Parenting in the Digital Age

What Makes a Family?

by Samantha on August 26, 2015

The "1,000 Family Project" sheds light on the changing face of the modern family

What makes a family?

What does the concept of “family” mean in today’s world?

Once upon a time, the the only societally-accepted norm for the family structure consisted of a mother, a father a few kids and a white picket fence. To wit:

Leave it to Beaver Cast

As the years wore on, we thankfully shook our heads and realized – either via real-life circumstance (divorce) or by divine intervention – that life does not often replicate television (or books, or the movies).

“Family” is a relative term, meaning different things to different people. The white picket fence may indeed be part of the mix, but more often than not, the modern permutations look nothing like the conventional model.

And that’s a good thing.

I was honoured to be asked to share the details of my family on an amazing site, The New Family, that, with it’s 1,000 Families Project, hopes to profile the uniqueness that lies within all of our familial permutations.

Thenewfamily_logo_final_resize300dpi

A “one-size-fits-all” model of family does not exist, and let’s all be thankful that it doesn’t. For previous to our current times, many of us who did not exist within the very narrowly-defined cookie-cutter version of what it meant to be a family experienced disapproval, to say the least.

The good news is that the world has changed, as has the definition of what makes up a family.

They come in all different colours, shapes, sizes and age. Learn about my family and so many more on this site. You can read the full article here.

Sister Sledge – We Are Family

What does “family” mean to you? What makes your family unique? Tell me about it in the comments section below!

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Photo courtesy of Getty Images

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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

 

monitor

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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CBC Radio Interview: Kids and Email

by Samantha on September 4, 2014

Should parents allow their children to have email and online accounts?

Gmail 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 more deeply into the questions that all parents face about when they should allow their kids online access.

cbc_radio_logo

 

Some topics discussed:

  • Should kids under 13 have an email account and online access?
  • How young is too young to be online?
  • How has parenting a child in the digital age changed from raising a child before the Internet was the norm?

As digital technology becomes the norm both at home and at school, kids are increasingly expected to have some type of access, whether it be via email or otherwise. This reality raises a number of issues and concerns for parents who worry about the safety of their kids as they venture online.

Is it okay to let a child under the age of 13 have an email account or online access? What are some of the considerations that parents should make before allowing their children online? These are just some of the questions that need to be addressed by all of us who are raising our kids in the digital age.

To listen to the full interview, click here:

What are your thoughts? Do your children have email accounts? Why or why not? How much online access do you allow your kids? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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At what age is it okay for kids to have an email and social media accounts?

girl on laptop

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.

CBC Radio Metro Morning

As a parent raising kids in a digital age, as well as someone who is both a lover and avid user of social media, digital technology and online communications, the questions gave me pause.

For many, the thought of allowing their children online presents a conundrum, a Pandora’s Box of sorts. While there are many benefits to having access to the online world (can we say “Google?”), there are some real risks as well. This is particularly the case for those who are younger and more impressionable.

Parents worry about a lot of things when they consider their children’s potential online activities not the least of which include:

  • Cyberbullying
  • Exposure to inappropriate images, videos, information (pornography, violence, etc.)
  • Online stalking
  • Phishing and related scams

Yet, there’s no denying that digital communications is the standard these days. Try to get around finding information without some type of online element; I suspect it would be quite the task.

I allow my ten-year-old daughter to have an email account for a number of reasons, the least of which is that  she can communicate with her close family members (grandparents, aunts, uncles) and teachers – yes, teachers. It is quite the standard these days that teachers email information to both parents and students about school assignments, homework and activities. Implicit in these actions is the expectation that the child will have an email account and that the parents are in approval, and my daughter is no exception. For the most part, her peers have email accounts as well, with the full support of their parents.

That being said, there are some best practices that parents should follow when allowing their children online, whether it’s just for email purposes, or more. I talk about these, including social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), in the interview.

Here’s the full interview, below (first link is to Metro Morning’s website, second is to the segment via CBC Player).

What are your thoughts? At what age is it okay for kids to be online? Is email for a child under 13 okay? Why or why not? How about Facebook? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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How the Internet Ruined Kids’ Fun

by Samantha on June 20, 2014

Instant Online Access to Toys Kills Kids' Sense of Anticipation

BOY WITH TRAIN SET

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 punctuated by a series of important rituals and planning sessions. There were birthday present wish lists to write, letters to Santa Claus with detailed instructions of which particular Barbie to leave under the tree and pronouncements of “good behaviour” that needed to be conveyed to the man in the red suit, in case he had forgotten. There were phone calls to Grandma, telling her in specific detail the size, cost and location of that toy we had earmarked for her to buy for us. We knew the score because we had meticulously researched the various department store catalogues with unparalleled fervor.

