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Spy vs. Spyware: Should You Monitor Your Kids’ Digital Communication?

To Spy or Not to Spy: New Parenting Issues in the Digital World

Many parents ask me—should I spy on my kids or is that an invasion of privacy? Apps like “My Mobile Watch Dog” and “TeenSafe” give parents the power to read all their kids’ texts. But then what? I tell parents: Mentoring is more powerful than monitoring.

Spy vs. Spyware: Should You Monitor Your Kids’ Digital Communication?I always start by examining their goals. What is your objective? What are you looking for? What do you hope to see or NOT to see? What would be a yellow flag to you? What about a red flag?

It helps to understand your own goals before you take action. Has there been an incident that spurred a spying strategy? Or is it a general fear about what your child could be doing—because you don’t know about it?

In addition to looking at your goals, set a plan before you start. Think about what your response will be if or when you encounter:

  • Bad (or inappropriate) language;
  • Negative talk about other kids;
  • Negative talk about adults or teachers;
  • Negative talk about you or other parents.
  • Inappropriate pictures.

When you put all these together, it’s easy to see why this is such a source of stress for families. Do you wish there was a course on this? After years of research and talking with families, I’ve  created:

 Cell Phone Boot Camp (for parents)

This is an online class this summer for families who are getting their child a phone this year, or are in the first year with a phone and want to decrease conflicts and improve family communication about the phone.

This course will cover:

  • Assessing your family’s current digital situation
  • Planning and organizing your physical space at home to maximize positive outcomes
  • Common digital citizenship challenges for new smartphone users
  • What social skills kids need to be successful with their phones and more.
  • Planning for boundaries around when your child will have access to the device

 

Sign Me Up!

 

Mentoring vs. Monitoring: Be honest with yourself about your goals

The new digital world that our kids inhabit leaves parents feeling like they have less and less control to do the work of parenting. A natural inclination is to take some control back. Impose rules on device use, or monitor kids’ activities. After all, how can we have influence over them if we feel like they are isolated from us?

While this can be effective (and maybe even necessary), let me make a brief case for mentoring rather than monitoring.

  • First of all, if you are covert about your spying, you could lose the opportunity for mentoring. You may feel that it’s your right as a parent, but your child will see it as a breach of trust. When this happens, your child may “close off” or feel that she has to be sneaky now. In other words, you could actually do more damage by spying, and have the opposite effect of what you intend.
  • Plus, your kids may already be on to you. They are clever, and I’ve seen a few kids go to great lengths to evade covert spying. For instance, keeping and managing two Instagram accounts—a “family-friendly” one and another “real” account, using a fake/code name. You can usually tell which one is real by their engagements with other kids, etc.
  • Speaking of other kids, spying on your child’s communication means that you are reading other kids’ communications, too. There are a lot of issues around that, from invasion of privacy to assumed responsibility. Do you tell the other parent up front, or wait until an issue arises? What if another parent is reading your child’s communications to their kid? Would you want them to call you about your child’s communication? To my point about goals, it really helps think these things through in advance.
  • You may never see your kids’ friends the same way if you are reading their texts. Or your own. Are you ready?

What if you decide to spy?

If you do spy—and there are some situations, including new stages of experience (i.e. first time users) that may warrant this—then here are a few tips:

  • Be honest. Tell your kids up front that you are going to be watching, and why you feel you need to do this. Demonstrate to them how your relationship will be better and more open because of this. After all, you are being honest with them—not covert.
  • Show how it will help. Tell your kids that you are going to help them understand how to communicate better. Socializing via text and social media is complicated, and you’ll help them navigate it. Assure them that they won’t lose their own style of communicating.
  • Set a duration. Be clear that if they meet your expectations in how to communicate, that you will feel the need to check less frequently or you will stop completely unless you sense there is serious trouble and your child isn’t telling you.
  • Create an alternative. Instead of spying, are you open to having them give you a tour of their social media accounts once a month?
  • Raise a flag. Have your child point out to you when they get a message that’s not appropriate. Prompt them, if necessary. If they learn to do this on their own, not only can you use the opportunity to teach them, but you’ll also be building up your trust in your child as well.

