Identity theft is real. Share this with your loved ones.

If you care for your privacy or your families identity then you’re going to want to take a few moments to learn of my personal battle with Instagram. Whether you are a parent or not, this equally applies. If you know what catfish is, then you’ll have an inkling about how this story is going to unfold…

Becoming a dad was an unbelievably exciting moment for me (almost 2 1/2 years ago now) and it triggered my dad-brain. For those of you unaware of a dad-brain – it’s a clinically-real phenomenon that involves a hormonal change in a man’s brain when he actively engages as a hands-on dad. It involves an increased release of oestrogen – you can read the full details in The Boy Crisis book.

Anyways, I pondered for many months about sharing photos of my son online and in fact refrained from sharing any photos of Finn until after his first birthday. A large part of my motivation was to protect him from identity theft and online creeps but after reading The Happiest kids in the World I decided that parenting was more about risk assessment rather than risk avoidance. After all, what are the chances of someone actually cyber stalking me and my family?

And so – the Modern Dad IG account became a place where I shared my dad-journey with my followers. Within six months I had over 10,000 followers and wanted to use my channel as a place to connect with other parents, empower men to be hands-on dads and raise awareness of issues that were important to me. It all appeared to go great and I enjoyed the online parent community. However, I haven’t posted much in the last few weeks and I’ve started the process of removing all photos of Finn’s face. Why!? You might ask. Well, I was contacted by a woman around six weeks ago via Instagram direct message – she wasn’t a follower and so the message went into Instagram‘s version of Junkmail. She said we needed to talk as someone was impersonating me and blackmailing people. After a few more messages from her by email and Facebook I wrote back but was vigilant as I couldn’t be sure of her motives or if she was legitimate.

After several messages back and forth it appears that this lady and other women have been contacted via Instagram by a man using my images of Finn and I. These women subsequently fell in love with this “person” and this then lead to a digital relationship involving written exchanges of affection and nude photos.

The guy, known as Barry Woods, from Toronto would claim that his wife left him and the toddler, and took all of their money. He then sought financial support. If the woman refused to send money he would then blackmail her and in some cases he actually sent the woman’s naked photos to her friends or family via social media. This whole situation left me feeling sick. I just couldn’t imagine someone stealing photos of my son and using them to blackmail people. I started investigating and discovered a number of accounts using Finn and I as a guise. I reported them to Instagram and they shut the accounts down. I also contacted NetSafe, which is New Zealand’s place to go for online safety. Other concerns started to arise as this lady who claimed to be a lawyer from London spoke of the mans ties to Turkey, and his his possible sympathising with particular ideologies. It is now very clear to me that there are gangs or groups of people who earn millions of dollars through identity theft and fraud. They do not care who gets hurt along the way and they operate from behind a computer screen.

A lot of my recent reading has revolved around father-involvement in a child’s life and how critical a male role model can be in a child’s upbringing – particularly for boys. Boys who are unfortunate enough to lack a positive hands-on dad every single day (or at least 50-50 shared custody with mum) are far more likely to be delinquent, end up in prison, struggle at school, suffer emotionally and struggle in relationships. In fact, boys are six times more likely than girls to commit suicide from adolescence onwards. Read more on this in Warren Farrell’s amazing book.

Initially I felt angry that a man or a group of men (although some women obviously do this too) would steal my identity and use my sons face as a method to blackmail others. But as time has passed it has led me to transform my thinking. I am grateful for the incredible community around my family, genuine love and support from real, caring people. Community, is an essential element of well-being, a key ingredient to a purposeful and meaningful life here on earth. I feel sadness and pity for the individuals who sit behind screens and steal peoples identities. These people have not experienced the love of a father that I have. These people have no experience of boundary enforcement from their fathers like I did. They did not experience honest criticism and feedback from their father when they messed up like I did. I am imperfect and I strive to learn more, improve my contribution to society and admit my inadequacies. These keyboard warriors and criminals are drawn to gangs and crime because they are so desperate for a father figure, someone to lead them. Sadly they perceive their membership in a gang as worthy, giving them meaning. But as you and I know, nothing replaces being genuine and living in an ethical way. When you are wrong, admit it. When you make a mistake, learn from it. We all make mistakes. But these followers will never become leaders to their families or communities. Instead they will continue the negative spiral of fatherhood and pass down their moral compass to their sons and grandson‘s.

