Technology

January 28, 2022

All Hail Mommy Bloggers — and Social-Media Fans

I'm so jazzed to share this fun Parents TV video about mommy bloggers with you because it features two terrific friends and colleagues, Jen Singer of MommaSaid.net fame and Amanda Wolfe, Parents magazine's media editor and editor of GoodyBlog.

I'm one of Jen's columnists on MommaSaid.net. (How cool that they mentioned the columnists in the report, too.) Check out the column, "Boo Boos, Germs and Pap Smears," here.

Both Jen and Amanda will be speaking on my panel on social media at the American Society of Journalists and Authors annual conference in New York City on April 25. If you're a writer, blogger (mommy-blogger or otherwise) or a social-media fan, you won't want to miss this conference and this panel. To learn more about the conference and to register, click here.

In addition to Jen and Amanda, the panel will feature Redbook editor-in-chief Stacy Morrison (yep, she blogs, too, over at Something About Stacy) and Peter Shankman of Help a Reporter Out fame. Hope to see you there!


January 16, 2022

So Your Teen Wants to Blog? Make Sure She's Safe

"Everybody's doing it, so how can blogging possibly be dangerous, Mom?" Get ready for that question from your teen if he or she wants to start blogging.

There are lots of great things about blogging, of course: It teaches tech and writing skills, it engages the blogger with the world and helps him explore particular interests.

But there are pitfalls, ranging from kids possibly giving out too much personal information to a blogger writing something that could later come back to haunt him when college-admissions people or potential bosses do a Google search on his name.

Writer Denise Witmer, over at About.com: Parenting Teens, has written a terrific post about some of the things teens and their parents should consider before a teen starts blogging. Check it out here, then talk with your child about how to blog responsibly and safely.


January 14, 2022

#1 Post: Cell Phone In the Washing Machine!

fisheye washing machineDear readers -- I'm re-running this post in honor of the fact that it's the #1 post, in terms of Google hits, since I started this blog a year and a half ago. All I can say is there are a LOT of families out there who accidentally had a cell phone go through the washing machine! Good to know the Sena family isn't alone.

Talk about timing...

So I'm sitting here working on a magazine article on kids and cell phones, and I decide to take a break from the home office and switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer. (OK, and maybe grab some Triscuits and cheese... If there are downsides to working from a home office, like the constant reminder of dirty laundry, there ought to be upsides, like snacks. Right?)

Perfect time to discover that my 12-year-old son left his cell phone in his pants pocket and it went through the wash cycle. &*^())#$#^!

I knew I wasn’t alone with this problem when I Googled “cell phone in washing machine” and up popped 332,000 results. That seemed a bit overwhelming, so I decided to go straight to our service provider, who suggested removing the battery and letting the phone dry out for a few days. Sometimes that does the trick, they said — but often it doesn’t.

Unfortunately phones that are damaged by liquid aren’t covered by most manufacturers’ warranties. So this may be an expensive lesson for one young man regarding always emptying his pockets at night. (But his dad’s wallet went through the laundry — again — two weeks ago, so this may be a genetic problem we’re dealing with here!)

Hey, anything for a good article-sidebar idea, right?

Update: Check out my post on a new cell phone that can withstand getting wet, being dropped and just about anything else kids (or you!) can throw at it. Click below.

October 17, 2021

So Your Kid Won't "Friend" You on Facebook?

Facebook, Inc.

Thanks to writer Liz Seegert (who is also the mom of a teenage son) for telling me about a terrific article by Lisa Belkin in The New York Times Magazine: "When Your Kid Won't 'Friend' You."

Belkin talks about joining a Facebook group called “Moms of Kids Who are Embarrassed They Have a Facebook.” Apparently its ranks are growing quickly.

How old should a kid be before joining Facebook or another social-media site? Is it strictly his business what he does there — or are you, as a parent, obligated to see what's on his page and to make sure he's making good decisions, not giving out too much personal information, not posting something that might hurt his chances of getting a job after college, etc? (Man, life used to be so much simpler, didn't it?)

I had no idea how wide-ranging the opinions are on this topic until I started reading the comment after Belkin's piece. Let's just say there's no clear agreement here. But reading others' thoughts on the subject might help you look at all the issues and decide what's right for your kid.

And, really, with all the craziness surrounding kids and Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Who-Knows-What-Will-Be-Invented-Tomorrow, that's all we can do, right? Look at all sides of the issue, try to put pressure (from our kids, their peers, other parents, the media) aside and decide what's best for our family.

Hey, nobody ever said this parenting thing would be easy.