What if you see something you don’t like?

Suppose you see something you don’t like. An inappropriate picture exchanged, mean or hurtful words about a classmate, or worse—an accusation or threat. What do you do?

  • First, try not to over-react. You could be missing a lot of context by seeing this one infraction. I’m not saying not to take it seriously—just make sure you remain calm and think it through before reacting. You have to tread very carefully, and it helps to have a strategy.
  • Ask, don’t accuse. You need more context to assess the situation and make good decisions. Ask some open-ended questions about what’s going on, rather than confronting your child directly.
  • Assess and take action. How serious is the situation, and how urgent is it? For instance, if you have reason to believe your child is being bullied, in an abusive relationship, or getting threatening texts from a peer (or an adult), you need to act immediately. But if we are talking about the everyday social dramas of elementary, middle, and even high school, it is more helpful to be supportive and not overbearing.
  • Teach “repair.” It’s ideal if the child can fix the issue on his/her own, and your mentoring can really help here. Teach your child that if a post or text message upsets them, it is better to calm down and speak to the person directly (if possible), or to seek help from a parent or other adult if the situation is too serious to handle on their own.

Building a strong, honest, and open relationship with your child is the best defense against the “digital issues” your family faces day to day. Protection apps like “Phone Sheriff” (and hundreds of other similar apps) are simply no match for your experience, and won’t help your child develop good judgment in communicating. Issues are an opportunity for learning—for you and your child!

 

PS: Getting Your Child a Phone? Are you ready? Are they ready? Join my Cell Phone Boot Camp to get ready to support them through this important transition. Would you like informative posts about raising kids in the digital in your inbox by the author of Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive and Survive in Their Digital WorldSign up here.

Photo credit: “Looking For Clues” by Casey Fleser is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Kids crave their parents' attention, but sometimes digital devices get in the way.

Your Attention Please!: Kids Design Apps for Their Parents

Kids crave their parents' attention, but sometimes digital devices get in the way.In my last post, I talked about “app development” workshops that I do with 4th–7th graders to illuminate the issues that technology introduces into our lives. We start by identifying a common problem, then trying to solve the problem with a designed solution.

We talked about apps to help with impatience and persistence with regard to text messaging, group chat dynamics, and setting boundaries in kids’ use of technology. You can read the whole article here: Kids Design an App.

In the course of these workshops, the kids went beyond peer-to-peer issues. Every single kid had stories about their parents not really hearing them when they are talking, texting while they are driving, or having their kids text for them so they could drive. Some kids reported resorting to hiding their parents’ phones while they are cooking or otherwise distracted so that they can talk with them. Other kids told stories of having to repeat entire stories about their day as parents drive, text, and talk with their kids. Hearing this made me never want to risk a pedestrian crossing again!

The kids are way ahead—and again, they came up with some great solutions. I have to warn you, though. As a parent myself, these were somewhat guilt inducing, and caused me to be very self-aware. It’s a good thing, ultimately, but I can’t say that it was easy. You may have the same reactions, so there’s my disclaimer up front!

Their biggest concerns were around attention and protection, which is not surprising for this age group. Let’s look at the issues, and the solutions that the kids designed:

Parental Attention

Kids understand that smartphone technology—and the connection that comes with it—makes demands on our attention. How many times have you seen a parent focused on the “second screen” while a child tries to get his/her attention? It’s easy to spot when it’s another parent, but be honest—have you done this before? As mindful as I try to be, I know that I am guilty at times. And this is a big issue for kids.

The most common solution to this issue that the kids “designed” was a voice recognition app that temporarily disables the parent’s phone if the child is speaking in the same space. If your child is speaking in proximity to you, it disables texting, social media, and phone calls. If you are talking on the phone, it gives you an indication to end the call.

