"21st Century Families" - My talk at Bloomberg today

I was honored to be invited by Elana W (protecting her digital footprint) to speak at Bloomberg today as part of their Innovative Speaker Series. I entered the beautiful lobby, showed my ID, quickly had a digital photo taken of me and put onto a badge with my name and "Hewitt School" emblazoned on it, and then was told to enter any elevator that lit up green (large lights above the elevator). I then went into the 6th floor where a receptionist quickly instant messaged my contact at Bloomberg (thanks, Jen!) and sent me off to the open coat room, and directed me to the free snacks, food, and drink area (which was buzzing). I took a seat on a modern sofa and looked up into the circular building with huge windows with light pouring in. I watched screens whizzing by with blips of news reports from around the world, and all around were Bloomberg terminals. This seems odd to say, but I felt like I was on a movie set for the future. The understanding and respect for technology was amazing. I was also lucky enough to meet their new social media director who has the daunting charge of overseeing social media for an enormous corporation.

When I walked into the 250 seat auditorium (which was beautiful) I noticed my Prezi slide deck on 3 huge LCD-powered walls. It was pretty amazing to see my name up there. It was also outside the room, and there were cameras at different angles recording the talk. Unfortunately, the recording was for internal use only, or I would have been happy to share it here. I wasn't able to use my laptop (obvious tech hurdles, resolution, etc), so I used the web version of my presentation. Thanks, Prezi!

Representing the school I teach at was a real honor. I am proud to be part of an academic institution that cares about helping students and families make good decisions about how they use technology. As Sir Arthur C. Clarke put it so well, "We need to educate children for their futures, not our past."

During the talk I referenced a few resources that I wanted to make note of here:

And finally, my "slides"

Photo credit: Jane Quigley

A conversation about whether you post your children's photos online - via momversation

The website Momversation has a video discussing different moms' positions on posting their children's photos online. It is certainly a personal choice, but it is great to hear a diversity of positions on the topic.

I thought the comment on the page by Baumgak about our individual photos being a tiny speck in the enormous Internet a helpful metaphor.

Do you post your kids' photos online? Why or why not?

Blaming websites like Formspring for a young girl's suicide totally misses the mark

My head of school passed Rachel Simmons' blog post, What Every Parent Should Know About Formspring: The New Cyberscourge for Teens, to me. I read it, found it troubling, and had to write a response.

I had a great conversation with our 7th and 8th graders about formspring a few weeks ago, which I blogged about here. I thought that the article by Rachel Simmons was pretty poor. She starts with, “Last week, a Long Island high school senior committed suicide, and the website is suspected as a cause.” She links to an article which says just the opposite! See these quotes from the article she linked to:

“Alexis' parents downplayed the Internet role, saying their daughter was in counseling before she ever signed up with, a new social site, where many of the attacks appeared.”

"I believe in my heart that cyberbullying wasn't the cause of Lexi's death," said her mother, Paula Pilkington. "This is a mistake."

It also didn’t recognize what the site is capable of in a positive way. For instance, I purchased a new dining table that is unfinished wood, and wasn’t sure how best to treat it. So, I went to this wonderful design bloggers website and asked her a question about wood treatment via her formspring. She replied to me within an hour. Problem solved. By an expert. There is a place for every technology tool, and there’s a poor way to use all of them, too. That’s what parents and students have to negotiate.

The bigger issue here is talking to students about “anonymous” behavior on the Internet, and what it entails. I gave the girls a guiding principle that anonymous places on the Internet tend to encourage bad behavior and discourage good behavior. We want them to learn that lesson because formspring will be passé tomorrow (it actually sort of already is), and they have to be able to apply the same principles to the next new thing.

Rachel Simmon's gut instinct reaction and advice to parents is summed up in her point:

So what to do? Here’s what I suggest. Start a conversation with your daughter about Formspring. Ask her if people at school use it (don’t start off by grilling her about what she does or she may scare and fly away). Ask her what she thinks of it. Then ask her if she uses it.

If she says yes, tell her she’s banned for life from the website. Period.

