7 Questions to Ask Before Sharing Hurricane Sandy Media With Kids

The Pier Before the Storm
Photo by Marti Weston, 2008

Parents and teachers of digital kids should make it a habit to evaluate media for authenticity and reliability rather than automatically sharing dramatic images with children. Evaluating media is a critical 21st Century skill — for adults and children

The other day a friend sent me a link to a storm picture. The image featured a familiar ocean pier with huge waves about to crash onto its farthest end. (The photo at left is the pier long before the storm). While the drama of the image intrigued me, on reflection I was bothered because I could not learn anything about the website that hosted the image. Other than labeling the town and the storm, the photograph offered no other identifying narrative.

With its etherial quality, the image looked as if the pier was superimposed over a dramatic ocean scene — the waves and spray crashing at one end while the rest of the structure was clear without any water or spray obstructions. Moreover, since I was familiar with the location, I could not figure out where the photographer stood to take the picture. Perhaps I was wrong, but since I could not discover anything more about the picture, I decided not to send it to anyone else, and I am not even posting it here.

When a huge emergency like Hurricane Sandy occurs, digital pictures and videos circulate all over the web and via social media. A fair amount of these digital materials mis-represent the situation. To avoid focusing too much on the misrepresentations we need to apply some 21st Century common sense. Continue reading

Hurricane Sandy: Finding Reliable Information That Helps You Learn as Well as Look

When a super storm event like Hurricane Sandy occurs, digital kids and their families get a good, and sometimes sobering opportunity to learn a lot more about the work of journalists — professional and citizen — as well as first responders. Much suffering, as well as amazing feats of service to others, occur during these events, so it’s important to view and consume the most authentic of resources available.

Hurricane Sandy damaged the
Ocean Grove Great Auditorium.
Photo by Paul Goldfinger  and Blogfinger.net. Used with permission.

Lots of Hurricane Sandy coverage can be found in newspapers, blogs, and other social media, offering us opportunities learn together as families — as we share the content about the storm, the terrible damage it caused, and the ways that people responded. Children and adults will also use these resources in the coming days to figure out how to help, and in the process we all strengthen our media literacy skills (important in today’s world) by identifying the best and most reliable sources of information.

The other day I discovered an amazing blog as I searched for coverage of the storm and its effects on Ocean Grove, New Jersey (where I spent many happy summers as a child). Run by Paul Goldfinger and colleagues, Blogfinger.net offers me on-the-scene hurricane reports from the little beach town, so dear to me and my family, and now without its own newspaper.

Blogfinger — I discovered it thanks to my cousin, also know as Sandy — turned out to be a terrific resource. It has solid  information, great pictures, and well-written narrative. The picture to the right, shows the damage to the Great Auditorium, a structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and a place where I’ve attended dozens of worship services and concerts. You can check out many other Ocean Grove photographs at the Blogfinger site.

One does not need to look far, however, to find examples of unreliable sources.                 Continue reading

9 Family Digital Citizenship Tips: Back-to-School Reading #5

The beginning of a school year is a good time for families to set limits, explain rules, and in general, clarify expectations about technology use. Getting started in the fall, when everyone is off to a new grade and a fresh beginning, encourages healthy tech habits.

Depending on the age of your children, you may want to accomplish some or even all of the tasks on this list, encouraging everyone to think responsibly and become committed digital citizens.

Nine Back-to-School Technology Tasks

1. Place computers in central, well-traveled locations — away from bedrooms and private spaces.

2. Be sure adults, not children, are administrators on the computers and devices in your  home — including laptops and other digital devices.

3. Print and post rules and expectations next to each computer. Specify the times when you do not want your children using computers. Emphasize that your family rules are in effect when children go to a friend’s house. Share my digital citizenship poem that highlights issues to consider. Continue reading

Is Your Child Starting Middle School? A Cell Phone is Fun, but It’s Not a Toy

Download the phone contract PDF.

It’s May and every year at this time I work extensively with fifth graders on podcasts and other multimedia projects. Each year the students’ conversations drift toward their anticipation of sixth grade, middle school … and new cell phones. A connection exists, in their minds, between the first year of Middle School and getting the all-important digital accessory. Actually the kids feel it’s an accessory, but their parents consider it a lifeline — something to keep them connected to their children whenever it’s necessary (and sometime when it isn’t that necessary).

A good getting-started article to read is the New York Times piece, When to Buy Your Child a Cell Phone, written by reporter Stephanie Olsen in June 2010. While quite a few children now have cell phones in sixth grade, a few parents prefer to wait to purchase a child’s phone for a year or so beyond the start of Middle School. Common Sense Media’s cell phone page provides lots of helpful information for parents, including a short video to assist with the decision-making process. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Healthy Children website also has an article, Cell Phones, What’s the Right Age?

Continue reading

Conversations About Commenting

If you have ever written a comment at the end of an article or blog posting, you have surely read more than a few inappropriate and sometimes distasteful remarks. Sometimes people leave these comments anonymously. Posted by folks who do not understand why websites invite visitors to share thoughts and ideas, many unfiltered remarks are permanently attached to websites — indiscretions waiting for the whole world to discover.

Read a short post and watch a video on newspaper comments, uploaded by the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard. Some newspapers sites, such as the Boston Globe, post a short and succinct comment policy.

Helping your child avoid public website blunders is one reason to discuss commenting etiquette. Often children don’t know or forget that their comments leave a digital footprint trail that will last much longer than their per-adolescent and even teenage years.  Often confusion arises because many children first encounter commenting opportunities in places where adult supervision is scarce. As a result an impulsive idea can beat out good common sense even when a child knows better. Bottom line — response and commenting areas are not places to leave nasty, rude, and hateful conversation.

Continue reading

Common Sense Media – Protecting Kids’ Privacy

Click to Visit Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media (CSM) is an advocacy group that I’ve noted a number of times on this blog. The group promotes media education rather than censorship and hands-on parent connections with their children’s media lives. President Obama mentioned CSM in his presidential campaign, lauding the organization’s “sanity not censorship” mission.

Currently Common Sense Media is focusing on privacy and kids with its Protect Our Privacy – Protect Our Kids campaign. The six goals of this effort, to which I’ve added a bit of additional explanation, include: Continue reading

The Power of Instant Images, Part II: 8 Ideas to Safeguard A Personal Image

Taking Digital Photos

Guidelines to Help Avoid Misunderstandings and Unintended Consequences

  1. Ask if it is OK to take a person’s picture, especially in unconventional settings.
  2. If you snap a picture of another individual, you own that picture, but you do not own that person’s image. You can’t automatically post a friend’s image online or in public without permission.
  3. Avoid e-mailing, texting, or posting silly, inappropriate, or embarrassing pictures. Your lighthearted intentions may cause unexpected or unintended consequences. No one wants to be embarrassed in public, and this is the biggest way people get in trouble with digital photography. Sometimes this can even lead to accusations of cyber-bullying.
  4. When person you know is upset or in distress, do not take a picture unless an image will help solve a problem or keep that person from getting hurt.
  5. Carefully choose your own personal pictures for online posting. Once uploaded or e-mailed, a picture lives somewhere out on the web forever. You never really get it back, even if you delete it from a site or throw away the e-mail.
  6. Do not modify someone’s image with Photoshop or other image editing program without that person’s permission.
  7. Always honor the requests that an individual makes about a personal picture.
  8. Remember that “a picture is worth a thousand words” — but you have no control of those words once an image is in cyberspace via e-mail, text, chat, or website.