Kids recognized that it wasn’t always realistic to just stop doing whatever you’re doing—they get that parents have jobs and other stuff to do! They understand that sometimes you need to finish up what you’re doing before you can give them the attention they want. But when “5 more minutes, please” turns into an hour, they want help. One group of kids designed an app that puts a time limiter on your device. So when you say you need 5 more minutes, it grants you that—but then shuts down your phone. They appropriately named this the “5 More Minutes” app.

They also want to use the STEL app that I mentioned in my last post as a gentle reminder to their parents to “Stop Texting, Enjoy Life.” Sometimes it’s that simple, right?

Inappropriate Content

Kids design an app to help to help manage their parents!It’s also a good sign that kids are aware that there are things they shouldn’t be seeing. They reported coming into the room, usually after bedtime, and seeing things on TV that they know is not appropriate. If you watch Scandal, House of Cards, or anything on HBO, you know what I’m talking about. The kids expressed some clever ideas about how to manage this.

My favorite is the “Earmuffs App,” which was spontaneously developed by one group of children in a recent workshop. If you, the parent, are watching TV with “swearing” and “inappropriate content” and your child comes into the room, the app senses it and 1) switches the content to your smartphone or tablet and 2) mutes all the “swear words.” Brilliant!

Don’t Text and Drive

When the subject of parents and their technology comes up, children invariably bring up driving. You may not text and drive, or you may not think that your kids notice when you do. But so many kids in these workshops mention the issue—it is clear that this is happening. Some kids also report that their parents ask them to text or call for them while they are driving, which is safer but still annoying as kids want to tell you about their day in the car, not play secretary.

Not only do I want to be safe, but I also want to model good behavior for the kids in the back seat. Children seem to understand the safety issues of driving distracted, but I get the sense that it’s not their primary concern. They can’t relate to the responsibility of driving, and they trust in their parents’ capability and control. For them, the issue is parental attention. They kept going back to the apps mentioned above—limiters that can turn off technology and turn on parent-to-child attention.

***

As I mentioned above, some of this was hard for me to hear. All of this suggests that parents are not listening to their kids—and that kids feel frustrated about it. Clearly, our kids want more from us than they are getting. This hit home for me as I often check email as my son plays with Lego or digs into a coloring book. While I tend to think of this as parallel play, I need to check in with if and how I am making myself “unavailable.”

This certainly echoes Catherine Steiner Adair’s findings in her book, The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, and some of Sherry Turkle’s findings in Alone Together. App design was a great solutions-oriented way for kids to get creative around these problems and to recognize that many of them share common challenges.

Lynn Schofield Clark wrote a great book called The Parent App: Understanding Families in the Digital Age that addresses how families in different demographic groups use technology, but in reality, there is no “Parent App.” It’s up to us as parents to recognize the signs, get self-reflective, and make corrections on our own. Our kids are watching and learning from every little thing we do, and from these workshops, they are speaking loud and clear about what they need from us.

P.S. I hope that you’ll take this post in the right spirit. The twinges of guilt that I experienced subsided into something productive after the initial shock. I wish the same for you—that this will help you see things in a new light. As always, I welcome any comments, criticisms, observations, or new ideas. We’re all in this together!

 

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Kids design an app to help with excessive texting!

Kids Design an App: Stop Texting, Enjoy Life!

Raising Digital Natives in a classroom workshop.When Raising Digital Natives works in school communities, I do a lot of classroom work with students about navigating friendships and social interactions in the digital age. My favorites might be 4th and 5th graders—they are often aware of the problems, and have a genuine desire to come up with solutions. They are kind, creative, and collaborative—a real pleasure!

I am a big proponent of technology. I believe that when it’s used carefully, it can provide kids with opportunities for exploration and growth. But it’s not without a cost. Digital devices can exacerbate, or even create, new problems. And as parents of digital natives, sometimes the landscape looks so different from the world we grew up in, we wonder how we can even begin to help our kids.

