digital technology

Coddling our kids, the effect of technology on parenting and the "good old days" are discussed in this radio segment

Parenting. It’s a tall order but someone’s got to do it. Figuring out just how to do it, successfully, however is the question that most parents find themselves wondering about more often than not.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Rita DeMontis, who has made her mark as an award-winning Lifestyle and Food journalist for over 36 years.

On the eve of the back-to-school craziness that engulfs most households with kids, we spoke about a number of topics, including “Helicopter Parenting,” the effects of coddling children, freedom and a the importance of maintaining a “tech-free zone” every so often. It was great to have this discussion as these topics are becoming increasingly more pressing and real for so many of us who are trying to raise our kids the best we can.


We had a great discussion and got on famously while “dishing” on the challenges of raising children in a digital age. As with so many other posts on this blog, the topic of how to balance technology and kids’ screen time, as well as “the good old days” were key themes throughout the interview.


Have a listen and tell me what you think about some of the topics that we touched upon during the interview. I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

To listen to the full interview, start at 14:10 to 25:50 

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Full Steam Ahead: STEAMLabs Maker Classes For Kids

by Samantha on September 8, 2015

How My Daughter Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Programming




“I could program that!”

And with this statement, I knew that my daughter was on her way.

Having completed a summer camp program where she was challenged to learn code and build her own functioning item resulting from her programming, she succeeded  – and then some –  but not without the help of the amazing teachers at STEAMLabs.

Founded by a dad who was inspired by Gever Tulley’s Ted Talk, Andy Forrest, along with Marianne Mader started a “Tinkering Club” summer camp in their garage in 2010. Andy had a background as a web developer and a passion for “tinkering,” and was inspired to start a club that supported kids who had the same interest.

With the starting point of helping the kids learn and discover what interested them, the club launched with a group of “mini-makers” who were supported with their passion to create by Andy and Marianne.

In the spring of 2012, they opened a permanent makerspace location and formed a non-profit organization. Since then, it’s been “full steam ahead” as they provide children with the ability to see their ideas come to life, often in 3D.

When my daughter Miranda was offered the opportunity to check out one of STEAMLab’s summer maker camps, she jumped at the chance.

The program, which focuses on teaching kids Arduino programming language, also teaches eager learners the basis of HTML and CSS code. In addition, the young “Makers” were able to experience 3D printing first-hand, in the creation of their project.

Other areas that the course covers includes:

  • Learning the basics of digital design and fabrication to 3D print robot parts
  • Learning to send messages from Minecraft to the robot created in class
  • The creation of a remote-controlled creature that is activated by programming learned in class
  • Individual and group projects that facilitate learning, creating and collaboration

While my daughter was excited to start the class, she had some trepidation and nervousness about her ability to learn what she thought would be a difficult set of skills. After all, she hadn’t ever done any programming and knew very little about robotic technology, 3D printing and related topics. It was a relief, then, to see her excitement and abilities grow as she mastered new skills, learned and was supported in the positive environment that STEAMLabs provided.

My daughter testing her LED display before completion.


As part of the Web-Controlled Arduino Robotics Summer Camp, my daughter gained not only the skills to allow her to program at a level that surprised even herself, but also provided her with the confidence to continue her interest in programming, robotics and 3D creation.

Maker culture has seen a rise in eager participants who, with the help of the latest technology (can we say 3D printing, anyone?), are able to see their imagined items come to life. With a lot of forethought, preparation, planning and coding, the young and inspired can realize their most creative inspirations come to life.


My daughter’s project was a remote-controlled, LED display (her idea) that provided various LED lighting options for the user, via a remote control.

*NOTE* – My daughter calls it a “flashlight” but the name does not do justice to the advanced abilities that the item provides. These include colour waves, programmed flashing and colour patterns and more.



As part of the creation project, the elements involved:

  • Writing the software/programming on a website
  • Wiring and sautering the various pieces of the item (with assistance)
  • Installation of the hardware, connecting the lights, etc.
  • Assisted with 3D printing of frame

The final product was a success!

