4 Axioms of Digital Life

four axioms

I keep thinking that grown-up politicians and celebrities will stop humiliating themselves when they use digital media.

But then another event occurs, and I am reminded that a good number of adults, just like many kids, have not absorbed four primary fundamentals or axioms of digital life.

  • Nothing is completely private.
  • Nothing can ever be totally erased — even when an app or site that says that it will disappear.
  • Nothing put online anonymously will necessarily stay that way.
  • Nothing personal should be communicated online if it cannot become public.

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When Digital and Social Media Combine With Crisis

Moderation. Even with the best intentions, the decisions we make each day about what to do and how to live become more complex as our digital lives expand. Yet making choices about when and how long to stay connected could not be more important for us, and during times when a tragedy grips the country or the world, our connection choices become even more important.

moderationNow I spend a considerable time on my blogs and at my job encouraging parents, kids, and teachers to embrace digital life while also choosing to pursue plenty of offline activities. Making choices about what to do and not to do is especially critical when children live in the house, but all of us should pay attention to the length of time we spend in the digital world.

Choosing does not necessarily mean avoiding long periods of connected time if we are learning or accomplishing something significant (and yes, a game can count). Good choices, however, keep us from wasting time and from missing valuable face-to-face interactions.

I am usually pretty good at moderating my time online — at least I was until the bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon. After that tragic event, and for the ensuing six days I’ve not been able to disconnect myself for very long. My husband is a lifelong runner who loves the Marathon, though he’s never run it, but two friend were in this race, so we immediately tried to find more information about them. Moreover, my daughter works at one of the teaching hospitals in Boston.

Digital Mod

So all week-long I could not disconnect from the digital coverage. I checked three newspapers (Washington Post, New York Times, Boston.com) several times a day, added a slew of new Twitter feeds (#BostonMarathon #Marathon #CambridgePolice @Boston_Police, #Boston), and used Public Radio apps on my phone and iPad to listen to Boston radio programs, especially WBUR. (Note: One of my middle school students, a confident 21st Century learner, asked me why I wasn’t using the Public Radio app to listen everywhere I went.) Every day this week I’ve made a final iPhone news check just before going to bed and grabbed my mobile again as soon as I have awakened. I even listened during exercise.

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Spring Clean Your Digital Profile

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Download the document at A Platform for Good.

The idea of spring cleaning each individual’s digital profile is terrific — something for parents and teachers to do themselves and then share with children.

Just like we tidy up our homes and our gardens in March, April and May, it’s a good time to put our digital domiciles on the to-do list. Paying attention to the upkeep of our digital footprints and devices allows us to clean up and polish online images and minimize potential problems on our devices and gadgets. In the process we learn a lot about ourselves, but also about the details that others can learn about us online.

So check out the Family Online Safety Institute’s (FOSI) digital life spring cleaning mini-poster over at the organization’s newish web space, A Platform for GoodFOSI designed A Platform for Good as an informational site that helps  parents, teachers, and teens connect, share, and do good online.  The website’s about page shares this thought about its mission:

Our vision for A Platform for Good is to start a dialogue about what it means to participate responsibly in a digital world. While recognizing the potential risks, we will celebrate technology as a vehicle for opportunity and social change.

The clean-up-your-digital-life mini-poster, available by link or download, asks each of us take some time to dust off our online lives. Suggestions include ensuring that our passwords are strong, Googling ourselves to see what comes up from a search, and examining our devices to be sure that they are secure and up-to-date. The Platform for Good document also encourages individuals — adults and children — to evaluate the privacy settings on any social network accounts (many adults and children reside on these sites as if they are second homes or at least daily digital playgrounds).

So why should we go through this process?          Continue reading

What to Say to Kids After We Are Saturated With Horrific Images

MD Momma

Check out helpful links for parents are at the end of this column.

We are all still reeling from the explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

For parents of digital kids, who with their children take all-the-time media access for granted, the greatest challenge is to figure out how to moderate what their youngsters see and hear in the days immediately following an event. It’s especially difficult because adults often want to be updated continuously by media resources.

