‘Old school internet’ – same rules, new game

Use ‘old school’ rules even with new technology.

The first time our family played the new, electronic Monopoly game was a little disappointing. I could explain the game practically from memory; after all, I cut my teeth on Chance and Community Chest cards! For the first couple of trips around the board, I felt like this was a completely different game – the credit card, the electronic banker…it wasn’t like I remembered it at all. I was really looking forward to ‘teaching’ my kids, and I just felt like we were all learning together.   There are times when I feel that same frustration as a parent. Every time I feel confident in one area, the whole game seems to change. As fast as things change, it would be easy to stay on a hamster wheel, barely keeping up, and never getting ahead. How about you? Have you been there? Are you there now?   If you could stop…and regroup…and breathe…it may help to see things another way.   ‘The Game’ has not changed.  The object of The Game is to raise independent, responsible, productive members of society. The strategy? Teach them responsibility. Set boundaries, and insist they respect them. Love them. Protect them. Make wise decisions for them, as you teach them to one day make wise decisions for themselves. Is that any different than what your parents did? No. Are you going to have to take a new approach? Are you kidding? We’ve got to be on our game, but we can do it. Let’s do a little ‘old school’ thinking, and see how those ‘old school’ rules apply to today’s Game:   Know their friends. Sure, that would be a lot easier if all of their friends lived in the neighborhood, hung out in your living room, or ended up as a surprise guest at dinner. You have to be a little more intentional than your parents were. You’re going to have to know where your kids are ‘hanging out’ – whether it’s social media, game sites, or other communities where they interact with others online. Just like those ‘extra’ kids in your living room, you want to know who is influencing your child. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at the choices they’ve made. And on the off chance a ‘bad egg’ gets in the mix, you’ll know early enough to act.   Be visible, but not ever-present. Many parents today think if they ‘popped in’ on their kids’ Facebook page or ‘friended’ a friend of their kid’s, or signed up for an account on the latest social platform, that they are somehow violating their teen’s privacy. No. No, you are not. You are doing what YOUR parents did to keep you safe – you are doing the 2015 version of letting your kids have some friends over, but popping in every once in a while with lemonade and cookies. And if your kids have a problem with that, then maybe they don’t need to have friends over. (Get my drift?) Trust me – if your kids (and their friends) know that you can pop in whenever you feel like it, they will watch their p’s and q’s.   Attach responsibilities to privileges. When we were growing up, we didn’t go anywhere unless our chores and homework were done. We had a curfew, and 1 minute past was late. Today is no different. Taking a teenager’s phone is the old school equivalent of taking the car keys. (I’m assuming that’s already in play if they’re driving.) Hear this: your teenager does not have to have a phone. You didn’t get a cell phone until you were 30 (the fact it wasn’t invented yet is beside the point.) You are living proof that teenagers can become adults without a cell phone. If their chores are not done, they’re on phone restriction. (In my house, that also means I take an Xbox cord to work with me.) You should also have a curfew. No electronics after X:00. If you wouldn’t want your kids staying up late, being out with friends, or  going out meeting new people at 10:00 on a school night, then you’d better get those phones, tablets and laptops out of their rooms.   These are just a few examples of how our ‘old school’ rules still apply to these young whippersnappers. Use these examples and think about some other challenges you face. Consider what they are doing online, and ask yourself if you would let that happen at this time of day, with those people, in that environment, if it were happening in your living room. If you would put a stop to it in your living room, you should stop it online. Hopefully that helps you translate these ‘new rules’ into the ‘old school’ game you remember.
Cyber-Safety, Technically...