My solution? Let kids help. They know the issues, and they come up with great solutions. As I mentioned in my last post, I conduct a fun exercise in my workshops—I have kids design an app. First, we brainstorm a list of everyday issues with technology. Then I break them into small groups and task them with building a quick prototype of an app that addresses one of the problems we identified.

The result is twofold. Not only do the apps they developed tell us a lot about how kids experience one another and their parents’ communication via devices, but they also help kids think through and understand the issues. Imagine the next time they encounter one of these issue in real life. They will be well equipped to address it—or even avoid it!

I thought I’d share with you some of the clever things that come out of these workshops.

There’s an App for That!

As I open this exercise, we discuss some of the general daily relationship challenges that can come with more connected lives, a situation that for most of them, is pretty new. One of the first problems that routinely surfaces is texting impatience and persistence. Re-texting a zillion times when doesn’t get right back to you.

Apps for Solving Impatience and Persistence

Kids design an app to help with excessive texting!These are always the top issues in any of these sessions. The kids offer a simple solution: an app that prevents you from sending more than 3 texts in a row without a response. Seems like a good one! If you try to send a 4th text, the app reminds you to be patient, with a message that suggests that the other person might be busy. One version of the “patience manager” is a cute bird that comes up to remind you to “Stop Texting, Enjoy Life” or STEL.

For the receiver, another solution to the problem is called, “Stop Texting Me” or STM (see below for more examples).

Another app features a panda that reminds you not to text if you are having a conversation with a real live person, in the same room. The microphone on your phone can recognize your voice, and if you are talking—the app disables outgoing text messages.

Escaping Group Chat Purgatory

Every single 4th-7th grader I have worked with who has used group chat has expressed how annoying it is to get involved in these conversations (or “strings”), and they always express confusion about how to get out or take a break. Another huge challenge is resolved by the “Separator” app that gets you out of those annoying group text strings that can leave 347 messages on your phone while you are out playing soccer.

This app offers helpful auto-responses, such as:

  • “NT, I don’t like to GM” (“No thanks, I don’t like to group message”).
  • “AFN” (“Absent for now”), so you can pause the string for a specified period of time, but don’t wish to be permanently dropped from the group.

The app also reminds you who is in the group chat in case you forget—and are tempted to say mean things about that person. Of course, even if someone is not in the group, the nature of group chat means it is quite likely that it could get back to them anyway, as I always remind the kids.

Kindness Apps: Sparkle Chat and more

Numerous kids are concerned about unkind speech. One app, called “Sparkle Chat,” rejects mean-spirited statements. It can detect bad language before you hit “send,” asking, “are you sure you want to say that?” or “how do you think the recipient will feel?” If you still insist on sending the mean text, it might warn the recipient that they are about to get it. One version of Sparkle Chat might also send the offending text to both kids’ parents.

I find this app to be intriguingly parental—yet is suggests that kids are seeking boundaries and guidance. I asked the girls who designed this app if they are able to imagine using the app’s criteria without actually having the app. They got it.

Speaking of apps that seem parental, another one they designed protects your sleep by observing the hour and your calendar for tomorrow. The app speaks to you, suggesting: “put me in another room so you can get some sleep, you have a big test tomorrow.” Many adults I know could use this app!

I’ll stop there because I have a whole other set of apps that kids designed for their parents, too. I’ll share those with you in my next post. Please subscribe to my newsletter or follow me on Facebook or Twitter to make sure you don’t miss those!

Technology, and the connection it offers, is alluring. These apps teach us to resist our impulses to be annoying or thoughtless. They make us more like the people we want to be.

Doing this exercise with kids shows me that even 4th and 5th graders are not too young to critically observe their day-to-day experiences with technology. They are very aware of the behaviors they need to change, and have great ideas for how to do so. Their ideas and collaboration skills are excellent and I know that there are many great things to look forward to as we continue to foster kids’ digital citizenship.