I have learned from this incident and I still don’t know what shape Modern Dad is going to take moving forward. I just know that my responsibility is to take care of my family. Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated.

Here’s to showing gratitude to our communities. Be thankful for those whom you spend real in-person time with. Stay safe online. Stay vigilant. And applaud those dads whom you see doing a great job. For it is the greatest and most rewarding part of a man’s life.

James

Check out this article on staying safe online.

The Magic of My Name

Kids more often than not get a bazillion books in their younger years. There’s no such thing as too many books – just one read through “Malala” will make you appreciate how lucky our kids are in the Western world to be allowed access to education. It’s quite a different story in some parts of the World. 

The digital age has brought with it millions of eBooks. I think they are fantastic but certain books work better as paperback. Children’s books are the type of books that should be held. Kids need to be able to touch the pages, flip the pages, rip the pages and smell the pages. There’s nothing quite like the smell of a crisp new book. We aren’t planning to get Finn into the digital books – in fact we don’t own a kindle – and don’t plan to. 

I came across a really cool book creator that puts together a personalised book which tells your child the story behind their name. It’s really quite cool. You can input their name, and choose the gender and hair colour. The end product is a beautifully written book all about the magic behind the kids name. We know Finn has no clue what we are reading him right now, but in a few years this book will be pretty special to him. After all, it’s a book all about HIM!

They deliver worldwide, but for you kiwis you can go straight to their website (it’s not an affiliate link so I’m not plugging them insincerely!) – 

https://www.themagicofmyname.co.nz/en
Happy reading!!

Education – where do I begin?

There are so many differing opinions in regards to how we should educate our kids. As parents – it falls on us to decide what’s best for our little whippersnappers. I grew up in Northern Ireland and went to good old public schools and Lisa did the same in Canada. We feel like we got a pretty rounded education and don’t have a feeling that we got short changed academically. However, we work at a private school here in New Zealand so we get to see it from a whole new perspective. I feel that private schools have much better resources. Yes the teachers were trained the same as the public school teachers, but the resources seem to make the difference. 

Now .. we are told so many different things on what we should do with Finn. “Put him in private school education once he reaches high school as it’s a waste of money in primary school.” “It’s all about what school you went to in Christchurch, so pick carefully.” “Put him in private school for primary school and not high school as it instills good habits and academic skills from an earlier stage before they become teens.” 

The list goes on. But to be honest – there are so many factors we have to consider. Firstly of course is the financial commitment – private school is a little more expensive than a public school, actually a lot more. But can you really put a price on excellent education for your child? Next there’s the Finn factor. Where does he want to go to school? That has to be a huge deciding factor on where we enrol him. For primary he won’t have much inkling as to where he will want to go but for high school he will feel much more strongly about where he sees himself fitting in. We absolutely love the school we work at and think that Finn would LOVE it but I guess at the end of the day it will be up to him and what he wants for his life. 

The Happiest Kids in the World book reminds me that I shouldn’t put pressure on Finn to be successful at everything he does – it’s ok to not be the best at everything. And honestly, I see first hand, some students whose parents openly put pressure on them to be the best at everything they do. All too often these are the same kids who, in their teens, suffer from mental health issues, anxiety and some even rebel against their families. I’m a rookie at this Dad business, but I feel that teaching kids for 11 years has given me plenty of knowledge in terms of what not to do as a parent. The pushy, helicopter parent is not what I want to be. Don’t get me wrong, I want Finn to live a full life with lots of rich experiences but not at the cost of his happiness or our relationship. 

I’d be keen to hear from you parents and educators out there!

James

The Happiest Kids in the World

We all want our kids to be happy, right? Generally we always reflect back to those fond memories – the fun-filled ones with siblings, parents and grandparents. But is it just those fun family times that shape a child’s happiness?