October 07, 2021

With PimpMyNews, My Blog Can Talk!


I feel like a proud mom with a big announcement: My blog said its first words yesterday! Seriously. Now it just won't shut up, and I couldn't be happier.

I met the good folks at PimpMyNews on Twitter recently, and before I could say "Hey, pimp my blog!" CEO John Atkinson was talking with me about all the cool things Parent Talk Today could do when it could talk.

PimpMyNews offers your favorite blogs in audio form. And I'm not talking about just blogs that feature podcasting or video blogging. PimpMyNews translates the written text to audio. (And it sounds surprisingly less mechanical than I thought it would. This technology has come a long way recently.)

It also converts the audio to MP3 files, which you can listen to with any MP3 player or from your iPod, iPhone, Mac or PC.

Yep, now you can download and listen to Parent Talk Today on your iPod while you go for a walk, cook dinner, wait for your kids at soccer practice or hit the gym.

How cool is that?

To check it out (and I hope you will — this is amazing stuff), just click on the "listen to my blog" button at the top of the right sidebar.

P.S. You can read more about PimpMyNews below.

September 27, 2021

Cyberbullying: What Parents Need to Know

The whole idea of cyberbullying makes me crazy. Bullies aren't just relying on the threat of a bloody nose after school these days. (As if that wasn't bad enough.) Now they've emerged in cyberspace, able to steal a kid’s pride and confidence instead of his lunch money.

What exactly is cyberbullying? "It consists of a person who uses the anonymity of the Internet to ridicule, make fun of or put down another person on an Internet conversation site, such as a chat room, a bulletin board, MySpace or Facebook," says Tony Jurich, a professor of family studies and human services at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.

At the heart of any bully is actually a coward who uses his or her advantage to humiliate, demean or embarrass, says Jurich. Instead of working on their own issues, bullies pick on others to feel better about themselves. The difference is the cyberbully gets more coverage and a wider exposure. One catty remark can hit thousands of people in a very short amount of time, he explains.

It takes courage to stand up to this kind of bullying. But cyberbullying must be addressed at home, in school and throughout society as a whole. And here's the take-home point on this whole thing, according to Jurich: Students should be smart about what they reveal. The less information that a child or teen puts out on the Internet, the safer they will most likely be. But even that is no guarantee. Even if kids turn off their computers, they can still be victimized by cyberbullies who use the Internet to ridicule them for something that happened at school.

It’s important that children know the steps to take if they are a victim of cyberbullying. Encourage them to talk with you if they feel they have been bullied online. Communicate the importance of printing a hard copy of an insulting remark. And be sure to alert other parents, teachers or even the police if necessary.


September 23, 2021

When Should My Kid Have a Cell Phone?

An air mattress in the shape of a mobile phone

Chris Brogan, posting over on Dad-o-Matic (my favorite new parenting blog) has a terrific post today on kids and cell phones:

Saw this post by Julie Bonner, where she talks about her daughter getting a cell phone before the age of 11. Now, some of you just raised an eyebrow. You’re wondering if that’s a bit early for a ten year old to own a cell phone. I’m going to say that it’s not, from my perspective. With current requirements on scheduling, freedom, and even safety, giving a child a cell phone seems to be moving towards being the norm.

Brogan goes on to share some great tips about what type of plan to buy, parental controls, rules for cell-phone use and a lot more. Good stuff. Check it out here.


March 06, 2022

Cell Phone in the Washing Machine - Arg!

Talk about timing...

So I'm sitting here working on a magazine article on kids and cell phones, and I decide to take a break from the home office and switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer. (OK, and maybe grab some Triscuits and cheese... If there are downsides to working from a home office, like the constant reminder of dirty laundry, there ought to be upsides, like snacks. Right?)

Perfect time to discover that my 12-year-old son left his cell phone in his pants pocket and it went through the wash cycle. &*^())#$#^!

I knew I wasn’t alone with this problem when I Googled “cell phone in washing machine” and up popped 332,000 results. That seemed a bit overwhelming, so I decided to go straight to our service provider, who suggested removing the battery and letting the phone dry out for a few days. Sometimes that does the trick, they said — but often it doesn’t.

Unfortunately phones that are damaged by liquid aren’t covered by most manufacturers’ warranties. So this may be an expensive lesson for one young man regarding always emptying his pockets at night. (But his dad’s wallet went through the laundry — again — two weeks ago, so this may be a genetic problem we’re dealing with here!)

Hey, anything for a good article-sidebar idea, right?

Update: Check out my Sept. 30 post on a new cell phone that can withstand getting wet, being dropped and just about anything else kids (or you!) can throw at it. Click here. 