Kids design an app to help with excessive texting!  Kids design an app to help with excessive texting!  Kids design an app to help with excessive texting!

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Text Messages, Texting, Texts, IM, Conflict, Digital Devices, Smartphones

Texting Trouble: When Minor Issues Become Major Problems

Text Messages, Texting, Texts, IM, Conflict, Digital Devices, SmartphonesConflict is difficult, even for adults. But for today’s kids, it’s particularly complex. The interpersonal conflicts that you remember as a child are all still there, but the landscape has changed somewhat. Digital devices in the hands of our kids offer more connectivity (good!), but it comes with many more opportunities for miscommunication.

Tensions between friends can arise from something as minor as an unanswered text message. Kids understand that instant messaging isn’t always instant. In my workshops, kids easily come up with 20 legitimate reasons that someone might not answer a text.

In addition to showering, dinner with family, homework, sleeping and practicing music or a sport, they also mentioned that sometimes they just don’t feel like texting. We need to let kids know that this is OK—that whether you are in 6th grade or a grownup, it can be OK to unplug for any of those reasons, including the last one!

Snapchat, textingDespite acknowledging the things a friend could be doing instead of immediately replying, they still get upset. Their feelings get hurt, and often, their anger escalates the longer it goes unanswered. Sometimes they text again, and again, and again—resulting in a screen that looks like this one.

Group texts, popular with tweens and younger teens, are a mess of challenges. Now the issues are not one-to-one (difficult enough!), but over a network. Within a group dynamic, they feel obligated to participate. But how much? Too much can feel overbearing, not enough can feel aloof. Many kids express reluctance to completely bow out, as they fear their peers will talk about them while they’re not there. There are so many potential land mines!

Your own experiences with navigating relationships can be so helpful to your child. Remember that you have wisdom…and try not to panic when things go wrong in your child’s digital world. Some challenges are inevitable and learning to deal with them is part of growing up in the digital age.

 

So what can you do to help your kids with texting, NOW?

      • Model patience. This is the single best thing that you can offer your child. For instance, when you text your spouse and don’t hear back immediately, pounce on this as a real-life teaching opportunity. Speak aloud, and talk through all the things your spouse could be doing instead of answering your text. Talking to a colleague. On the phone with a client. Driving. Running to catch the bus. Just because you send a text message doesn’t mean that the recipient needs to drop everything to respond!

      • Avoid emotional issues. Text messaging is a great way to stay in touch and feel connected to your peers. It’s great for quick exchanges, planning, and meeting up. In other words, functional and practical uses. Emotional issues, on the other hand, don’t translate well in text messages or social media. They are too complex for such a simple medium. Teach your kids to stick to the functional aspects. That doesn’t mean that you can’t show support for a friend with a well-timed smiley emoticon, but talk with your kids about different situations so they can get a feel for what’s appropriate and what’s not.

      • Express boundaries. Help your child: 1) set some rules on her own; and 2) construct some simple language for expressing a clear boundary to peers. For example, “I don’t group text” or “I can’t respond to texts after 9 pm.” Not only does this teach them about boundaries (useful in general too!), but it also helps them feel less worried about how they will perceived if they don’t respond right away. Their need for inclusion makes it very difficult for them to come up with this on their own, so it’s a great opportunity for you to help.

      • Take it offline. When kids have a conflict, they need skills to mend fences in person. A sense of urgency can take over when trying to resolve a dispute. It can escalate quickly. Exercise restraint, be patient, and resolve the issue in a face-to-face discussion. The phone can work, too—but it’s extremely difficult to successfully resolve an argument via text message. Teach your kids to defer with a simple message, such as, “Texting might not be the best way to discuss this—can we talk F2F?”

