10 reasons I won't ban my son from using mobile devices

When you make a blanket statement that <insert super horrible thing that should be banned> should be banned for everyone in <insert category here>, I'm definitely going to take time to point out reasons it's a bad idea.

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Seduced by power and connection into something really good

I love tech. I love gadgets. I love learning about tech and gadgets and trying new things out with them.

When I go too long without getting a new gadget to play with, I go through withdrawal and rush out to buy ill-advised gadgets that may sit unused for many, many months like my netbook that I bought two years ago. Other times, when I wait patiently for the right time and the right gadget, I find I make a decision that is so right for so many reasons.

My latest acquisition is an iPad. Matt’s wanted one since they came out. I was more reserved. I wasn’t at all convinced of how wonderful they’d be since I had heard how awkward it is to type on them. For months after it came out, I heard more about games and movies on iPad than any actual productivity apps.

Then I went to the She’s Connected Conference in Toronto last October. All I had with me was that netbook I mentioned above and my iPhone. The netbook wasn’t a good option for recording anything about the conference because the battery was dead and there were no available power outlets. So, I was stuck with just my iPhone. The thing that made me change my mind about the iPad was the heckling that this woman did when all my friends on wifi kept losing their internet connection. (The heckling was all in good fun. :) Not only did she have her 3G connection all day, but she also had battery life that meant she didn’t need to plug in all day.

I won’t lie. I got seduced by Shannon’s power and connection. I wanted that for myself, though it wasn’t a high priority since I don’t exactly go to conferences every day.

Several months later, when Matt and I decided to take a trip to the Apple Store, we knew that there was a good chance we’d walk out of the mall with an iPad in our hands.

Though we bought it quickly, sort of on a whim (though it had been in the plan for this year), it took a bit of time for me to fully embrace my new iPad. About two weeks in, I started to wonder if I shouldn’t have jumped in so quickly. I wasn’t using it nearly as much as I thought I would. That was alarming, because it could easily end up being a colossal waste of money if it wasn’t being used.

I had to make more of an effort. This led me to start trying applications I’d downloaded and set up accounts for long ago for my iPhone (for example, Evernote, to name one). At first, I wasn’t convinced it was all that useful. Until I finally downloaded the desktop application, which led to me install the browser add-on and then I noticed integration with several other apps I use on a regular basis. Pretty soon I was carrying my iPad everywhere I went just so I could whip it out with my Zagg to take notes in meetings, workshops, save blog posts with valuable information, read and, of course, play Plants vs. Zombies as time allowed.

I realized something else recently, too. Since I started making a concerted effort to use my iPad more, I use paper less and less. With apps like Penultimate that allow you to write with your finger, who needs a pad of paper? That’s not even close to the only app that allows you to do such environmentally-friendly tasks. There are a host of apps that assist with brainstorming, note-taking, time management and so much more.

Yesterday, when a friend of mine mentioned that the “paperless” society we’ve all been expecting for the last 20 years hasn’t materialized, I started thinking about how close I’m getting to a paperless Karen. Still not there yet, but having moved all of my bills to e-bills, using a second monitor to compare two documents when necessary, taking notes (mostly) electronically rather than using paper, I’m getting there.

More and more I wish that I had the ability to do this or that electronically. One huge example is my bus pass. I want my pass on my phone so I can flash my phone at the driver and not worry that I’ve left my pass in the wrong bag. In the past 18 months that I’ve been riding the bus, I’ve forgotten my phone once. In that same period, I’ve forgotten my bus pass a couple dozen times.

I have big dreams, my friend - a world of paperless/plasticless bus passes being one of them. And iPads for all. Because they are awesome.

What gadget(s) do you love and what do you want it/them to do for you?

Should parents be scared of kids using technology?

I read this blog post today in which the author describes his daughter, who is under 2 years old, and her ability to use and interest in his iPhone. The final paragraph poses interesting questions about children and technology:

It’s hard to know how, as parents, we should handle our kids’ relationship with technology because theirs is the first generation born in this technology obsessed age of Facebook. Is this just part of being a 21st century kid? Or is there something we should do as parents to curtail this?

My first instinct was YES, this is just part of being a 21st century kid and NO, we shouldn’t curtail it. I decided to comment on the piece, because Matt and I both have a healthy interest in tech that has led to a generous supply of gadgets strewn about our home. When I comment, I tend to fly past other comments so as not to be influenced in my thoughts about the post. Then I will go back and read them. Here’s what I said:

I love tech and gadgets. I want my son to love them too. He’s three and he has his own iPod Touch which we bought used to protect our iPhones that are far more expensive to replace. He’s been very good at taking cre of it. He’s also careful with our iPad. We’ve taught him these things.

