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.
- 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.
- Clean up everyone’s digital profiles. Find out what happens when you Google yourself or check Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites where you share, upload, and leave comments. You probably need to get to work deleting at least some of your content that doesn’t need to be online. A Platform for Good, part of the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) posts this handy digital profile clean-up checklist.
- 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.
- 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.
- Construct a family charging station where all family devices can charge at night.
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.