Posts Tagged ‘ Facebook ’

How Twitter Can Help Shy and Introverted Kids in Class

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Twitter bird and hashtag symbol on black chalkboardHere’s the one thing my parents heard every year at Parent Teacher Conferences: “Your daughter has really good grades, but she doesn’t speak up enough. She has to learn to speak up because it’ll be important for her later in life.” But as much as I wanted to, I was too shy and introverted to speak up, and every time that I did, I would suddenly feel my stomach tightening, my heart racing, my arm shaking as I raised it, and my lips parting without being able to form words in a cohesive, coherent way. My mind always went too fast for my mouth to process. And even after I spoke, it would take me a good 10-15 minutes to calm down again. I just hated everyone’s eyes on me and the silence in the room as everyone listened, tuning in to every nuance of my shaking voice. It was just easier not to say anything!

Because I still remember how I felt, I was fascinated by Amanda Wynter’s piece in The Atlantic, “Bringing Twitter to the Classroom.” Chris Bronke, a high school English teacher in Downers Grove, Illinois, has developed a brilliant way to get his freshmen class to participate in class discussions — by having them on Twitter. While Bronke isn’t the first teacher to use social media to improve classroom learning, he is one of the few making progress in a positive and effective way. By relying on a social media platform the kids were already using, Bronke has encouraged his students to post photos, quotes, quick thoughts, questions about the reading. Hashtags, of course, keep the discussions contained in one thread. Along the way, kids “favorite” each others’ tweets and connect more with each other any time, anywhere, and from any device (mobile, tablet, or desktop). Bronke found that discussions were rich and robust, and that kids were more engaged with the reading and with each other.

Although Wynter’s piece didn’t mention whether Bronke noticed more participation from shy and introverted kids online, I can only imagine this has been the case. There’s no doubt technology helps people develop alter egos that allows them to voice things in a way they aren’t able to in person — just check out these New York Times and Washington Post articles on how shy and introverted kids tend to be more engaged and “extroverted” online. There is something liberating about being able to process and write your thoughts and feelings — without the pressure of eyes and ears — and vet them before sharing them with the world. For shy and introverted kids who struggle with speaking in class and having the spotlight on them, but who need to speak up because their grades depend on it (site note: I always hated this!), participating in online discussions may be a good outlet. These kids are more likely to blossom online and share their ideas and opinions without fearing how they look and sound, and how others are perceiving and reacting to them. Susan Cain, the author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” even interviewed a teacher in Canada who noted the benefits social media in classrooms for shy and introverted kids.

Of course, using Twitter (or any other social media) to promote discussions certainly has its potential problems — online interaction is still no substitute for real-world conversations, and over-reliance on technology can negatively affect face-to-face social skills (like being unable to identify social cues). As much as shy and introverted kids may be more vocal online, they also need to develop public speaking skills because “real world” situations beyond school necessitate in-person interactions. I know that if I was given the ability to participate on Twitter during school, I would have loved  having another outlet to make my voice heard. But I’m also glad that I didn’t grow up with that technology — I may have relied on it too much and hid behind it. Without it, I had to force myself to feel at ease with talking in front of people — even if it took years, and is still something I’m still working on.

Eventually, kids will need to make speeches and presentations, and give and go on interviews, so it’s always easier to sharpen and refine oratory skills (or any type of skills!) from a young age. Of course, it’s possible that being able to “talk” freely and being “favorited” on Twitter will boost kids’ confidence and make them comfortable talking in person. But teachers will need to make sure they strike a balance with having online and roundtable classroom discussions, and they would also need to make sure that online participation doesn’t become a crutch as the only way to earn good grades. After all, developing well-rounded communication skills will help kids throughout life in all situations (with family and friends), beyond the classroom. Ultimately, this would be the true mark of learning — and even success.

Share your thoughts: Do you believe social media has a place in the classroom?

3 Things to Raise a Successful Student
3 Things to Raise a Successful Student
3 Things to Raise a Successful Student

Image: Twitter bird and hashtag symbol on black chalkboard via Shutterstock

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Could You Use a Break From Facebook?

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Have you ever taken a break from Facebook? I’m in the middle of a weeks-long one now, and I’ve got good company:  A surprising 61 percent of Facebook users take a hiatus from the site for a few weeks or more, according to the Pew Research Center. Their reported reasons probably sound familiar: “I was tired of stupid comments.” “Too much drama.” “People were posting what they had for dinner.” If you’ve been feeling that checking your feed has been a timesuck, it probably is: Americans spend an average of 40 minutes per day on Facebook.

