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Oversharing and the Crossfire of Tech TMI

6 Apr

Time columnist Bonnie Roachman recently called out blogger Kate Tietje for publicly posting about how she loves one of her children over the other. Tietje’s post (and Roachman’s reaction) is a fantastic example of the Pandora’s box of issues parents open when they “overshare” using technology.

I’m all about self expression. But as a parent learning to embrace technology, there’s a fine line between self-expression and TMI in the tech sphere. (“Too much information” for those new the world of text abbreviations.) Personal blogging, as I’ve discussed in previous posts, can be a powerful way to communicate, but it has its downside, as Tietje has likely learned, since her post has been shut down to comments and she has since published a post in her defense.

Earlier on my Techno(t)parent journey, I posted some “common sense” tips for parents to share with their kids regarding technology usage.  Now that I’m knee-deep into my blogging experiment, I think I can safely recap some of my Techno(t)parent learnings to help other parents so they’re not inadvertently caught in any Tietje-type tech crossfire:

1) When you post personal information on your blog, it will live on *forever* in cyberspace – definitely long enough for you kids/spouse/family to read it.  As I’ve said before, tech is a great forum, but don’t share anything via technology that you wouldn’t want to read on the front page of your local newspaper or might cause your family grief ten years from now.

2)  When you use tech tools, you’re no longer anyonymous.  If you write, post, text or otherwise publicly share something polarizing behind the safety of the “tech curtain”, rest assured, people will share their own opinions on your post – for good or bad.  It’s hard to play the “victim card” or back pedal in the tech arena, so think twice before you post, and always be prepared for a public reaction.

3)  When you publicly post pictures of yourself, your kids or other family members, you become a public figure.  For better or worse, like reality TV stars, your life becomes public when you put yourself in the spotlight.  Be prepared for in-person praise and criticism, especially if your followers know what you look like, the town you live in or the stores you patronize.  (See #2)  Your job or career path may also be impacted by what you post, so tread carefully.

3) Use technology for good. Educate, inform, and share funny stories, insights, tips and lessons learned. Provide value.  Ask questions.  Save the negative rants, guilty admissions or hurtful comments for your diary, vs. a public blog post, Tweet, or text you might regret later.  (See #1)

4) Model well. Demonstrate safe digital behavior and good digital maners.  Don’t text while driving, don’t take photos of people without their knowledge, or talk on the phone at the checkout counter.  Be the responsible, smart, tech-savvy person you want your kids to be.

5) Be a parent first.  There are millions of  great ways to use technology to help you parent, complete tasks, simplify chores and projects and gain knowledge.  But monitor the time suck.  You can spend hours interacting with others via technology at the expense of connecting with your own family,  so use your tech time wisely.   Set your limits, and then have fun.

Anxiety and the Techno(t)parent

18 Mar

I’ve been feeling particularly – and inexplicably – anxious recently.  Me thinks the world might be “too much with me” – courtesy of technology.  And I’m wondering if our kids might be feeling the same.

Don’t get me wrong… I’m glad to be aware and informed about the world around me.  And I certainly don’t believe “ignorance is bliss”.  Technology has given us access to real-time news and information at mind-blowing speed, and we are informed  like never before with regards to global events.  We’re using digital tools to fuel humanitarian aid, lend support and connect with people and news far and wide.

But lately, the global news hasn’t been very good.  And from the nightmare still unfolding in Japan to unrest in the Middle East, to local tragedy, my heart has been aching at every turn.  If our kids are watching the news on TV or seeing these sad images online, I’ll bet some are also feeling the world’s grief – even if they’re not talking about it.

One important lesson I’ve learned through this Techno(t)parent experiment is “balance”.  And all the experts I’ve talked to have said media consumption should be done in moderation.  A self-professed news-addict, I’ve been deeply immersed in recent world events, and I’m wondering if that might be causing the anxiety.  It might just be time to bury my head in the sand a bit and “unplug.”

So this week, I’m limiting my screen time and focusing on the things I can control – working a good, honest day, getting home to my family, cooking a nourishing meal with love, and cherishing every second I have with the special people in my life.

Because sometimes, counting your blessings (without a calculator app) is important.

Email Thank Yous…Yes or No?

10 Mar

This blog post is dedicated to one of my favorite tech-savvy moms.  (She lives in Omaha and her initials are DP if she’s reading…)

Anyhoo, I cleaned out my kitchen desk this weekend and came across a half-addressed thank you note, complete with “forever” stamp firmly affixed.  I immediately cringed, realizing the baby gift thank you note I had intended to send six months ago had gotten lost among my post-baby paper clutter and never made it to the mailbox.  My face warmed, recalling the sweet handwritten note the gifter sent me in response to the gift I sent her for her little girl, who was born a month prior to my munchkin’s arrival.

