On Digital Parenting Fear, Part #2 – We Must Know More About Kids’ Digital Lives

fear-riskIn our connected world unfamiliar activities make adults worry about kids, and violent and exploitative events, some connected to the digital world, make us fear for our children’s safety. This past week two events, a 13-year-old’s ruthless murder that was associated with online app interactions and a Wall Street Journal article, Cyberthieves Have a New Target: Children, made many of us wonder, once again, whether the digital world is degrading the quality of our lives.

Cybertheives PM

For me the week reinforced the importance of parents understanding what their children are up to on digital devices. It’s a serious responsibility, it requires enormous time and energy, and we cannot hire outside experts to do it for us. The work requires every parenting skill that we’ve ever developed and more, and if you are not up to it you need to consult a parent education organization, such as the Parenting Encouragement Program (PEP) in my area, that offers training to parents. Continue reading

On Digital Parenting Fear, Part #1 – What Risks Should We Worry About the Most?

When we teach and interact with digital kids about their hyper-connected lives, I wish we could de-emphasize the fear factor and re-emphasize education and understanding, helping young users become stronger digital world problem-solvers. While monitoring, learning, and guiding, we also need to be sure to help kids, develop the antennae to identify and avoid a range of online problems — not just the big ones.

fear risk

Image made at Festisite.

A day doesn’t go by without hearing an adult comment about children’s digital world risks, and invariably these conversations focus on predators, strangers, pornography, cyber-bullying and even the death of a child. In the area where I live, a grievous and tragic even is unfolding as I edit this post.

My concern as an educator is that my students, without fail, noted how important it was to be aware of the frightening situations. Their deep concern about potentially horrible Internet encounters — events that do not occur nearly as often as the mainstream media imply — obscured for many of them, the importance of many other interactive problems that happen on a daily basis to digital kids — misjudgments, miscommunications, and daily social events gone awry. It’s these problems, often the result of minor online misjudgments or typically adolescent missteps that regularly cause  public humiliation and embarrassment, and such events wreak havoc on a child’s and a family’s daily life.       Continue reading

Electronics Tutorial Helps Parents & Teachers Gain Deeper Understanding

Click on this icon at the top left of the webpage to access the tutorial.

Click on this icon at the top left of Paul Mirel’s webpage to access the tutorial.

As exciting makerspaces spring up all over the place, I wonder how much attention is given to leveling the makerspace playing field in order to ensure that everyone in a 21st Century group, class, or school community has the basic knowledge for exploring and innovating.

Take understanding basic electricity, for instance. At a conference that I attended last year — an amazing event filled with countless  maker opportunities —  some people seemed to understood electricity’s basics and lots of others did not. The people without the knowledge, the “have-nots,” frequently appeared to lurk on the periphery of projects.

A friend and former colleague, physics teacher Paul Mirel, recently developed an introductory electronics tutorial for his art students at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, MD. It’s written in a way that is easy to understand and also easy to follow. He thinks that his students need an elementary understanding of basic electronics if they are to fine tune their maker skills. Check it out!               Continue reading

Talking about Privacy & Digital Footprints In Grades 7-12

footpathOver the past couple of years, I’ve heard middle and high school kids say that they are sick-and-tired of hearing about their digital footprints — with many exclaiming that they already know what they need to know. My thought? They understand how they make digital footprints, but they don’t always make good decisions when it comes to avoiding the not-so-good digital trails.

What older students — those in late middle and high school — need is a reframed conversation, one that does not focus exclusively on what they do, focusing instead on the broad and complex issue of 21st Century privacy. Continue reading

Traditional Toys, Electronic Toys, and Language Development

Lego blocks for early childhood playing, conversing, and learning.

Lego blocks for early childhood playing and learning.

In December I read an article about a study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics describing how different types and amounts of parent/child speech interactions during infant play may increase or decrease, depending on the type of toys that the child uses.

The new research, though conducted on a small sample of participants, finds an association between talking electronic toys and and reduced parent/child interaction during playtime, and the results add to an existing body of literature that observes how electronic toys affect a child’s language development.

In her article, Association of the Type of Toy Used During Play With the Quantity and Quality of Parent-Infant Communication, (abstract) researcher Anna V. Sosa, PhD. discusses her research, carried out with 26 parent and older infant pairs (dyads). The article is not too difficult to read, but it is available only at a library with access to the journal. Continue reading

National Library of Medicine Learning Resources for Young Learners

Amazing resources for young learners at The National Library of Medicine!

Amazing resources for young K-12 learners at The National Library of Medicine!

Check out The National Library of Medicine (NLM) resources for K-12 education, including a number of games. The library is a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and also  has an excellent weekly podcast on a wide range of topics.