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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.

Groceries Gone Digital

27 Mar

A few weeks ago, I tried the Peapod grocery service by Stop & Shop.  While it went well, it was a challenge to schedule the drop off window for a time I could guarantee to be home.  (Weekends are tough, since they’re “errand” time and I hate to be locked at home waiting for groceries for four hours.)  But I did appreciate the convenience of online lists and ordering.

This week while grocery shopping, I found a flyer in one of my Stop & Shop grocery bags that introduce the free Stop & Shop app for iPhone and Android.  The app allows you to view the S&S circular on your mobile phone, access your account and find the nearest store.  It also offers Peapod as a mobile service – which is what I’d most be interested in.  Might be a good way to place my grocery order while I’m waiting at the pediatrician’s office or running errands.

While I have a Blackberry, I’m considering purchasing an iPhone, and this is one app I’d definitely download.  Busy mommies take note!

Help the Suffering in Japan

12 Mar

While Techno(t)parent is a parenting and technology blog, it’s also my personal soapbox.  One of the best things I think we can do for our children is to teach them compassion, and with regards to technology, to use it for good.   A CNN article titled:  Japan’s Earthquake:  How You Can Help is a great compilation of giving organizations that are mobilizing and collecting funds to help those suffering in Japan. 

In my first-ever donation-by-text, I’ve contributed to Save the Children.  It took 3 seconds, and was simple to do.  If this techno(t)parent can figure out how to donate using technology, so can you.

Please help those in need today.

Sugarlips and Media Monitoring

8 Mar

A friend of mine recently shared that he and his wife regularly monitor their 11-year-old’s technology use.  Under the guise of “charging” her cell phone, they review her text messages daily and they also comb her computer’s browsing history to see where she’s been on the Web.  While Mom and Dad have an agreement with Daughter that they *can* do this, they’re unsure if she’s actually aware they *are* doing it.  Regularly.

On one of these “digital recon” missions, Dad learned his daughter was planning her first kiss with her pint-sized beau, (aptly nicknamed “Sugarlips” by Dad.)  So, as a result of “digital snooping,” Dad was able to stay on top of his daughter’s social life.  He didn’t tell her he snooped, but the info he found prompted him to initiate a meaningful conversation with his daughter about her impending smooch.

Another friend has an agreement with her 12-year-old to do “spot checks” on her cell.  During one of these surprise checks, Mom found an “I hate u!” outgoing text on her daughter’s phone.  “Mom, it was an inside joke,” the daughter insisted when confronted.  “We all do it to each other.”  But this discovery launched a discussion on “tone check” and cyber bullying that Mom might not have had with her daughter otherwise.

Do you spot-check your child’s media use?  Have you ever found something surprising?  If your kids don’t know you’re monitoring them, is it an “invasion of privacy” akin to reading a diary?  Or is “digital eavesdropping” good parenting sense?

Parents eavesdropping on kids is nothing new.  Remember Mrs. Hatch in “It’s a Wonderful Life”?  But “digital eavesdropping” takes things to a whole new level, and it raises issues of privacy, questions regarding what age should you start, what age should you stop, and how frequently should you be monitoring.  It also raises questions about digitally savvy kids who are able to clear browsing histories, delete texts and otherwise superficially “cover-their-tech-tracks”.

Personally, I’m of the school that “spot checks” should be understood and expected, because it instills in kids the idea that they should think before they write, post, or send.  It reinforces the fact that they are – in fact – writing for (and likely broadcasting to) a broader audience than just the intended recipient, and that audience could include Mom.

My own mom always gave me the advice, “If you wouldn’t want your mom to read it on the front page of the newspaper, don’t write it.”  And I confess,  many times I didn’t heed that sage advice.  But that’s the type of caution “spot checks” enforce.  Had I known my mom had access to every note I ever sent, I might have been more judicious about what I wrote.

Kudos to my parent friends who are monitoring their kids’ media use and using these opportunities to have meaningful conversations with their kids.  While it might be viewed as an invasion of privacy in the short-term, the discussions will stay with their kids as they grow.

True, kids should be allowed to have the freedom to write and say what they want, but they need to understand and be aware of the consequences of doing so on a digital, permanent platform… And reminded of it regularly.