The new book from Penquin publishing “The Happiest Kids in the World” has opened my mind to a whole new side of parenting. I’ll admit, I haven’t finished the book yet. For good reason – 1) I’m a parent so I’m rather busy from time to time and 2) I’m taking to time to process the amazing ideas presented in the book. 

The book focuses on two mums who have moved to the Netherlands. They are married to Dutch men and the idea of bringing up children in this beautiful country is somewhat different to that in other Western cultures. 

So far I have gathered that Dutch children are encouraged to be incredibly independent from a young age. They are permitted to go to the park for hours, unsupervised. They seem to get into sleep routines much quicker than their American counterparts. Schooling is not a deal breaker. People don’t push their kids to get the best grades, instead they encourage them to be good enough. They don’t make their kids start reading and writing until they are good and ready – often that can be at 6 or 7 years old. But … The Netherlands has some of the most intelligent adults, it creates some of the most incredible technologies AND they are ranked the happiest kids in the World.

If you are a parent and you aren’t now rushing out to buy this book … you’re an idiot. It was the best $30 I’ve spent this month. I’m certainly not the best parent in the world – but if I can do a few little things to help make Finn happier in his childhood then I will damn sure do it. I’ll keep you posted as I discover more awesomeness in the book. 

James 

P.S. Thanks to Rina Mae Acosta and Michele Hutchison for co-authoring the book. You guys rock.

A dad’s perspective. Is it right or wrong?

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Daycare. Right or Wrong?

Day 1 at daycare. That dreaded moment when you have to drop your little ninja and rip off the band aid, leaving him there and closing the door behind … for a few hours anyways.

Lisa and I are pretty “busy” people, well we certainly don’t get bored. We both work, run an online business, partake in hobbies, and once in a blue moon we get to hang out with each other. And to be honest, we both enjoy going to work. So when Lisa’s maternity leave (she got an amazing 18 weeks, but can take up to a year not fully paid) was coming to an end I wondered whether she might be keen to stay off longer. But she knew that the best thing for Finn, and for her, was to go back to work. She loves the interaction with her co-workers and the students at school, plus she knew the experience of daycare would be great for Finn.

So we started searching around Christchurch for the perfect place for our little legend.  We had no clue what we were even searching for. We checked out a handful of early childhood centres and they were all somewhat different. But our number one factor, was gut instinct. We knew from the moment we walked into a place whether it had a good feel or not. The other factor was location – being close to our work (500m) means we can pop across pretty quickly if required. And living in an earthquake-prone city this can be pretty handy. A few friends really quizzed us on our final choice. They wanted to know why we had went with that option, instead of another, or why we didn’t like the one that their kids went to. But to be honest, we went with the place that felt right to us. Who cares what your friends have to say about it? At the end of the day, do you have your steak cooked the same way they do just because they think you should?! Hell no! (Sorry vegans).

Finn started ABC Merivale at 5 months, and it has been seriously amazing. We do not regret one thing whatsoever. In fact, we feel it has boosted his development so so much. The staff are 100% invested in Finn, and in us. They are here to support us, and they go the extra mile. The very first day was so hard. I remember feeling like bursting into tears as I walked to work (yes, Im a bloke and I still have emotions). It felt like I had deserted him. And yes … I rang several times on the first day to see how he was settling. It appeared that he was settling much quicker than I was lol.   I suggest you take your baby in several times a few weeks before their first day. You can stay with them and help them (and you!) settle. The great thing about starting your baby under 6 months is that they aren’t overly-attached to you, so when you leave they aren’t crying! Well Finn wasn’t anyways. He just loved being surrounded by other kids, loving staff and a stimulating environment.

We filled out a form or three when we enrolled Finn. The one thing I recall being asked was “What would you like your child to learn”?. And that is one bloody good question to ask a rookie Dad about his 5 month old son. Lisa and I thought about it, we were tempted to write “Mandarin, Sign Language and the Violin” … but we were just new to the place and didn’t know if people would get my Irish humour. In all seriousness though, the most important thing for us was that we wanted him to learn to share with others, be kind and to be disciplined. If Finn can have these traits instilled at home and at daycare then we feel that he is going to have a pretty solid start to his life. And to our delight, a month ago Finn decided he would take a nibble of his biscuit and then proceed to share it with us. It was soggy, covered in baby drool and not very appetising but it was simply epic. He’s learning to share, and loves it!