During the weeks and months leading up to these dates, we’d wait with bated breath and anticipation for the day to come, knowing that when it did, a bounty of gifts – or maybe just one or two really good presents – would be given to us.

Those were the days.

We waited – yes – waited. We knew that there was pleasure in savouring the sweet anticipation that would culminate in the arrival of that special day. And when that day did finally arrive, the gifts were so very appreciated.

Perhaps it was because that particular toy that we had seen on TV was sold out at all of the stores close to our home. With no Internet with its thousands of options, providing us with guaranteed delivery overnight or whenever we chose, receiving the gift seemed even more special. When Christmas or birthdays did finally roll around, the anticipation was almost too much to bear.

As a child, I remember fondly the experience of waiting as patiently as I could for one of these special days to arrive. With 364 days between some of these events, was it any wonder that I – as were many other kids – was “bursting at the seams” with anticipation?

Enter the Internet era.

With a few simple clicks, a child’s wish was fulfilled, packed, shipped and delivered, often within the guaranteed 24-hour delivery window.

The waiting was over.

The fun was gone.

As society became more accustomed to the instant gratification that came with the Internet era, we – our children in particular –  lost some of the many important virtues that build strength of character. One of these virtues – patience – seems to have fallen by the wayside. In its place, anxiety and frustration have taken hold. In the new digital world order, the idea of having to actually wait for a toy, game or desired item has made our kids (and their parents) very unhappy indeed.

In the digital era, patience is no longer a virtue; it is seen as an unnecessary vestige of a bygone era with little value. After all, why wait when instant gratification is just a few clicks away? Sadly, this perspective is more common than not with children who have grown up during a time where their wish was their parents’ immediate digital command.

Anticipation – knowing that something is on its way and being hyper aware of its approach is something that all children should experience. Anticipation is not a bad thing. Learning to wait and being patient are skills that will allow our kids to deal with life’s challenges both in their childhood and beyond. After all, any adult can attest to the fact that getting what one wants – immediately – is more rare than common in the “real world.” A life experience outside of the warm cocoon of their parents home will painfully prove this point to the younger ones who have never had to wait too long for their heart’s desire.

Our consumer culture and frenetic lifestyles may continue to dictate  all things must be done now, but waiting is not always a bad thing, especially for children. Learning to be patient is a skill that they will need as they venture into adulthood and its myriad of situations where immediate gratification is not an option. Whether it’s regarding their desired career, their desired partner or their desired big ticket item, getting what they want as soon as they want it is not always possible. And it is during these times that they will have to draw on the patience that they learned as a child, in order to succeed. The culture of instant gratification won’t help them when they have no choice but to cool their heels.

Good things come to those who wait.” Let’s not forget to teach our kids this valuable lesson.

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, CLICK HERE: How Will Kids Learn Patience When Everything is Just One Click Away?

The Waiting (is the hardest part) – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

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Can Kids Still Be Entertained?

May 10, 2014

How do you entertain the kid who has seen and done everything? It’s a tough question but a real concern for parents these days. The idea of “kids’ entertainment” takes on a whole new perspective in the digital age. For those who have grown up in an age of video games, iPads and Google, the […]

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Are “Girl Geeks” Cool?

April 22, 2014

Back when I was a kid, it wasn’t cool to be uncool.  Back then, the tech revolution wasn’t in it’s infancy; it hadn’t even begun. To be called a “Nerd” was to elicit scorn and its accompanying exclusion. You see, the “cool” kids had no time for those who were more interested in pocket protectors, […]

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If You Could Turn Back Time…Would You?

April 12, 2014

How connected are you to your tools and toys? I’m not talking about the items that you may actually find in your toolbox or in your children’s toybox. I’m talking about the things that you’ve come to see as necessary parts of your everyday life – those things that you couldn’t live without. In many […]

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An Ode to Saturday Morning Cartoons

March 15, 2014

A recent Saturday morning found me waking up to the sound of my kids’ feet scurrying down the stairs. Ahh….weekends. No school or daycare, no deadlines for getting out the door, no stressed-out parent yelling about packing lunches and backpacks. Saturday mornings are what kids live for, what I used to live for when I […]

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“Strike a Pose” – The Selfie Generation Battle Cry

February 13, 2014

“Strike a pose.” Remember that edict that Madonna pronounced to us so many lifetimes ago? In the song “Vogue,” she challenged us to go big or go home. “Strike a pose” was the battle cry for some heavy-duty showing off, if that’s what you want to call it. “Voguing” was the rage and narcissistic vanity […]

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