Posts Tagged ‘ Twitter ’

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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Would You Buy an “Anatomically Correct” Doll for Your Child?

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Most dolls lack human-like genitalia

When I was a kid, I loved nothing more than playing with dolls. I spent hours dreaming up storylines, acting out their lives, and of course, dressing and undressing them for various social engagements. I don’t recall ever wondering why my boy dolls and my girls dolls looked the same with their pants off. I think I knew that males and females had somewhat different engineering, but when it came to my toys, I didn’t question them. Naturally, I was surprised when I saw a real baby boy getting his diaper changed and realized there were some significant differences from Ken.

Should kids learn about anatomy from their dolls? Or should they be shielded from it until they’re “old enough”? (And when is “old enough”?) These questions came up last week when Toys R Us’s You & Me Mommy Change My Diaper Doll got a swarm of media attention for, well, having a penis. Anatomically correct dolls are hardly new — check out this vintage advertisement for Baby Wee Wee — but media reports claimed parents were shocked by them. Based on reactions on Twitter though, it seems most people were outraged by the alleged outrage.

At least one tweeter didn’t think it was suitable for children…

Interestingly, the female version of Toys R Us’s You & Me Mommy Change My Diaper Doll hasn’t gotten much attention.

Would you buy an anatomically correct doll for your child? Why or why not? Should it have a warning on it? Sound off in the comments!

What's Your Parenting Style?
What's Your Parenting Style?
What's Your Parenting Style?

 Images: Gender neutral baby doll. (Shutterstock), Others: screenshots from Twitter 


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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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7 Things Kids Should Never Share on Social Media (or You May Lose $80,000)

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Social media icons on iPhoneWe all know today’s tweens and teens are prone to oversharing every aspect of their lives on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram — and even adults are guilty of oversharing — but in the case of one young woman, college undergrad Dana Snay, her overshare accidentally cost her family thousands of dollars.

When Snay’s dad, a former headmaster at Gulliver Preparatory School, sued his former employer for age discrimination and won an $80,000 settlement, Snay couldn’t resist posting this cheeky Facebook update: “Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”

Her careless post started a domino effect: it was seen by other Gulliver students (in her network of 1,200 friends) and eventually made its way back to the school’s attorneys, who reported it back to the ruling judge, who then revoked the settlement. Even though the court stipulated that it was Snay’s parents who couldn’t talk about the case, her Facebook status still violated the confidentiality agreement.

Obviously, Snay was old enough to know better than to boast about something better kept private, but her mistake highlights our society’s addiction to social media and to oversharing (and oversharenting). Our constant need to be plugged in can lead us to weaken our sense of privacy and diminish our better judgment. So as your children being spending more time on social media, start teaching them the things they should never reveal (on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram)…no matter how tempting. Even if they have exclusive “friends only” settings on their social accounts, remind them to avoid sharing the info below for privacy and safety reasons.

1. Personal IDs. This seems like a no-brainer, but teach kids not to type social security numbers, credit card numbers, and account passwords of any kind (email, social media, bank) in any messages. They should also not share photos or videos that show credit cards in them. You can never be too careful…especially when child identity theft can be prevented.

2. Mailing/home address. Street View on Google Maps is just a few clicks away. (And no one wants a repeat Bling Ring situation.) And tell your kids to avoid posting photos or videos of the house (or selfies with the house in the background), especially with street signs in prominent view. And be careful about Foursquare, especially if you don’t want too many people to know where your kids are at certain times.

3. Medical history. There have been amazing stories of kids being diagnosed and saved through Facebook, but like personal IDs, medical information (e.g. specific conditions, diseases, and allergies) should be kept private. You never know what people may do with the info — child identity theft can also occur with medical records.

4. Specific vacation days. Sure, your kids may be excited about going to Disney World or Hawaii, but it’s probably best to avoid posting status updates that say, “Can’t wait to see Mickey in two weeks!”, or posting photos with the caption, “I can’t believe I’m in Hawaii right now!”. Don’t let others know when your house will be or is empty. Instead, encourage your kids to post photos and share stories after the vacation is over.

5. Problems with other people at home or school. It’s easy to vent about some annoying parent, sibling, friend, teacher, etc., online but you never know who will see a Facebook or Twitter status and be hurt. It may be hard, but it’s best to wait and talk to someone in person (whether it’s venting to an objective person or confronting the problem person). Embarrassment will be nixed and online fights and dramas will be avoided. Personal problems won’t drag on…and on.

6. Improper photos or videos. These include any photos and videos that can be misconstrued or misinterpreted, including ones showing nudity or risqué looks, hard partying, smoking, drinking, drugs, etc. Basically anything that show your kids in compromising situations. And have your kids ask their friends (and vice versa) to grant permission before any photos or videos are posted and tagged.

7. Sensitive information attached to a court case. Obviously, don’t do what Snay did. If your family is involved in or going to be involved in any court case, instruct your child not to reveal anything (even in person) before, during, or after the case…no matter the outcome. After all, no one wants two sentences, 140 characters, or a photo or video to be the cause of unhappiness (like, um, losing money) and unwanted media attention.

Tell us: What will you teach your kids not to share on social media?

Use our family internet-use contract to keep your kid’s digital interactions under control.

Digital Devices and Children
Digital Devices and Children
Digital Devices and Children

Image: Popular social media icons on iPhone via Shutterstock

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