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Thursday, March 19th, 2015
Many hotel chains (and practically all of the budget brands) no longer charge for Wi-Fi. Last month, Hyatt started giving the service to all guests, while Marriott and the Starwood brands (like Westin and Sheraton) provide it at no cost to loyalty club members who book through the hotel website or via phone. When I first read this news, I thought that it’s about time. Paying $15 a day to connect definitely felt like a rip-off.
But as I think more about it, I worry that this new freebie will make it harder for families to unplug when they’re on vacation. My family, for one, is terrible at it. Like 38 percent of Americans, according to one survey, my husband and I usually check our work emails when we’re away. Watching us, I suppose, our daughter has gotten in the habit of asking for the Wi-Fi password at check-in so she can hook up her iPod. Sometimes, she’s texting a friend before we even open the door to the room. On our last trip, at a hotel with a free connection, I realized how pathetic it was when all three of us were on our devices instead of watching the sunset!
When hotels charged to connect, I could say, “We’re not buying that” and my daughter didn’t complain. I wasn’t on my phone as much because I didn’t want to wipe out my monthly data plan in a single weekend. Now that Wi-Fi is free, it’s up to us to set limits—and an example. It’s going to be hard. Some friends have told me that they allow kids to use their devices only during a certain time, such as in the morning while they’re waiting for the rest of the family to be ready. Others restrict how their device can be used, only permitting it to take pictures or video, for instance.
Of course, I’ll need more self-control too! I’ve heard that some people delete their work email app (and their social media apps too) from their phones so they aren’t as tempted to check in. Another friend thinks it’s all in the timing. She starts family trips on a Saturday so by the time Monday rolls around, her mind is already in “vacation mode” and the temptation to find out what’s happening at the office isn’t there. “The last vacation I started on Monday wasn’t relaxing at all because I got sucked into what was going on at work,” she told me. Sigh.
Do you totally unplug on your trip? Do you let the kids use their devices on vacay? Tell me in the comments.
Karen Cicero is contributing travel editor at Parents magazine. Her only “unplugged” trip in the last several years was a Disney Cruise—because connecting at sea cost a small fortune. (Watch the video below for the fun activities on board.) Follow her on Twitter @karencicero.
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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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Thursday, January 23rd, 2014
It’s not too surprising that the comments section of a New York Times opinion piece entitled “Google, Tell Me. Is My Son a Genius?” served as the arena for a recent battle of the sexes.
The article explored the results of an informal study of parents’ Google searches, concluding that questions involving intelligence are more likely to be asked in regard to boys (“Is my son gifted?”), while questions relating to appearance are more likely to be asked in regard to girls (“Is my daughter beautiful?”).
It’s discouraging to note that even in 2014, our culture places a woman’s highest importance on her body, and that even in 2014, we are not yet able to resist a good old-fashioned, uh, peepeeing contest when it comes to comparing offspring.
But the article, and its responses, neglects to address a much bigger overarching problem: Why are parents consulting an Internet search engine to substantiate their children’s value?
Say Google confirms your hunch that your son is intellectually gifted, but he doesn’t make the cut for his elementary school’s gifted program. Will you confront his principal? “But the Internet said so.”
And what if Google’s search results suggest that your daughter isn’t as pretty as you think she is? Will you then consult with your little girl? “Sweetheart, I was doubting your societal attractiveness, so I turned to Google for help. We’re going to have to do something about your hair.”
These examples hyperbolize reactions, not actions. We do this. We type our human thoughts and feelings and concerns into a search bar, and we expect human results. But we’re mistaken. Google is a machine that analyzes our words as data, numbers. Children are people, not numbers, so let’s not allow Google to analyze them.
Teach your children that what the Internet says is not what goes. Show them that they need to prove their worth to no one but themselves. Instill your sons and your daughters with the confidence to know that they are talented and gorgeous and wonderful and loved, no matter their gender, and no matter what Google says. Besides, do you really want to explain your search history?
Click here for a family internet use contract, and follow these tips to limit your child’s screen time, and your own.
Image: Mother on tablet computer via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
Babies and kids on Facebook. Some people can’t get enough, while others wish those little mugs and pudgy fingers would stay off the site. So, what’s okay and what’s not when it comes to showcasing your family online? I think most of my friends do it right: They don’t flood my feed with their progeny, but the few kiddo pics they do post make my heart happy. I mean, who doesn’t love scrolling past chubby cheeks, teddy bear love, and teeny tiny shoes after a day at the office? Plus, children are a big part of any parent’s life, and I think it’s cool when moms and dads want to share something so precious with the world.
That said, sometimes, some of you out there (no names!) have posted a few not-so-cool photos of your kids. Photos that, well, shouldn’t be posted of anyone, regardless of age. The top three offending images (to me, at least!) are:
1. Spit up. While I’m sorry that your baby just ruined your work outfit, I’d also like you to pause and think about why you’re changing that outfit. So nobody sees it, right? Because even though spit up is totally natural and normal, it’s also kind of gross, right? So, yeah. Don’t post it for everyone in your network to see.
2. Toilet training. Why, why, why people ever think this is okay, I have no idea. As much as I might adore you and your child, let’s face it, I would prefer to never watch either of you do your business. Let’s leave that behind closed doors. Plus, on a more important level than the gross-out factor, is the fact that the images that you post online will live forever. That means that when Junior is a teenager, and his friends do an image search for him, this very personal moment just might come up. Is that fair to your kid? I’d argue no.
3. Obvious illness. I totally get why you might ask your Facebook community for advice on dealing with a sick kid, but posting photos of said kid is going a step too far. I simply cannot understand the impulse to share pics of feverish, flu-ridden children on Facebook, unless it’s for attention or pity–which is something you probably shouldn’t be using your little ones for in the first place. Here’s the thing. I don’t know a single adult who would purposefully share (or allow someone else to share) a photo of themselves looking flushed, exhausted, and generally unwell. We want people to see us at our best, and I’d think that if your child had a choice in the matter, they would feel the same way.
Which brings me to the whole ethical dilemma of whether or not it’s okay to post pictures of children on Facebook at all. In fact, the same question was posed just last week in the New York Times, when a reader asked whether or not sharing a baby’s image was a violation of the wee one’s privacy. It’s a complicated issue, but I’m leaning toward the kids on this one. When Facebook came around, I was already well into my 20s, and at least partially aware of what it meant to have an online presence. I have friends who still to this day aren’t on Facebook at all because they’re private people and don’t want everybody up in their business. To each their own. But when you share pictures of your child, you’re making that online decision for her, before she has the ability to think for herself or understand the concept of privacy in the first place.
I’m not condemning the occasional milestone snapshot or the obligatory newborn pic to announce baby’s arrival—but I truly question “tagging” kids, sharing intimate moments (I consider anything involving nudity or bodily fluids pretty intimate!), or creating individual Facebook pages in their name. Everyone knows that a parent’s love for their child can be matched by no other—and it’s obvious that all of this Facebook sharing comes from excitement and adoration—but part of what it means to love a child is to recognize that although she is (and will forever be) your baby, she is also her own person with her own life ahead of her, and her own important decisions to make.
Besides, wait a few years and you’ll probably want to cut back her online presence, anyway!
So, Moms? Dads? Are you guilty of posting any of the three worst Facebook photos? Do you also wonder where the line is when it comes to kids and social media? Whether you agree with me or think I’m overthinking this, let me know in the comments.
Image of a father taking Facebook photos of his kid via Shutterstock.
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