January 06, 2022

Want to Watch Your Family Grow? Check This Out

Each year on June 17, since 1976, Diego and Susy Golberg have taken a photo of themselves for posterity. When sons Nicolas, Matias and Sebastian arrived, each joined in the yearly ritual as well.

After three decades, what has been created can only be described as a treasure. Check it out on their website.

ABC News producers were so taken with the project, they did a segment on it, which you can also see on the site.

Funny, but Diego and Susy don't look too pooped during the crazy baby/toddler years, but when the boys hit their early teens, they look like they've been through a lot! Coincidence?

You might be wondering how I stumbled upon this cool website in the first place. I found it through StumbleUpon, an amazing new site that helps you find websites, videos, photos and more, based on your interests. (Be careful... It's addictive!)

December 13, 2021

Sick of Video Games? Get the Kids Hooked on Something Better

"Mom, can I do PlayStation?" It's a phrase I hear all too often, even though we limit "screen time" at our house. Of course, I don't completely despise video games (although they do seem to suck the brain cells from my 11-year-old son's skull, right before my eyes). That black box comes in handy when Mom and Dad are in need of a privilege to take away when a certain kid crosses the line.

Sure, Matt spends plenty of time doing homework, hanging with friends and playing sports, too. But what I've been wanting, this holiday season, is a gift that will replace video games when Matt wants to noodle around with something electronic around the house. Something educational and also fun. (That will be just between us. Dare I use the words "educational" and "fun" in the same sentence? Not around Matt, who'€™s sure he gets enough education at school.)

DIGITAL MUSIC MAKING TO THE RESCUE

Finally, I've found the answer: Creating and recording music on our home computer. Specifically, using GarageBand (approx. $99 as part of the iLife '08 Family Pack), which we have installed on our Mac. You can also find similar software for Windows, such as Cakewalk Sonar Home Studio (approx. $100) M-Audio Pro Tools (approx. $249), Sony ACID Pro (approx. $40), etc.

Matt has been taking piano lessons since first grade, but he was never able to combine his love of music with his love of pushing buttons and messing with games and all things digital. Until now.

Chris "Sharpie" Sharp, 37, of Midland, Texas, knows just a little bit about this whole digital-music thing — on a somewhat grander scale. As the monitor engineer for Rob Thomas on his recent solo tour and for the upcoming Matchbox Twenty tour this January through March (he's also worked with Nickelback, Usher, Evanescence and others), this guy understands music and the digital world. (If, like me, you need a definition of what a monitor engineer does, Sharp is the guy off to the side of the stage who mixes the sound that the band hears in their earpieces while they're playing.) I couldn't think of a better-qualified person to ask about all this electronic stuff because he is not only musically and technically savvy — he's also a devoted dad.

GEARING UP

Sharp and his wife, Rinda, 32, have two kids, 15-year-old daughter Destinie and 15-year-old son C.J., so he knows all about the allure of video games. But he thinks my husband and I might be onto something by deciding to get Matt a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) controller to use with GarageBand. 

This keyboard-like device (prices start at around $200) doesn'€™t record sound waves like a tape recorder does. It digitally encodes the start of a note, its pitch, length, volume and musical attributes, such as vibrato. As a result, MIDI music files take up a lot less space than digitized sound files. (So there might actually be some room left on the computer for Matt's book reports...) Soon Matt will be able to write and record his own songs and send MP3 files to his friends.

Using a MIDI controller with computer software like GarageBand can open up a whole new world of creativity for a kid, Sharp says. And today's digital technology means that you don't need an entire board, like the monster board he uses on tour, to record your own music. A kid can do it at home. Pretty cool.

GOING FISHING


While he agrees that many parents can barely tolerate the video games that their kids crave, music is something where we can meet our kids halfway, Sharp notes. "Music speaks to each person," he says, adding that he tries to share in the types of music that interest his kids while also subtly sharing his favorite music with them. (And in his line of work, he's definitely on the "hip-dad" side of things, which helps.) "It's sort of like fishing. You can't force your kids to be interested in a certain thing, but you can try different types of bait." So you'll hear hip hop, rock, Tejano and other types of music around the Sharp home.

Sounds like good advice. And while my husband and I love to share our favorite music with Matt, and we love to learn about what he likes, we're looking forward to hearing him make and record some fun music of his own very soon. Because with today's technology, a kid's desire to play with electronic stuff and push buttons can be satisfied while he's also learning about computers, music and all things digital.

Take that, Dragon Ball Z!

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