Stop liking everything!

Facebook’s been good to me—reacquainting me with old friends and keeping me connected to others I might’ve lost touch with. I especially love seeing pictures of my friends and their children. (But not a picture of their glowing report cards. Seriously? What happened to sharing them with grandparents?) I’ve gotten actual, paying work because of Facebook. I helped set up a couple, through Facebook, who later got married.

So why turn my back on Facebook? I had my reasons:

Lazy friendships. I felt like I’d allowed too many of my real-life relationships get downgraded to lazily clicking the “like” button on one another’s posts, or making only the “safe” kind of comments you can when you know your respective 200-plus friends are listening. But that’s no substitute for thoughtful, intimate conversation, so I vowed to make more of an effort to see people, or at least call them.

Attention vampires. If I’d gotten lax about keeping in touch with people I’m close to, I had the opposite problem with other friends: people I don’t know well, but who post and comment a lot. Sometimes I’d feel guilty if I didn’t acknowledge their latest post about whatever they were facing in their lives—from the mundane (the laundromat ruined their duvet cover) to the potentially serious (like tests to rule out or detect a medical problem). But then I realized all my friends have such ups and downs, and they’re not posting everything. The ones who do, though, start to feel like attention vampires, and being their Facebook friend is work. Facebook creates an artificial alternate reality that way, where you’re attuned to the lives of people who post the most. Sure, that’s what the “unfollow” button is for. But it doesn’t make the friends I want to hear more from post any more. I needed to get in touch.

Family-time interference. I’m a mom, to three, and it bothered me when my oldest recently asked me if I was looking at my phone “again.” Part of that phone time was spent checking Facebook, minutes I could be spending with my real-life loves. To make it less easy to log on, I deleted the Facebook app from my phone, for now.

Feeling left out. You ever see a picture on Facebook of friends with arms draped over one another, oversized wine glasses in hand, or of a big party to which you or perhaps your kid, um, didn’t receive the invite? Yeah, that. It doesn’t matter that you’re often in group pictures having fun—like an elephant, you remember the times you’ve missed out. Related…

Old-fashioned jealousy. Facebook exposes me to the privilege of those around me; and yes, to the hardships of others too—but really, mostly the privilege. Yes, yes: Count one’s blessings and all that. But during summer especially, when I’m working, and my news feed overflows with pictures of awesome vacations, or friends taking their kids to the beach, or blueberry picking, or setting up the slip n’ slide in the backyard…. Oh, I know it’s irrational (I do those things, too, on my time off) and even they’re not having that much fun every day. But there’s something about seeing all those pictures collectively, day after day for weeks, that can make one feel like everybody else is on an extended summer vacation, ‘cept you. Not healthy. A dad acquaintance admitted to me the other day, “Sometimes when I look at Facebook I think, Come on. Your life can’t be that great.”

Seeing double. I originally liked looking at Facebook for the pictures. Then as more friends joined Instagram, I would see their photos posted in both places. Checking one account once per day does the job fine.

The fighting! Politics, especially. A fight breaks out, friends of the friends pick sides and pile on, then someone gets unfriended. But I haven’t seen anyone change their stance yet because of something someone wrote on Facebook, which makes reading all that “discussion” seem like a waste of energy.

At first I deactivated my account (different from deleting it)—you can safely do this and reactivate by simply logging in again, with everything left exactly the way it was. But I wanted to check the Facebook page of a friend whose child is battling a long-term disease, and deactivated/reactivated a few times to do just that. The first few days without Facebook were weird—what a part of my daily (er, bihourly?) routine it had become! But now, I’ve weaned myself off Facebook just enough to leave it active, without feeling the urge to look at it. And I don’t miss it as much as I thought I would.

The downside: I do hate to think about missing friends’ major life events and news, and in between all the clutter, Facebook really is the place where people announce the important highlights of their lives. (My youngest was a Facebook baby. A friend of a friend posted the news of her birth before I could!) But mostly, now I’m blissfully not spending time weeding through inspirational quotes and “LOLs” and third-party videos and plenty of other things that don’t interest me. What I’m most surprised about, though, is how much news I’ve missed—I hadn’t realized how much I’d come to depend on Facebook for what’s “trending:” major headlines, juicy celebrity gossip, and news analyses. But I don’t mind being a little bit out of it (or checking Twitter more frequently now, ha) while some of the things in my world I’d been neglecting during time I spent on Facebook, or talking about what I saw/liked/didn’t like on Facebook, shift back into focus.

