Mommy, What's a Telephone Booth?

The other day, I was walking with my sons when I gestured to a telephone booth and made some comment.

Imagine my surprise, when my 7 year old, looked at me with a perplexed expression on his face and asked, “Mommy, what’s a telephone booth?”

Aghast, I thought to myself – how could my sonnot know THE favorite clothes changing place of Superman? Or the phone booth / elevator at the end of the long corridor for Agent Maxwell Smart?

The answer came so swiftly, it was astonishing.

My son is a bonafide digital citizen.  He has never used a telephone booth, because smartphones are EVERYWHERE.  And he can swipe with the best of them.

He can toggle between screens.

He can find long-lost cartoon gems, such as Underdog, on a Youtube equipped ipad.

He can leap tall buildings in a single bound.  Oops, got a bit carried away there, but you see my point.

Children today are superheroes and they can do some amazing things.  But like every superhero, they...

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Can You Post Pictures of Other People's Children?

What is the proper online etiquette or netiquette for posting pictures online of other people’s children?

This is a question I usually get as people head out on vacations (usually sun-filled vacations) as they take pictures of children, friends and family on the beach, in parcs, hanging out, and enjoying themselves.  So, can you post pictures of other people's children?

Um, in a short answer. NO.  But if you do, here is a quick checklist:

  • No photos where the kids are easily recognizable.
  • No photos where the kids are in skimpy beach wear and bathing suits.  (Please don't think I'm being ultra paranoid. There is a reason behind this. In my consultancy work in children's rights and internet stuff, unfortunately see the underside and icky stuff of online issues affecting children.  And it is regularly reported about social media photos being stolen, photoshopped and then re-appearing on porn sites. So trust me, no photos of your kids in skimpy gear.)
  • No...
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Student Viewpoint: Tips for Parents

What do students think parents should know?

I asked one of my former international public law students to give her perspective on Internet and tell parents what SHE thinks they should know. 

Here is what she said:

My name is Susanna and I am a 22 year-old living in San Francisco, CA. My generation was basically raised on social media. We were the first to experiment with Myspace and instant messaging online. I can recall back in 7th grade, creating various screennames because I could not just pick one. I remember I had to wait (not patiently I might add) until my parents made all the phone calls so that I could use our dial-up internet to chat with my friends. These were the days before it was common for a 7th grader to have a cellphone.

Needless to say, the world of social media has continued to grow across all age groups, demographics, and countries. Today, you can literally message or share a photo with someone across the globe in a matter of seconds. That’s the great...

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Sexting and Prosecution

Is it possible that children can be prosecuted as sex offenders in the UK and in the US for texting and sexting?

So just what is the issue and how can you best protect your teenager?

BACKGROUND: In a 2009 article from Pew Research Internet Project, sexting was defined as “the creating, sharing and forwarding of sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images by minor teens.“   Sexting has evolved as the era of self-portrait photographs (selfies) has exploded and the term ‘selfie’ was named as one of the top buzzwords in 2012.

ISSUE: young teenage boys and girls are taken sexual photos of themselves (selfies) and then sexting them to others now could face prosecution for distributing indecent images of children and, if convicted have to sign a sex offender registry.

Last year, there was the case of a 17-year-old boy from Manassas County, Virginia who was being charged as a felon for sending sexually explicit videos to a 15-year-old girl.  Stephen...

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Tech Tales & Tips: Digital Role Model

Tech Tale:

Vanessa is a working mother who uses her laptop and smartphone to conduct business when she’s at home. In between giving her children a bath and preparing dinner, she can often be found skimming her emails on her smartphone or checking the news alerts for updates impacting her business. If she is under a deadline, she may even set-up her laptop in the kitchen and work a bit while waiting to pull a roast out of the oven.

Vanessa thought she had a handle on it all, juggling work and home life in admirable fashion, until she overheard her children one evening:

“We can’t ask mom, she’s on the computer again.”

“She’s always working. She never wants to play with us.”

