Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Kids & Tech

What’s missing from those What to Expect books is a chapter (or maybe even a whole volume) on parenting in the age of the World Wide Web. Right about now, something like: What to Expect when your Child Gets Sucked into the Matrix and their Brains Turn to Jelly, would be helpful.

I’ve done my usual exhaustive research (i.e., read a couple related articles online before getting distracted by lists of celebrities who Botox their pets), and come to the conclusion that no one really has a handle on the convergence of kids and the Internet.

Will hours of uninterrupted screen time melt their grey matter? Will the unfettered access to disturbing, factually flawed or grammatically incorrect (sometimes all at once) information turn them into bitter, deluded sociopaths? Is some nefarious crook or bored kid even now collecting their personal information in order to bully or imitate or coerce them online? When they’re grown, will they have nothing to talk about at cocktail parties but stupid cat videos?

These are questions that keep me up at night.

There was a time I thought the kid-technology combo a good thing. A guarantee there would always be someone around who would know which remote to use on which thingie. But I’m getting wise to the remote thing, and feeling a little less off my game since the VCR stopped blinking 12:00.

Oh, wait, that’s because we don’t appear to have a clock on the VCR, or even …

Hey, wha…. who took the VCR?

Anyway, I’ve kept notes and developed my own guide on parenting in the digital age. Use it in good health:

First, start when they’re young. Outlaw screens in their bedrooms. There’s the thing about obesity. And sleep deprivation. Something about blue light, melatonin and REM. I read about it. So, no screen time after 8pm.

When they argue, regale them with stories about how you had only four television channels back in the day. And cartoons only on Saturday mornings. Watch their eyes glaze over as they drop the subject. Give yourself a mental high-five. You’ve won this round.

Eventually they must acclimate to the digital age, so set up a computer station in a very public space in your home. Somewhere they can play on preapproved family-friendly sites while you monitor their activity.

Don’t kid yourself into thinking this will stop them from accessing inappropriate material online (unless you install some draconian software that blocks everything you later want to see after the kids go to bed, but can’t because you forgot the damn password).

Oh, and for that matter, don’t trust Youtube’s randomly enforced community standards. Those are baloney. Your kids can still easily access all kinds of inappropriate crap, like their favorite video game characters performing intimate acts that are probably misdemeanors in most states.

Look up a Youtube video that explains how to block Youtube from your computer and follow the instructions. Blamo. Problem solved (give yourself another mental high-five).

It might not occur to you until later, but the rule about the television in the bedroom should really include any screen. Such an oversight effectively renders your silly rule mute once your kids get their own phones, not to mention are capable of saving their own money to buy their own tablets and computers.

Okay, so they now have screens in their rooms. It’s still your cable, your cords and electrical outlets, your wireless router, which you can certainly unhook whenever you want. So unhook the Internet one night in a huff, and tell everybody to read a book. You remember books? Books are great (high fives all around).

Of course, some people’s children will simply wait until their parents are asleep to hook stuff back up and binge out on Xbox Live and Minecraft until the wee hours of the morning.

So consider an elaborate system of password changes and/or dismantling and hiding cables and little, black boxes.

Then remember your inability to remember stuff like passwords. And how hard it was to figure out how to access Youtube again. Remember you have a whole season of OITNB waiting on Netflix. Decide elaborate systems of password changes and dismantling and hiding crap is not for you.

Join all the social media channels and follow your kids. Refrain from commenting, favoriting, or liking their every post, and maybe they’ll forget you’re stalking them (If you’ve figured out how to unblock Youtube by this time, you can find a video tutorial on how to use Snapchat. Watch it when the kids aren’t around to scoff).

Briefly consider software or aps that spy on your kids’ every online move, monitor their language in texts or keyword searches, and time on social media sites. If this feels just as distasteful as sneaking a peak at someone’s diary, settle for an app that sends you an alert if your teen is driving over the speed limit, and call it good.

Show your children every news story you come across about sexting and social media bullying and the consequences.

