Summer Vacation and Family Digital Conversations

I recommend this documentary for a summer family movie night.

Are you thinking about digital citizenship and safety conversations? Do you want to learn more about Wikipedia?  Summer is a great time for these talks. Here’s why.

School’s out and many children fill at least part of their summer days with World Wide Web activities on fast internet connections. Camps and daycamps feature computer labs and lots of specialized digital programs. On the go we increasingly carry more gadgets — mobile phones, smartphones, iTouches, Blackberries, and iPads. In fact, even on vacations and at hotels, cottages, and many of those rustic country cabins we all hope to escape to, we stay connected. After years of teaching I’ve found that my students’ digital skills usually expand during the three-month summer hiatus from school.

Adults can learn more, too. Ask your children to help you expand your own skills. Maybe you want to download videos or save podcasts to your smartphone. Perhaps you can start a family blog, really learn how to use your digital camera, or ask your child can show you how to make special ringtones from your favorite music. If you don’t know how to text, summer is a great time to learn. Read 7 Constructive Digital Suggestions from Kids to Parents.

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Teens, Parent Anxiety, and the Internet

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Day after day frightening stories bombard us with warnings about what might happen to children and teens when they use the Internet and World Wide Web, so it’s useful to remind ourselves that these digital resources can provide our children with unparalleled opportunities to learn, socialize, and become active citizens. An article, Our Overblown Paranoia About the Internet and Teens, recently published in the online publication, Salon, provides just such a reminder.

Pediatrician Rahul Parikh, who practices in the San Francisco Bay area, points out that, despite all of our anxiety about teens and Internet risks, no statistics really exist to offer a full picture of the incidence of exposure to risk. Those few that do are often biased because of a common problem for research, posing questions to get the desired answer. Situations that do occur are often covered by a hysterical media, making us feel like a problem happens over and over, just around the corner. Continue reading

FTC Net Cetera and OnGuard Online Family Website – Bookmark It!

Visit OnGuard Online

Are  you searching for reliable tutorials to help you learn more about managing digital-age parenting topics? Check out the short book Net Cetera: Chatting With Kids About Being Online. Simple, straightforward, and easy to read, this publication covers most of the relevant digital topics, and its comprehensive table of contents is a ready-to-use outline that can help to guide virtual world family conversations. Net Cetera, published by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), is also available as a PDF download. Moreover, the booklet can be ordered in quantity for a PTA, book club, church activity or other parent group.

The FTC website, OnGuard Online, which features Net Cetera, is also a repository of information that can help parents to address concerns with their digital children. Each subject is covered with three sections, starting with a review of the “Quick Facts.” A more detailed explanation follows with a section of links that connect to additional online resources.

Topics include:

  • Kids Privacy
  • Computer Disposal
  • Identity Theft
  • Scams
  • Social Networking

Visit OnGuard Online


This site, and especially the Net Cetera booklet, is useful for everyone in a family, including grandparents or other seniors.  The type can be adjusted so that it is larger, and many of the topics covered provide information that is critical for aging family members to understand, and perhaps grandchildren can help do some of the teaching.

Seniors, Cell Phones, and Teen Mentors

I saw this article, Want to Know What Your Cell Phone Can Do? Ask a Teenager, published in a Reston,Virginia edition. It’s a wonderful story and presents an idea — students and seniors working together — that any family, school, or church group can easily replicate.

The article describes how middle and high school students, from the Reston, Virginia area, volunteered to be cell phone tutors with seniors, helping them learn how to use mobile phone features such as texting and checking voice mail. While many of the senior participants attending Cell Phone 101 had purchased phones for safety reasons, most were not able to use other phone capabilities. The student mobile phone mentors demonstrated how seniors could use their phone more effectively, and voicemail tutorials appeared to be especially popular. Students also explained how some of the phone capabilities cost extra money to use.

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Do You Think Monitoring Will Help With Online Safety?

If you think about using some type of product to monitor your child’s online activities and safety, the Mashable blog has just published information about four digital tools that may help you understand more about these types of products. Notice I use the word “may” because on the web nothing is for sure. The services, all with monthly payments, alert parents when something questionable is discovered, so they do more than simply monitor a home network.

The blog posting, written by Sarah Kessler and originally published by MyLife Scoop blog, refers to a Yahoo family survey finding that more than 70% of parents take at least some action to manage/monitor/limit their children’s online activities and presence. Check out what Kessler has to say about these four monthly subscription  services.

  1. SafetyWeb
  2. SocialShield
  3. AOL SafeSocial
  4. GoGoStat Parental Guidance.

Follow the Privacy Lives Blog

If you are as concerned about loss of privacy as I am, I encourage you to follow the Privacy Lives blog. Publisher Melissa Ngo reviews articles, government issues, children, the Constitution, and much more. Here’s a bit of what she has posted about the blog’s mission on her About page.

Maintain Privacy

In 1755, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Centuries later, we face numerous attacks on our privacy and civil rights, ostensibly for national security. Phone calls are tapped, e-mails are read, and individuals are tracked by video surveillance. We’re told that if you’re not for these invasive surveillance tactics, then you’re with the terrorists. Privacy Lives rejects such fear mongering. This site will chronicle and analyze these attacks and various defenses against them to show that privacy lives on, despite this onslaught.

Some Interesting Links to Get You Started (but don’t stop with these)

Kids, Hate Groups, and the Internet: There’s So Much to Encounter!

In today’s digital world groups increasingly troll the Internet, depositing easily available and intriguing  materials — music, posters, jokes, cartoons, and stories — whose sole purpose is to introduce growing children to hate. Over recent years this readily available propaganda, designed expressly to appeal to teen sarcasm, edgy humor, and musical preferences, strives to look like any other funny or absurd digital content a student might casually discover. Except that it’s not funny.

It’s also not something for parents to scare. The simple fix is for parents and educators to talk with children, mentoring them, helping them learn to evaluate, she guiding them to develop an eagle eye fthat identifies and filters hateful content — exactly what you teach them to do with any other inappropriate content.

All of us — educators, parents, and especially adolescents — need to know how to recognize this type of information and how to alert others. Hate groups look for vulnerable pre-adolescents and  teens from every socioeconomic group.The level of education in a child’s home and an emphasis on values of respect and acceptance may not make a difference if a child, during an especially needy, lonely, or stressful time or through an error in judgement, encounters a clever hate group tactic.Many children are simply attracted by absurdity, laughing at symbols they know little about. That’s also when a group may try, if it has even a bit of personal information, to encourage an adolescent to come back, laugh some more, and maybe even make a friend.

Hate groups have become more active and more visible since President Obama’s 2008 election, but these organizations, some quite small, have courted young people for years. An old, but still relevant Salon Magazine article, Web of Hate, described the problem as it existed on the Internet in 1998, providing good background. The issue, however, is far more serious today.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) spends a considerable amount of its time and money tracking purveyors of hate. Its website features an interactive hate map and also provides first-rate resources that parents, teachers, and religious leaders can use when hateful content surfaces or when it’s necessary to actually fight recruitment tactics. The map, by the way is an extraordinary teaching tool in itself, but so are the SPLC intelligence files such as this one on the Ku Klux Klan.

An essay by Heidi Beirich describes the white power racist music industry and some of its recruitment strategiesIn an article in the California-based, East Country Magazine, James McElroy, a chairman of the SPLC board comments:

We try to shine a little light on it. Hate is like a fungus under a rock. Shine a light and you can eradicate it.

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