6 Digital Life Conversation Starters to Use in School Meetings, Discussions & Presentations

How much should parents know about the settings on children’s digital devices?

How much should parents know about the settings on children’s digital devices?

Now that back-to-school nights are about over, schools will be scheduling parent potlucks, curriculum nights, and educational seminars throughout the academic year. These activities offer lots of opportunity for educational communities to start conversations about the challenges — for parents and kids — of growing up in the connected world.

At all of these events administrators, teachers, and parents should plan to incorporate a few introductory comments that encourage parents think about helping their digital children become stronger learners, more savvy digital citizens, better consumers of content on their digital devices, and overall, more knowledgeable citizens.

Below are a few questions that can be shared at a school events and classroom presentations, questions that encourage parents to talk about managing life with 21st Century digital kids. While there are no right answers to these questions, the conversations provide adults an opportunity to talk about what works — and what does not —  in the context of young people’s school and social lives.

Choose one or at most two inquiries to use at each activity. Continue reading

Another Digital Parenting Book That’s Scary – Sigh…

fear riskSo many digital parenting books and articles generate fear and anxiety, and American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers is no exception. The big question is whether or not this book, or any of the others, can inspire parents to get serious, learn about the relationships and issues their children encounter with poorly supervised mobile devices, and then figure out how to guide and, yes, supervise their children.

Journalist Nancy Jo Sales offered us a preview of her book in a 2013 Vanity Fair article, Friends Without Benefits, and now that I’ve read both the book and the article, I’d recommend going for the article. The book definitely offers many more interviews with girls, providing an intensive gaze through the prism of 21st Century adolescent digital life.

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Needed: Ongoing Social Media Conversations About Image Sharing

using smartponesIf your children are using or begging to use  InstagramSnapchat, Vineor the many other apps on their digital devices that share media, it’s time to get serious about conversations on social media and image sharing. Moreover, many other digital device apps exist or suddenly appear that also encourage sharing. (Check out my post that demonstrates just how apps multiply and catch on with kids.)

Sharing apps make users, especially young people, feel like they can have and keep secrets with their friends. Children, and adults, too, like the apps because they claim to offer a modicum privacy and because any media that they share will self-destruct within a few seconds. Voilà – it’s disappeared!

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A Few Apps for Parents to Learn More About

Check out these apps.  Just two months ago, when presented to a group of parents, some of these were not on the radar for preadolescent and teen digital life. I’ve linked each to an article. For additional reviews, but not for every app, visit the Common Sense Media App Review Page.

Poof

hide mobile phone apps

4Chan

image bulletin board – pretty good up front rules

Whisper

share secrets

Wanelo

social media shopping

Yic Yac

anonymous texting

Rumr

more anonymous messaging

Secret

share with friends secretly

Pheed

share everything, including video, pretty good rules

When Digital and Social Media Combine With Crisis

Moderation. Even with the best intentions, the decisions we make each day about what to do and how to live become more complex as our digital lives expand. Yet making choices about when and how long to stay connected could not be more important for us, and during times when a tragedy grips the country or the world, our connection choices become even more important.

moderationNow I spend a considerable time on my blogs and at my job encouraging parents, kids, and teachers to embrace digital life while also choosing to pursue plenty of offline activities. Making choices about what to do and not to do is especially critical when children live in the house, but all of us should pay attention to the length of time we spend in the digital world.

Choosing does not necessarily mean avoiding long periods of connected time if we are learning or accomplishing something significant (and yes, a game can count). Good choices, however, keep us from wasting time and from missing valuable face-to-face interactions.

I am usually pretty good at moderating my time online — at least I was until the bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon. After that tragic event, and for the ensuing six days I’ve not been able to disconnect myself for very long. My husband is a lifelong runner who loves the Marathon, though he’s never run it, but two friend were in this race, so we immediately tried to find more information about them. Moreover, my daughter works at one of the teaching hospitals in Boston.

Digital Mod

So all week-long I could not disconnect from the digital coverage. I checked three newspapers (Washington Post, New York Times, Boston.com) several times a day, added a slew of new Twitter feeds (#BostonMarathon #Marathon #CambridgePolice @Boston_Police, #Boston), and used Public Radio apps on my phone and iPad to listen to Boston radio programs, especially WBUR. (Note: One of my middle school students, a confident 21st Century learner, asked me why I wasn’t using the Public Radio app to listen everywhere I went.) Every day this week I’ve made a final iPhone news check just before going to bed and grabbed my mobile again as soon as I have awakened. I even listened during exercise.

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E-mail, Scandals, and Digital Footprints — AGAIN!

One of the digital citizenship posters made by my students a year or two ago.

On a fairly regular basis a public scandal occurs, and these days just about every one of them reminds us of how ignorant people are about the transparency of their digital footprints.

If reading about the most recent scandal doesn’t convince you of how easily accessible digital footprints can be, then this November 17, 2012 Washington Post article should. In The FBI’s Long Reach Into Digital Lives, reporters Greg Miller and Ellen Nakashima describe how easily the FBI gets into an individual’s e-mails and how accessing one account leads to exploring the accounts of other people who have sent or received e-mails.

Interesting Quote from the Post Article

Investigators with a warrant to search a house for drugs can seize evidence of another crime… But the warrant does not allow them to barge into the house next door… But what are the comparable boundaries online? Does a warrant to search an e-mail account expose the communications of anyone who exchanged messages with the target?

Scandals arising from common digital mistakes can provide opportunities for adults and children to participate in family conversations, learning more about their online and networked world. However, if you do not want to talk about the scandal, that’s fine — talk about the lack of privacy that everyone experiences today. Children who make mistakes have no protection as they  explore the digital world, because what they do can easily become public and embarrassing. In any past era their common and developmentally appropriate errors would mostly remain private, but with today’s speedy and electronic communication tools, that’s less and less likely.

We are not trying to scare children, but we are trying hard to make common sense second nature.
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5 Digital Citizenship Moments for Your Classroom

Read my original post on digital citizenship minutes.

Each time teachers comment on digital citizenship issues in the context of daily lessons and classroom life, they model, as all adults should, a digital intelligence — just what we want our students to embrace, whether they are working or playing in the today’s world.

As educators pay increasing attention to these digital digressions throughout the school day, they demonstrate critical values of 21st Century learning — and life — in a networked world. But more importantly, our students observe that just about every learning activity these days, whether digital or not so digital, incorporates time-tested values such as thoughtful evaluation, respect, collaboration, inclusiveness, and acceptance.

Five Digital Citizenship Minutes to Incorporate into Any Lesson

1. Pause for a moment whenever you use a web site, and explain one or two things that you like about it (or don’t like). Or explain just how you found the website

2. Share an irritating or inconsiderate e-mail or cell phone moment — telling your students how it feels and why.

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