So here’s my question:  In this day and age, is it okay to send email, text or Facebook thank you notes, or do you need to mail the real deal?  And will you require your kids to handwrite thank you notes as they grow up?

Prior to my “sleepless-new-mom” frame of reference, I would staunchly vote for the hand-written thank you.  My positioning was grounded in the manners my mom taught me.  A handwritten note shows thoughtfulness – by taking the time to  handwrite in a typing age, buy stamps, and get the note to the physical mailbox in a timely manner.  Plus, in this digital age, who doesn’t appreciate a non-bill piece of mail?

But  in my working-new-mom world, when I’m operating on two stolen hours of sleep a night and finding clean, matching socks seems like a miracle, thank you notes can fall into a drawer, only to be discovered on my child’s first birthday.  And where are the manners then?  Good intentions are great, but if they don’t get the job done, they’re not that good, right?

So while I’m a *huge* fan of the handwritten thank you, both for the manners and the skills it teaches, (and I will teach my munchkin this graceful way to say thank you for sure) today, I fall in the “email works” category.  It shows you acknowledge the gift.  It shows you’re thankful for the time and money the giver spent selecting, purchasing and shipping it.  And most importantly, it guarantees the thanks gets to your destination (spam mailboxes aside.)

So DP, in the spirit of Techno(t)parent, this is my formal, digital thank you.  I appreciated the gift *so* much, and the munchkin  practically wore the outfit out.  (And she’s still wearing the accessories!)  I hope you know –  since you’re a new mom too – it wasn’t a matter of saying thanks in my heart… I’d send you the half-addressed note as proof, but it may take a few additional weeks!

To everyone else, what do you think?  Is email or FB sufficient in the “thank you” department?

To Market, To Market… Or not.

3 Mar

As I’ve previously shared, one of the biggest challenges I face as a new parent is the lack of time in a day.  And with the weekends *finally* getting warmer, the last place I want hang with my munchkin on a Saturday morning is the grocery store.  So, as part of my tech-experiment, one of the digital time savers techno(t)parent is exploring this week is the Peapod online grocery shopping/delivery service from Stop & Shop.   

This local, convenient service allows me to make a digital shopping list (grin), save it, pay for everything online, and then schedule my order for delivery directly to my home later in the week – all for a relatively small fee. 

I’m cautiously optimistic about the service.  My mom (who lives in another state) has used it with success before when caring for an elderly relative, and she’s been prodding me to give it a try.  So, this week, I’ll be throwing my grocery cart (and shopping list) to the wind.  And perhaps the hour or so I save will translate into a walk in the park with the peanut – or dare I selfishly say – a quick mani/pedi next weekend?

Stay tuned for my personal account and review of Peapod.  Wish me luck, and feel free to share any positive or negative experiences you’ve had with any similar services…

Patience, Grasshopper…

2 Mar

So last week I posted about my frustration with the blogosphere.  And this week, I’m doing a complete 180… thanks to the tons of support and encouragement I’ve received from readers.   Friends and strangers alike have freely shared suggestions, tips and praise for techno(t)parent, and I’m in awe.  Who knew the “faceless” digital world could be soooo crazy cool?!  (Hush, you early adopters!)   

This post is one of thanks for those reading daily, those reading occasionally, and for those who’ve stumbled on my crazy techno(t)parent world by mistake and simply stuck around.  I *sincerely* appreciate your tips, advice and thoughts, and humbly thank you for joining me on this journey. 

I’ll continue to share what I uncover, and also my mistakes and hiccups along the way, so you can benefit.  And I’ll be taking some interesting leaps in the weeks to come – attempting to incorporate my own video, and perhaps a podcast or two… So stay tuned, and please continue to read, comment and share techno(t)parent with friends, colleagues and family you think might benefit from the info.  Together, we can make it even better. 

For those in the yoga know, Namaste.  (Roughly translated:  The goodness in me salutes the goodness in you.)

A Tall Glass of Common Sense, Please

1 Mar

As I searched for some basic guidelines for parenting in a digital world, I stumbled on this great tip list from Common Sense Media – an organization who’s mission is “Improving  kids’ lives in a 24/7 media world.” Thank you, my new friends.  This is the *exactly* the type of info a techno(t) parent needs.  I especially liked the tip:

Make kids accountable. Using digital media is a privilege. Make sure your kids earn it.

