Resources and discussion for parents, teachers and young people navigating the evolving landscape of the digital world.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Common Sense Census

Common Sense Census Infographic
also posted at 

We love data! Analyzing trends and figuring out what’s going on in the digital lives of our kids involves asking a lot of questions, reading plenty of books and articles, and looking at vast collections of numbers. What’s especially tricky to dissect, however, is what all the numbers mean when the pace of technological change is so rapid. For example, If you’ve come to our workshops any time in the last 5 years, you know we’ve been waiting for current data to compare to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2010 study that shows kids spend, on average, 7 hours and 38 minutes with entertainment media daily. Well guess what didn’t exist in when the Kaiser study was published? Instagram (launched October 2010) and Snapchat (released September 2011) are now two of the most popular social media apps among teens. Minecraft was just a baby in 2010, but has exploded in popularity, along with other games, since then. How do these new contenders vie for kids’ attention and how might they impact media consumption hours?

This past November, Common Sense Media released the Common Sense Census, a comprehensive report on media use by teens and tweens. According to this new report, media time is now 9 hours a day for teens (6 hours for tweens). And these numbers do NOT include homework time! So how does a family set reasonable limits and support kids in developing responsible and healthy habits when it comes to their use of media and technology? CSM recommends four tips in The New Guide to Managing Media for Tweens and Teens:
  1. set limits on screens of all sizes
  2. promote creative, responsible consumption, not passive use
  3. understand the myth of multitasking
  4. set a good example!
We will be covering all this and more at our annual workshop on January 28th. And if your child is not yet a tween or teen? Let’s discuss young kids’ media and tech use and proactively set the stage for what is to come. We have much to share, and plenty of resources to take with you as your family works together to build, test, revise, and strengthen the guidelines, values, and expectations you want to promote. We look forward to seeing you!

Friday, May 1, 2015

FOMO and the "Cellphone Bypass"

I've had a revelation! In the past several weeks, since our parent workshop, I've been mulling over this idea of what I have come to call the "cellphone bypass." When our children have the means to communicate directly with each other (through their phones or other personal devices), home phones are pretty irrelevant. Many people don't even have a common family phone line any more! So no longer is there a person calling your house, asking to speak to an adult about an upcoming event, or even asking a child directly about something while they are on the phone in a common space where the parental units are likely to overhear the conversation and perhaps ask, "What's going on? Is this something I should know about?" Nothing earth-shattering in this realization, obviously, but I'm having a personal epiphany here...indulge me.

Until today, I have been considering the "bypass" mostly from the perspective of the grumpy mom who is the last to find out when her kids are planning something that no one has bothered to tell her about, or give her any details that she considers ESSENTIAL to life planning. And as the keeper of the family calendar, and as the Director of Driving Operations, I need to be informed. Gone are the days when invitations to parties arrived by mail, when calls came to the house and adults exchanged information. In many cases, kids are attempting to just "handle it" on their own because they can easily talk to each other through their individual devices. I hope I'm not the only parent who finds this annoying a lot of the time.

Today, however, I had a different thought about it. Adults perpetually lament teens' attachment to their phones ("Can you put that DOWN for a few minutes, please?") and the myriad drawbacks we see to their constant connection to others through a screen. The term FOMO, Fear of Missing Out, is an ailment afflicting people everywhere who stay constantly connected because they don't want to miss anything!

Well guess what? I have it. Not the kind that makes me want to check my own phone constantly, because I can take it or leave it, and I'm often quite happy to leave it. But I have the kind of FOMO that resents the cell phone bypass because it cuts me out of the process. I'm out of the loop. Plans are getting made without me. I'm essential to fulfilling those commitments and making sure the plans actually happen, but I don't get brought in until late in the process. And I bluster and complain and whine about it...but what I really feel? 

A little sad, if I'm honest. 

I still want to be involved and included. A part of my kids' lives. The way I used to be when they were little and everything went through me first. ACK! When did I become this person?

#FOMO #thestruggleisreal

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Parenting in a Digital World, 2015

Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Wow, it's been a while since we've written a post here! I suppose that speaks to how busy we have been this school year, but we are working to get back into a regular writing routine, I promise. There is so much to share and discuss!

Last night we hosted our annual Parenting in a Digital World workshop, and I left feeling super energized and excited to tackle future initiatives, share more stories and research with the families in our community, and extremely grateful to the folks who came, participated, and contributed wholeheartedly to an excellent discussion of current issues facing our kids (and us, too!) with an eye toward creating a more pleasant, kind, and educational digital world. It was great!