Here’s a Boston Globe article with suggestions about how parents can help children feel safer and more secure after frightening events. Written by pediatrician Claire McCarthy for her MD Mama column, the piece also offers links to additional resources on parenting after scary, media saturated events. Dr. McCarthy reminds parents that they can get their updates from smartphones and laptops rather than keeping a radio or television turned on.

shooting tips quote

This graphic links to the MGH article.

 Best Quote

        “…as parents, we don’t get the luxury of processing and dealing separately from our children.”

Massachusetts General Hospital, where many injured people were taken, has posted How to Talk to Kids Following the Boston Marathon Tragedy, including the excellent graphic on the left. 

You might also find it helpful to read blog posts, one that I wrote after the 2011 tsunami in Japan, Media Literate Disaster Discussions Balance Concern With Hope, and another, Talking to Children About the News.

Resources for parents and educators are also available at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) website.

Parents Ask to Turn Off Movie: Cabin Crew Calls It a Security Risk?

I received this description about an unfortunate experience of a family traveling by commercial airline from the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (CCFC), a not-for-profit children’s policy group that addresses and seeks to stop kids’ exposure to for-profit and exploitative commercial and media images. 

The parents in the story below were attempting to prevent their children from seeing violent images in the movie, Alex Cross, playing on the movie monitors — a perfectly sensible thing for parents of today’s digital kids to do. Common Sense Media offers this review of Alex Cross.

Click to get more information about CCFC.

Click to get more information about CCFC.

Seems like pretty poor customer service training and extreme lack of judgement on the part of the airline crew, if this type of request represents a security breach. The family had to waste time going through the ordeal of interrogation by law enforcement authorities in Chicago — authorities who, in turn, wasted their time questioning parents who were merely trying to protect their children from exposure to violent images. This took valuable time away from the real work of these law enforcement professionals — protecting us from violent criminals, but maybe the airline crew forgot this.

Here’s the story from CCFC.              Continue reading

9 Suggestions to Help Families Think About Digital Device Moderation

Designed using images from the Apple website.

Designed using images from the Apple website.

I love my iPhone and iPad, and I cannot do many things without them. For children under 13, however, use time should be carefully monitored by each family. Kids today are playing independently with powerful devices, and they — the devices and the children — are not intended to interact in isolation and for long periods without adult supervision.

An article that provides food for thought, Your Phone Verses Your Heart, appeared in the March 23, 2013 New York Times. Also, check out the American Academy of Pediatrics media resources — the pediatricians are making recommendations because they know what they are talking about.

Just today I asked a group of device-savvy fifth graders, most around age 10, if they know anything about SnapChat, the app that deletes pictures in one to ten seconds (leaving plenty of time for a recipient with poor judgement to take a screen shot and save the photo). Just about every hand went up. During a lesson a few months ago I asked them how many of them know how to make a screenshot — and they can all do it in a lot less than ten seconds. Read my SnapChat review here.

A Few Social Media Supervision Suggestions            Continue reading

Beauty Contests? What Will It Take for Us to Really Lead Our Digital Kids?

socialmediakidsIt is a truth universally acknowledged that whenever a new technology feature comes into vogue, children and adolescents come into possession of digital skills in want of copious adult tutelage.

Or at least this should be universally acknowledged.

Just now, in my part of the world, we are in the midst of an Instagram beauty contest phase. Interestingly, however, parents and educators who have spent the past 10 years connected in any way to the teen-tween digital world will recognize that, at a minimum, this is actually beauty contest 3.0.

I recall two other student beauty contest episodes, each occurring on a different digital playground. Initially they appeared on make-your-own websites, then on MySpace. Now we have Instagram.

As I said the other morning to a concerned mom, behaviors get recycled each time a neat new whiz-bang digital opportunity emerges. Typical kid behavior gets paired with a powerful app, but mostly without benefit of that adult tutelage referred to above. Also, kids love contests so it’s natural that the idea comes up.

Children are growing up in two worlds. Families and schools now have two childhood environments to supervise —  face-to-face and the digital — and kids are learning and playing in two places, irrevocably intertwined. School and home guidance acclimate children mostly to the face-to-face world, assuming that the lessons automatically carry over to digital endeavors. They don’t.

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