Check out these videos that show just a couple of the many light displays that were programmed.


How it works: The device is controlled wirelessly, through both a wireless and Arduino chip that controls the LED grid. The program that was written also controls the colours and the brightness of the LED displays to enable them to do a number of things, including making a colour wave across the grid, sequential flashing, changing flashing colours and patterns, etc. The housing of the device frame was completely 3D printed in class – a very cool feature for the eager young students. We all know that having a child complete a project successfully gives them not only a sense of satisfaction, but the confidence to move forward with their next creative idea. This was definitely the case with my daughter’s experience with creating a fully-functioning device from scratch – programming and all.

Girls and Boys

One of the unexpected positive aspects of my daughter’s success in this course was the fact that while the class included more boys than girls, she represented the XX chromosome and then some, not letting the preconceptions of girls’ supposed inabilities to master this stuff get to her.

While the stereotypes about females not excelling in science, math, programming and related topics still persist, they’re diminishing, in large part due to classes such as the ones offered by STEAMLabs. Providing a forum where both girls and boys are supported to achieve their goals, regardless of gender is something that we as parents should support whenever we can. We’ve come a long way in terms of stereotypes and perceptions about the sexes, and while we’ve still got a long way to go, courses such as the one taken by my daughter are making a difference in providing the forum for kids of both genders to excel.

STEAMLabs is continuing to build its curriculum, with a number of new courses underway. Following are just a few that are now available for kids who are eager to see their creative ideas come to life:

If it’s not already clear, I’m a huge fan of STEAMLabs and their support and encouragement of young minds. Check them out at


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As kids return to school, educators and parents are split on the use of popular technology tools in class

As the kids return to school, the topic of technology use in the classroom is one that will once again be discussed amongst parents and educators alike. In a time where kids of all ages carry what amounts to a mini-computer in their back pockets, there is no longer the option to decide whether or not this is a topic that’s worthy of discussion. The time is now, and all of us who have a vested interest in how our kids learn will need to step up to the plate to determine how, when and what tools will be used in the learning process.

Smartphone use among kids is continuing to grow, as parents grapple with the question of how old their child should be before they become attached to an electronic device. With access to the latest technology now an expectation by most kids (often as young as elementary school), the answer to this and other related questions must be addressed.

I was recently interviewed by The Canadian Press for perspective on the topics of school, educators, the classroom and technology, specifically the use of smartphones in class. You can read the full article here:

Debate grows over using smartphones and social media in classrooms


kids and tech classroom

What do you think? Are you comfortable with your child’s access to technology in the classroom, including cellphones, computers and other devices? Why or why not? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

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IN THE NEWS: Your Baby Monitor Can Be Hacked

by Samantha on August 1, 2015

Who's listening to your baby? Parents urged to take precautions with monitor technology



Who’s listening to your baby?

Are you safe? Is your baby safe?

The intersection of technology and parenting continues to expand as we increasingly rely on digital tools to make our roles as parents easier. We use tech more than ever to live our daily lives, from watching our babies to entertaining them; from reading to our kids to monitoring them (texting and cell phones). It all seems great, right? Granted, the convenience provided by technology can’t be denied, but there is a dark side to its usage as well.

As hacking becomes more commonplace in our daily lives, the instances of our digital tools being compromised will also increase. We’ve seen a rise of incidents where personal information has been hacked via email, cell phones and cloud accounts, but did anyone really anticipate that baby monitors would be a target too?

It’s scary to think that our most precious assets could be open to being spied on, secretly viewed, spoken to by strangers, or worse.

I recently provided my thoughts on this disturbing trend in an interview on Global News. You can watch the full segment below. There are also some simple tips that parents can follow to make sure that their babies remain safe and secure.

What you do to avoid hacking via baby monitors or similar devices:

1) Educate Yourself – Make sure that you fully understand the technology that you’re using, especially in their children’s rooms.

