When man's best friend goes missing, it can make you go into a panic. Thinking of your cuddly pet wandering lost, hungry, and alone is a scary thought, and one that Georgia resident Dave Vitali had to face for three months.
After he and his dog Max got in a bad car accident on a road trip, his dog went missing in Indiana, and the story was published on the Internet. Months went by without any news on Max's whereabouts.
Later, one Indiana resident adopted a golden retriever from a local shelter and posted an image of him on Facebook. A few Facebook users recognized the dog and commented that he looked like the pup from the car accident. Max had wandered 50 miles from the accident before getting picked up and housed in the shelter. One phone call later, Max was reunited with Vitali at their home in Georgia.
These types of stories are surfacing more with the rising popularity of social media. Recently, a lonely 12-year-old boy feeling suicidal received more than 2,000 letters from strangers on Facebook. The letters inspired him to press forward.
It can be infuriating when your kids use social media 10 hours a day and refuse to look up from their phones. It might drive you crazy when they obsess with a status, pictures, likes, shares or Tweets. You might feel like you will never really understand your teen's cell phone or computer addiction.
Though it can overtake your life, a moderate amount of social media can actually be productive. It makes the world a little bit smaller because you can communicate instantly with anyone, making it the best way to keep in touch. When your teen leaves for college and calls you with Skype on the weekends, you will probably feel grateful for modern technology bringing your family together. But right now, with laptops, cell phones and iPads in every room, it might feel like it's tearing your family apart.
Here are 10 tips for keeping social media positive in your family
Although it's important to limit the amount of digital entertainment your kids consume, give them some freedom so they don't get angry or try to use it secretly.
Play games together. There are plenty of iPad apps and video games that work for the whole family and serve as a 21st century board game.
If your teens are addicted to the computer, put time limits on how much they can surf the Web. You can download free software that will kick them off when their time is up, or you can just set a timer and let them play until it rings.
Join some of the social media websites to help keep an eye on your kids. Don't invade their privacy too much, but if you are friends with them on Facebook they will be less likely to misbehave.
Make a no-phone rule during dinner or family night. Have your kids put their phone in a bucket so they can fully engage with the family and realize there is life outside the touchscreen.
Add filters on your computers to make sure your kids don't access pornography. Although most kids aren't looking for bad things online, inappropriate content can pop up without your consent, so have some strong filters in place to prevent inappropriate pictures.
Ask your teen about what she is doing on her phone. Without annoying her too much, starting a simple conversation about her favorite apps or who she is talking to will keep her responsible.
Talk openly about Internet safety. Teach your kids to only talk to people they know in real life online, and if they receive any messages from strangers they should talk to you right away.
It's important to set the example as parents by learning when to shut the laptop and spend some quality time together. If you spend all day on Facebook, your kids will take your cue and waste their time stalking Facebook friends, too.
Pick your battles with teenagers. Recognize that it's a different time than when you were growing up, and let them use social media responsibly.
The Internet and social media can be a huge distraction from real life, but it can also bring families closer together when used responsibly. Who knows, it might even return your furry best friend someday.