Wednesday, May 1st, 2013
With the online world changing at such a rapid pace, one of the challenges that parents face is keeping up with the digital age that their kids are growing up in. Amy Lupold Bair is former English teacher turned blogger and social media marketer as well as a mother of two elementary aged children whose familiarity of the online space and experience in raising her own digital kids led her to write Raising Digital Families.
In the book, Bair writes,“The technology that your children and their friends use daily may be unfamiliar to you. Even if you dive right into technology as quickly as your children do, you may not be aware of how your children experience the same platforms and devices. You also may not be familiar with the challenges and dangers associated with these technologies— dangers that are often unique to them.”
Available online or found in the technology section of your local bookstore, Raising Digital Families is a handy reference guide for parents who are weighing the pros and cons of bringing various devices into their homes, allowing kids to play online games, allowing the use of social media as their teen turns 13, and how to ensure they remain safe. Raising Digital Families is a must-have parenting book for families with kids of all ages especially due to development of more educational apps and games for toddlers.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Bair and our conversation covered how to being conversations with kids about digital topics, the way she manages screen time in her home, personal concerns about her kids being online, and what’s next for her.
Tech Savvy Parents (TSP): Sometimes parents shy away from talking about difficult topics and things they feel they don’t know much about. Your book is a great resource and starting point for parents to educate themselves but in your opinion, what’s the best way to start discussions about topics like screen time, cyberbullying, and online safety?
Amy Lupold Bair (ALB): I think that if parents start by asking their kids to share what they know about each of the digital topics covered in the book, they’ll be surprised at how willing most kids are to take the lead in getting the entire family on the same page. Topics like cyberbullying and online safety are the native language of the current generation of kids, all of them digital natives. They’ve heard about them in school and in the media. It is only fitting that they should also discuss these topics at home and be provided with parameters and support by their parents.
TSP: You’re raising digital kids. How do you balance screen time and other activities in your own house?
ALB: We set strict screen time limits from birth, so my kids have fortunately grown up expecting rules use of digital devices. There are some devices that are only able to be used on the weekend, which helps carve out time during the week for after school activities, homework, and outside play. For example, we have a policy in our home called Wii Wiikends, so the kids know that they can only play Wii games from Friday night through Sunday. We also try to suggest and encourage specific physical and outdoor activities at the same time that we ask for devices to be turned off and put away. Sometimes replacing one activity with another is easier than just asking kids to stop what they are doing.
TSP: As a parent, what is your biggest concern about your kids being online?
ALB: I know that many parents are concerned about issues such as cyberbullying, online predators, and identity theft, but my biggest concern online is loss of innocence. We’ve worked hard to protect our children from inappropriate content in television and movies, but the Internet provides kids with access to thousands of unsavory sites with just one misplaced click. Thankfully there are enough safe search tools and rules within our family to protect our kids from everything from unfortunate Google Image search results to inappropriate suggested video links at the end of YouTube content.
TSP: In your opinion, what are the top three things that all parents should know about raising digital families?
This is a tough one!
- I think parents should know that anything sent digitally, whether through text or posted online, can NOT be taken back. Apps like Snapchat promise a share and delete, but it only takes a moment for someone to capture a screenshot of the image on their phone’s screen.
- I think parents should also know that their children are likely being exposed to more technology than they realize. There’s a section in Raising Digital Families For Dummies that talks about hidden screen time including computer use in the classroom, handing your child your phone in the doctor’s waiting room, playing video games at a friend’s house and more. When parents sit down to create rules and set parameters, they need to look honestly at their children’s typical day.
- Finally, I think parents need to know that even if they feel like they can’t stay on top of everything, they should still dive in and start somewhere. They may be surprised at how manageable a digital family can be!
TSP: You’re an English teacher turned, blogger and social media marketer, and now a published author. What’s next for you?
ALB: Right now the focus in on spreading the word to parents of digital natives that tools are available to them, including those listed in Raising Digital Families For Dummies. The next project is heading up the latest revision of Blogging For Dummies later this year!
