Collaborative Family Digital Activities For Summer 2017

Summer 2017 is here, and as we enjoy family fun, outdoor activities, trips to museums and historical sites, vacations, and all sorts of camps and special programs, it’s also important to discover activities that will help 21st Century children use screen time creatively and wisely.

So with less frenetic schedules and no school, use the summer months to collaborate — that’s parents and kids doing things together. Adults can learn more about the digital whirl that’s such a huge part of young people’s 21st Century lives, and kids can engage in meaningful, creative, and interesting projects — and even have fun working with their parents. The pay-off? Everyone will figure out more about digital life and add variety to the types of digital activities that they typically do.

Below are 12 family digital project summer suggestions — all work best if people work together —  to consider for summer 2017.

Twelve Summer Digital Projects for Families                        Continue reading

What Do You Know About Artificial Intelligence & How It May Affect Your Life?

Ideas about artificial intelligence (AI) have tended to swirl around without offering me much to think about. I use Siri and Hello Google on my iPhone, I’m aware of the increasingly powerful social media algorithms, and I’ve watched, with some interest, the accomplishments of IBM’s Watson. Yet I haven’t really thought much about it.

The developments and decisions made about AI over the next couple of years may well affect our lives and the lives of our descendants. It’s best to get to know a bit about what is going on, especially when it comes to personal privacy, and also to ensure that our children learn about the positive and negative aspects of artificial intelligence.

Over the past several days I’ve read Maureen Dowd’s long and detailed report in Vanity Fair, Elon Musk’s Future Shock, describing the unbridled, and sometimes turbulent Silicon Valley debate about AI. This is the first detailed AI article that I’ve read, and it offers readers much to think about as Dowd circles, again and again, from Elon Musk to other AI researchers who oppose his views and back Musk again. I’ve realized that artificial intelligence is no longer something we see in science fiction movies. It may well affect our health and digital wellness. Continue reading

Without Moderation & Mindfulness Tech Can Diminish Our Personal Lives

Does too much technology, with our smart phones especially,os7iphone-2 interfere with the quality and the personal connections in our lives? Do we concentrate less because of the unceasing demands of our digital devices?

I’ve just finished reading Jonathon Safran Foer’s December 2016 article, Technology is Diminishing Us, and he makes thoughtful points about how, despite the good things that 21st Century digital devices bring to our lives, they can also diminish our daily emotional responses and contemplative experiences. The author reflects, with a personal emphasis, on digital distractions that increasingly disrupt of face-to-face communication, and his ideas connect well with the conclusions that Massachusetts Institution of Technology professor Sherry Turkle shares in her books Alone Together and Reclaiming Conversations, also well worth reading.

Foer, whose essay appeared in The Guardian, notes that early on technological innovations aimed to help people more easily accomplish daily life tasks — telephones replaced letters, answering machines supplemented phone calls, email made communication even easier, and texting easier still. Each change or invention sought to help people communicate more efficiently and effectively (in theory). Yet all this ease of use comes with caveats. The devices that connect us to others almost all of the time and to unlimited information whenever we seek it, have become electronic busybodies, obsessively notifying, alerting, locating, and suggesting (even when we try to turn many of the features off) as we attempt to concentrate, interact with others, and get things done. Most of us do little to stop these interruptions.                       Continue reading

The Screen Time Equation – Crafting Thoughtful Solutions to a Digital Life Dilemma

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What is screen media?

Crafting screen time guidelines for all family members is a great back-to-school undertaking, but coming up with guidance that is fair and equitable requires family members to consider and answer a range of questions.

Devoting beginning-of-the-year time — at home and at school — to examine solutions to the screen time equation will help 21st Century  children find and understand answers to the most challenging question that so many of us ask, “What exactly is screen time?” To help get started the whole family can  listen to a radio program about screen time, a 2015 broadcast on NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show.

Schools can support and collaborate with families by helping students understand the usefulness of non-screen activities, specifying clearly to parents and students the academic expectations for school digital devices at home, and explaining in detail what students are expected to do and use when they complete work online. Refocusing on multitasking (It’s not possible.) is also a good idea as well as stating the school’s commitment to student privacy.         Continue reading

Civility Is Now Devalued — So What Will Adults Do About It?

If there is ever a time to emphasize ideas on civility, commenting, fact-checking, and media literacy, it’s during an election. Children, preadolescents, and teens will learn much during the 2016 presidential campaign just from all the watching. (Read my post The Children are Watching and Seeing, Listening and Hearing.)

Our traditional expectations for civility and ethical behavior are cracking apart right before our eyes.

On the basis of what’s happened at recent political conventions and the beginning of the election season, young people will be witnessing name calling, stereotyping, hateful comments, online hate, and in some cases veiled bodily threats. Kids will hear things on TV at home and on the televisions that are broadcasting in lounges, waiting rooms, doctor’s offices, and everywhere else. They will hear radios broadcasting the news at home and in other peoples’ homes. And, of course, there’s social media.

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Digital Kids & Parents Talk About Technology Rules

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Digital Citizenship Principle for Kids

A recent study, about parents, children and the technology rules that families adopt will be a terrific resource for schools and parent groups to share. Most parts of the research paper are fairly easy to read as are two articles, one from the University of Washington and the other from the University of Michigan. The research findings, with an extra focus on children’s expectations, are full of discoveries and observations that schools may want to share, almost word for word, with the parents of digital kids.

Alexis Hiniker and Julie A. Kientz at the University of Washington and Sarita Y. Schoenebeck at the University of Michigan conducted the study about digital life rules that parents make and enforce and the expectations that digital kids and their parents have of one another. A National Science Foundation research grant supported the academic work.

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Digital Citizenship Principal for Kids

Interestingly, a few years ago I ask my students, after a year of working together, what messages they would give to their parents about the digital world and their parents’ roles. The answers these young people wrote down were so remarkable that I shared the children’s comments in a September 2013 blog post, and I’ve also included some of the posters that my students designed graphic depictions of the digital rules-of-the-road that parents and teachers expect them to uphold.                     Continue reading

Building Habits of Moderation into the Conversation & the Curriculum

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21st Century Vocabulary Words — Moderation

When my brother and I were growing up in the Midwest, my dad had a big sign — about one foot by two feet — with the word MODERATION. The sign sat in the living room, just off the study, so that it was impossible to miss when we were watching television, reading, doing our homework, playing games, eating, and entering or leaving the house. Dad’s goal was for us to think as often as possible about self-regulating and managing what we did each day, even when we were even engaged in a favorite (or not so favorite) activity.

Understanding the importance of moderation is increasingly critical today as we live 21st Century lives that  center on the media and on the digital devices that we — and our children — carry around all day long. Read an earlier post on moderation.

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Check out other posts in this series.

You hear a lot these days about  people eagerly pursuing their passions — which is great — but we don’t hear nearly as much about moderation. Understanding how to moderate and, yes, self-regulate daily activities is a digital world literacy skill for everyone at every age. For each child who cannot disconnect from Minecraft or other video games, there’s an adult, often a parent, who can’t put the phone down while taking a walk with kids or who uses the phone while driving. Everyone needs to learn how to moderate and disengage, and possessing these skills helps people develop digital strength and wellness.                                          Continue reading