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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.

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 🙂

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.