Teenager and woman listening to music with smartphone via Shutterstock
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
As parents, there are topics that we need to address with our kids that are scary—scary for us to think about, scary to have conversations about, and scary for them as it means potential loss of innocence and childhood. Usually involving personal safety, discussions about these topics begin with our young children as we teach them to look both ways when crossing the street and about stranger safety then progressing to more age appropriate topics involving friendships, online safety, and cyberbullying.
But what about underage drinking? It’s certainly another safety topic that needs to address but if you think that your kids are too young, think again.
According to The Century Council, statistics show that nearly 10 million youths ranging in age from 12-20 report they have consumed alcohol in the past 30 days. Charged with providing information and developing programs that delay consumption of alcohol, prevent underage drinking, and reduce the access to alcohol by minors, The Century Council believes in parents being proactive by starting “the conversation at an early age and continue talking as they grow up.”
How do you be proactive and provide the tools your kids need to make good decisions? Parents weigh in.
Talk about it in an age appropriate way by framing the conversation about a healthy lifestyle.
Being proactive begins at a young age as we talk to kids about living a healthy lifestyle. Even though Grace Duffy from Formerly Gracie admits that her kids are so little that the “topic of underage drinking is still abstract” she frames it in a way that they understand. Not only does she limit their juice intake but has talks about what a grown up drink is versus a kid drink and incorporates nutrition and body chemistry.
Seize teachable moments
We know kids are observant and even when they appear to not be paying attention, they are. The Century Council’s Ask, Listen, Learn Brochure for Parents encourages taking advantage of daily opportunities. Perhaps there will be an article in the newspaper or a comment made about a friend that can serve as a springboard to conversation. Abby Hoffman is a mom of a third grader and high schooler and shared the following advice, “Most importantly, talk with your teen. Be involved in their life to a certain extent.”
Demonstrate your support
Talk the talk and then walk the walk. As parents, our kids need to know they can rely on us without getting in trouble or being judged harshly, especially when it comes to dangerous situations. Forbes contributor, Jim Henry, recalled a time when he was stranded after a rock concert in a bad part of Boston after midnight. He had to call his father to make a two hour round trip to bring him home but remembered his dad “never said one word of complaint and I was so grateful.” Author and blogger, Jennifer Wagner of Connect with Your Teens, echoed Henry by saying “the worst thing is for them to be scared to call when they are in a dangerous situation.”
Mom of 4 and Musings from Me founder, Jill Berry, encourages her kids to call her whenever they’re in a situation where alcohol is being served to minors because she “doesn’t want them at a gathering at someone’s home where alcohol is being served” even if the host parents are “supervising.”
But how do you give your child an out what could be a very uncomfortable situation? Father of three, Gabe Gonzales, remembered attending a talk by the Washington, D.C. based Parent Encouragement Program where he learned the importance of having a pre-arranged code word or phrase to use when they’re in an environment they don’t like. Gonzales described the benefit saying, “they can call you in front of their friends without losing face in front of them. So, for example, they could say to you- the parent- over the phone “I’ll finish that laundry tomorrow,” which would lead you to “demanding” that they come home right now” and provides a way for them to be picked up without embarrassment.
If necessary, provide concrete examples.
While shock and awe tactics may not be the best way to start a conversation about underage drinking, showing real life consequences to teens who may be tempted to imbibe are certainly memorable. Three parents reminisced about experiences that exposed them to horrors of underage drinking that they remember to this day:
“Every child should have a mother like mine. One that will take you to the morgue and show you what happens when you drink and drive and how it applies to real life.” ~ Lisa Frame, A Daily Pinch
“In high school we had helicopter pilots come in to talk to use prior to Prom Week and every accident they showed us was underage drinking by high school students. Some of the parents complained that the images were too graphic but they certainly had their place in getting the message across.” ~Rebecca Cervoni, Washington, D.C. parent of 2
“When I covered courts in Nashville, Tennessee, a surprising number of parents took their teenagers to Night Court on Friday nights to see what happens when you get arrested for DUI.” ~ Jim Henry, New York City based freelance writer
Teenagers enjoying drinks together via Shutterstock
Thursday, April 25th, 2013
When I was pregnant with our first child almost ten years ago, my mom was astounded to learn of all the new baby products on the market but at the time, the most high tech device we registered for was a baby monitor. Fast forward to the present and technological advances make it possible to share 3D images of your baby in utero with your social networks, charge your cell phone while out for a stroll, and pull up video feeds of your napping child on your smartphone.