Somehow, I never thought about digital media as a privilege.  And yet how many times as a kid did my mom utter the non-negotiable phrase, “NO [REPLACE WITH OUTDATED FORM OF MEDIA] until homework is done!”  

Because I use the Internet daily, I think of it as a “given” or a “tool” vs. a “privilege.”  This list was a nice wakeup call. I’m giving the  Common Sense Media site a  thumbs-up, and will add it to my list of cool sites so you have easy access to the info, too.

Do you teach your kids that media is a privilege?  If so, how are you enforcing the message?

Online To-Do List Review

26 Feb

I love lists.  In fact, it’s a running joke in my family about how attached I am to my lists.  Maybe it’s because I’m a working mom and grad student and have a ton on my plate.  Maybe it’s because my house is in a constant state renovation, and since I can’t organize my physical space, I’m compelled to organize my mental space.  Or maybe I’m just type-A.   Whatever the reason, I simply can’t live without my lists.  

So, as a techno(t) parent, I attempted to be more eco-friendly AND organized, and convert my Post-its piles and scraps of old envelopes into digital lists.  I explored three digital list-building platforms – Todoist, Teux Deux and Remember the Milk.  Here’s what I learned:

Todoist
Registration was free and a snap, and I like the sophistication of this tool.  It has mobile capabilities and is also in app format.   But even after watching this professional demo video twice, list building was still complicated for a late-adopter like me.  Am I just clueless?

I like the micro-manging options (indenting, color coding, adding links, bucketing priorities), but  this tool wasn’t as intuitive or easy to manage as I had hoped.  I’m sure once you learn all the features, the sophistication of this interface is helpful, (especially if you work in a task-driven arena like website design or PTA management,) but alas, the reason I need to make lists is because I don’t have time in the first place.

Teux Deux
This very visual, intuitive interface is basic and clean-looking, which is how I like my lists.  Registration was free, easy and fast. That said, the platform took forever to load and ultimately, my computer crashed — twice.  I went back and tried to reboot,  and when I finally got in, I couldn’t remember my login.  Overall, while I was attractied to the layout the glitches were frustrating, and not worth the time.  (And imagine if I took the time to draft an important list and couldn’t retrieve it!  Very ugly scene.)

Remember the Milk
The fun title alone implied this platform might be an easy list building tool.  Sadly, I was mistaken.  Registration involved a confirmation of my email address, so it took time to get started.  There was no online video demo on how to use the platform, and while the online FAQs were helpful, I was looking for a “getting started” section for the tech-illiterate like me, which I never found.  I got as far as the first task, and then gave up.  (To be fair, I get frustrated with tech easily, which is why I’m behind in the first place.)

My Verdict?
The only platform I could really figure out (Teux Deux) was the platform that crashed my computer.  And ultimately, I spent more time typing things in and reorganizing them than it would take me to scribble on a post-it.  So while I definitely see the value in digital list making tools – specifically when it comes to parenting on top of an already insane schedule – until I find an easy, intuitive list-building interface, I’m sticking with my good ole’ Post-its.

How do you make lists?  Have you found any online list-building tools that are more intuitive than the ones I reviewed?  If so, PLEASE share!

The Blogging Rabbit Hole

21 Feb

This blog was created for a grad school class, and the expectation is that we’re blogging five times a week.  For my readers’ (are you out there??) sake, I’ve been killing myself to draft well-written posts that offer value, insight and guidance in the world of technology and parenting.  So before I complain, I must preface my thoughts with the following: 

I *love* the blogging platform.  It allows me to express my creative (and not-so-creative) self.  It’s a free, immediate, easy way to share my ideas and thoughts with others, and get their feedback.  And I’m thrilled when someone takes the time to weigh in on something I’ve written or a broader discussion ensues.  As a writer, I also cherish the chance to write something other than press releases, company statements or white papers.  And I hope the few people I am reaching find my posts valuable and interesting.

But penning a regular blog is also stressing me the hell out!

From researching unique topics and finding credible experts to interview to selecting appropriate graphics and obsessing about sentence structure, I find the blogging process a *huge* time suck.  I’ve been up since 6 a.m. today – on a vacation day no less – drafting and editing blog posts while my mom and sister play with my baby girl in the next room.   (Did I mention it’s now 2:31, and I have yet to stop for lunch?!)

