Originally posted on Digital Suburbia | Raising Kids in the Digital Age:

“To be popular one must be a mediocrity,” I told Rose Red, regurgitating an Oscar Wilde quote I read somewhere on the Internet today as she complained about the latest fifth-grade power play.

“What’s a mediocrity?” she asked.

No mediocrity here.

“Something that’s mediocre, just OK, not great or above anything else. See, when you have great ideas that are above the box and not inside it, it makes you different, it makes you not mediocre, not just like everyone else. Oh, people will come around eventually and adopt or even steal your great ideas, but not right away.

“You’re not a mediocrity,” I added. “You’re something way better. That’s important.”

I hope she got the message.


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No Longer a Skype Resister

I resisted Skype for a long time. My dad has been on it for years chatting with friends across the country and encouraging me to join the party. He lives around the corner from me so I figured if I wanted to talk and see him, I could walk half a block.

But in May, the Little Guy was born. My sister’s first child lives 200 miles away and is preparing to move this fall with his momma and daddy to an Air Force base even farther away.

Now Skype makes all kinds of sense. It’s great to see him growing and changing in between visits. And it’s great to see my sister doing the things moms do.

At the same time my 3-year-old nephew has discovered Skype. He lives about a mile away, but loves to Skype with me and my kids. He’s even been known to Skype his dad from the bedroom to the kitchen.

The opposite of sending a text, which for me takes out almost every personal aspect of communication, using Skype is completely intimate because it is as close to face-to-face as you can get miles away. Amazingly, these little ones will grow up with this Star Trek technology as the norm.

If you’ve resisted like me, get with the program. Every laptop you buy today has a webcam. Just download the free program and get to Skyping — I guess that’s a word now.

Photo credit: jayneandd (flickr.com)

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Striking a Balance for Kids of the Digital Age

Sesame Workshop

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I read about a survey and study presented this week by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop called Families Matter: Designing Media for a Digital Age. What I got out of it is that a lot of parents are just like me when it comes to teaching, protecting and entertaining our children today.

Here’s what the center’s executive director Michael Levine wrote about the nationwide study of 800 parents of 3- to 10-year-olds:

(The study) documents how most families are in a “transition period,” one in which parents recognize the importance of technology in their children’s learning and future success, but don’t always grant their kids access to the newer forms of media transforming their own adult lives.

The report profiles how parents’ personal experiences with media are one of the key factors shaping the approaches they take in guiding their children’s media consumption. …Of parents surveyed, 57% recognize that digital media presents ways for children to converse and connect with friends and family, but two-thirds of parents restrict their children from chatting online and visiting social networking sites.

So, yeah, I agree with those two-thirds. Three- to 10-year-olds don’t need Facebook accounts on which to chat with Grandma. That doesn’t seem odd to me.

Here’s where it does get tricky for me: Moshi Monsters. Basically a social networking and computer game site for kids, it hit 50 million users this week. Rose Red is one of them. We talk a lot about proper on-line behavior and avoiding creeps. She got asked on the site, “What’s your real name?” She responded correctly, “I can’t tell you that.” Then she told me about it and my creep alert went up and we reported that person. Maybe it was some other 10-year-old just being friendly, but maybe it wasn’t.

Another place that makes me cringe: the PlayStation Network. Chatting does go on there, mostly between classmates, but strangers have chimed in as well.

Would I rather that the only place they could communicate with friends be a rotary dial telephone with a really long cord they could drag down the hall? Sometimes. But then I’d have to live that way too.

So I have to strike a balance. Teach as much as I can about safe and proper on-line behavior and work to control the exposure. I own the computer, the TV and the electricity. (Cool Breeze saved up to buy the PS3, so he owns that.) I can say when and for how long they’re used. I can say, “It’s time to read,” or “Let’s play Monopoly,” or “Turn that off and go outside.” Is it foolproof? No. But it’s up to me to be involved and teach them how to operate in the world, especially the digital world.

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Is 3D Safe for Young Eyes?

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Everything seems to be offered in 3D today. It’s almost hard to find a family movie that’s not in 3D. The new Nintendo 3DS is a big hit in my house. So is 3D safe for those developing eyes?

The American Optometric Association says it is. In it’s 3D Eye Health FAQ, the association says “no detrimental effects of 3D viewing have been reported at any age.” It offers that handheld devices held close to the face place higher demands on vision so frequent breaks are recommended. As for those warnings that come with all your video games about seizures, the optometrists say it is not a concern for most children.

The optometrists have even said that the 3DS may help identity eye health problems. If your kid can’t see the 3D effect on the game, get him an eye exam.

So, game on, my friends. The docs say it’s OK.

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Are you ready for mobile learning?

Future of Learning

Future of Learning

Are you ready for mobile learning?

Called one of education’s fastest growing trends, mobile learning takes place on iPods, iPads, iPhones, Kindles, Nooks and netbooks. Chris Dede of Harvard University describes mobile learning in a recent report as “(l)earning a variety of content and skills anytime, anyplace with a small device light enough to be carried in one hand.”

It came to light for me in two ways last week. Our local newspaper featured a story on an elementary technology magnet school in Albuquerque, N.M., using a set of iPod Touches in the classroom to teach reading and math to fourth and fifth graders. The Albuquerque Journal doesn’t make its content available online, but there some information on the program at the Tech Savvy Mama blog.

The second application was more personal. This year school sent home a summer reading list for each of the kids. Just two books each, easily manageable. As we prepared for a weekend driving trip to visit family, Rose Red came to me with a request. Could we download “Island of the Blue Dolphins” onto the iPhone Kindle app so she could start on the list right away?

Made perfect sense, except for the fact that we could have checked it out at the library for free. Despite that, I do feel its time is definitely coming and we may as well get comfortable with it now.

What’s your experience with mlearning?

Flickr.com photo: soopahgrover

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Video Game Rating T-M: What does it mean?

ESRB "Mature 17+" rating symbol, dis...

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I don’t allow video games with an ESRB rating of M into my home.

The ESRB ratings gude says that “(t)itles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.”

No thanks. I as an adult generally choose not expose myself to such things. Why would I allow my 12-, 10- and 7-year-olds such exposure?

Recently a friend of Cool Breeze wanted him to get a video game with a rating of T-M. He  knows my rule, but he brought this “T-M” game to the house to play.

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“Oh, you can adjust the settings to make it one or the other,” friend said. It didn’t sound right to me.

I could find nothing online explaining this kind of rating, so I sent an email to the ESRB, and was pleasantly surprised to get a response in less than a week. Here was the reply:

“(W)hat you describe is a compilation rating icon, which will usually appear on hardware and compilation video game packaging.  For example, a single package may contain a Mature-rated game and, perhaps as a bonus, a copy of an earlier installment of the game which carries a Teen rating. In such an instance the product packaging would display a compilation T-M rating icon like that which appears on the game about which you inquired.”

Mystery solved. Sorry friend.

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Unplugged: Celebrating the Royal Wedding

Tea Time

I don’t know why we’re all so fascinated by the Royal Wedding of William and Kate, but we are. Last night watching the pre-nuptual coverage, I looked at Rose Red and cried, “She gets to be a princess!”

Whatever fantasies we have about leading such a life are probably dead wrong, but we hope for happily ever after anyway.

So, in honor of today’s most famous newlyweds, Rose Red, Nana and I will celebrate with a proper English tea at the St. James Tea Room. We’ll raise our tea cups to princesses everywhere and all our happily ever afters. Thanks, Nana, for the invite!

I think I may also watch an episode of Downton Abbey on Netflix tonight just to hear some British accents.

Photo credit: justmakeit (flickr)

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