      • Invent your own solutions. I love doing this exercise with kids. Pose a question to them—what would you invent to fix this? One group of kids I worked with invented an app to deal with the challenges of group texts. They offered a way to “step out” temporarily (to do homework or take a shower) without coming back to 900 texts. They also offered a feature for getting out completely, and a reminder about who is participating (since you only see phone numbers for non-contacts) so they would know not to talk about those individuals. Really clever stuff, and it’s such a great exercise to make them cognizant of the pitfalls of texting.

Texting can be fun and fulfilling if your child understands how to use it correctly. It can be an important part of their social sphere, so it’s worth investing the time to help them learn the unwritten rules. I hope that these suggestions help you!

Help Me Get Ready For My Child’s First Cell Phone

When you put all these together, it’s easy to see why this is such a source of stress for families. Do you wish there was a course on this? After years of research and talking with families, I’ve  created:

Phonewise Boot Camp for parents to help parents get ready for this milestone.

This course will cover:

    • Planning and organizing your physical space at home to maximize positive outcomes
    • Common digital citizenship challenges for new cellphone/smartphone users
    • What social skills kids need to be successful with their phones and more.
    • Planning for boundaries around when your child will have access to the device

 

Sign Me Up!

 

 Getting Your Child a Phone? Are you ready? Are they ready? Join my Phonewise Boot Camp for Parents to get ready to support them through this important transition. Would you like informative posts like this in your inbox? Sign up here.

 

Photo Credit: Top Photo is by Daniela Reinsch

What 20 year olds REALLY do on Snapchat (hint: NOT sexting)

Guest Post

By Raising Digital Natives Intern, Gemmie F. (20 years old)

Since downloading the Snapchat app last fall, it’s become one of my go-to ways to communicate with the people in my life. I love it. I don’t care if my roommate is in the next room, if I want her to bring me something so I don’t have to get off the couch I’m going to send a picture of my best “please do me a favor” face with a caption such as “Please bring me my charger” or “Want to order me some sushi?” While my example makes me sound extremely lazy, Snapchat is a great way to keep in touch with my friends and family, sometimes even when they’re physically close to me.

Raising Digital Natives founder, Devorah Heitner, asked me to write about “the non-sexting uses of Snapchat.” Is that what adults think Snapchat is used for? Is that what other people use it for? Well the thought had never occurred to me but I guess you could use Snapchat to “sext;” although I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s really easy to screenshot a Snap—meaning someone can keep it as a photo on their phone and do the usual damage—sharing it with others, posting it on the Internet or even using it as blackmail. As a journalism major who’s absolutely terrified of not having a job when I graduate, I am vigilant about protecting my online image. A future employer seeing anything online that makes me look less than employable is the stuff of my nightmares.

My uses for Snapchat are very quotidian–and light-hearted. I mainly use it to communicate with my friends and with my sister who lives on the other side of the country from me. Especially with my sister living so far away it feels a lot more personal to get a captioned photo than a simple text. The visual aspect gives me a better idea of what she’s been up to and in general makes me feel a lot closer to her.

I also use it to talk to my friends (i.e. asking my roommate for favors). I even have one friend who will only make plans via Snapchat. I would prefer a phone call but if I want to see her I need to send about 15 pictures of my face with the caption “So I’m meeting you at what time?” Every Snapchat I send is captioned. It’s a quick, easy way to have mini conversations. And sometimes it’s just fun to send unattractive selfies to my friends.

Snapchat may not be the most productive invention of the century, but for my friends, sister and I, it’s an easy, fun, visual way to keep in touch. Without it how would I know that my friend who’s studying abroad in Prague keeps seeing dogs inside cafés?

Gemmie Fo, Northwestern University

Here are a few recent snaps:

An update from my little sister who’s in Colorado for the summer.

 

parents freaking out about snapchat 20 year old does not use for sexting

My roommate just saying hi (I may have been sitting next to her when this was sent…).

GEO-Tracking… Raising Digital Natives Knows Where Your Children are–Do You?

