Computers and your family

This page will be my attempt to bring together information that will help families make technology decisions. I know from my students that many parents worry about their kids and what they are exposed to in todays information age. Hopefully this page will give you some ideas about how to handle new technology in the home and make parents more aware of what technology their kids now have access to.

This page will be continually evolving and I hope you find it helpful.

I encourage you to watch the following video with your teen(s).

Tech Etiquette—for Kids and Parents

(reprint from “Working Mother” by Lela Nargi)

Courtesy in children begins with courtesy modeled by parents, and nowhere is that more evident than in the wide world of technology. When our tweens can’t stop texting or our tots are glued to a video game screen, they may be taking their cues from (uh-oh) us—when we interrupt dinner to take a work call or feel compelled to check messages every time we hear a ping. In fact, a recent survey conducted by the Emily Post Institute (EPI) and tech design company Intel reveals that 59 percent of children have witnessed their parents committing infractions like using a mobile device while driving, eating dinner with the family or watching a movie in a theater.

Give the whole family a tech-manners revamp with these helpful reminders from EPI.

Phone Call Fixes The golden rule: The people you’re physically with take precedence over anyone who might be phoning you. If you must take a call, excuse yourself to a private location and keep the convo short (and your voice hushed). Otherwise, let the call go to voicemail and respond when you have a free minute. Also, keep your ringer turned to low or vibrate—especially important when you’re out in public. Remind kids that talking on their cell phones when they’re walking (let alone driving) is a safety risk and should be avoided.

Email and Text Tips All the rules of phone calls apply, and a few others to boot. Beyond nixing these deeds during family time, if you’re texting someone who can’t identify you by your phone number, let them know who you are before launching into your message. Don’t text someone with bad or urgent news, or if you’re angry about something—wait till you’ve regained your composure before you get in touch. Never forward messages sent to you in private; with tweens and teens, this constitutes cyber-bullying and for grown-ups, an ethical—if not legal—breech. Finally, if you think you can’t resist the temptation to constantly check your texts, leave your phone in your car—or shut it off temporarily.

Social Networking Saves The rules in this category serve first and foremost to protect your and your children’s safety online. For starters, always take care with the photos and comments you post—especially on sites that are public. Never post a photo of someone without permission. And of course, never accept friend requests from strangers. Keep modeling good tech habits and talking about them with your kids—continual reminders of courtesy for all of you.

Is Tech Taking Over Your Teen?
Setting limits for their plugged-in time.

(reprint from “Working Mother” by Barbara Turvett)

Laptops, the Internet, cell phones and texting are facts of life for our kids. That’s not all bad, but it’s not all good either. How to help your kid find a happy tech medium.

Not long ago I attended an informal meeting of ninth-grade parents from my daughter’s high school. Of all the potential topics for discussion—think relationships, dating, sex, drugs, alcohol, homework, grades—the first topic raised was…Facebook. Do all the kids have a profile? How long do they spend on the site each day? Do parents know what’s on their kid’s wall? Do parents really know if their kid has an account to begin with? And Facebook was just the beginning of a long talk about tech.

Today, teens (and tweens) and their technology are inseparable. They use it for connecting with friends, homework help, letting parents know where they are, relaxation, entertainment and obtaining information. And there are even more gadgets and media than there are reasons to use them: laptops and netbooks, iPods and MP3 players, cell phones, BlackBerrys et al, TVs, Wii and other gamers, e-readers; offering word processing, internet, IM, texting, music, video games, movies, TV shows, newspapers, magazines, books and more.

Tech Effects
While it’s certainly a no-brainer to realize that tweens and teens are inextricably tied to technology, we’re now learning more about kids’ and parents’ attitudes about tech and how it shapes their lives, thanks to two major new research projects: the Pew Internet & American Life Project ( and the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year Olds ( The Kaiser report reveals that tweens and teens spend nearly 10 3/4 hours daily with all media (adding up multiple media use through multitasking), a nearly 50 percent increase in media time over the past decade. The actual time taken up with media in a day is about 7 ½ hours, as much or more time than many teenagers sleep. What’s more, the use of nearly every type of media has increased over the last ten years—except for reading.