I can only hope Sugarlips’ parents are having the same conversations 🙂

A Little Birdie Told Me…

7 Mar

One of the interesting things about the digital space is its impact on career paths.  I have several “early adopter” parent friends who’ve embraced technology and parenting and combined it into new ventures.  For all my NYC peeps, check out this parent discount site a girlfriend of mine is working on:  littlebirdie.com.  This daily deal and insider program is currently attracting members, so it’s not fully baked yet… And it’s only available in Atlanta and NYC, but will be expanding soon… 

Wish I could check it out, but sadly, my zip is not in the “served” neighborhoods just yet.  And the partners aren’t confirmed, so I can’t say how fantastic or family-friendly the deals are… But registration is easy, sweeps look fun, and hopefully my NYC-based  parent peeps can benefit from the discounts, once the program attracts a fanbase.  There’s no downside to registering, and hey, you just might win something!

Enjoy, all!  And thanks Birdiemamma for inspiring tech-savvy parents to find their own flight path…

Interview With Parenting/Tech Expert Jeana Lee Tahnk…

22 Feb

Tech Parenting Expert Jeana Lee Tahnk

I’ve been crawling the cyberworld for some of the best resources on parenting in the world of technology, and I *really* dig Jeana Lee Tahnk’s Screen Play blog, which is published online as of Parenting Magazine.   Screen Play is chock-full of the latest tools, toys and news in the digital world, and written for both tech-savvy parents and late adopters like me.  I recently reached out to Jeana as a fan, and imagine my surprise when she generously offered to be interviewed by Techno(t)Parent!  I came up with a few quick questions, and  here’s what one of my favorite parenting/tech experts had to say about parenting in a digital world:

Q. What are the top 3-5 tools a new parent should have?   
JLT: With the way technology has progressed and the sheer volume of information that is readily available, all a new parent really needs now is an Internet connection and a device for accessing it, whether that is a PC or a smart phone. If you have a smart phone (I happen to LOVE my iPhone), there is literally an app for anything imaginable that a parent would need such as apps to simulate baby monitors, track allowances, keep moms organized, find local playgrounds, identify kid-friendly restaurants…literally anything and everything. And with Internet access, any question can be answered and any bit of information can be found to help a parent out. 

If parents also have a family PC in the house, it is also essential that they have security software on their systems. Not only do these suites protect the computer from the potential risks of infection, but they also have measures to fully protect children from any risks from being online. This is of the utmost importance.

Q: What are the biggest challenges parents are facing in the digital age?   
JLT: Technology is moving faster than we can all keep up with. And with that, our children are growing up in environments where technology is everywhere. I think challenges that parents face in this digital age are not only being aware of their kids’ technology usage, but staying ahead of it. I know a lot of parents who say that their toddlers know more about their iPhones than they do. Although many of them are saying that in jest, it’s going to be a continuing challenge to stay ahead of the learning curve when it comes to technology and ensure they are using it in a safe way. 
 
Q: How can a parent stay current with toys, tools, trends, and yet not get “swept up” in the fads?
JLT: Figure out how you want technology to serve you and then pick a few resources that will help you achieve that goal.  
 
Q: Is there any additional advice you’d offer to a parent stumbling around or feeling overwhelmed in the digital space?
JLT:  I would advise parents to figure out how they want to incorporate technology into their lives and start with a foundation for what they want to gain from it. You can use technology minimally to just send photos of the kids around via email, or become much more immersed in it to create movies, use it as a live calendar and messaging system and basically create a framework for it to be an integral resource in your life. It is easy to get overwhelmed with technology if you are new to it, but it is also easy to learn and adapt too. There is also such a huge support system online for parents, so if you have questions, it’s likely that a Google search will pull up more than enough information to help you.
   
Sincere thanks to Jeana for the advice!

Tech Toys from 2011 Toy Fair

21 Feb

I just read an article  published by Time magazine that highlights the top 10 tech toys from the 2011 Toy Fair.  I found two particular toys interesting, not necessarily for what they do, but what they say about parenting in a digital world.