This completely misses the mark. If you think you can solve problems by banning use, you're in for real trouble when kids experience the same problems in new venues - they won't tell you when they stumble into a mess for fear that you'll ban them from it. Prepare them for the world they are living in. Teach them about how it works. Set family expectations and guidelines. Connecting the tragedy of a girl with serious psychological issues to a website is hyperbole, and won't get you very far in setting your kids up for success.

Ms. Simmons, if you're reading, I'd love to talk to you more about this.

Posted via web from arvind's posterous

Google Buzz may put children at risk, parents fear

Google Buzz may put children at risk, parents fear

Kids might not know they're sharing private details with the public.

Wow, the folks in this article really don't get it. It may as well be called, "Google Buzz may put children at risk, parents fearmonger.

Kids are at risk for seeing inappropriate things when they are online; that is why we have to teach them about boundaries, and not put them into situations which they're not prepared for. Giving a 9 year old a free e-mail account (which the company only allows for kids 13 years and older) and then being shocked when the product changes over time (hello, you didn't pay for anything and you accepted their terms) is simply ill-advised parenting.

Teaching kids about being online means letting them be online in ways they can handle. 9 year olds with unfettered e-mail access is questionable at best. Some 9 year olds may be able to handle that, and some certainly can not. As a parent, set your kids up for success - if you want to teach them about e-mail, have them e-mail from your account. This way, messages come back to you and you can relay them to your child. Don't go straight to gMail, would you give your kid a car as soon as they wanted one? Start them off with a tricycle in the carpeted basement and you'll see them progress much more successfully.

Posted via web from arvind's posterous

Learning About Keeping Your Child Safe Online

Today a colleague of mine and I gave a talk to middle school parents at our school on ways to teach your child about appropriate boundaries and behaviors online. We shared a number of links and I thought my readers (if there are any!) might find them useful for use in your own schools and with your own families. There are a lot, but they are great! We watched the video, "Do You Know 4.0"

The Pew Internet and American Life Project did a study called Generational differences in online activities which summarizes the different things that different age groups do online - from e-mail to social networking, and everything in between.

David Pogue has a well-written article in the New York Times titled, How Dangerous Is The Internet For Children where he breaks down the myths and truths regarding children online. In that article is a link to the PBS Frontline documentary Growing Up Online, which is well worth your time to watch. You can watch it online for free.

We discussed a New York Times article titled, Sorry, Boys, This Is Our Domain, which discusses how women and girls actually produce the majority of image/video driven content on the web, breaking some of the myths of boys/girls and technology.

We discussed how the biggest threat to our children is bullying and sexual harassment and looked at an article about students and parents resorting to "Facebook sabotage" and sending colleges "dirt" on prospective students.

If you and/or your daughter are using Facebook, do read the article 5 Easy Steps to Stay Safe (and Private!) on Facebook.

We looked at a tremendous parent online safety guide created by Wes Fryer that includes resources/articles/lessons on: filtering, limits, social networking, instant messaging, parent resources and more.

From your questions

A number of you asked wonderful questions, and we told you that we'd include links to resources on regarding those questions. Here they are:

Creating family guidelines

We discussed creating guidelines for your family that are clear for your child and you. NetSmartz has a great age-based list of guidelines that you may want to consider.

Multitasking and brain development

The Dana Foundation has a good primer called Brain Development in a Hyper-Tech World which tells us that little is yet known about the effects of all the technology in our children's lives. We do know however that "multitasking," or fast attention switching makes learning much less productive than focused work. The article also discusses social development in the age of Facebook.

Questions about spelling

Research shows that text message speak does not harm spelling skills. Article from the Telegraph.

The Curriculum, Technology, and Education Reform master's program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has a good summary of some of the research regarding using computers for writing, including critiques of and benefits of using spell check software.

Filtering your home computer

We don't recommend any particular brand of filters for home. That being said, many families find it helpful to block out objectionable content or block certain websites/applications at certain times. GetNetWise has a section that highlights popular filtering tools.

PC Magazine has an article on Child-Safe Browers.

Misinterpreting e-mail

50% of all e-mail is misinterpreted, even that written by the best writers. Know that when you are sending and reading e-mail, and discuss this with your children.