For those of you wondering if you should get your child into daycare, just give it a crack. If it isn’t for you, then you can un-enrol your child. But I really feel there are just so many benefits. Yes your child will pick up a few coughs and colds (Finn got one pretty bad) but is that a bad thing? The only way to build up their little immune system is to catch the odd bug and learn to fight it. What’s the use in wrapping them in cotton wool? Eventually they will come into contact with other human beings … won’t they!? Here’s hoping!

Maybe mention also that putting him in day care has helped with separation anxiety, Finn still needs us but isn’t 100% reliant on us, he has learned to trust other people, socializes easily with other babies and adults.

We feel that ABC Merivale really works well for us. They have a great structure, but are also open and flexible in trying to suit each child’s needs and requirements. They are most definitely a part of our family and we are so grateful for what they do for Finn.

A few things I hear from some friends about avoiding day care are :

– It’s too expensive. – Now, of course there is a cost but when you weigh it up, it’s amazing value for what you get. Some parents say that a whole salary goes towards paying for daycare. But I think that’s exactly true for most cases. If you are in a position to work part time or shorter days then it could actually work out brilliantly. I think there is a lot to be said about mental health for mums, getting back to work can actually be a great thing!

– It’s bad for the baby as they can’t breastfeed if they are at daycare. – But the argument here could be that the milk could be pumped and sent in each day, or frozen in batches at daycare.

– It will take away from the mother/child bonding. – This is a pretty personal one and everyone of course is different. But I can’t see too much disadvantage to your child being at day care, maybe even just a few hours each day, so that they can learn to bond with others too – and to reduce any potential separation anxiety.

So if you are feeling guilty for looking at daycare as an option, don’t. If it’s good for you, it’s good for your child.

James

Founder of ModernDad

Your child. Online. Smart idea?

1234Ok, so we all know a friend who is obsessed with posting photos and videos of their kids on Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat and whatever other options are out there. Right!? That’s all cool, but have they really thought through the consequences?

From Day 1 (actually as soon as we found out we were preggers, and yes “we” were both pregnant as I also developed a belly and indulged in man-cravings) I have been pretty staunch on the online side of things with Finn. I am not keen on posting any photos of him online. And yes, I think he’s thee cutest little ninja that this world has ever seen, but I don’t feel that 2 billion people need to see him. None of us know the full extent of what actually goes on in the background with these social sites. Who owns the photos? Who can share it? Whose hands do your photos eventually end up in? Have you read the full terms and conditions of your FB agreement? I’d be surprised if you have.

Our children rely on us as their voice and as their protector. Why oh why do we feel the compulsion to disregard that responsibility and share them with an online community? Some people have said to me that they only have close friends and family on their Facebook profile. But how do they know their “friends” aren’t sharing these images. When a friend “likes” a photo, can their friends now see the post?

Here’s a question – what if your child turns around when they are a teenager and asks you why did you post a bazillion photos of them online? Worse, what if they have a digital stalker who has been following them online through your photos!?! Scary stuff, but it’s reality guys.

Where’s the tipping point between sharing photos for the enjoyment of your family versus outright narcissism? I often wonder how many times a parent has taken a photo to get the ‘perfect’ shot? Why does every photo have to be so calculated? Is it for more likes? Is it to make them feel good about themselves (which is often the case)?