Here in one neat spot are all the resources from the presentation, as well as a few links to stories we brought up as examples, more statistics, and helpful sites you might want to check out. If you have any questions or requests for us to address particular topics, please leave a comment!

Our slide presentation:

SMAHRT Slide Presentation

Texting/Emoji Quiz (just for fun)

The Resource List (downloadable document)



Online Resources:

Adolescent Development:

Media Conversation Hooks

  • “what’s your favorite way to communicate with your friends?”
  • “what does _____ do that ______ doesn’t?”
  • (insert names of two favorite apps) 
  • “what’s hard to say face-to- face that is easier to say online?”
  • “what did you learn about someone online that they have never told you face-to-face?”
  • “how do you show friends how you feel online? What happens if someone misunderstands it?”
  • “what topics are too important to you to talk about online?”
  • “what’s the funniest status update you’ve ever shared?”
  • “what do you wish you hadn’t shared?”(or, I once shared this, and I wish I hadn’t. has that ever happened to you?”)
  • “how do you help a friend who suddenly has a bunch of snarky comments on something they posted?”
  • “what do you do when you feel lonely?”
  • “wow. I just learned that college students prefer to learn from textbooks instead of e-books. Why do you think that is?”
  • “what app did you used to use that you don’t any more. What changed?”

Lindy West interviews her "troll" on NPR

Other Statistics from Different Sources (Document)

Linked here is a list of stats compiled from two different sources. The first is from an upcoming documentary from The Representation Project called The Mask You Live In (trailer below). I do a great deal of work in my Digital Citizenship class around stereotypes in the media, and more specifically we look at gender stereotypes, identity, and the roles kids assume in their interactions with others. I firmly believe that a huge part of the "trouble" kids get into with technology--their language, behavior, sexting, exploring that "inappropriate" content they all mention--could be avoided if we were willing to have more open conversations with them around sexuality, emotions, self-esteem, group think, fitting in, and all the angst-y things associated with their adolescence. To that end, we have looked deeply at the messages our society and the media send us about who we are supposed to be, act like, and look like, especially through the lenses of masculinity and femininity in our culture.  After producing Miss Representation, about the portrayal of women in the media, filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom decided to look at the other side of things and try to answer the question, "What is happening to our boys?" There are some shocking and heartbreaking statistics that come out of her work and the research behind it. After sharing the film's trailer and a few of the statistics with students, I've had several boys express a keen interest in seeing the film and spending more time discussing the issues it raises. Charles Wright has purchased the rights to screen the film, and the accompanying curriculum, but we are still waiting to receive it. It should be here in May sometime! We will keep you posted. The film as it was originally produced is for a 16+ audience. The educational version we have purchased will include a PG-13 version that will be more appropriate for us to use. I plan to write a more thorough post on all that I have learned since I dove into "Boy World." Stay tuned...

The second set of stats come from Dr. Elizabeth Englander, who hosted a webinar online that I recently attended, sponsored by the Digital Citizenship group at Common Sense Media and Her book is in the list of resources above. Great stuff from her team here!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Is it YOURS to Share?

Trying to make #THINKY happen   
I'm constantly looking for ways to reinforce the concepts of Digital Citizenship in ways that my students can remember. A lot of that has to do with repeating myself over and over and over...and over. Twice.

When the "T.H.I.N.K." poster came along, it really resonated with kids and they "got it" when it came to understanding what they were supposed to think ABOUT. It actually inspired S.C.R.A.P. as our definition of digital citizenship, because we like acronyms, and they are easier to remember than big, long definitions. Now, thanks to this repetition, I can say the word SCRAP and kids know what I am talking about right away. (Well, most of the time.)

So some things have happened to make us revisit the concept of thinking before you (fill in the blank) when online. In the modern age of sharing, sharing, and sharing some more, we thought something was missing here. Something to do with consent, positive digital footprints, and being a good friend. We were asking ourselves quite often, "is this mine to share?" Is it my story to tell? Do I have permission to show others this photo? Wouldn't I appreciate being asked first before someone shares a picture of me? With that in mind, we decided to add a Y to our think posters. After all, this is an essential question to ask before we post anything, every bit as important as truth and kindness.