2) Err on the Side of CautionWhen in doubt, don’t. If you have any concerns or misgivings about the technology behind any particular device, don’t use it until you are sure about it’s security, or chose another option altogether.

3) Choose a Secure Password – Don’t make the password for your device too easy. Remember to use a login that is not easily-guessed, that is changed frequently, and that includes a non-sensical string of letters (both upper and lower case) and numbers. For more information on how to choose a secure password, visit this page: How to Create a Secure Password.

4) Limit the Use of Devices – The less amount of devices used to monitor our kids, the less likely hackers will be able to successfully gain access where they don’t belong.

Global News Segment – Baby Monitor Hacked!


What other tips do you have for parents who are concerned about being hacked? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.


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Pregnancy and Public Transit

by Samantha on June 14, 2015

What has happened to kindness and common courtesy?

Pregnant belly

She was about 8 or 9 months pregnant, belly hanging low, baby about to drop any day. The previous months had clearly taken a toll on her, as her face showed the exhaustion and fatigue required to make a human being. She was physically spent, yet there she stood.

Yes, she was standing. Standing on the 505 streetcar in downtown Toronto, as it abruptly stopped and started in morning rush hour traffic. Had she slept the night before? Unlikely, as anyone who has experienced the final months of pregnancy knows: a good night’s sleep is an ephemeral and fleeting fantasy.

Yet there she stood, while all around her, young, fit and otherwise preoccupied citizens pretended not to see her by burying their heads in their smartphones of choice.

A 20-something man in a crisp suit, clearly headed to his job in the financial sector pretended to sleep, as his eyes closed immediately after viewing the pregnant woman’s swollen belly.

A middle-aged woman played candy crush saga with an intensity and fervour that many of us thought only belonged to a younger generation of gamers, her eyes glued to her retina display screen.

Three teenage girls in private school uniforms giggled amongst themselves, giving nary an eye to the belly that not only protruded into the aisle in front of them, but turgidly languished on the very edges of their personal space. You see, her belly – had it been acknowledged – would have broken up the party, and that wouldn’t have been cool. The latest gossip about that cute guy in class and recap of last night’s TV show was much more important.

This had not been the first time that I had seen such appalling behaviour. Sadly, purposely, ignoring pregnant women while riding public transit has become the norm, not the exception. What has happened to humanity?

I’ve posted many rants and complaints about this on my personal Facebook page and talked to many friends who are mothers themselves. All of them have a similar story to recount about how they have been ignored  while pregnant and riding public transit.

A personal anecdote: during my last and final pregnancy with my twin boys, I could barely walk. I was considered “high-risk” for a few medical reasons which relegated me to bed-rest for most of my pregnancy. On those off days before I was completely immobile, somewhere between my seventh and eighth month of gestation, I needed to use the public transit to get to my doctor’s appointments. Now, let me say that having my third pregnancy and twins, no less, made me huge, much earlier than I would have been, had I been on my first pregnancy. In other words, there was no doubt that I was indeed pregnant.

Yet there I stood.

Their eyes averted, I was ignored, invisible and silently defeated as I struggled to balance so many times on the streetcar, hoping that some kindly person would give me a seat. My elephant-sized ankles continued to swell, my feet ached and my back painfully swayed with each lurch and jolt of the streetcar. Everything hurt, including my feelings.

As the mother of four, and one who has experienced three different pregnancies, I’m sad to say that this experience wasn’t atypical. Sadly, it was the norm, not the exception. And every single woman that I know who has been pregnant has experienced the same. What on earth is going on?

