A Checklist to Consider Before Giving Tech Gifts

Internet of Toys and Tech Gifts: mind-boggling devices for the Digital Parent.

 The Internet of Things is relatively new, but the results are everywhere: intelligent heaters that warm up your home before you arrive, refrigerators that order juice and eggs when you've run out; fitness trackers that beep when you've achieved your activity goal for the day and more.  It is clear that the Internet of Things has a fantastic objective of efficiency and obtaining results, however, smart Digital Parents need to be aware of the issues so that can act accordingly.

All of this tech stuff is well and good, but what happens when your child's toys can talk back to your child? Or that police car toy is fitted out with a webcam?

The tech industry is steadily cranking out mind-boggling devices, but notions of security and privacy are not foremost on their minds.  So it's up to you as a Digital Parent to roll up your sleeves and dive into the subject matter - preferably before handing...

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Mixing-up Offline and Online Activities

When school is out, there is a tendency to take lots of digital breaks.

With long weekends or school vacation my boys are ecstatic, but I am a little bit less so.  What begins as good intentions - "we'll go to museums, we'll do arts and crafts, we'll play board games as one big, happy family" - too often ends as, "let's watch the iPad." (Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, as this article will show you.)

So while I put some measures in place to keep my boys alert and interested, I thought I would share them with you.

Don’t ban all Internet-related activities.  If your family is like mine, you may have a mini-revolt on your hands.  Use the downtime to look at some things together online – if you’re on a ski vacation, how about checking out the history of skiing?  National Geographic puts out some beautiful and interactive history lessons on skiing.  A long weekend vacation with stormy skies? Why not check out some of Huffington Posts...

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Reasons Why It's Cool if Your Children Learn to Code

Okay so first let's address the big elephant in the room.  No, I do not know how to code.

No, I'm not a programmer, but I do know my way around Wordpress (nod to Alannah Moore, DIY website building guru). No, I don't think coding is CRUCIAL to become a good digital citizen, but I like the following comparison:

I don't know how a car runs, but I can drive one rather well.  And when I was a young girl, my father made sure that I knew how to drive a stick-shift, change a tire and check the oil.

So while I don't think your children need to know how a computer works, I think it would be dandy if they had a few pointers.  And just like you exposed them to piano, judo, art classes, ballet and so on, why not expose them to a coding class or two? It may become a life passion or it may become a useful tool - like knowing how to drive a stick-shift.

Coding is for everyone.

Boys and girls are encouraged to begin coding as the world is becoming more and digital and it pays to...

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Understand the Consequences of Sexting

I'm feeling nostalgic for the days when we crammed into a photo booth and took silly photos.

Or we pulled out a Polaroid to get wild.  Yep, those days are long gone.

Today teens are using their smartphones with integrated cameras in ways that would make parents cringe.  So get ready, for the cringe factor as I fill you in on teens and sexting - and the consequences. And a quick alert, sexting is not a new phenomenon; it has existed for several years years now.

Sexting is the sending of sexually explicit photos, videos or text messages through mobile phones.

Teens are sharing sexually risqué photos and/or messages online and oftentimes using apps like Snapchat, VaporChat, Cyber Dust to hide their behavior. (Those apps cause the photos to "disappear" after a certain period of time, but they do not preclude screenshots from capturing the photo.)

Amazingly, teens are sexting even though they "openly admit that they know it's wrong to post these sexual photos, they feel...

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Parenting in the Digital Age: Are You in the Know?

Digital natives, digital immigrants, digital parenting, digital, digital, digital.

Just what does all of this stuff mean anyway?

Digital natives are children who are born in the digital age, this age of technology.  They are children who spend a few minutes holding a tablet and smartphone and feel no fear or trepidation in manipulating the technology.  They swipe, pinch, poke without always understanding what they are doing, but with the confidence that something is happening on the screen.  According to Marc Prensky, "our students today are all “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet."

Digital immigrants are people who were born before the advent of technology.  It is a phrase also coined by Prensky in 2001 used to describe the "generation of people who did not grow up in the digital age."  Again Prensky describes it perfectly by saying: "Those of us who were not born into the digital world but...