Here’s my take on it: kids *need* to learn these things. It’s going to be essential for their success in this life. Tech is only going to get more and more integrated in our lives. To cut them out of that would be a real disservice.

That said, they also need to know how to put it down and turn it off. To establish boundaries that they keep – perhaps better than their parents who are the first generation to have these things incorporated into their work/personal lives.

After going back and reading the other comments, I started to wonder if I have it all wrong. Words popped out at me from the comments: worry, scary, misgivings.

iPods are good for more than just playing games. They make nice hats too.I don’t get it. Why is this scary? Do we not remember our parents reacting the same way when we instinctively knew how to use the first CD player we ever touched without reading a manual? I’m pretty sure there was a time in the late 1800s when parents said, “I don’t see why Billy needs a phonograph. If he gets one he’ll spend all his time playing with it. I don’t like these new-fangled gadgets the kids always want.”

And a hundred years from now, parents will be saying, “No, Billy, you can’t have a jet-pack. You’re still too young to fly to school.”

Those parents who dealt with the phonograph handled it. My parents who had the VCR to contend with handled it. We’ll be able to handle the iPhones and I’m happy to leave the jet-pack question to my great-great-great-great grandchildren.

I used to be the non-mom who swore up and down that I wouldn’t let my kids play video games or watch TV. Well, Brandon’s (almost) three and I’m not too proud to admit that I’ve broken both of those vows - many times.

You know what else? We also turn off the TV. And the iPod. And the iPhone. We play with Brandon - inside and out. We take him places around town and he’s slowly learning to play with other children.

It isn’t scary that a child so young can unlock an iPod/iPhone and use it. Children learn by watching and it only takes a couple of times for them to see how mommy or daddy do it - and voila, they do it themselves. Brandon unlocked Matt’s iPod Touch for the first time when he was about 18 months old. Now he has his own (bought used) and he knows how to pick the music he wants to listen to (he also figured out how to delete it), open any app he wants and play the games I’ve installed for him.

I think the iPod Touch is just about the greatest kids’ toy ever. And you know what? For the price of about four or five Leap Frog interactive educational toys, I can buy the (used) Touch along with countless interactive educational games that he loves that is compact and extremely portable with zero loose parts to lose and scatter all over the world. As a bonus, I’m teaching Brandon to love Angry Birds, much to his father’s chagrin.

As I said in my comment on the blog, teaching children how to set boundaries around the technology that they will grow into adulthood with is what our biggest challenge is. Trying to bar them from any access to technology is futile and, in my humble opinion, probably not the wisest decision. Children need to learn how to use technology. They need to learn about the negative sides, like spam and other deceptive practices that are used. Parents can help their children navigate these issues, teaching them along the way. The end result that I hope for is a child who has a healthy interest and attitude toward technology, gadgets and the time spent using them.

How do you deal with gadgets and children in your house? Do you think restricting gadget use entirely is more beneficial? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

*****

I recently read this post by Maranda of Momicon and I love her perspective and the balanced way she applies it with her kids. Tech, gadgets and games are a legitimate interest - just like playing sports and other childhood activities.

The complicated technology of relationships

Source: istockphotoThe last few months, friendship has been on my mind quite a bit. Sometimes it’s been due to events that have happened - to myself or others. Sometimes it’s just part of my general reflections on where I’ve come from and how people and relationships have influenced me. 

In the last three years, a whole new dimension to my personal relationships has opened up. It’s the social media dimension.

I was invited to join Facebook in summer of 2007 by a co-worker. She was my first “friend” and we’re still friends through Facebook though I haven’t worked with her in a year and a half. That’s one of the things I love about Facebook. I can keep in touch with people without a great deal of effort, and vice versa. Let’s face it: we’re all busy and getting an occasional snapshot of people’s lives is nice. I’ve reconnected with many friends from high school and people who I’ve lost touch with.

I used to listen to a tech podcast - CNET’s Buzz Out Loud - and learned quite a bit about social media in general through the podcast. At one point they talked about a CNET employee who had linked his wife to his relationship status on Facebook, but as his profesional notoriety increased, he decided he wanted to separate his public persona from his private life. So, he deleted his wife’s name from his relationship status. And all of his friends and hers got the message that they were no longer married.

