Tag Archives: cell phones

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…

Empathy. Are You Feelin’ It?

23 Feb

As a parent, I tend to be down a bit on technology (hence my “late-adopter” status.)  But perhaps I’m slightly justified. This article, published by CNN and written by Gary Small, M.D. and Gigi Vorgan, discusses new research that suggests that high Internet and gaming use alters the brain, and could affect an individual’s capacity for empathy.  The authors cite the recent incident regarding Serene Branson covering the Grammys while having a medical issue as an example of our growing lack of empathy as a culture.  (Listen to the reaction of the person taping the video.  It’s laughter – not concern – for the reporter.  And many of the comments posted on YouTube along with the video are insensitive and rude.)

Now, I don’t want to fuel the “alarmist” fire, but I do think the authors raise a good point.  And that’s that in today’s media-saturated culture, kids (and adults) *could* be becoming more insensitive. 

As parents in a digital age, we should stop regulary and do “sanity checks” to see how our kids are processing everything around them.  Whether it’s video of a school bullying, images from Iraq, or a hurtful text from a friend, parents should to step in and ask our kids about their reactions.  Were they surprised?  Hurt?  Scared?  Angry?  Did they wish someone stepped in to help?  Would they have helped in the same situation?  Why or why not?

We might not have all the answers, but if we’re actively asking the questions and have an open dialog with our kids, hopefully we can help cultivate their empathy and kindess for others.

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?

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.

Cry Me a River…

17 Feb

On my journey to becoming more tech savvy, I’m *so* not down with this new tool I recently saw featured on a tech tool TV segment.  The cry translator app for smartphones is designed to help new parents identify and interpret the different types of cries a baby produces, and “translates” the cry into graphics representing an emotion a new parent can understand, e.g. “hungry”, “bored”, “overtired”, “wet”, etc.   The Why Cry Baby Analyzer is a machine designed to  do the same thing, but is an independent device.

As a first-time mom of a newborn with insanity-inducing colic, I would’ve given my right arm for a solution to stop my little scream machine at the height of our collective distress.  (My friends Jenna and Kristen who answered my pathetic 3 a.m. Facebook pleas for help can relate.) 

And at first, (and in theory) a “cry interpreter” would’ve initally seemed like a great idea.  In my sleep-deprived-panicked-mom state, if I knew about this app then, I would’ve been the first to download it.

But ultimately, part of being a parent  (especially a first-time parent,)  is the difficult-but-critical “trial and error” process.  If I’ve learned anything in the past six months, it’s that parenting  is about trusting your instinct.   It’s about guesswork.   It’s about course correcting.  It’s about asking your partner, your friends and trusted advisors for help, guidance and support.  And in the end, parenting is about communicating, watching, and working with your child, and learning the road…together. 

Relying on an interpretation tool is dangerous.  Do you stop trying to figure your cries out on your own?  And what do you do when your batteries die, or the child gets older, or the tool isn’t accurate?  What if the cry is gas or illness or something the cry interpreter can’t interpret?

Kudos for technology and parenting.  And “good on ya” for recognizing that new parents with super fussy babies really, *really* need help.  But profiting on their distress is not the answer.  And shortcuts aren’t either.

Let’s use technology to help us communicate with our kids, not for our kids.