The first was the Laugh and Learn Baby iCan Case.  The review claims this colorful, rubber smartphone protector will help parents “breathe a little easier” when forking over their iPhone to their kids.Now, I *love* the idea of having a protective device that will keep any smartphone safe if it’s dropped from less dexterous kiddie hands.   But I’m going to assume that if you’re tossing Junior your $450 iPhone, it’s because he/she is in “meltdown” mode, or that you’re in a situation where you may be too occupied to interact with your child, like in the car.  If that’s the case, would you have the time or extra hands it takes to put your iPhone in this type of protector?  Just sayin’…  Good idea if you have the time, but not sure Fisher-Price market-tested this in real-life situations.

The second “tech” toy is an example of “reverse technology”… So, remember a few posts ago, I talked about a three-year-old obsessed with the “Angry Birds” game on his mom’s iPhone?  Check this out:  the folks at Mattel have come out with the Angry Birds Knock on Wood BOARD GAME.   Looks like a great way help our “tech-addicted” 3-year old transition into the physical world of table top games.  Like Torrey, Stacy and Andrea recently commented, parenting in the tech world is all about balance. This game takes the fun and familiarity of the digital game and translates it into physical skills like building a structure, drawing cards, and knocking the building down using a bird-launching catapult-type contraption.  Cool concept, and  I wonder how many other ideas conceived in the “tech” world will find new life in the physical world.

Angry Birds Knock On Wood board game

Some of the other toys included in Time’s review were typical – yet another iteration of Elmo doing something interactive and loud, and there’s the always popular remote-controlled cars and kid-friendly cameras.  There was one really unique toy – a game based on mind control – that I’d be interested in hearing more about, although I’m somewhat skeptical, and would like to see it in action.

I think the most  interesting thing  about this review is that the reporter broke out the “Tech Toys”  section from the regular toys, giving them their own sub-category – a concrete illustration of how tech is securing a bigger and bigger footprint in our kids’ playtime.

What other tech toys do you recommend? What are are some toys (tech or not) that your kids simply won’t put down?

Have a Minute… Or 4,500??

18 Feb

This brief, interesting ABC News segment  discusses kids’ media consumption and technology’s impact on school performance.  Some of the highlights:

  • The average kid engages in 75 hours of media a week, and spends an additional 1.5 hours texting and another 1/2 hr talking on the cell phone
  • Among heaviest media users, roughly half get grades of “C” or lower in school. 

While I’m not sure what study is being cited, or what age groups were surveyed, the segment makes a case for parents setting limits/guidelines surrounding kids’ media consumption.

Do you think we should leave it up to kids to balance the tech world around them, or should parents step in to help set media and tech guidelines/boundaries for school-aged children?  Has anyone had any trouble setting or enforcing boundaries?  What determines where to draw the line?

12,000 Texts

11 Feb

A friend recently shared that she was at a dinner party with a shocked set of parents of an 11-year-old. This 11-year-old girl has her own cell phone, and in one month, she sent the family’s phone bill skyrocketing by tapping out 12,000 text messages. Wait, did I mentioned the little girl was EIE-LEV-EN!?

I’m not sure why this surprised me, since I was once a chatty 11-year-old girl. But this child is sending roughly 400 text messages a day. And to get to this number, one quickly comes to the conclusion she’s probably toting her phone around school, and texting during school hours. (Don’t most schools have policies about cell phones and texting??)

Even if she’s not texting in school, did this little girl’s parents notice she was texting before school, in the car, at the dinner table, and before bed? Did her parents have a conversation about “moderation” and “responsibility” when they gave her the phone? Or did they just plunk the phone over as another “must-have” school accessory? Have they talked to her about cyber stalking and text bullying and the fact that texts and photos live on long after the delete button is hit? And ultimately, did they tell her that texting has its time and place, but that face-to-face conversations with mom and dad and her friends and siblings are important too?

As I sit here and watch my six-month-old struggle to put her binky in her mouth, I wonder how long it will be before those little fingers are tapping out text messages to her friends… I wonder how old she should be before I get her a phone, or how early I need to have conversations about technology limits. How young is “too young”?

At the end of the day, I don’t have the answers. But I really pray I’d notice if my daughter was sending 400 texts a day… Long before the phone bill arrived.