full details of this change and all the others, in the following PS blog:
Play Time Management
We’re introducing Play Time Management, which will allow family managers (and adult family members who are set as guardians) to manage PS4 playtime for child family members on family on PSN. Managing Playtime is easy; go to Settings > Family Management on your PS4, or log into your PlayStation account on your web browser from your PC or smartphone, to check and manage your child’s playtime each day. If needed, the family manager/guardians can apply playtime restrictions to make sure that the child is only playing for a set amount of time or within set playable hours. Notifications on PS4 will be sent to the child during gameplay so that he or she knows when they should save and quit. The family managers/guardians also have the option to add extra game time via their smartphone or PC. In addition, the family manager/guardians can choose whether or not to automatically log the child out of their PS4 once their playtime is over.
This is big news for parents, and finally lets us exercise the sort of control over access without it coming down to a fight every single time.
Heck, my most sure fire way of ensuring my eldest gets ready for bed usually involves me messaging him on the PS4 via the Playstation app on my phone, so the addition of another weapon to my arsenal that he can’t actually completely ignore is only a good thing.
The PS4 already has some good age related restrictions but being able to set time limits per day is a real killer function, even though I can see it leading to some tears and arguments. It’s a heck of a lot better than stealing the controllers and hiding them somewhere (and forgetting where you put them)!
MS already have a family timer on the Xbox One, so now I just have to decide the split between the two for the kids…