Talk to them about your own values, about how you feel about objectification of women in the media, about images of drug use, and violence, about misleading advertising. Wear a rubber band around your wrist to snap when your voice gets shrill.

Talk to them about how you feel about pornography. When you’re tired of everyone avoiding eye contact after one of those conversations, show them Russell Brand’s take on the subject. Because somehow it’s more okay to get a lecture on pornography from a grown man sitting in bed wearing nothing but a sheet, than it is to discuss with your mom.

If you need more advice, there are plenty of other resources, like:

  • Unsolicited input from anyone over fifty who sees your kid with a tablet or phone, regardless of whether the person has ever parented children in this century. Nod and smile when they talk about taking away their technology and sending kids out to play kick-the-can until dusk.
  • Your kids’ friends are also wellsprings of advice. They’ve learned the ropes and are currently being raised with no rules whatsoever, staying up all night if they please, online with all the other upstanding citizens who are also online all night. They’ll confirm for your kids the fact that you are, in fact, a Luddite whose rules are out of sync with today’s adolescents.

There you are. Easy peasy.

Gimme a high five.

This post was originally featured on Beth’s blog, Manic Mumbling

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Let’s face it – technology is becoming more and more predominant in our society with each passing day. Schools have iPads and kids have smartphones these days. That’s the reality that many of us as parents struggle to deal with. How much is too much technology? How do I haul my kid away from their gadgets without denying them of something so essential?

Watch as Dr. Shimi Kang explains how to properly handle your child’s technology usage while still allowing them to enjoy the advantages of growing up tech-savvy.


SEE MORE: My Favorite Websites: Education And Technology

There are a bunch of cool websites that I have been introduced to over the summer and I wanted to share them with you WTFlicka peeps and hear about ones that you love too. This week I’ll start with ones that are great for kids and what’s great for kids is usually great for parents.

SEE MORE: Hanging Up The iPhone, The Sequel 

Dear A, We need to talk. First, I am sorry. When I wrote about throwing away your iPhone, I did not intend to equate you with a 2-year-old tantrum thrower. No way. You are the farthest thing from it.

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I’ve been accused of being a mean mom.  I’ve been accused of being a strict mom.  I have been accused of treating my teen like a baby.  All of these accusations have come from my teen, and mostly in response to house rules about technology or screen time.  He will say that all of his friends get to do “x, y, and z” and my response always starts the same way: “Your friends’ moms don’t love them as much as I love you.”  He hates that response, but always gives a defeated smile because he knows that the conversation that follows is about the reason why there are restrictions. 

And while I don’t actually believe that I love my child more than another mother loves her child, it’s a cue to my kids about me having their best interests at heart, even if they don’t agree.  Take my teen’s cell phone:  He received it in 6th grade, which may be early or late depending on your beliefs/community/needs, but he was going out of state with a friend’s family and I wanted him to be able to contact me (and me him) at any time.  We added him to our family plan and the phone he received cost us one dollar.  But, once he had the phone, it was no longer just a way for me to reach out to him; the connections with friends flourished and the requests for social media apps began.  It was time to set some rules.

The first condition of him having this phone was that we would be on the same account so that every app he downloaded would be stored on my account.  In addition, and most importantly I think, only I know the password to the account.  This means that every time he wants to download an app, even if it’s free, he has to come to me so I can put in my password.  This has led to many discussions about different apps that he has wanted, what they are used for, and how they can potentially be abused and used for cyber bullying or sexting (he cringes every time I use that word).  Sometimes I say no to an app, but if I say yes, it comes with a condition:  I get the same app on my phone and he has to let me “friend” him, “follow” him, or whatever the term is to see his activity.  I, in turn, promise not to comment on posts or even “like” a picture in cyberspace.

But, if I see misuse by him or one of his friends, he will lose the app and his friend’s parents will get a call or an email.  I have taken a screen shot of activity and emailed it to a parent before; I have a zero tolerance policy on teasing, bullying, foul language, racist/anti-Semitic/anti-gay slurs, and inappropriate pictures and I hope other parents would do the same for me.

