Archive | Kids and Technology RSS feed for this section

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.

Advertisements

Back When I Was Your Age… (or, Technology and Education)

29 Mar

I had the good fortune (and eye-opening occasion) of lecturing at my undergraduate university via webcast last night.  The surreal experience brought me down memory lane, and as I reflected on my own collegiate experience, I also thought about the drastically different academic experience my munchkin will have in 18 years.

While earning my undergraduate degree, my formal education was limited to my textbooks, my talented professors and the four walls of the classroom or on-campus library.  My “outside” or “real-life” knowledge was limited to the academic journals I read and the occasional guest lecturers my professors managed to lure to the outskirts of Virgina.

To schedule a meeting to work on a group project, I called my fellow students on my dorm phone, we’d meet at the campus library, and we’d all bring hard copies of our parts of the paper, piecing everything together manually with tape, staples and Post-its.  And then the least argumentative person would be the unfortunate soul to take the final draft home to retype.  (Hey, at least we had computers… My freshman year, I used a word processor to write papers.)

To research, we scanned microfilm and photocopied hundreds of pages of journal articles, using highlighter pens to select key text and citations.  And we didn’t have Powerpoint or access to any real graphics or photo libraries, so almost everything we presented was heavy text.

Class registration was done via phone, and I’d pray I would get through and not get disconnected so I’d get the class I wanted.  And we were only able to purchase textbooks at the campus bookstore when everyone else was doing so, which meant colossal lines and hours of wasted time.

If I overslept a class, there were no online notes or presentation archives… I simply missed the class and photocopied a fellow classmate’s handwritten notes.  (Presuming their spiral bound notebook wasn’t in tatters.)

It was college, and it was great.

As a graduate student fifteen years later, the Internet, email, cell phones, Powerpoint, laptops and jump drives have made research, connecting, sharing, presenting, collaborating, note-taking and transferring information much more easy and convenient.   Webcasting, online classes and videoconferencing technology have also changed the game.  Experts and professionals all over the globe can lecture and have one-on-one interactions with students in a classroom, while chat rooms provide convenient locations for passionate post-class discussions.

Last night, I emailed my presentation to the professor 10 minutes before class started.  Because the school had difficulty streaming video, I Fed-Exed the professor a DVD of the video the Friday prior.  I logged on to gMail, connected with the class via gMail Chat and an HD web cam, and I could see the class and they could see me (when my Powerpoint slides weren’t up.)  They could hear me the whole time, and I could hear them.  It was a quick, easy, and interactive process, and something I would have never conceived of when I sat in those same seats back in 1996.

I’m sharing these details, because even some of my fellow grad students are too young to remember word processors or phone registration or campus bookstore lines.  That’s how quickly tech changes.  And when I tried to talk to last night’s students about the very limited email capabilities I had as an undergrad or the manual HTML programming I did at the campus newspaper, or this relatively new “Internet thing” we were exploring in 1995, they just couldn’t relate.

While I recently shared a post on the interesting iSchool concept, I honestly can’t begin to imagine what the college experience will be for my munchkin 18 years from now.  I can’t conceive of the technology that will help her expand her horizons, broaden her world view, and learn, share, and connect with others.  I’m excited for her and the opportunities, exchanges, and possibilities she’ll have, all thanks to technology.

As long as she doesn’t sleep through her 8 a.m. classes, she’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of where I was at that age.  (And heck, she can always check the archived webcast of her class!)

Parenting Tips: Kids and Recent News Coverage

25 Mar

Looks like I’m not the only one concerned about how recent news and media is affecting our kids.  Kudos to the Today Show for offering parents some quick tips from Dr. Michelle Borba on how to “calm kids’ jitters in a scary world” this morning.

My favorite piece of advice: 

Monitoring  what your child watches is always a good idea. But especially be aware of television that shows graphic images of tragedy. When in doubt, turn the television off. Studies show that even though kids may not have personally witnessed a tragedy, they can still be traumatized from viewing troubling news images.  A child’s age dictates what they can absorb.