As families make decisions about what types of devices are best for them, here are some of the new advances that tech savvy soon-to-be-parents might want to consider.
These days your baby’s social media footprint begins as soon as you announce your pregnancy via Facebook and BeBe Vu allows new parents to share images and videos of the baby in utero with family and friends via social media networks. Baylor Medical Center, Boulder Community Hospital, and Novant Health along with 400 local OBGYN offices now offer BeBeVu ultrasound. Interested parents whose OB offices already have BeBe Vu and can socially share a peek at their bun in the oven for the added cost of $29.
Once your baby is born, it’s important to keep an eye on them all the time. The audio monitors from a decade ago have been replaced by tech savvy video monitors. The Samsung Wi-Fi Video Baby Monitor connects to your router so you can monitor the feed from your smartphone, tablet, desktop, or laptop computer. Download the plugin to your desktop machine or laptop and you can watch a live stream of the action captured by the Samsung Wi-Fi Video Baby Monitor. Buttons on the screen allow you to record clips, upload them to a personal YouTube account, capture photos on Picasa, and even Tweet. While it’s a great thing to be able to access a live feed from inside your home while at work or as a security camera that keeps an eye on your house when on vacation, it’s also important to be mindful about what you’re sharing and posting online that could jeopardize your personal privacy.
To transport your tech savvy one, invest in the 4 Moms Origami Stroller. This self charging stroller features push button power folding, daytime running lights, pathway lights, and a LCD dashboard. IF that wasn’t enough, the dashboard displays a thermometer, speedometer, USB charging cable accessories, trip and lifetime odometers for you to keep track of how many miles you’ve pushed your stroller. It also has more standard features like adjustable reclining seat, cup holder, a peek-a-boo, window and lots of storage. This stroller would be great for tech savvy urban parents.
If you still have some items left to add to your baby registry but can’t decide what to get, SunnyBump helps new and expecting parents by bringing them together in one spot to share favorite product recommendations. This visual based community serves as an online resource to help parents figure out the best gear and share what they love with others through shared lists called bumps that provide recommendations from friends about baby and kid essentials. For parents who don’t know where to start or loved ones looking for the perfect gifts, the collections tool is a helpful feature of curated favorites of SunnyBump staffers.
Pregnant woman working on a laptop via Shutterstock
Sunday, April 21st, 2013
Earth Day is a great annual reminder to reduce, reuse, and recycle, but our commitment to being green should mean being eco-friendly each and every day. We recycle plastic bottles, aluminum cans, newspapers, but what do you do with your digital devices when you’re done with them?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), only 18% of the 2.25 million tons of TVs, cell phones, and computer products were collected for recycling. 82% were disposed of in landfills. Rather than throwing away devices, e-cycle them.
Did you know that for every million cell phones recycled, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered? Often times mobile phones are in good working order when a user decides to upgrade to a new one.
Giving your phone to your child is a great way to recycle it in an earth-friendly way depending on their age but if you’re looking to get some money back, AT&T allows customers to trade in old wireless phones and tablets. For every qualifying device returned through AT&T’s Trade In Program, customers receive an AT&T Promotion Card whose value can offset the price of a new device.
Before you eCycle your mobile phone, here are some tips to remember:
- Turn it off
- Remove your phone’s SIM card
- Erase your address book, photos, messages, and other stored information to safeguard personal information
According to the EPA, recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by more than 3,500 US homes in a year. Laptops tend to have a five year lifespan before they become unbearably slow.
Computers that are in good working order are often sought after by charities who can’t afford to spend money on a new one. Even if your machine seems slow, chances are a local school or organization would be happy to take it off your hands and might be able to give you a donation receipt for next year’s taxes. If you’re looking to recoup some money, local CraigsList is a great way to pass along computers especially since there are often individuals looking for certain makes and models that can no longer be purchased.