Loophole alert:  Once the password is put in and the app is downloading, the password is active for 15 minutes.  I learned that the hard way when my son heard of the loophole from a friend and tried it out.  He immediately came clean (either out of guilt or fear) and told me of the loophole.  The sneaky app was deleted immediately, and now, the phone stays with me for the 15 minutes.

Another phone rule in my house is that at 9:30pm, my son’s phone and all devices that can reach cyberspace are docked in the kitchen until the morning.  This gives him a chance to be without his “friends” while he winds down and gets ready for bed.  If he wants to listen to music, he has a clock radio and an mp3 player with music.  This also goes for sleepovers:  When I have a group of boys sleeping in my basement, the house rule is that they dock their phones upstairs.  One, they should be connecting with each other while they are together – that’s how you make childhood memories.  We have knee hockey, board games, and an over-the-door basketball hoop in the basement; plenty for them to do together.  Also, while I have a group of teen boys in the basement, I don’t want girls down there – even virtually.  The combination of hormone-filled boys and all of the apps for video chatting and taking and sending photos leaves me just plain uncomfortable with what they could be seeing/saying/doing while in a group “chatting” with a bunch of hormone-filled girls in someone else’s basement.  Call me old fashioned but I think if a boy is interested in a girl, or vice versa, then they should talk in person or on the phone, and without a crowd of friends involved.  Peer pressure can be a dangerous catalyst for inappropriate behavior and many apps make that behavior very easy.

Then there are the cell phone rules that go for all of us:  No phones at the dinner table, not even on vibrate.  Dinner is a rare time when we can all (or most of us, depending on the night) sit together and talk about our day or about future family plans.  For my husband, his rule is that he cannot look at his phone for the first 15 minutes that he gets into the house after his commute home.  That time is reserved for hellos, bedtime kisses, and of course a welcome home daddy belly rub for the dog.  In an age when work and social interaction is a 24/7 business, it’s imperative to have some time carved out each day that is devoid of technology, besides when we are asleep.

While I don’t love being called a mean mom, I know that my actions are not coming from a malicious place.  Quite the opposite.  I love my children so much and I cannot keep up with all of the new apps and programs that come on the market that could potentially cause them harm, so I need to have rules about what they see and what they use.  In honor, and unfortunately in memory of, those children who have suffered from cyber bullying, I will wear my mean mom tag with pride so that my children and their peers will not suffer the same torture that others have so sadly experienced.

Mean mom rules are not a panacea for bullying, but being involved in your children’s virtual world, and teaching them not to do unto others as they would not want done unto them is a start.  Let all the mean moms and dads rise up and take action!  Let’s set rules!  Let’s set consequences and stick to them!

My hope is that if we as a village of parents set an example, set restrictions,  and set boundaries when it comes to cyber space and cell phones, we can raise our children in a kinder, safer cyber world.

Join me, won’t you?

Originally posted at Beth’s blog. Photo courtesy of ClipartBest.

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If you ever wondered what a small child would look like if they used Facebook, all of your questions will finally be answered after watching this video! Why is everything 50 times funnier when a toddler does it?

 

Have a funny, cute or interesting video you’d like to share? Send it to us HERE and we might feature it!

We had an overwhelming response to last week’s “WTF” video: Your Kids And Technology! It’s clear that this is a hot topic amongst parents, and you all gave some great advice  for trying to work through this tech dilemma. We’ve selected some of our favorite answers to share with you (including these great video responses from contributors Dani Walker and Laura Diamond!) in hopes that everyone can take a little something away from the conversation! Maybe someone has a specific rule that you haven’t tried enforcing yet? Or maybe someone’s opinion will make you view the situation in a new light? You never know—so take a look and see what these folks had to say!

And don’t forget to subscribe to the WTF YouTube channel—we’ve got a new video coming out tomorrow that you won’t want to miss!

Laura Diamond’s video response:

 

Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka? - WTF? Technology And Your Kids Responses

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