Tag Archives: smartphones

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!


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?

From a Techno(t) Parent

3 Feb

As a techno(t) parent, I recently heard two bits of information that surprised me and became the driving force behind this blog.  They came from a Digital Diaries’ study from AVG  – an  Internet Security Company:

1) More kids aged 2-5 can play with a smartphone application (19 percent) than tie his or her shoelaces (9 percent).
2) Almost as many 2-3 year olds (17 percent) can play with a smartphone application as 4-5 year olds (21 percent).
Now, I think I have a smartphone.  (If a  Blackberry is, in fact, a “smartphone?”)  And I’m pretty sure I have a kid.  (She’s six-months-old and napping in the next room.)  But I’m embarrased to admit I don’t have any applications, except the partially-filled out one for daycare sitting on my desk. 
And to be even more honest, I wouldn’t know how to go about getting an “application” if I knew what, exactly, they were… Or how they could educate, entertain, or otherwise benefit me or my child. 

Merits of the study notwithstanding, (there’s some controversy regarding its validity,)  I quickly came to the realization that I need to up my “tech” game – if not for me, for my little munchkin.  Because if I don’t make the effort to get up-to-speed – and do it tout suite – I won’t be able to help my little girl navigate the technology-saturated world she’s growing up in.

I look forward to sharing my journey, in the hopes of helping other moms who aren’t brave enough to admit their six-year-old loads their iPods or they’ve never used a DVR. 

If you’re in the same boat, feel free to weigh in.  And if you’re “techno-savvy,” please share any tips, tricks, recommendations or suggestions that might help me along the way (in novice-friendly terms, please! No need to make me feel less behind than I already am, thank you!)  It should be an interesting read either way, as I try my best at parenting with technology.