Tag Archives: kids and technology

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.

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?

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?

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 🙂

“Parenting with Technology” Author Diane Kendall Chats with Techno(t)parent…

4 Mar

I’m amazed at the in-depth knowledge out there regarding technology and parenting, given the subject matter is relatively new.  One great fountain of information I discovered is educator and tech reviewer Diane Kendall, who has spent over 30 years following the tech scene for both kids and parents.  An author and blogger, (and mind-blowingly-early-adpoter!) Ms. Kendall generously shared some thoughts with Techno(t)parent in a three-part series.  Read on for Part 1, my friends:

TNP: How important is it for parents to be digitally-savvy today?

DK: I can’t emphasize enough the importance of being aware and open-minded about technology as the advances and changes in technology come faster and faster and transform the world as we know it. Parents owe that to their kids who are going to live in this new world.  That said, that doesn’t mean you have to be up on all the latest gadgets and trends.  No one is, not even those who have the audacity to declare themselves “experts.”   It also doesn’t mean you have to spend all your money or time on technology. It doesn’t even mean you have to agree with how technology is changing the way things are done.

“Instead, the most important thing you can do is to keep your eyes, ears, and mind open to the technology that can help you be a better parent, be more efficient so you can have more time with your family, as well as be open to the technology tools that can help your kids on their journey to becoming independent learners.  You should invest your time and money  into this “personal” technology, and just keep an open eye to the pros and cons of the rest.”

If you take this attitude early on in your parenthood adventure, then you and your kids will be able to talk more openly about what technology works for you and for them, what you both find a waste of time and even what you find distasteful, not very savory or even bad digital manners. Getting the discussion started early, and not buying into the fallacy that your kids are going to be “better at technology” than you just because they are kids, is really what being a digitally-savvy parent is all about.

TNP:  Where or how should a “late-adopter” parent start?  How can parents with not a lot of time get up-to-speed quickly?

DK: Most of us are more tech savvy then we give ourselves credit for. If you want to learn about technology, pick a small project you know technology will absolutely help you do, and learn how to do it. One of my favorite projects for “late adopters” is compiling a photo book for their kids.  The subject could be a day in your family’s life, all the people who are important in a child’s life, a recent trip or the family pet. There are many photo services online who make it a cheap and easy process, and older kids can help take the pictures if you want to make it a parent/child project.

Take on a tech project that can be done in a short amount of time to get your confidence up. It also doesn’t hurt to find someone who has done a similar project and ask them to help you get started.

As a “late-adopter” it is important to stay positive about technology (which I admit when the technology isn’t working can be hard) and to break down what you want to learn into small digestible chucks. There are lots of free tutorials, demos and how-tos online these days. Look around for those and try a few things you’ve always wanted to experiment with.