I got an interesting call the other day, asking for commentary on a brand new application that allows you to see tweets, instagram streams and any other geotagged, shared material. If you want to see what your neigbors are posting, or what people at your child’s school are posting, just sign up for Geofedia . You can also find some of this information through the apps themselves, but this makes it much easier. I’ve perused some middle and high schools and seen images like this…

parenting speaker
A momement of sharing from a suburban high schoolSo NBC news

So NBC News Chicago invited me to comment, and you can see the full newsclip with my comment here:

As well as a little more of the interview here:

If this creeps you out, don’t geo-tag your posts! I can only imagine that within weeks, this will mean that someone will walk up to you in a store to say: “I see you are tweeting about wanting a warmer coat. We have one on sale.” The journalistic potential is incredible, but the marketing potential is what this app seems designed to capture. Knowing where you are and what you want is about as close to mind-reading as technology has gotten–yet.

Texting: How the Medium Shapes the Message

Derek Baird posted an insightful article on his Barking Robot blog titled:

Nancy Lublin: Social Media That Saves Lives

In her TED talk, Nancy Lublin, CEO of Do Something describes in harrowing detail how kids responded to her advocacy texts with serious and heartbreaking calls for help.

“I think it [texting]might be a lifeline.”

Reminds me of McLuhan’s oft repeated “Medium is the Message” Something about the intimacy, the silence and the immediacy of this medium  makes it possible for kids to be  so open that they would send desperate texts in response to a social advocacy campaign. Lublin responded to their cries for help, describing cutting, incest and other serious problems, by creating a text crisis hotline, which collects data about teen experiences, as well as responding with resources to teens’ individual issues. Lublin compares this to a census or a crime map that tracks issues such as date rape, or self-injury.

You can see Lublin’s talk here.

Should Parents Monitor Their Kids Online?

SHOULD PARENTS MONITOR THEIR KIDS ONLINE? A million dollar question…this article in the NYTimes profiles a couple of families who monitor their kids, sometimes using software like
net nanny


Big Brother: No It’s Parents

If so, should they let their kids know they are doing it?

Should they have their passwords?
“Friend them?”
Use “spy” software?

Here are some ideas parents have shared with me:

• Computer in a public spot (no laptops or computers in bedrooms).
• Making sure kids feel safe talking with parents about what they are doing/seeing/experiencing.
• Making password sharing w/ parents a condition of use.
• Relying on friends and family members to “friend” their child and keep an eye on things.
• Reminding kids that they can do whatever they want when they buy their OWN computer.

Please share your thoughts…

I think this article raises important questions—For example, in the case of the young woman in the article who claims to feel safer because her parents monitor her…How might parents mentor kids to feel safe online more independently?

Just go outside! No need for screentime, but cellphones are liberating, says Playborhood Guru!

I just went to a great talk by Mike Lanza about his book Playborhood: Turn Your Neighborhood Into A Place For Play. He is more strongly opposed to screentime than I am, but I thought many of his points about facilitating kids’ resilience, independence, leadership and fun by creating inviting playspace, building connections with neighbors and then sending the kids out to play are terrific ideas. I especially like how Lanza considers the lack of opportunities for kids do do things like a pickup game or other unsupervised play to be a social problem that all families need to think about and proactively work to change.

One of the positives Lanza mentions about cellphones is that they let kid have a longer tether from “hovering” parents. More room to roam. He sees the screen world/virtual world as taking too much away from the “real” world…but he also cited some examples of   positive family time with technology as a basis for exploring the “real world.” My own orientation would be to draw the  line between real and virtual worlds as a little more wavy…

My key takeaways were a) excitement that we already live in a “playborhood” with great neighbors and lots of community b) Many of the ideas about changing our physical space to encourage more independent play are do-able, and don’t have to be super expensive.

One idea that I love is a having a 1 week “block camp” to let all the kids on your block know each other. I could see that really taking off on our block. We already have a great 4th of July parade, and some other really nice traditions… I recommend checking out Lanza’s book and blog!