Another interesting tidbit:  A study of over 600 middle-school students found that “late-breaking news without an adult there to comfort or explain” produced anxiety.  

So even older kids – who can more maturely process the content – are feeling it.

A smart way to counteract the bad news?  Find some good news to balance it out.  Highlight some of the good things people are doing (support, relief efforts, stories of survival, etc.)  Or, just go for a walk and connect with your child.

Great segment and solid tips for tech-savvy and techno(t) parents alike.  Thanks Today and Dr. Borba!

 

Free Lecture for CT Parents at Darien Library

23 Mar

For Fairfield County, CT parents who might be interested, Warren Buckleitner will be speaking at Darien Library on Thursday, March 24 about parenting with technology.

Buckleitner is an educational psychologist, editor of Children’s Technology Review and a blogger for the NYT. His discussion is titled “Raising a 21st Century Problem Solver: A Recipe for Modern Parents.”  Sounds perfect for this techno(t) parent!  Sign me up.

Thanks for sharing, KS!

“Friday”: What’s the Big Deal??

22 Mar

I’m baffled by the crazy media coverage of thirteen-year-old Rebecca Black’s “Friday” video. It’s as if she’s the first person ever to record a less-than-etherial pop song and post it online:

Just not sure what all the fuss is about. It’s a “tweener” pop song. Is it supposed to make sense? Because I remember a few Tears for Fears ditties that didn’t quite make sense in my day… And they probably cost way more than $2,000 to produce.

Personally, I think the criticism is a little harsh…

Please, enlighten me as to why 1) people are being so mean about this song and 2) why it’s considered “news” and being covered on NBC, ABC, CNN and other major media outlets?

And as a parent, would you encourage your child to post a music video to the Internet, knowing it might draw similar criticism?

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.

Technology for Kids… And Babies?

16 Mar

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of Jeana Lee Tahnk’s Screen Play blog.   She recently posted a roundup of sites designed specifically for babies.  As a somewhat tech-cautious parent, I didn’t know how quickly I’d embrace sites designed specifically for babies, especially the BabyFirstTV site, which touts itself as “The First Site for Little Ones”. I decided to check BabyFirstTV out for myself.

This comprehensive site  is geared towards babies 18 months and older, offering both free and subscription-only games and lessons that introduce numbers, art, music, and language.  While some of the navigation was awkward, the content was age-appropriate and mostly educational, and there were no ads.  What I especially like is that the programming seems to have been developed with the support of an advisory board of credible experts.  (This info was hidden in the FAQ links, so I’m not sure how active this advisory board is… But it’s nice to see there’s some content oversight.)  The site also has a place for parents with questions, and offers videos in other languages for parents wanting to expose their kids to French or Spanish.

I’m happily surprised to say I’d be okay with my child interacting with this site occasionally.  My only concern is that it’s very easy for kids to “shop” online, and with a single click, they’re able to add a costly gift set to their parents’ shopping cart.   (Not sure how easy it is to actually “purchase,” but it’s a little worrisome.)  Other than that, this site seems like a fun, interactive way to engage babies at an early age.

What do you think?  How early should babies be interacting with technology?  Are sites like these of interest to you?  Or should parents wait until children are older to introduce their babies to websites?

Mommy Blogs and the Rise of Train-Wreck TV

14 Mar

This well-written New York Times article by Lisa Belkin explores the world of successful Mommy Blogs, specifically Heather Armstrong’s popular Dooce.com. Armstrong’s blogging success is a great story, but the article subtly hints at the uglier side of personal blogging – the lack of privacy, the hate mail, the family drama, etc.  In fact, Armstrong brilliantly created a “hate mail” section for her blog, which, the article says, draws significant readership.

I recently wondered if there’s a connection between the rise in popularity of “personal” blogs (like Armstrong’s) and the rise in popularity of reality TV – both media channels driven by our culture’s fascination with real-time drama.  And then I wondered:  What role as parents, do we play in this media?