See, I think blogging is great for people who are casual writers. Or people who don’t mind mistakes.  Or people who’ve been able to draw a solid, paying audience.  Or experts sharing info in a field they have expertise in.  Or people who like to throw things out in the Universe and see what comes back.   Or people who aren’t obsessive editors or self-critics.  But I’m learning that I’m not that type of person.

I’m a perfectionist, and I don’t want any less-than-solid writing representing me in the public realm.  And so the blogging process becomes a time-consuming, politically correct, research-driven, grammar-obsessed monster that gobbles up huge chunks of my time.  Time I simply don’t have.

As one of my fellow classmates shared when discussing the blogging experience, “I start down one path, and then I link to something else, and then something else, and then I have so much information I don’t know where to stop.”  I feel her pain.  And I raise her ten.

And since I have yet to learn how to market this beast of a blog, I’m also feeling the proverbial tree-falling-in-the-woods frustration.   Why am I killing myself to deliver quality stuff if no one is reading it??!  

So I’ve decided to cut myself some slack,  and if my grade suffers because I need to dial back, so be it.   Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from this experience, it’s that the blogging process – while rewarding – can also be all-consuming.  And I need to figure out how to set some limits or I’ll be sucked down the blogging rabbit hole faster than I can yell “feed the baby while I’m gone!”

Oh, and I’m starving.

I’m Here. But I’m Not.

19 Feb

As a working mom in the 24-hour media industry, I’m always plugged in.  I compulsively check my Blackberry, even if it isn’t vibrating off the table.  I constantly troll business websites for the latest news and information, and I keep my cell charged and within arms’ reach.  While not tech-savvy, I’m definitely “networked.” 

In my professional world, not responding to a call, text or email within an hour or two of its receipt is frowned upon, and justifiably so.  Media todays is 24-7, and reporters don’t have hard and fast deadlines.  News is a constant stream of information, and most reporters would agree that news is about getting it out, and then going back and filling in the holes.  And that’s assuming the scoop hasn’t already been Tweeted by a “citizen journalist” on the corner.

I understand the ramifications of a delay in a media-driven work response, and acknowledge the importance of immediacy and responsiveness in that realm.  But I’m starting to see this “immediacy” expectation permeate my personal life as well.  I always pick up my cell (and hit speaker phone) while I’m driving.  I’m compelled to respond to every text message the instant it comes in.  And I sleep with my cell on my bed stand.

All this connectivity and immediacy has certainly made me a more responsive worker, partner, daughter and friend.  But it begs the question, “Are we ‘better’ because we respond faster in this tech-savvy culture?”

I’d argue not.  Because while immediacy drives a media call, every reporter knows accuracy is what drives the story.  A fast response is part of the equation, but it’s also critical to take the time to gather the facts and share accurate, quality, in-depth information.  A well-crafted or engaging story often isn’t usually a hastily written one. 

And while my family knows they can reach me on my drive home from work, they also know I’m more distracted, that the cell service always cuts out about 15 minutes into the drive, and that I’m trying to make the transition from “work brain” to “mommy brain” with plenty of hiccups along the way. 

So, despite being increasingly “connected,” I feel less and less “present” in my life.  I’m here, but I’m not.  And I’m not the only one. 

How many times have you seen a parent pushing a kid on swing on the playground while texting?  Or someone driving while tapping out an email?  How many times have you seen kids and parents at the same table at a restaurant, both engaged with smartphones and gaming systems? Or girlfriends shopping together, but chatting away on their cells with other people?  Or someone gabbing on the phone while interacting with cashier.  And how *annoying* is it when you’re talking to someone and they just pick up their phone and start texting?  (Girlfriend, you know who you are!)

What does the constant interruption and “immediacy” of your response to technology say about the quality of your relationships?  Or the value you place on other people’s time and attention?

While my professional expectations for immediacy won’t change, I’m making a vow today to be more present in my personal life.  And I may sacrifice “immediacy” for quality, so if you don’t hear from me for bit, you’ll know why. 

But when we do connect, you’ll have my full focus and attention.  I promise not to pick up my cell while we’re out for lunch.  Or text you while I’m driving. (Nevermind the danger!) Or try to have a serious conversation when I know I only have a minute before my cell service cuts out.  I will be present on walks with my daughter instead of multi-tasking, and my husband won’t get distracted half-answers or be put on hold so long he hangs up. 

And if you live across the miles, when we do chat by cell, I will be focused on you, our conversation, and what you have to share and say.

This is such a simple, common-sense vow, but it’s such an important message in our tech-driven society – especially as parents model for their children.  This vow teaches them:  I value my relationships.  I value your time and attention.  And I want to be here.  But I also want to be present.