Having to take a Facebook break—and announcing it, and assuming people care—is slightly embarrassing. (I did question whether I was being a little too dramatic. Um, attention vampire?!) My friends Erin and Suzanne, who have never joined Facebook, don’t have this problem. In the early days of Facebook, I thought they were crazy. What? But why?! How do you know anything that’s going on? Now, I envy their just-don’t-wanna-deal, who’s-got-the-time coolness. I also admire the restraint of the friends in my feed who rarely log on, when 63 percent of users look at Facebook at least once per day, while 40 percent cop to checking it multiple times a day. The fact that I even had to think about tearing myself away—something that had been in the back of my mind for weeks—was surely a sign I needed a breather.

How long will I stay away from the conversation? I could be at the beginning or nearing the end—I haven’t really put an exact expiration date on this little hiatus.

But I already feel freer, almost as if I’d spent every day this past week at the beach, blueberry picking, or slip-sliding under sunny skies.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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The Great Outdoors: Is There An App For That?

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Joe DeProspero has two sons and a wife, and he is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,Joe is also writing a parenting humor book. He will be posting twice monthly and his previous posts can be found here He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook and on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

“When I was a kid…”

The very phrase evokes an eye roll before the sentence is even completed. It’s undeniably preachy, and above all else, it’s what your father said when you were eight and what you promised yourself you’d never say. But we do say it, don’t we?

“When I was a kid, the Internet didn’t even exist!”

“When I was a kid, we could only talk to people on this foreign concept called a land line.”

The list, as they say, goes on. But clearly, as time marches forward, the forthcoming generation simply won’t be able to grasp how much easier they have it now than those who came before them. And if you’re anything like me, you not only want your children to appreciate their current amenities, but you don’t want them to get so engulfed in those amenities that they lose appreciation for the natural highs in life that have existed far longer than Wi-Fi.

My father hosted a party last weekend for the family. The weather was impossibly perfect, especially for swimming. I was marveling at my 5-year-old’s rapidly expanding ability to hold his breath underwater for increased periods of time. After the pool, my brother-in-law and I sanctioned a wiffle ball game for our 5 and 6-year-old sons, while our younger children held hands and babbled incoherently to each other, skipping mindlessly through the grass. We played with towels wrapped around our waists, intermittently taking a timeout for a bite of whatever was coming off the grill. As the sun began to set, a cake was brought out with candles lit to commemorate the birthdays of me and my sister. With the buttercream still stuffed into their cheeks, all four of the children grabbed empty tomato sauce jars and began gleefully hustling around the backyard, in hopes of capturing the highest number of fireflies. And it was at this moment when I saw my nephew poking holes in the lid — so his illuminating prisoner could breathe — that I realized something important…

No one was on their phones.

I’ll be the first to admit that I often feel an unhealthy, obsessive connection with my iPhone. After all, it has a great deal to offer. It helps me connect instantly with practically anyone I know. It contains a calculator, a camera, a flashlight, a compass, maps, games, music, email, and of course, access to an Internet that has the answer to practically any question I could conceivably ask. But it can’t stand behind you to help adjust your swing. No kid ever pleaded with his mother to let him swim in an online swimming pool. And I’m pretty sure catching virtual fireflies would be pretty boring. In other words, I won’t pretend that smartphones and tablets aren’t a part of my children’s landscape, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t put them in situations where they could thrive, or merely eat a burger without having to post a selfie of him eating said burger on Instagram.

So, here’s hoping that when my children (and all of our children) are in their 30s and 40s and beyond, that they aren’t reminiscing about how many likes their Facebook post got, but instead sharing memories marked with human connection, social interaction, and time spent with arms wrapped around the ones they love.

Perhaps I’m falling right into the “when I was a kid” trap I vowed I wouldn’t. Or perhaps I’m subconsciously trying to have my sons experience childhood the same way I did. Maybe it’s both. But regardless, I feel that it’s every parent’s duty to “referee” their child’s relationship with technology. At a certain point, it will be out of our hands, of course. But if we don’t show our children the beauty of the natural world, can we trust an iPhone app to do it for us?

Thanks for reading, and feel free to join the conversation below or tweet me here.