Some of my non-parent friends often comment about how they absolutely hate the constant child photos from their friends and family. But they are too worried to say anything to their friends incase they offend them. So in the end, they just unfollow them. It’s true that we think the sun shines out of our little whippersnapper’s backsides but come on, do we really NEED to post a photo every single day? Gone are the days of creating moments and memories for your family. It seems that anything cute that happens, needs to be shared. Over and over and over. I can honestly say I don’t know more than two people who actually live through the lenses of their eyes instead of the lense on their iPhone. The two experiences are VASTLY different. Dads (and Mums!) really need to live in the moment more often. Living through your digital device so you can watch the moment back on a screen is just a false illusion. For those of us in our 30’s, 40’s and beyond – do you recall your childhood memories in the yard with your parents? Throwing a ball, splashing in the paddling pool, wrestling around, learning to bike ride? All of these special memories leave a last imprint on our minds and souls. Now picture the child of today. What is the one common factor that they will remember through ALL of these memories… Mum and/or Dad holding their phone. Yes its nice to have the photo or the video, but are you really considering the impact it’s having on those moments? I recall a Phillip Pullman book I read at school – it talked about humans having a “spirit” or “animal” being a part of their soul and it would follow them everywhere. It’s scary now that I think this sci-fi book is becoming a reality. How many humans do you see walking with their phone in their hand, looking down at their phone whilst they are driving, sitting at a bar with their friends with their heads glued to their phones?! This world is losing the ability to interact socially.

Have you done a google search on the dark world out there of the creeps that gather photos from Facebook and Instagram? It’s startling.

So my question to you is – I have started a Blog on being a Daddio, is it essential that I post a photo of Finn (my 9 month old)? As yet – there isn’t one photo of him on my FB profile or anywhere on the internet. Lisa and I have however set up a ‘secret’ Facebook group where we invite Finns family to see our cute photos and videos of him. We probably post once a week, sometimes less. But I feel more comfortable knowing that his photos aren’t out there in the public domain. Well at least Facebook tells me that they are safe in there. I wonder has Zucks got a wee disclaimer in there somewhere … Check out Facebook groups if you don’t know how to set one up.

Check out this amazing article about how parents are putting their desire for “likes” above the happiness of their child. It highlights how some parents even video their children crying when they lose a tooth, rather than consoling them. What kind of sick world are we in!?

Please share your thoughts on this topic. It’s a huge part of our current society and I would really love to know where you stand. Don’t just sit behind your selfie stick (AKA arsewand) – get your thoughts out there and take some ownership for what you post of your child.

Thanks Dads (and mums!).

James

Founder of ModernDad.guru

You the Daddy!

12I have thought about Dad-blogging for the last 9 months… but I just haven’t managed to take the step. Well, I figured it was time to man-up and get it out there. Actually, the wife gave me a swift kick up the proverbial to get my ass in gear. My son Finn is almost 9 months old and is keeping me on my toes! My wife Lisa is an amazing mum and has so many great resources online that cover everything about being a new mum. Forums, FB groups, FB chat groups, blogs, Vlogs. And the list goes on. It makes us Dad’s look useless, when I started looking at the same resources for Dads, I was utterly disappointed. There are a few options out there – but they are few and far between. And to be honest, I’d rather watch paint dry than read the majority of boring blogs.

Today’s world is so different than it was a few decades ago. The role of “dad” has also evolved and the expectations placed on Dads is ever-changing. I want to do my bit to share my dad-experience with any new dads by blogging, in the hope that I can establish a fun and engaging online community for Dads to unite, share, impart and most of all have fun. And I have to be honest, I stuff up often – so bear with me. I’m Irish too – so I’m not sure if that means I have another slight disadvantage lol.

I never imagined just how amazing it was going to feel to become a Dad. It’s seriously an awesome experience. That very first moment that I met my son was simply divine. My world changed forever, and no one could ever have prepared me for that. Now I have to be honest, it’s not all plain sailing. There are tough times, tired times, shitty times (literally!) and everything in between. But all of the trying times are far outweighed by the joyful experiences. Watching my baby grow into a little character is hilarious and exhilarating. And I am learning every single day! ModernDad.guru is my way of doing my little bit for those dads out there who care to go the extra mile for their baby and their partner. Otherwise, for those men who actually give a damn.

 

Please help me, help other dads, by sharing your experiences and getting other dads to join the FB group and subscribe to the blog. Being a dad is simply thee most important role a man has in his life. You get one shot. Make it count.

James

Founder of ModernDad.guru