Archive for the ‘ Tech Savvy Parents ’ Category

4 Strategies for Talking About Underage Drinking

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

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4 Products for Tech Savvy Parents-to-Be

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

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How to eCycle Unwanted Mobile Phones, Computers, and Televisions

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

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5 Things the Virtual Club Penguin World Teaches Through Online Game Play

Friday, April 12th, 2013

The technology infused world that our children are growing up in includes social interactions that occur in real life and online through virtual worlds and mobile devices. As parents, we’re continually challenged to keep up with the newest forms of technology and methods to teach our kids about safe online behaviors.  One of the best ways to teach kids about appropriate social interactions and social networking in an age appropriate way is through Club Penguin.

With over 200 million kids and their penguins populating the online game, Club Penguin is the most popular virtual world for kids. Often called a social network on training wheels, the game serves as an introduction to the online world for kids ages 6 and above. It also provides a multitude of learning opportunities for children and parents alike. During a recent visit to company headquarters, I received an inside look at this virtual world and discovered five things that children can learn through play in the Club Penguin world.

Online safety— From the start of game play, kids begin learning about online safety as they create their penguin name and avatar. Children can be as creative as they want as they name their penguin but each name is reviewed by a member of the human global moderation team that consists of over 200 people in four locations. Moderators check to ensure that kids aren’t giving up any personally identifying information, such as first or last name and address, in their screen name before being allowed to enter the Club Penguin community.

Creative imaginative play— Club Penguin is a world where kids can be creative and use their imaginations to decorate their igloos with an assortment of items, dress their penguin, and devise creative ways to use the props found in the environment. Chris Heatherly, Vice President of Disney Interactive Worlds (aka Spike Hike in the penguin world), believes “Club Penguin is like a cardboard box. We give kids the tools and let them make the play.” The team spends a lot of time listening to conversations between penguins in the online world to incorporate ideas into the products they make. “Anytime an idea comes from a kid, it’s more powerful than when it comes from us,” says Heatherly.

Empowerment through community— Club Penguin recognizes that kids need a place where they can play and be who they are. Heatherly “encourages kids to be wacky, crazy, be themselves” because “the more YOU you are, the better.” Kids are empowered to express themselves through online game play in a world that’s free of judgment. Creative Lead, Charity Gerbrandt (aka Grasstain), shared Club Penguin  “will love and support you and want you to share your crazy ideas that inspire you.”

Appropriate online behavior- Despite the freedom to be creative, Heatherly recognizes that “kids need to feel safe to have fun.” Heatherly recognizes that kids will be kids and test the boundaries of what is acceptable versus what crosses the line but Club Penguin has a variety of tools in place to ensure safety in the community. Players in the Club Penguin world have the ability to report other penguins for inappropriate behavior with the click of a button on a penguin’s profile. Reports are reviewed by the global moderation team who specializes in pop culture with an eye on trends in music and television to ensure that conversation is appropriate. Reminders about behavior are sent but kids can also be banned from Club Penguin. The first infraction comes with a 24 hour ban, a 72 hour ban for the second, and a lifetime ban for the third.

Charitable giving and social good—  Since Club Penguin was founded in 2005, the company founders have given a percentage of membership fees to charitable projects that help children and families around the world. The company works to empower employees to participate in community projects while Club Penguin inspires kids to make a difference through their Coins for Change campaign. Coins earned during game play can be used personally to purchase items to personalize their igloo, outfit their penguin, take care of their pet puffles or donated through Coins for Change. Kids vote about what causes to support through their coin donations. To date, Club Penguin has donated over $10 million since 2007 to help over 200,000 children and their families each year in over 40 countries around the world. The impact of Coins for Change demonstrates that kids don’t have to wait to be adults to make a difference.  Nicole Rustad, Club Penguin’s Corporate Citizenship Program Director who heads up the Coins for Change, says “we believe that kids can be leaders today and they can change the world through what we do on a daily basis and around the world.”

Club Penguin logo courtesy of Disney Interactive

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Curious about Minecraft? Interview with Minecraft for Dummies’ 16 year old author

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

If you have a tween, chances are you’ve heard about Minecraft. Minecraft is a game that requires using cubes to create or survive in an imaginary world in an online virtual environment where game play occurs individually or collaboratively. Game play can occur in a variety of different ways ranging from on a Mac or PC, on an Xbox, or through the mobile versions available for iOS and Android devices.

If your child has convinced you to purchase Minecraft for them and you’ve watched them play but are feeling a little lost, the new Minecraft for Dummies book can help. Written by 16 year old Jacob Cordeiro, Minecraft for Dummies is a 140 primer on everything you need to know about the virtual world. It’s an easy to read book for kids who want to know more about the game and strategy and also for parents who want to feel more educated about what their kids are doing when they’re playing Minecraft.

Between spring break and high school midterms, I had the opportunity to interview Jacob via email about Minecraft to get his perspective on who the game is most appropriate for, online safety risks that come with playing the multiplayer version, and educational benefits of gaming.

Tech Savvy Parents (TSP): Minecraft seems to be growing in popularity among my daughter’s third grade peers. How old were you when you first started playing and what age do you think Minecraft is most age appropriate for?

Jacob Cordeiro (JC): I think I was 13 when I started seriously playing Minecraft, but I think that it’s an appropriate game for all ages, because there are so many ways to regulate difficulty to your personal skill level.

TSP: For parents who are hesitant to purchase Minecraft, can you describe the educational benefits?

JC: While it doesn’t directly say so, Minecraft is a very educational game both in single player and multiplayer mode; in addition to providing an outlet for creative world-building, it teaches resource management, fundamental economics, theoretical survival skills and even programming. I’ve used it as a building tool for solving math problems, and have employed the “redstone” power system to practice circuitry and logic. Looking back, Minecraft has been a major catalyst for most of my creativity, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.

TSP: What are the benefits and drawbacks of a single player versus a multiplayer game?

JC: Multiplayer mode is also a great social network, allowing players to survive together, trade, duel or simply interact in the same world. While the economics can become more society-oriented, it’s a great way to share your creative universe. In addition, Multiplayer servers can use modifications that allow for massive games of capture the flag, collaborative building or any other game the community can create.

TSP: Are there online safety risks associated with playing with others through the multiplayer game and is there an age you think it’s most appropriate for?

JC: It’s a safe way of sharing data and is appropriate for any age, though younger players might want to set up small worlds with each other rather than logging in to unfiltered public servers.

TSP: Can you speak to the differences of Minecraft as a computer game versus the iPad version? Are there advantages to playing it on a PC versus on a mobile device?

JC: Minecraft also supports platforms such as the Android, iPad and Xbox, with controls that fit the device. The PC version is much more developed, with a vast amount of content, but it’s always interesting to take your worlds to the Xbox, or edit your world on a touchscreen and take it with you on your iPad or Android.

Nature in computerized, day and leaves of the squares via Shutterstock

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