As parents in a world where centerfolds, snarky designers, Charlie-Sheen-type meltdowns and conflicted teen moms tend to draw significant attention (and cash), we have to ask ourselves: Does watching (or reading about) someone else’s crazy life slowly unravel make us somehow feel better about our own?  Or does it just mean we feel less alone in our journey?  What do our media choices say about us as parents?  And what are we teaching our kids through the drama these choices highlight?

A recent statement from Marty Kaplan, director of the Norman Lear Center at the USC Annenberg School of Communication captured my concerns well:

“Sure, the media have been Charlie Sheen’s enablers. But he wouldn’t be getting wall-to-wall coverage if that didn’t win big ratings, so it’s the audience — us — who are his codependents. Is the attention making his behavior worse? Maybe. But the media didn’t invent people’s urge to rubberneck at car crashes.”

Now, before anyone gets up in arms, I’m in no way suggesting that Armstrong is of the Snooki or Charlie Sheen ilk.  Armstrong is a successful writer who has dedicated time, money and effort to cultivate her craft and build a trusting relationship with her audience.  She pioneered a market and has bravely shared her personal journey – the good, bad and the ugly – with the world in exchange for compensation and personal satisfaction.  And as the article highlights, she’s careful what she shares.

What I *am* commenting on, though, is “reality media” as a whole, and the increasing trend to openly share (and ultimately capitalize) on very personal, and often difficult challenges, fueled by conflict or addiction, and the audience’s role in fanning the fire.

Perhaps to make a blog a wild success, one could create (and then resolve) some sort of real-life drama…  But to that approach, I say “no thank you, very much”.  I’m happy with my chaotic, Snooki-free world.

And I’ll happily leave Ms. Armstrong to deal with the hate mail.

Interview with “Parenting With Technology” Author Diane Kendall (Part III)

11 Mar

This is part 3 of my interview with parenting with technology expert Diane Kendall.  (Here’s the first post in the series.  Here’s the second post of three.)   THANK YOU Diane, for taking the time to share your wisdom!  For more of Ms. Kendall’s  spot-on advice and information, visit the Parents section of the “Power to Learn” site.

TNP:  What are the biggest drawbacks/dangers of technology for kids?  How can parents keep their kids safe?

DK: “Oversharing” is probably the biggest danger when it comes technology and kids. Most kids are willing to talk to anyone – online or off – that seems willing to listen, and without even meaning to, they can give away personal information that can lead to issues for themselves and their family. These issues can range from identity theft to being open to online predators to cyberbullying. It’s hard to learn what to share and what to keep to yourself and adults, as well as kids, need constant reminding to be careful.

“Oversharing” can create other issues as well. There has been research about how teens and adults view other people’s Facebook pages – often people they don’t know well – and become depressed because everyone seems to have “better” lives than they do.  And why not?  Most people don’t put out the bad things in their lives on their Facebook pages. Most Facebook pages are littered with positive and good things.

“All of this leads to how I think parents can keep their kids safe. KEEP TALKING  TO THEM, but most of all model good digital manners, safety and restraint. Talk to them about what people put on their Facebook pages and how it only reflects the things they want other people to know about them. Remind them if they start talking to someone online, or on a game, that seems incredibly sympathetic, perhaps that person may be too good to be true. Practice digital restraint – in other words, don’t always pull out your smart phone whenever you have a free moment.  The truth is that if you are seduced by the technology, your kids will be too. Just like everything in life, it’s all about balance and restraint.”

TNP:  Any other advice you’d like to share?

DK: I want to offer some hope. When it comes to technology, all I can tell you is that it’s about balance. I’ve been reviewing technology for children since 1979 and my two kids were exposed to it constantly growing up in the late 1990s through now. We had every new game, gadget and piece of software available at our house because I was a reviewer. Yet I still read to them every night, we did lots of art projects, they both played sports and musical instruments, my daughter was a volunteer at the local zoo in high school, and we managed to have a few serious conversations every once in a while.

Today my oldest is in a PhD program at an Ivy League university and my son is away at a respected college, playing soccer, and doing quite well despite being severely dyslexic.

“Trust your instincts, remember to model good technology habits and don’t forget to keep everything in moderation.”

Believe me – you can let technology be part of your children’s lives without being overwhelmed by it.

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?