Tag Archives: cellphones

Survey: Parents, share your concerns about kids and technology

Power ButtonThe very best part of the work I do at Risk Within Reason is the direct contact with parents, teachers, students and readers. I learn something new every time I do a presentation , and the questions I get from audiences and my blog readers help keep me focused on the current issues for schools and families. Which I then pass on to my readers and workshop participants.

Like the explosive growth of Twitter use among teens, partly (they say) because their parents are watching them too closely on Facebook. Or the ways they use video chat to communicate things with friends without leaving a trail. Or the truly creative use  of blogging, animation and gaming sites to produce things (from  photos to animation to game design and coding) that teens couldn’t have imagined doing even 10 years ago.

It isn’t all bad stuff. It isn’t all scary. Our teens are bright and earnest and curious. But we do need to watch them very carefully. And I like to think that by helping keep my readers informed about these complex and ever-changing issues, I make it easier for them to know what to watch.

When I do workshops on digital safety in schools, I always send out quick surveys beforehand — one for the students and one for the parents. That way I can integrate data from that school into my talk; they like to know what their students and parents believe.

The results are fascinating. They’ve shown me an interesting disconnect between the fears and concerns of both groups, as well as not too surprising differences between the household Internet and cellphone rules as understood by the kids and their parents. It’s a topic I plan to write about soon.

But before I do, I need your help. I’m trying to collect more information about parents’ concerns. What are you worried about when it comes to your kids and technology? How do you deal with those worries? What do you wish your kids knew?

If you have children under the age of 18, please take  5 minutes from your busy schedule to complete this simple 10-question survey. If you have more than one child, pick one between 10 and 16 when you consider your responses. It’s anonymous and confidential. And I promise to write all about it here on Rise Within Reason.

Click here to take survey and then share it with your friends by forwarding the link to this post: http://wp.me/p1S4ya-fX.

Thank you!


Kids and the Internet: What the teachers taught me

AppleThis morning I did two back-to-back workshop sessions at the Bronfman Jewish Education Centre‘s one-day pedagogical event for teachers at all the Jewish day schools in Montreal. I spoke about applied classroom strategies based on the Digital Citizenship Program in one session, and about teens, technology and risk prevention in the other.

Not too surprisingly, I learned at least as much from the teachers as I was able to share with them. These women and men are on the front lines in the classroom with our kids every day. And there are some things they want parents to know when it comes to students and technology.

Sleep. Kids need more of it. There is only so much teaching they can do when our kids are exhausted. The first period or two of the day are a real challenge for sleep-deprived teens, and parents aren’t always aware of how bad things can get.

Some advice? Make your teen charge their cellphones, laptops and iPads somewhere other than their bedroom. The place they sleep should be a screen-free zone after a certain time. Too many kids put their phones on vibrate so their parents don’t know they are up getting Facebook status updates and text messages way after they should be asleep. Also, suggest that your tweens and teens wind the last 30-60 min of their days down without the Internet. It can be very hard to keep track of time when you are engrossed in Skyping or slaying villains on World of Warcraft.

Screen time. Kids need less of it. Teachers worry that our kids experience so much of life — from socializing with friends to learning about science — in a mediated fashion. They are concerned about the ways it affects their social interaction, about how computers give even good kids just enough physical distance from others to enable mean, petty and hurtful comments they might not otherwise make. They worry that kids aren’t “in the moment” enough, when they want to record every get-together on their smartphones to post on Facebook. They wonder if all this gadget-fuelled stimulation doesn’t rob kids of the boredom that stimulates creativity.

Guidance from parents. Teachers can’t teach our kids how to be good digital citizens on their own. Parents need to model good behaviors themselves (put down that Blackberry at the dinner table!) and supervise their kids activities online. So much of what we need to teach our kids in a digital context is just an extension of the common sense and moderation we apply elsewhere. Just in a different font.


Parenting by cellphone



[louder] “Dinner’s on the table. Come down now.”


[shouting] if you don’t come down now, you aren’t getting dinner and the kitchen is closed till tomorrow morning!”

I am the very model of effective parenting.

Why would they even listen to me the first time, since they know I will repeat myself 3 times? They can get in a whole other level of Angry Birds or use that time to post something witty and misspelled on Facebook.

But I have a new tool now, one that has revolutionized family communication in our household.

My older girls now have their own cellphones, in anticipation of the new freedom that comes with high school and the use of public transportation to get them around town.

I text “Dnnrs on the tbl” (if you don’t use texting spelling, you can hear the eye rolling from the basement. It’s epic. I have been questioning the point of all those years of spelling workbooks and quizzes. But I digress.)

I hear giggles. They’ve heard me. There is movement upstairs. The graceful stomping of two pairs of 12-year-old feet on the stairs.

And through some form of cellular magic, here they are. In our kitchen. Dinner is still hot. I have not had to issue any more empty threats.

Not two bites into dinner, the vibrating starts. The ringing and buzzing and whirring of customized tones.

They have been contacting every person they’ve ever met to exchange phone numbers.

My husband tells them that phones must be off during mealtimes.

Sigh. The rules come flying out of thin air.

When they were 8, they got their first iPods (little Shuffles). They tuned out in the car, upstairs in their rooms. I worried about how it cut them off from the family.

Then they got Nintendo DS’s. Same thing, but much worse. The games sucked them in. They ran restaurant kitchens, designed zoos and ran ultrasounds on virtual farm animals when we used to talk or look out the windows together. They trained their digital dogs while their real dog lay unwalked at their feet.

More rules.

Then the iPod Nanos entered our lives, effectively rendering meaningless the no TV policy in our family car (I thought I was so clever). they carried their movies and Wizards of Waverly Place around with them on tiny screens.

Then the iPads arrived last spring. Portable email, Facebook and Skype.

But the cellphone is the epitome of digital distractions, the ne plus ultra of mobile communications when you are 12 years old.

I am beginning to realize that the rules have to be made up as we go.