How Tech Impacts Your Child's Creativity
How Tech Impacts Your Child's Creativity
How Tech Impacts Your Child's Creativity

Image: Family playing on green grass in spring park via

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Why #YesAllWomen Should Matter to Parents

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

In the wake of yet another mass shooting of young women and men in Isla Vista, the hashtag #YesAllWomen took off, as a way for women to share stories about the ways that male violence and harassment have impacted their lives. Odds are, you’ve probably seen this in your Twitter and Facebook feeds—and the stories I’ve read were harrowing. Horrific stories of domestic abuse, rape, even murder—and even the more typical tales of girls groped on the subway, women who don’t feel safe walking around alone at night, women who are told they should feel flattered when they get catcalled on the street. And really—should it be considered “typical” for a woman to feel like a walk around the block is too dangerous to risk? (If you want to just get the Cliffs Notes version of this debate, check out this list of some of the most thought-provoking #YesAllWomen tweets.)

But even though the tweets themselves are scary, scarier still is the backlash and comments these statements have provoked from a few men, who have harassed and even threatened women who chose to speak out. Because what we all should be doing is coming together and figuring out how to solve this issue—not intimidating people who are brave enough to share their stories. And who better to start on the path toward solving this than parents like us, who are raising daughters and sons.

I want my daughters to be smart and strong and kind and loving. But because I also don’t want them to be victims, they’ve been taught stranger danger, instructed not to trust adult men, and sent for years of karate and jiu jitsu lessons, so they can fight back if something does go terribly wrong. These are not the lessons I want to be teaching my daughters.

I’m hoping that my friends with sons will be teaching them a different set of lessons—how to honor and respect the women and girls they meet. That no means no, no matter what a girl is wearing or whether she’s had a few margaritas. That women aren’t conquests—that their opinions, thoughts and feelings matter more than their level of hotness. That sometimes, “manning up” means stepping in when your friend is crossing the line with a girl—and not staying silent. Because that silence means that you’re supporting whatever actions your friend is taking.

But I’m worried, because I can already see it starting. Lately, the girls in my daughter’s fourth grade class have been complaining nonstop about the boys, who keep trying to boss them around and put them in their place. Right now, it’s “kids’  stuff,” fights over kickball games and whose turn it is to lead the line. My daughter comes home angry about the latest boy-related slights to her and her friends, and tries to work with me to come up with strategies to deal with it.  I’ve been telling her to just ignore the boys and they’ll probably stop. But maybe that makes me part of the problem, by teaching her to stay silent and not speak up about the issues, like we’ve all been doing for far too long. Maybe we should be supporting our daughters as they fight to be treated like equals.

Tell us: What do you think of the #YesAllWomen movement? What lessons and values are you hoping to instill in your kids?

Manners & Responsibility: Getting Your Child to Listen
Manners & Responsibility: Getting Your Child to Listen
Manners & Responsibility: Getting Your Child to Listen

Image: Loving hands by CHAINFOTO24/


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How to Protect Your Personal Information on Facebook

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Whether intentionally or accidentally, we all share a lot of personal information on the Internet. I make an effort to hide a lot of my private data on social media, but a quick skim of my Facebook page reveals where I went to college, hundreds of photos from the past eight years, and my crazy obsession with corgis, among many other things. These are all details that I don’t mind sharing with my friends—but I’d rather not share with people I don’t know, especially if they’re with a company looking to make money off of me.

Luckily, Facebook is responding to security complaints by offering users more control. Before, when you used Facebook Login on your phone to sign in to an app, you had to allow it access to a large chunk of your information. What exactly the developers could see and what they were using that info for was unclear. But over the coming weeks, Facebook is rolling out an updated login page that makes it easier and quicker than ever to protect yourself online. Here are some tips for using the new controls:

Carefully select what details you provide. The new update allows users to pick and choose which information they share with apps. This means you can choose to share your birthday and your likes with that cool new music app, but you don’t have to share your friend list. Users can go through different categories of information, picking what to share and what to keep private. Just click “Edit the info you provide” to get started.

Prevent unwanted postings on Facebook. There is now a completely separate page for giving the app permission to post to Facebook on your behalf. I hate spamming my friends with details about what I’m reading, playing, or listening to, so I am always paranoid that these activities will end up on the Newsfeed. Now, I don’t have to worry that an app will post without my knowledge, because it’s easy to deny the app permission to post or set it so only select groups can see. Now I can go back to listening to that embarrassing pop song on Spotify in peace, knowing that my friends will be none the wiser.

Test out an app with Anonymous Login. This new option will let people login without sharing any personal information. You can decide later if you’d like to share any of your details. Not all developers will choose to offer this service, but keep an eye out for it in the next few months.

Periodically clean out your apps. If you’ve been using Facebook for many years, there are probably a lot of apps connected to your account. Visit your App Settings to manage permissions and remove old apps you’re no longer using.

Want to see some of the new changes in action? Here’s a sneak peek:

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Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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