If your computer doesn’t work, don’t throw it away! Here are some ideas about what you can do with it after you erase the hard drive and ensure that no personal information is left on it:
- Sell it on eBay. Believe it or not, there’s a market for old computers on eBay thanks to tech savvy individuals who are in search of parts.
- Take it apart. How often do kids get to see the inner workings of a computer? Check out a book from the library or do some online research to learn about the parts inside of a computer and how it works.
If you’re getting rid of an old television, ThinkGreen.com says it probably contains a high amount of lead, making it unsafe for landfills. Check with your city or town to ask about the best way to dispose of it or check the Best Buy website to determine if it can be recycled in store.
Cleaning of old computer equipment for recycling via Shutterstock
Thursday, April 18th, 2013
While we celebrate Earth Day on April 22, there’s never a bad time to start teaching kids about the environment. Young conservations can learn to care for the planet through interactive apps, educational programming on television and DVDs, and age appropriate websites. This guide featuring age appropriate suggestions for toddlers through teens is designed to provide engaging activities for everyon as they learn more about taking care of our planet.
Toddlers and Preschoolers
- Curious George Swings into Spring— From spring fever to spring cleaning, from a canoe ride to a hot air balloon journey, George and his friends get viewers ready to explore the outdoors this Earth Day in a one hour special airing on PBS stations on Monday, April 22. Curious George lovers who want to learn on the go will be interested in knowing that a new online game focusing on natural science concepts such as plant growth and butterfly metamorphosis will launch later this month.
- The Lorax— This interactive storybook app for iOS devices aims to create confident young readers thanks to three different ways that kids can interact with the well known Dr. Seuss classic. Children can choose to have the app auto play the story of The Lorax, have it read to them, or read it themselves as they work to build their reading skills. Words can be highlighted as they are read to help build sight word recognition in young children and kids can interact with the text and pictures with a tap.
- Sid the Science Kid— Through games, video, and printables, toddlers and preschoolers are exposed to a single scientific concept in a fun way. One of the themes is backyard science that encourages curious children to explore the homes of animals such as ants, birds, and squirrels that live outside their door since they serve as the building blocks for entomology, geology, and botany. PBS aligns available web content in order to allow them to learn more in parallel with available television programming.
Early Elementary Ages
- He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands —This DVD begins with a rendition of the American spiritual, “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands” and features a guide for parents and kids with tips on how to be green. Positive messages about diversity and beauty of the world are conveyed through stories like Jane Yolen’s “Owl Moon” that is about a magical, night-time walk through the snowy woods in search of the Great Horned Owl, “Come On, Rain!” an ode to a good, soaking, and the appreciative Thanksgiving address, “Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message.” With environmental issues top of mind, this DVD is perfect for a new generation of eco-conscious kids ages 5 and up.
- Ranger Rick Jr. Appventures: Lions — This story app lets young ones Explore, Create, and Play their way through incredible animal adventures as kids join Ricky Raccoon and his friend, Lars the Lion, on a trip to the African grasslands. Kids discover how lions spend their days, raise their young, and much more through interactive photo stories, engaging games and creative play activities centered around a specific animal.
- Wild Kratts— Brothers Chris and Martin Kratt combine science education with adventure as they teach kids about amazing wild animals through their adventures that feature live action and animation. Early elementary ages are exposed to scientific concepts that are relevant to the animals explored in the 30 minute episode.
- Ranger Rick’s Treehouse — This virtual tree house is packed with clickable animal stories, comic adventures, multi-level games, videos, nature activities and wildlife mysteries around every corner. Children have the incentive to learn by earning badges when the show what they’ve learned!
- National Wildlife Foundation Activity Finder— If you’re tired of hearing the words “I’m bored” from your tween, put them in charge of their learning by having them research nearby activities that will be fun for the family. From geocaching, hikes, and so much more, the Activity Finder suggests a plethora of activities that help families connect with nature.
- DisneyNature Chimpanzee— Families will enjoy sitting down to meet Oscar, a three year old chimpanzee who is orphaned and raised by another chimp through a visually stunning nature documentary filmed in Africa. Children get an inside look at the life of chimpanzees, relationship between those within the community, and their struggle for survival.
Boy embracing globe of world via Shutterstock