5 Lessons from Oklahoma University

I am captivated by the situation in Oklahoma, because it is so rich with food for thought for parents. Take out the fraternity element, and the specifics of what was said. That way, you can move beyond denials like “MY kid would NEVER say THAT!” or “That’s why MY kid will NOT go Greek.” To get stuck there is to miss the bigger picture, and a chance for some REAL conversation with your teenagers. Here are some thought-provoking starters for some really crucial conversations. I hope this will help you and your teen process this really ugly situation, and make something positive out of it.
  Our actions have consequences far beyond ourselves.  Think of all the groups impacted by the behavior on this video? Possible answers: the fraternity; the school; the football team lost a top recruit; 2 people lost their jobs; all of their parents; the high school that the ‘ringleader’ attended, was bombarded with negative press; Christians; (you get the idea.) Think of all the groups YOU represent right now. How would you feel if something like this happened in an organization you are part of?
  Live and act with integrity and respect for others. At ALL times. Should people be able to say and think whatever they want, as long as it’s ‘in private?’ (Emphasize that bad behavior is bad behavior, whether it’s recorded or not.) What’s the difference between harmless ‘goofing off’ and hurtful, hateful actions? (This is NOT specific to Oklahoma’s situation, which is a slam-dunk case of hate speech. Again, think big picture.)
  Honor ANY organization you represent by your actions and your words. Who are your heroes? Who is someone you look up to? What is it about them that makes you respect them? Who do you think looks up to you? How would you feel if someone told you they really admired you, and you had no idea you had an impact on them? We never know who’s watching us, and what our words and actions mean to them.
  Silence is NOT enough. Stand up, and speak out against bad behavior.  Do you think EVERYONE on the bus was singing? For the ones that were not singing, what is their role in this situation? Can you imagine what it would be like to be surrounded by your friends, who were REALLY out of line? Why do you think they didn’t speak up? Why is the fact that they didn’t so important?  Have you ever been in a situation when you could have spoken up, and didn’t? What did that feel like? What can you do to speak up in future situations? (This is really hard. Mob mentality is so powerful. Don’t settle for the answer they think you want.)
  Your family loves you, no matter what. NO. MATTER. WHAT. Think for a minute about what it must be like for these young men to go home to their parents after this. What do you think their parents said? Can you imagine how that would play out in our home? If you screwed up in a really big way, how would you feel about coming home? (This may be a tough one to get through. LISTEN, parents.) Talk to your child about the balance between unconditional love, and facing the consequences of our actions.  

Here comes the next generation…

For Christmas, Andrew (14) got a laptop. He wanted a tablet, but reading ahead to high school, we bit the bullet. He’s discovered Lynda.com, and dropped hints that led to a gift subscription. Armed with a laptop and Lynda’s unlimited knowledge, my son is brimming with ideas. If you’re a parent, you get just how exciting this is for me, without knowing anything about Andrew. He’s fourteen. Remember fourteen? Awkward, wanting to fit in, yet longing to stay true to yourself? Yeah. Here we are. We’ve watched him give up on activities that he’s been part of for years. We’ve seen his grades drop (and thankfully, recover.) The malaise that’s hung over our 8th grader was concerning, to say the least. Here it is, New Year’s Day, and Andrew is re-energized. He’s watched Lynda videos about creating a YouTube channel, and he has decided to create one himself. He researched the easiest (and cheapest!) approach for building and hosting a website. With just a little help from me, he’s off, building the look for his site, and thinking through a content calendar (even though he doesn’t realize that’s what he’s doing.) He’s got great ideas, and I’m reminding him, just as I remind myself, to start small and build. He’s taking in information like a sponge. I can’t wait to see what he does with all he’s learning! Stay tuned; I’ll post updates on how he’s doing.

Earning my cuppa Joe…

This morning, I was in the Dunkin Drive thru, and realized my card had expired. I grab the new card, call the 800 number, and go thru each of the 19 steps to activate it. Family trivia, 16 digit speed typing, and magic number memory. All in lightning round form, AND pre-caffeinated! I EARNED this cup o’ Joe!

All things technology-except in English.

I’m ‘that mom.’ No, not the one who personalizes cookies, crafts and other special treats for the class (But, oh, how I loved that mom!) I’m the mom who offers to help set up group distribution lists and social sites, and automate forms for the class. The mom other moms always seemed to come to with questions about how they AND their kids used computers, social media, and cell phones. I know not everyone cares about this stuff. We can’t just pretend it doesn’t exist though. We have to know enough to keep ourselves and our families safe, and informed. And we have to learn all this while keeping up with our own careers, taking care of our families’ health, making sure our kids get into college, and keeping our pets fashionably dressed. (No pressure.) I’m here to help. We’ll talk technology, review apps, discuss benefits (and dangers) of the ‘interwebs.’ And we’ll share tips and tricks to help you and your family get more things done while online, and some great things you can do to make your offline life the best it can be too. I hope you’ll ride along with me. We’re gonna have a lot of fun!