Let’s Also Think About Grown-up’s Screen Time

Mid-morning coffee with an iPad.

Mid-morning coffee with an iPad.

With so much conversation about screen time for kids of all ages, it’s also useful think and talk about adults’ screen time. Adults model, but not always well, screen time habits for the young people in their families. When asked, most 21st Century children can share all sorts of stories about how much time their parents spends on their devices, even at inappropriate or inopportune times.

In his New York Magazine article, I Used to Be a Human Being, writer and contemporary thinker Andrew Sullivan contemplates the overwhelming “full immersion” that he and many adults experience with the online world.

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Is It Digital Citizenship or Just Plain Citizenship?

dewey quoteAs the lives of my students, online and off, grow more complex by the day, I spend a good deal of time helping them learn more about digital citizenship. Today the digitally connected, always-on world presents students, teachers, and parents with confusing questions and baffling behavior expectations.

But wait a minute!

Is this digital citizenship or just plain citizenship? Building strong 21st Century citizens is of paramount importance whether we are living our lives offline or on, and we need to avoid using old-fashioned compartmentalized instruction in a connected world.

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines citizenship as “The qualities that a person is expected to have as a responsible member of a community,” and helping students shape themselves into responsible community members is what caring adults do. We model appropriate behavior and help children learn how to participate as respectful and ethical members of society. No matter where they work or play, our citizenship goals are the same.

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Collaboration and Technology on the Maryland Eastern Shore

I have just read a colleague’s post, Lessons of a Broken Window, over at The Learning Curve blog. The author, Chris Shriver, describes her son’s persistence as he practices throwing a baseball, even though a few of those pitches have broken windows. He has not let the occasional problem or temporary roadblock keep him from learning and fine-tuning his throwing skill as he seeks to become more expert at pitching.

Picture from NOAA.gov website.

I am spending three days with technology colleagues from a wide range of schools, and all of us are learning more about the ever-increasing technology tools in our lives. At a conference, held on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the goal is to discover, share, and learn as much as we can. We are continuously modeling appropriate behavior, discovering and exploring new technology devices and websites, mastering new skills, and figuring out how to manage our online social media personas rather than letting those personas manage us. All of this information will return to school with us, helping students learn and supporting parents as they confront complex and confusing digital parenting issues. Continue reading

Virtual World Questions and Thoughtful Surmises

Check out Is the Virtual World Good For the “Real” One? in the February 23, 2011 Huffington Post.  The article, by Joseph Kahane, describes a longitudinal study focused on the amount of time that young people (age 18 – 29) spend online. Researchers wondered whether time in the virtual world may be keeping young people from paying enough attention to the tangible needs of the real world.

Kahane, who currently chairs the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics, describes some interesting findings and concludes, ” In short, the virtual world can be good for the “real” one. There are forms of online activity that can give youth civic and political engagement a much-needed boost. We need to fully tap this potential.”

Read the entire article.

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.

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Conversations About Skins from Common Sense Media

As usual, Common Sense Media is right on top of the latest media/television family dilemma, and the website has published a short piece to help parents talk with their teenage children about the MTV program, Skins. In Tough Talk: How Parents Can Use MTV’S Skins As a Jumping Off Point, Liz Perle writes, “MTV’s teen drama Skins (a remake of the even edgier British series) showcases every behavior that keeps parents of teenagers up at night.” Perle suggests conversation pointers that can help parents begin conversations on these all too nerve-wracking topics. While these subjects keep parents in a perpetual state of jitters, teenagers confront many of the issues the issues on a daily basis — though honestly the show itself seems overly contrived. Check out the article.

The point is – and this is a Common Sense Media mantra (about page) — no matter how uncomfortable the topic may be, the most important thing is to work hard to keep the dialogue going throughout the challenging teenage years. The conversations, even if they don’t go as smoothly as a parent wishes, nevertheless help adolescent kids think about making better choices.

Bullying and Cyber-bullying: Myths and Reality

Read Five Myths About Bullying in the December 30, 2010 Washington Post. While the media focuses on the high-profile cases of bullying and cyber-bullying, the author of this article, Susan M. Swearer, a co-author of Bullying Prevention and Intervention: Realistic Strategies for Schools, writes that the relentless coverage may distract schools and parents from more traditional types of bullying. While technology has made bullying worse, a significant  number of students are bullied without the use of technology.  The author points out that:

While it’s hard to stereotype bullying behavior in every school in every town in America, experts agree that at least 25 percent of students across the nation are bullied in traditional ways: hit, shoved, kicked, gossiped about, intimidated or excluded from social groups.

The article mentions and links to several programs that have been successful at reducing bullying behavior. Swearer, who is an associate professor of school psychology at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, points out that, “…when awareness of bullying becomes as much a part of school culture as reverence for athletics or glee club, we’ll have a shot at finally stopping it.”