Beyond the inherent fascination with tech, gadgets and the content they provide, 88 percent of all teens say tech devices make their lives easier, according to the Pew research, which also reveals that nearly three-fourths of all online teens engage with a social networking site like Facebook. A full 59 percent of online teens’ parents say the Internet is a good thing for their kids, and 65 percent of parents of online teens check what kinds of sites their children are viewing. But only a bit more than half regulate the amount of time their tweens or teens are online.

Why does the amount of online time matter? Nearly half of kids who are heavy media users say the get only fair to poor grades, while less than a third of moderate users and less than a quarter of light media users report the same, according to the Kaiser research. The heavy users are also less likely to get along with their parents and be happy at school, and more likely to be bored or unhappy.

While a lot about technology is good, helpful and fun—instant access to information, the ability to connect with parents and peers in a moment, music wherever you are—tech can inhibit personal interaction and other essential skills our children need, asserts Malcolm Gauld, the president of Hyde Schools (, an organization of East Coast charter and boarding schools, and coauthor of the parenting book The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have. “My oldest child, home from college, needed a summer job,” he recounts. “She went into a store that wasn’t hiring and talked her way in to see the manager and got a job. That critical verbal and interpersonal skill, being articulate in stating a case for yourself or anything else, is being squeezed out somewhat by the Internet. A lot of kids don’t realize they’ll eventually have to talk to people of other generations to get jobs, present work reports and such, talk to people that may not be as Internet savvy as they are.” Even more immediate, says Gauld: Tech use can be addictive and its escalation can cause kids to turn away from parents, peers and schoolwork.

Non-Technical Intervention
There are ways we can help counterbalance our kids’ tech use. Here, Gauld’s strategies:

Promote conversation. Do whatever you can to encourage your child to engage in one-on-one and group discussions. This may include family dinners, time with you alone on weekends—or what Gauld calls “mandatory fun. Set a scheduled time, once a week or month or so, when your kids and you must have fun together. You can rotate who decides what to do, and there should be no media allowed.” That no-media rule should also apply to the dinner table and when you eat out. The point of al this is to have personal interaction, including talk, eye contact, nuance, tone and attitude—things technology doesn’t require.

Set tech limits. This is about time and usage limits that make sense to you as a parent. The purpose is not only to keep tech time reasonable, but also to allow for time for human interaction with your child. Set consequences as well, with the responsibility on your child. “You’re paying for the Internet and cell and text usage, so you can say, ‘I don’t think you’re participating in the family, so I won’t pay for your phone,’” suggests Gauld. Of course, you’ll also want to bring up online safety, even if your teenager thinks he knows it all already.

Require household participation. Along with mandatory fun, kids should be involved in mandatory chores—everyone should have a job in the house, and chores can rotate. In addition, set up a weekly family meeting. “Sit down for even ten minutes and talk about how the week went, any problems that need addressing and what your child’s goals are for upcoming week,” says Gauld. “This way kids have to explain themselves and their plans. It might feel like a waste of time at first but if you stay with it, it will get better over time.”

Encourage face time with friends—including new friends. Not only do kids rely on gadgets rather than personal contact to connect with peers, media tends to lock them into their same group of friends, says Gauld. “Tween- and teenage are big times for growth and learning new skills, which can be better achieved with a variety of peers.”

What do all those symbols mean?

Those symbols are called emoticons and they are like a different language. Here is a Wikipedia article that gives you all the info you need to know!

What do all those abbreviations mean when texting?

The abbreviations are part of the SMS language many use when texting. Here is a Wikipedia article that will give you everything you need to know.

Technology Toys and the Risk to your Kids

Here is text from an article that has some great info on things to consider when purchasing technology toys for your kids.

By    of ComputerWorld

Tech Toys


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