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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Reduce Your Digital Footprint

AUTHOR: Katherine Fitzgerald, Law student, University of Paris 8

The Internet is ubiquitous and it has become an integral part of our consumer experience. Honestly I can’t remember the last time I booked a trip or purchased a movie ticket without going online. And whilst this may be an overwhelmingly good thing, there are nonetheless inconveniences.

A major problem with buying online is the digital footprint we leave behind, a kind of breadcrumb trail of information. Even on social media sites, our habit’s or ‘Likes’ illustrate our preferences and in turn this information can be used for target advertising.

This is done through the use of “cookies” which are a kind of short term memory for the web.  They are stored in our browsers and enable a site to “remember” little bits of information between pages or visits. Cookies are widely used to make the web experience more personal, which is generally a positive thing. However some...

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Understanding In-App Purchases

AUTHOR: Katherine Fitzgerald, Law student, University of Paris 8

Let’s face it apps are everywhere and all invasive it seems. There are apps for dating, banks, bookstores, cinemas, health, music and of course the holy mecca when it comes to children: games.

Whilst our older children still prefer to use their smartphones, a growing phenomenon has develop in the last few years in smaller children. Case in point according to OFCOM tablet computers are growing fast in popularity, becoming a must-have device for children of all ages. The use of tablets has tripled among 5-15s since 2012 (42%, up from 14%), and one quarter (28%) of infants aged 3-4 now use a tablet computer at home. Whilst this figure seems alarming it just seems to reflect a greater use of technology as a form of entertainment at home. I remember my parents being concerned at my love of television as a child. It therefore doesn’t seem so surprising to see that the younger generations are now turning to...

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Back-to-School Digital Habits

Only three weeks into the school year and I feel the burning need to write yet another post about back-to-school digital habits.  Perhaps because I’m thinking that some parents out there are just not feeling the technology.  Or maybe because I think that there are parents out there cowering in kitchens (with a glass of wine) when they think about apps and ipads and games, oh my.

So the good news first: you are raising a child in the 21st century and unless you live in a hermetically sealed, self-contained and self-sustaining pod somewhere, your child will one day inevitably come into contact with technology.  And the simple truth is that technology IS changing education and your child will need to know these skills of the future.

Embrace the technology and get with the program.  (And when I mean embrace the program, I don't mean run out and buy an iPhone 6 plus for your 3 year old. But I do mean, understand that technology can be a good thing if you set...

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Cartoons in the morning?

I read this Huffington post article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/08/how-screen-time-affects-kids_n_5765568.html)  that really got me thinking about cartoons and our children.  So much so that I knew I needed to write a blogpost about it.  The burning issue?  Screen time.

Yes, yes, I know that I’ve covered screen time in the past: screen limits, setting boundaries, but this article made me re-think some of my own television habits.  You see, I’ll let you in a dirty little secret: before we head off to school, I let my boys watch 15-20 min of cartoons in the morning while I’m getting dressed.

Like you, I thought this was a key move in multi-tasking.  The kids get a cute little break with Mickey and his friends, Peppa Pig or even that square guy, Sponge Bob.

But attention parents, as quoted in the article:

Parents who are waking up in the morning and letting their children watch TV first thing before school are really missing...

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Parent Perspective: My Digital Parenting Journey

AUTHOR: Joanne Cammish

As a parent of two children under four, I am on a journey.

A journey to learn all that I can about digital parenting so that I can provide my children with the best that the digital world has to offer while avoiding the scary stuff. If you’re the parent of a young child and feeling overwhelmed, join me on my digital parenting journey, one step at a time.

STEP ONE: Talk to children and young people to understand their world, their perspective.

So I had a chat with my nephew and nieces about their internet use – yes, they still enjoy speaking to me! It was like they were speaking in a special digital language that I wasn’t privy to. They were telling me about the apps they like to use and I managed to glean the odd familiar sound like Minecraft but here ends the extent of my cool recognition.

They mentioned videos on YouTube by CutiePieMarzia. Not to be confused with her boyfriend PewDiePie. They live together so there’s a slight...

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School's out for the summer

As a parent of a teenager, you have faced digital challenges all year long, from teenagers multi-tasking on IM, while doing Google searches (and swearing that they are doing homework), watching the latest videos and tweeting at the same time.

Parents of younger children have had a tough year trying to figure out which app was the best educational tool or how to put screen limits on those iPads or parental controls on a computer.

Parents of toddlers are just trying to get their head around all this digital parenting stuff and they are still wondering why their 2 year old keeps swiping the television screen.

Parents of newborns are in awe of their tiny bundle of joy, and they are taking tons of photographs to share via social media (unwittingly creating a digital identity for their baby.)

Whatever the age of your child, I want to remind you that summer is stretched out in front of us and if you don’t have a digital plan in place, you may find that your kids sit in front of the...

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