Pass it on. Make it happen.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Social media can save the world (or at least do some good things)

"I am instantly reminded how connected we can all be to each other's experiences and perspectives if we take the time to dig a little deeper than the superficial. "
It's easy to become cynical about the state of the Internet, media, and what sometimes feels like an infiltration of the digital world into every part of our lives. Anyone who spends anytime watching, reading, or participating in the digital world probably feels some amount of cynicism, disappointment, or even rage on a regular basis. I know I do. But lately, I've found it's a little easier to also feel joy and hope for humanity.

This dose of positive energy comes to me in the form of Humans of New York. If you haven't heard of HONY, you should probably get on that right now (tumblr, Twitter, or Facebook). Brandon Stanton, the creator of Humans of New York, has taken a photography project started after a brief stint as a bond trader, and turned it into an example of what is good about the digital world. Almost every day,  Brandon wanders the streets of New York City (and recently Jordan, Israel, Ukraine, Vietnam, Nepal and 7 more countries with the United Nations) and takes photographs of people he meets along the way. He also asks each person a few questions.  Mr. Stanton's questions elicit amazing insight into each of his subjects. I am constantly surprised by the depth he can achieve from just a small amount of time with each man, woman, or child.

Every day, after reading about politics, the state of the world, some crazy new social media tool that seems like a REALLY bad idea, and a few very uncivil comments, I check Twitter or Facebook and I happen upon a recent HONY post. I am instantly reminded how connected we can all be to each other's experiences and perspectives if we take the time to dig a little deeper than the superficial. What a fantastic daily lesson. Reading about someone else's path, even if it just a small part of a person's life, reminds me that everyone has a story: something amazing and something difficult in their past or present.

The Humans of New York project exists in the digital realm, but it connects us all to each other outside of our digital lives. It's a great reminder that the driver in that other car, the clerk at the grocery store, a colleague at work, and even the politician we disagree with on the news, are also humans who have lives beyond our interactions with them.

HONY is also a fantastic example for our young people. They regularly hear messages about Internet safety, managing their digital footprints, sexting, cyber-bullying, and otherwise avoiding making poor choices. What young people need to hear more about is how technology benefits the world and how they can contribute.  Your child, or our student, could be a young Brandon Stanton. If we only discuss the digital world from a place of fear and apprehension, we'll pass that fear and apprehension along. Though it is important to make informed choices, it's also important to get involved. Are you raising a budding photographer? Get those images online! Build a portfolio of amazing work.  Does your student tinker or take things apart? Does she program all the electronic devices in your home? She can start a YouTube channel and teach others what she knows. Is your child passionate about a cause? Does he want to build wells in Africa or save the local wetlands? He can find out about organizations that do that work now... or start his own.  The possibilities are truly endless.

If cynicism and disappointment are taking over, or if the negative consequences of our increasingly digital lives are driving you nuts,  remember that things can change.  HONY is a positive influence in the world and the impact is growing. The more we support the positive, the better chance we'll have to shift the digital environment towards good. We might not make it happen, or be there when it does, but our kids can and will.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Teens and #DigCit - A New Round of Posts!

Our 4-Part Project
The third and final batch of 9th graders has rotated through the Digital Citizenship class, and they have just published their posts to our blog. Please help us out!

In this four part project (more details here), publishing our work comes after lengthy research and draft writing. Then we get to the fun part, which is interacting with all of you! We aim to teach digital citizenship by actually practicing it. So, with that in mind, we invite as many people to come and read our posts as possible, and we especially invite you to leave us a comment. Students are responsible for moderating the discourse under their post, and will answer your questions or otherwise respond to your thoughts. Please visit!

Here are all the posts from 3rd trimester students thus far.

Copyright and Other Legal/Ethical Issues:

Television, Media, Videogames and Kids:

Gender and the Media:

What Your Digital Footprint Says About You:

Technology and Your Health:

Photoshop, Altered Images, Self-Esteem:

Thanks for helping our cause. Students really get excited when they realize that other people are reading their work and not just their teacher. It's a bit nerve-wracking to become a "published author on the internet," which is why we have them do a reflection piece at the end of the whole thing. Check back for those in a couple weeks!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Thank You, Olympic View Elementary!

It was a warm and beautiful evening in Seattle last night! We are so appreciative of the many PTA members who joined us at Olympic View for our presentation. Slide are all below, and links within are all active.

Shortcuts to a few things: 
Evolving Parents
9th Grade Digital Citizenship (student posts)
Common Sense Media
A Platform for Good (great resources for parents)

Recommended Books:
It's Complicated, danah boyd
Masterminds & Wingmen, Rosalind Wiseman
The Elephant in the Living Room, Dr. Dimitri Christakis