10 Family Digital Projects for Summer

Take some time this summer to collaborate on digital projects that accomplish, organize, and communicate. As a bonus these projects build in connected world conversations and help parents learn much more about the digital world that children take for granted, but remember that generational collaboration is key.               

  •  Start a family blog or construct a family website (Weebly or Google Sites). Decide what family members will have access — grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins — and invite them to help with content. Ask lots of extended family members to contribute.scratch_logo
  • Teach yourselves a bit about coding. If no one in your family knows much about the topic, MIT Scratch (free download or use the website) offers a basic graphical coding introduction. Scratch is easy and user-friendly, and you and your children can have fun designing mini-video games.
  • Organize the family’s digital photos. Adults and kid picture-takers can get together a few times to download, sort, label, and back-up the photos on all of the digital devices in the the house. Think about turning some of the picture albums into picture books or calendars (gifts or mementos) at sites like iPhoto/iTunes, Shutterfly, or Blurb. Consider uploading some of these pictures to a digital frame and give it to a grandparent as a gift.
  • Help a senior citizen or elder in your family or community to become more confident on a computer mobile phone, or iPad.  Check out the iPad for Dad series over at AsOurParentsAge. Or help them learn more about the scams that cause so many problems for elders.
  • Plan a few device-free times for the family — hikes, meals, or read aloud together times when everyone agrees to leave the gadgets alone and not make or accept phone calls unless it’s an emergency. Read this New York Times article to get started.
  • Clean off each person’s digital device. Not using certain apps? Then retire them even if it is just temporarily. Are there pictures that on the devices that can be deleted?
  • If you child goes to away to summer camp, agree ahead of time about how you will communicate and perhaps agree to write at least a few old-fashioned letters — though you may first need to explain how to use a letter and envelope. While it’s easy to use digital communications to stay in touch, constant communication with a summer camper may thwart the growth of independence — what summer sleep-away is supposed to foster.From a MakeZine Activity. http://makezine.com/craft/how-to_diy_device_charging_sta/
  • Download a kindness app such as KINDR on all family devices and engage in random acts of kindness. Have fun keeping track of the neat things people do on the web and in daily life by sharing kindness with others, and this app may help your children start the next school year with KINDR digital habits.

Summer digital projects set the stage for family members to discover new connected world information, model positive behavior and provide lots of conversation opportunities — moments when information-sharing occurs because people are interested and not because of a concern. And, of course, have fun in the process. So when the next digital world issue does arise — probably in the fall after school begins — you will know much more about your child’s digital life than you did when school ended in June. The increased perspective can help everyone solve problems more thoughtfully — and more equitably.

Summer Camps Cut Back on Technology

gadget-camp1Are your children going to sleep-away camp this summer?

If so, have fun reading this 2011, but still timely  Chicago Tribune article, Welcome to Camp Tur-Ni-Toff, describing the lengths that sleep-away camps are going to preserve “their bucolic bubbles.” It sounds like the luckiest camps are those that do not have cell reception in the area. NOTE: The reporter points out that parents have more difficulty with the gadget prohibitions than do the campers.

My favorite quote:

The essence of camp is to rise and fall on your own … not to call your parents because you’re homesick or having a bad day,

My second favorite quote:

Even letters home are done with actual stamps and paper … a first for many of our campers.

Read the entire Tribune article.

Have A Chat If Your Child Uses SnapChat

Visit Snapchat.

If your children are using or begging to use the Snapchat app on their digital devices, the time has come for a conversation.

Kids love Snapchat because it makes them feel like they can have secrets, sharing them with others by choice, and occasionally venturing into out-of-bounds territory. They like it because it’s private. And they like it because everything self-destructs in a few seconds.

Well, not really disappear, because the digital footprints we make are never lost and are always lying around — often for a long time.

According to a New York Times article, Off the Record in a Chat App? Don’t Be Sure, the Federal Communications.Commission (FCC) has declared that Snapchat’s claims of disappearing messages and privacy are false. This is a good time to sit down with kids and review the situation — emphasizing that none of us has much privacy anymore, no matter what app makers claim. The privacy which many pre-adolescents and teens thought that they had, does not exist, according to Times reporter Jenna Wortham, who also goes into detail about the settlement with the FCC and the terms that Snapchat has agreed to.

Also take a look at the FCC’s memo, aptly titled Snapchat Settles FTC Charges That Promises of Disappearing Messages Were False. It states:                        Continue reading

Educate Family Members About Digital Scams With Snopes.com

snopes1

Visit Snopes.com.

A week does not go by without students and parents asking me about an Internet scam, a circulating chain mail, a digital rumor, or a wild web story. And on a fairly regular basis, someone — always a good reliable kid or a terrific and reliable parent — forwards a digital missive that initially seems somewhat innocuous, silly, or sarcastic but then unleashes a virus or malware. Sometimes for children the strange digital content causes social problems.

To learn more about the unusual stories that circulate on the web, I suggest that 21st Century parents introduce Snopes.com to family members as soon as each individual begins using online communication and digital devices. We all need to learn how to consult Snopes resources and navigate around the site for helpful information — the true and reliable info — when strange and unusual content beckons.       Continue reading

Better Quality Sleep? Get Some Centralized Home Charging Stations

A neat charging station made from a file box from a MakeZine activity.

A neat charging station made from a file box from a MakeZine activity.

With so many different electronic devices in our lives, it’s easy to get distracted and use them for extended periods and inappropriate times. Concerns about overuse abound, but one of the most significant issues is the way that digital devices keep people, young children, and especially 21st Century preadolescents and teens from getting enough good quality sleep.

To improve sleep habits in your house, consider purchasing or one or two digital gadget charging stations where family members can charge phones and other devices. Locate the charging stations away from the bedrooms.

A Google search for device charging stations gets you started (Amazon sells quite a few), or you can begin with this Mashable post, 10 Chic Charging Stations.

I recently discovered, in a small way, just how a cell phone screen can disrupt sleep. I received a new Solitaire game app, and began playing two or three games on my iPhone just before bed several nights in a row. A few games grew into 20 or 30 minutes of play, and for three nights in a row, when I put down the phone, it took me a long time to settle down and get to sleep. The fourth night I did not play, and sleep came easily. Lesson learned.   Continue reading