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.

Educate Family Members About Digital Scams With Snopes.com

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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

What on Earth is a Flash Mob?

A lone cellist gets the music started.

A lone cellist gets the music started.

When a group of people gets together suddenly and unexpectedly for a purpose (sensible or not) that group may be called a flash mob. These gatherings, appearing to come out of nowhere, have gained some notoriety in the connected digital world — it’s just so easy to arrange them via communication tools and via social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Most often when I hear people talk about flash mobs, it has to do with crime. A large group of people descends on a small store, for instance, and clears off the shelves. Several countries have gone so far as to make flash mobs illegal. But most of these crowd events have nothing to do with crime or criminal behavior.

After a few more musicians join in the conductor arrives.

After a few more musicians join in the conductor arrives.

Most of the flash mobs today are for fun, and may even offer surprised audiences the opportunity to learn something. Interesting “mobs” may include dancers, music, improvisational theatre, poetry readers, or social protesters. Now, as experience with flash mobs expands, another purpose of these gatherings is to promote products

Sometimes a flash mob occurs and the event has nothing to do with digital communication. It becomes a performance  — not at all related to the social media-inspired gatherings encouraged by Twitter or Facebook.

In December 2013, a few of the visitors at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum were surprised by a single musician, a cellist, who came in and began playing Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring in the huge main atrium. Continue reading

Pheed: Combining All Social Media in One Place!

Pheed1

Visit Pheed.

Just when you think your teens (and tweens) have found a social media home — Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, SnapChat, for instance – along comes a competitor that draws users away in droves. In this case it’s Pheed, a website and app that lets users share every type of digital communication — videos, photos, audio, and more — in one convenient place. It’s attracting tweens and teens in droves.

What makes Pheed so popular — it launched in October 2012 and by February 2013 a Forbes article called it the number one app — is that it’s simple and fun to use. But it also expands the capabilities available on other social media sites. Pheed users can send longer messages — 420 characters as opposed to Twitter’s 140 — which in some ways makes it something like the micro-blogging site, Tumblr, and it’s easy to link to a user’s other social media accounts. The comments that users send and receive are called “Pheedback.”

Continue reading

Parent Guides Aim to Demystify Apps and Social Media Sites

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A Parents’ Guide to Instagram

I am just back from the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) 2013 conference, where I discovered a set of well-written, succinct, and easy-to-understand parent guides about various popular apps, social media sites, cybersecurity, and more. If knowledge truly is power, then these publications will help parents gain that knowledge as well as become more secure and even a bit less fearful about the activities of their 21st Century children. These 21st Century learners — our children — work and play in the almost-always-connected world.

The guides, from ConnectSafely.org, are freely downloadable as PDF files. Sometimes the download pages include additional resources.

Written by digital life and learning leaders, Anne Collier (NetFamilyNews.org) and Larry Magid (LarrysWorld.com)  the parent guides will be helpful to schools, church groups, and parent organizations. Collier and Magid collaborate at their ConnectSafely.org site.

A Parent's Guide to Snapschat

A Parent’s Guide to Snapchat

Parent guides are currently available on the following topics.

I expect these writers will write and release additional guides in the future.