“Let’s hide her smartphone.”

And the guilt sets in.

. . .

You and I both know that Vanessa is by no means a bad mother. She is just like you and me, trying to make it all work. She reminds me of that Enjoli commercial from the 80’s: She’s...

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Digital Detox over a Weekend

What is a digital detox?

Basically a detox is just shutting down, turning off and stepping away from technology.  A detox, just like a food detox, is a chance to give your body and mind a much needed break or short rest from overindulgence.

And let's face it: we all indulge in our technology.

So join me for a digital detox this weekend? Or if you can't manage a weekend, how about for the evening?

Too hard?  Okay, try for just an hour.  The benefits might surprise you.

Write to me at [email protected] and let me know how your own digital detox went or share your personal success tips.

I would love to hear from you!

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Spring Training for the Digital Parent

Internet, mobile phones and wi-fi connected devices are ubiquitous.  And this "everywhere - at all times" Internet access may cause parents to feel frustrated by their lack of concrete technical knowledge and expertise.

So what can you as a parent do to protect your children, when it seems as though your children are more tech savvy than you are?

Communicate with your child.
Stay involved in your child’s online activities by talking with them and showing interest in their online world. Ask them to show you their favorite websites or the latest app or online game. Use The Parent Zone WWW approach as a guide when communicating with your children. Who are they talking to? What are they doing online? Where are they going online?

Digital footprints, comments and photos are forever.
“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” is a golden rule online. Teach your child that online activities – stay online forever. They may not be...

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Encouragement for the Digital Parent

Being the super advocate on Internet and technology, I had loaded their kid tablets up with plenty of educational apps and games, so I thought I was ahead of the game.

Imagine my surprise when my four year old starts clicking photos and focuses in on a little girl down the hall. I gasped, grabbed the tablet and told my son that we do not take pictures without asking people first. I slapped my hand to my head because it had totally slipped my mind that their little tablets were camera- and video-equipped.

Why am I telling you this? Because I want you to know that you are not alone in dealing with technology and parenting. I consult, teach and coach others on Internet safety and best practices and yet even for me, it is not always easy.

But instead of playing the blame game and feeling like a bad parent, I realize that this happens. We cannot stay on it 24/7 and we cannot know the latest news on all technology, apps and games. But we can stay relatively informed and try to nip things...

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7 Digital Parenting Resolutions for 2015

It’s almost mid-January and you have more or less settled back into the school routine after a couple of weeks of (hectic) vacation. If you’re like me, you can’t believe that the holidays are over and here you are again setting out the kids clothes, checking over homework, packing snacks, checking the activities calendar and so on.

You have made your list of resolutions, including yell less, praise more, give more hugs and I thought now is the perfect time to bump up your digital parenting game as well. Just a reminder of some simple things that you can do as a parent in the digital age:

  1. Feel less guilty about screen limits. No, I’m not saying sit your kids in front of Sponge Bob marathons, but I am saying that researchers have noted that a little educational TV is not all bad.
  2. Get outside more. Not just the walk to school, but real life outdoor activities. We did them when WE were younger: Wheelies, bicycles with tassles, roller skates. Tell your kids about...
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Buying a Mobile Phone for Your Child

I won’t give you a lecture on what age is the appropriate age for purchasing a mobile phone for your child, but I will point you to a fantastic resource where you can ask yourself the following questions posed by Common Sense Media:

  • Are your kids pretty independent?
  • Do your children need to be in touch for safety reasons?
  • Would having easy access to friends benefit them for social reasons?
  • Do you think they’ll use a cell phone responsibly  – for example, not texting during class or disturbing others with their phone conversations?
  • Can they adhere to limits you set for minutes talked and apps downloaded?
  • Will they use the text, photo, and video functions responsibly and not to embarrass or harass others? (Source: Common Sense Media)

Once you decide that your child is ready for a cell phone, you need to educate yourself and your child and ensure that “protection” and “phone” go together.

Read up on mobile phone safety tips to keep your...

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