How Parents Confront Digital Life Challenges

screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-8-57-06-pmTake a few minutes to read When Tech is a Problem Child,  appearing in the New York Times on November 19, 2016.

Written by Bruce Feiler, the article describes how families go about addressing and solving the day-to-day digital challenges that occur in 21st Century life. Feller spent six weeks asking parents, via social media, to share their rules and strategies related to raising children in the digital world. He describes in some detail the parents’ ideas, including thoughts about mobile phones, homework, digital devices and bedtime, social media use, consequences, and how families go about setting up phone-free family time.

While soliciting answers to 20 questions, as Feller did, is not scientific research, he did gather some interesting information about the challenges of raising children and the conversations that occur between children and their parents in the 21st Century digital world. Moreover, the article begins and ends with delightful references to the well-known musical, The Music Man, and its song, Trouble in River City.

My favorite digital parenting idea, relayed by Feller, came from a family that adopted a strategy for keeping children focused during device-free activities. They told their children that if a device was picked up, the parents would get to see texts on that phone and read them aloud. Clever idea.

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Farewell Dr. Papert: May Your Technology & Learning Vision Live Forever!

Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Professor Seymour Papert passed away recently.

A picture I took onside the MIT Media Lab.

A picture I took inside the MIT Media Lab.

While he had been fragile for some time following an accident, his extraordinary influence on teaching and learning, including how he really created the maker movement more than 25 years ago, will continue for many years to come.

Without his wisdom and vision, many educators in the school technology fields, where I spent most of my career,  would not have been fortunate enough to pursue exciting and deeply meaningful vocations. Every school, every teacher, every educational technology specialist, and every K-12 technology director can trace their professional activities back to Dr. Papert’s deep understanding of the power of learning with computers and digital devices. The Media Lab remembrance page notes that:

Papert’s career traversed a trio of influential movements: child development, artificial intelligence, and educational technologies. Based on his insights into children’s thinking and learning, Papert recognized that computers could be used not just to deliver information and instruction, but also to empower children to experiment, explore, and express themselves.

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Digital Kids’ Summer – Collaborative Projects & a Printable

** Please feel free to share this post with parents at your school
or parent group using this PDF. **

IMG_4257Summertime, summertime, sum, sum, summertime!

Summer 2016 is almost here. It’s a great time for family fun, outdoor activities, visiting museums and historical sites, and choosing from all sorts of camps and special programs. Problem is, many kids spend a lot of their summer vacation in front of screens, and it’s one of the hardest time of the year to focus on digital moderation.

With less frenetic schedules and no school, the summer months are a good time for parents to learn more about the digital whirl that’s such a huge part of kids’ 21st Century lives. So when school is out, plan to do some connected world exploring and learning together, concentrating on projects that can help family members — children and their parents — connect with interesting and meaningful work together. Everyone will figure out more about digital life and add some variety to the types of digital activities that they typically do.

Below are 10 family digital project summer suggestions — all activities require collaboration —  to consider for the upcoming summer vacation.

Ten Summer Digital Projects for Families                        Continue reading

Building Habits of Privacy Into the Conversation & the Curriculum

21st Century Vocabulary Words — Privacy

21st Century Vocabulary Words — Privacy

Young people confuse privacy with safety.

While most kids carefully follow the rules that parents and teachers set out — no names, addresses, telephone numbers, or other personal information — when it comes to the big privacy picture, it turns out that many children understand very little about their personal data, how it accumulates, and how it affects privacy. (Check out my privacy links at the end of this post.)

Thus we need an alternate privacy teaching strategy that helps 21st Century kids — all ages really — understand how their digital-world data  accumulates — even when users observe the all-important safety rules.

Bruce Schneier, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, writes about and consults on data and security, and his blog is Schneier on Security. In a 2010 post, A Revised Taxonomy of Social Networking Data, Schneier suggests how to classify data into six personal categories, the data generated as we use social media (and I’ll add other websites and games), and how all this data creates an individual’s digital profile. (Note: profile is another 21st Century vocabulary word).

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Digital Parenting Back-to-School Checklist

Read the 2016 updated version of this post.

back to school digital parents checklist

Click to download a PDF of the Digital Parenting Checklist.

It’s back-to-school 2015, a time to list the many tasks we need to accomplish before the start of the new academic year. We think about school supplies, new clothes and shoes, new lunch boxes, and, of course, new digital devices and computers. We check off our lists as we go, getting our 21st Century children ready to return to school.

Yet back-to-school season is also a useful time for parents to list, consider, and articulate connected-life expectations, old and new, for the coming year. What do you want your children to do or not do? How do you expect them to behave when a friend encourages behavior that is not allowed at home?

To help you consider the issues of your child’s digital life, and your own, use the eight-item checklist below to get started.                               Continue reading

Teach Kids to Protect Themselves from Hateful Information Online

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 3.07.42 PMAs I’ve thought almost continuously about the nine individuals murdered at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, I’ve also spent time considering how a young person grows into a hateful individual. All children begin life as accepting young beings, but at any age, once exposed to hateful attitudes or violent behavior, attitudes can change dramatically.

I’ve read every article I can find that offers guidance to adults about interpreting horrific events and addressing topics that feel uncomfortable, most recently We Need to Deal With Our Discomfort and Talk to Our Kids About Racism by writer Meghan Leahy in the Washington Post. Interestingly, few of the materials that I’ve read address the issue of online hate, the ease with which users, including kids, can access it, and the need for adults — parents and educators — to ensure that 21s Century children possess the evaluative skills to recognize and thus inoculate themselves from hate material when it pops up on their screens. For parents conversations about race, privilege, extremism, and hate can create a considerable amount of discomfort.

Fifteen years ago only people taught children to hate. Today the transmission of hate doesn’t require human contact or conversation at all — just a computer, some misguided online searches, and a lack of adult supervision. If we want to raise children who recognize racism, understand privilege, and yes, speak out, we must be sure to pay attention to what they do online.            Continue reading

Parents: Discover Your Digital Footprints & Teach Your Children Well

Yes, once again it’s summer! To celebrate the season I’m writing specifically for the parents of digital kids — suggesting ways that parents can use this more relaxed time of year to learn more about their own digital footprints.

summer digital projects

While some of the activities are similar to those in a post from last year, this beginning-of-the-summer blog post aims to help parents gain a greater understanding of digital footprints for themselves — and then share this increased knowledge in conversations with their children. The longer term goal, of course, is to ensure that each child returns to school in the fall with more knowledge about the family’s digital profile, their own digital footprints, and privacy.

Below are some suggestions to help parents get started learning.

  • Log in and visit your Google dashboard.

    Log in and visit your Google dashboard.

    Google yourself. See what digital footprints others see when they Google your name or your email address. Then go to the Dashboard, while you are logged in, and see how Google keeps track of your activities. Dashboard notes everything a person does on Google — from email to images to alerts to searches and much more. Once you finish up learning about your own digital trail, organize a family digital footprint party and help every member of the family go through the same steps.

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