While I don’t profess to have all of the answers, I do believe that our culture of entitlement is a huge factor in this cultural shift. Once upon a time, there was chivalry, then socially accepted norms that included women, about “doing the right thing.” Helping someone who was clearly in need was the norm, not the exception. With the increasing sense of entitlement, exemplified by the “Me Generation” and continuing onward, those in need haven’t had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting a fair shake. Whether they’re seniors who are unstable on their feet, the disabled or the aforementioned pregnant woman just looking for a kind soul who will let her have a well-needed seat, the chances of these folks receiving this small kindness grows smaller every day. The lack of focus on others, supported by the technological tools to “zone out” or feign ignorance wherever and whenever possible makes this willful blindness not only possible but probable as well.

Yet, in spite of this trend towards selfishness, I do believe that change is possible. The change starts now with all of us who are raising children with the values that support kindness and compassion. And while we make efforts to effect our childrens’ behaviours in future there are some adults who are in need of an etiquette refresher now.

I am starting a one-woman public awareness campaign as I feel that it needs to be done. As someone who has endured a very difficult twin pregnancy and was on the verge of begging someone to please give me a seat, the time for greater awareness for this reality is long overdue. Clearly, the assumption that everyone riding on the bus/subway/streetcar/[insert transportation mode here] understands that pregnant women should be given a seat is completely wrong. My assumptions – based on the teachings of my parents (thank-you, Mom and Dad) underscored the importance of kindness, but more specifically the need for those of us who are more able, to extend said kindness – and where appropriate, a seat – to those in need. This includes the elderly, the disabled and, of course, pregnant women.

Whenever and wherever you can, please remind those riding the public transit who seem to have forgotten basic courtesy that pregnancy is challenging, difficult and just plain exhausting. If a pregnant woman is standing while able-bodied people are pretending not to see her, be her advocate and ask them to give her a seat. I’ve done it before and have never been told “no,” probably because the shock of being called on their bad behaviour mixed with their embarrassment makes the culprits stand up quicker than one would imagine.

Perhaps making the subject one that is no longer ignored, one where pregnant women don’t have to suffer in silence, will put an end to it once and for all. If anything, making those who are oblivious more aware of their choices and how these choices affect others will affect change, hopefully for the better.

I’ll be tweeting and sharing the hashtag #StandUpForMom and #giveupyourseat on my social media channels to keep the topic top of mind and hope you’re able to share it as well.

Let’s do this.

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here.

VIDEO: Stand Up For Mom!

What has been your experience with pregnancy and public transit? Tell me about it in the comments section below.


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Kickstarting My YouTube Channel

May 26, 2015

I’m kickstarting my YouTube channel. No, not that kind of “kickstarting.” After a long hiatus, I’m restarting my video blogging in addition to writing on this blog. Life has been busy and sadly, I’ve neglected the channel for some time now. You know how it goes – life gets in the way, and between work, […]

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Under Pressure: Celebrity Culture and Kids’ Need to Conform

April 25, 2015

The “Kylie Jenner Challenge” highlights the worst insecurities in tweens and teens Have you heard of the #KylieJennerChallenge? It’s a hashtag that’s become the call to action for young women who want to emulate the full-lipped look of the reality TV star. One of the famous sisters on “Keeping up With the Kardashians” and the […]

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CBC Radio Interview: Kids and Email

September 4, 2014

Should parents allow their children to have email and online accounts? Does your child have an email account? Why or why not? This is a question that I addressed on CBC Radio’s Ontario Morning program about kids and online access. Following a discussion on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning show on a similar topic, I delved […]

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CBC Radio Interview: How Young is Too Young to Be Online?

August 23, 2014

At what age is it okay for kids to have an email and social media accounts? Does your child have an email address? How about a Facebook account? How do you feel about your child being online at all? Those were some of the questions posed in an interview that I did with CBC Metro Morning. […]

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How the Internet Ruined Kids’ Fun

June 20, 2014

Instant Online Access to Toys Kills Kids’ Sense of Anticipation Once upon a time, kids experienced a few days a year that brought incredible moments of joy. Birthdays. Christmas. Grandma coming to visit. The knowledge that these days were on the horizon only added to the excitement that children would feel. Oftentimes, the waiting was […]

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