Relationship statuses are still published in the feed to this day (unless you disable it in your settings). I’ve had a few friends whose relationships either ended or hit rocky times and changes to that status are broadcast to everyone (It’s Complicated) and I always feel awkward about it. Not that I don’t want to know or wouldn’t be supportive in whatever way I can. But it’s abrupt to have all of your friends learn about something so momentous that way.

When I think about the “online” factor of relationships, it blows my mind. So much is documented that people don’t often think about. I can’t even count how many stories I’ve heard about jobs lost, reputations tarnished, relationships ended because of little bits of information people pick up from individuals’ online activities.

Some people get online and let it all hang out - after all, there’s no one sitting in front of you inhibiting your rash information dissemination. If there’s no face reflecting feelings, it’s easy to write or do things at a distance that you wouldn’t do face-to-face. At the other end of the spectrum, there are people that are afraid to put anything out there. Many refuse to join social networks or online communities at all. (Perhaps that’s the safest bet.)

I think there is a happy medium between these extremes. I use a few filters with my online activity.

One is the mom-filter. And it goes two ways:

  1. Would my mom (or dad) be disappointed to read/know this about me?
  2. Will my son be disappointed to read/know this about me?

Another filter I use has to do with my employability - would a potential employer stop talking to me if they read/know this about me? This one is tricky since everyone has the right to their opinions and free expression, but I think it has to do with character and how you conduct yourself overall. Being respectful of others is crucial, even when there are differences. For me, my online activity is a personal hobby. I do not talk about what I do or where I work. (I’ve even deleted comments where others have inadvertently mentioned details about my work online.)

The last major filter I use is my own comfort zone. I like to call it the this-could-be-out-there-forever-and-do-I-really-want-that filter. Like many people, when I first joined Facebook, I wasn’t terribly selective about what I said and did. As time went on, though, I gained friends and eventually realized I needed to think more carefully about what I was saying. Sure, you can delete posts, but if even one person saw it before you deleted it, then it’s out there. (It’s also Facebook - so, how do we know they actually delete it on the back end?)

We all know that reading words on a page is a recipe for misunderstanding the intent and tone of a message. But what isn’t said can be just as damaging when you’re building relationships online. It’s interesting to see how relationships built online often cause as much (if not more) angst and hurt as “in real life” (IRL) relationships. What’s more, it’s sad to see how IRL relationships are ruined by poor choices online.

It makes me wonder if technology truly causes complications with relationships or if people complicate things entirely on their own by not thinking through the implications of their actions thoroughly.

What do you think? Do you have any filters you use when you’re posting content online?

Definitely an unintended consequence

I learned a neat little trick a few weeks ago when I was at a tweetup (i.e., twitter meetup). There were quite a few iPhone-toting ladies there, including me, and one of them showed us where she stows her phone for ease and convenience and to avoid having to use one of those clips on your waist. Within our group, there were several ladies who mentioned they do the same with their phones. I liked the idea, but forgot about it for a while.

Then, in the last couple of days, Brandon’s interest in the kid games on my iPhone has really skyrocketed. I’ve been having to share my phone - a lot. (So far, I haven’t had any withdrawal symptoms.)

So, I decided to try out my cool new trick yesterday morning in the hopes that I could easily conceal it from Brandon in my new hiding spot, tucked away nice and safe in my bra. Yep, you read that right. It’s comfortable, well concealed and readily available if I ever have to use it - and Brandon wouldn’t know it was there! Until I inadvertently showed him AND he remembered! D’oh!

We were on the main floor - he was playing while I was trying to fix myself some breakfast. I guess he got bored and decided he wanted to play “new game”, which is what he’s calling several games I just showed him this weekend. I wasn’t using my phone, so I immediately - without thinking about concealing my hiding place - reached into my shirt and pulled out my phone for him to use.

One of the “new” games.Later in the day, Matt came home after a trip to the park with Brandon. As they came in the door, Matt was telling Brandon to give me the leaf he was carrying and Brandon was talking too, though I didn’t catch what he said at first. After he handed me the leaf, though, I picked him up to hug him and he immediately thrust his hand down my shirt, at which point it finally registered that he was saying, “new game” and “Mommy’s phone”.

I nearly dropped him I was laughing so hard and said to Matt, “Did you just see that? Do you know what he just did?”

Matt said, “All I know is you don’t let ME do that.”

Hysterical.

I didn’t even have the phone on me - it was somewhere else in the house. The same thing happened later in the day when I didn’t have the phone and I decided that my new hidey spot is just not going to work. Hopefully, there will be no more of these incidents, but the child remembers everything so I’m not gonna hold my breath.