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Recapture Quality Family Dinner Time

Tech Tale: How does a family who loves technology manage tech-free dinners?

Nathalie is the mother of an 8 year old boy and a 13 year old girl. Her children love technology and since they do their homework and household chores with minimal yelling, Nathalie hasn't imposed any strict limits.

But Nathalie has noticed something that is really displeasing: eating out with technology. Initially when the children were younger, Nathalie and her husband would go out to dinner and in order to have a bit of quiet time so that the adults could talk, Nathalie would hand over her smartphone while her husband did the same.

Little by little the family outings became less and less family and more and more tech and Nathalie now wants to recapture the family togetherness, but she's worried that it's too late. Her kids are too used to gaming and texting while waiting for their dinners to arrive.

How can Nathalie re-create the family dinners that she remembers when she was young? (You know, the family...

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Sanity, Screen Limits and Sitting Less

I think the question I am asked most by parents is “How can I set screen limits – that work?”

Sometimes the parents explain further in no uncertain terms: “How the hell do I get my kid away from that gaming console?” or “I want my iPad back and I’m sick of negotiating for it” or “If I have to scream one more time to get the kids out from in front of the TV and to the dinner table, I can not be held responsible for my actions.”

If any of those scenarios seem familiar to you, read on. I’m going to share some of the parenting tips that I have heard, read or implemented and hope that something resonates for you.

Screen Tickets: Give your child 2 tickets a day, each worth half an hour. Once they’ve cashed them in, that’s it. No more TV. No more tablet. No more gaming console. You define the rules for your tickets. Get creative, perhaps a yellow ticket for TV time; red ticket for tablet; green ticket for gaming...

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Educational Apps for the Summer

I know what you're thinking: "But what a minute - she's been advocating screen limits for summer, extracurricular activities so the kids won't reach for their tech and now she wants them to play with apps?"  No I haven't been out in the sun too long, but I do think that technology - in the right dosage - is a very good thing indeed.

So what about those educational apps?

If your kids are looking for a little time on the computer or tablet or smartphone, why not let them engage in an age-appropriate educational activity? They will think you are being super cool and laid-back about their screen limits, while you know that they are getting some much needed intellectual stimulation over the summer.  And as the experts are keen to note, summer reading and learning activities help reduce the Summer Brain Drain.

Check out Common Sense Media's Summer Learning Guide which specifically breaks down different learning categories by age (2-7, 8-12, 13-17).  Your child can Explore...

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Teens, Beaches, Selfies - Oh My.

 Your teenager is advancing to the next class level, life is good and summer is here. Pat yourself on the back and give your teen a high five.

Now before you start dancing that summer jig, thinking about frosty blue drinks with paper umbrellas in them (or my personal favorite, an icy glass of rosé), let’s quickly run over some summer tips for you - the super cool, up-to-date and safety-conscious digital parent of a teenager. Yes, I mean you!

It goes without saying that summer is an absolutely fantastic time and many teens slip into easy routines and may slack off a bit. Rules are less visible, life structure is more relaxed and your teen is just trying to recuperate after the school year. (You can remind them of these recuperative summers once they start working a real job.)

But until that high point, as a digital parent of a teen, you still have to help your teen navigate the digital highway – even during the summer months. To make things easier, I have...

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Should I Buy an Apple Watch for My Child?

I didn't stand in line to buy my Apple watch, but I admit that I ordered it online on the very first day.  Almost 6 weeks later, I pulled it out of the gorgeous Apple box and I sighed with pleasure. The watch was fabulous looking.

But being an eSafety expert is serious business, so I shook off the giddy feelings and got to work with my burning question: Is the Apple watch safe for kids?

First technology is a tool. It can work for good and unfortunately it can be used for bad. Think of a kitchen knife or a pair of scissors.  Good things to cut with, but dangerous in the wrong hands or with the wrong intent.  Same thing for technology.

So let's take a peek at the Apple watch. It's definitely a tool. It's a watch for goodness sake. A very, ultra, über, super cool watch, but it's a watch.  Beyond all the cool things that it can do (visit your local Apple dealer as I won't go into those details here), let's look at how the Apple watch can be used in the wrong...

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