kids and technology

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 Caution - When 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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Dewey Decimal Death

by Samantha on November 22, 2013

The Dewey Decimal System is a relic of bygone days, sadly




library stacks

My daughter has been reading a book at school that she’s really enjoying. Of course as a parent, I think this is a great thing because reading is so important. For this reason, I was thrilled when she told me that she wanted to take the book out of the library to reread the chapters that were covered in class.

“No problem,” I said. “Let’s look it up online and see if there’s a copy available at our local library.”

In the course of the discussion, and while quickly surfing to acquire the information, I asked my daughter a simple question:

“Do you know what the Dewey Decimal System is?”

“No,” she replied.

I can’t say that I was surprised; after all - we are living in a technological age where digital is the norm; everything else is considered substandard or worse, suspect.

I pressed on.

When I was a kid and I wanted a book, I marched down to the library and looked it up using the Dewey Decimal System. That meant going through stacks of cardboard index cards filled with numbers to find the treasured book.”

She looked at me blankly.

I continued on and explained how the system worked; how part of the thrill of finding that special book was in the hunt. It’s always better when you seek and then find. It’s through the process of doing so that we savour the moment so much more when we do get our hands on that special item, in this case a book.

My daughter wasn’t having any of it.

Continuing to gaze at me blankly, she said “Oh. So you didn’t just go online and find the book by Googling it?”

Quickly realizing that this was a “Teachable Moment,” I harkened back to my youth and extolled the virtues of the now-archaic seeming system.

The process. The hunt. The patience. The find. They were all part and parcel of the experience which made the final acquisition of our desired object so much sweeter. The Dewey Decimal System was a big part of the experience. And yet so many kids these days have no idea about what the system is all about. Ask any child aged five through teens and I’d bet you that the majority of them have never heard of the system either, or if they have, their understanding is vague and incomplete, to say the least.

How sad.

I remember as a child, going to the library, pulling out the cardboard index cards and venturing into the stacks to find my books. There was no online resource to find out if the book was available. No, just quaint cardboard cards that held the riddle of the sphinx and more within a mere 3 x 5 space.

The Dewey Decimal System was what led me to learn about World Wars I and II, Anne Frank, the fate of Icarus and the Space Race. By trolling through the index cards, I discovered the reason why penguins cannot fly and why insects have compound eyes. The diversity of my questions and curiosity was only matched by the volume of information to be found at the library - through the assistance of the Dewey Decimal System, of course.

“The Dewey Decimal System was what led me to learn about World Wars I and II, Anne Frank, the fate of Icarus and The Space Race”

As much as the system was a practical solution to finding books, it taught us so many other skills as well. Simple filing skills, research techniques, knowing where and how to find a particular item through a deductive method and process: these are just some of the aspects of the system that have been lost with its decline. For those of us who grew up with no other option than to consult the index file cards then march through the stacks in search of a book, the newer methodology seems lacking in ways. The thrill of the hunt has effectively disappeared due to the ease and lightening speed of Google. The adage “good things come to those who wait” was much easier to believe before the invention of high-speed, broadband Internet. Growing up in the digital age has indeed afforded our children so many more options in terms of access to information and the ability to quickly acquire data and knowledge almost instantaneously. Unfortunately, life as a child today also means that the library experience consists of a quick online search to find a book with little thought given to the process of acquiring the desired item.

Is the book any less enjoyable because it was effortlessly found? I would argue “yes” as there is something about the anticipation, the wait, the search and the find that positively adds to the overall experience of reading a particular book. Children today are missing out on what was one of the most gratifying parts of the library experience. Sure - it was “work” and kids had to earn their reward of finding a book by using a set of skills that were finely honed, if they were of a particularly bookish nature. But “work” in this instance lead to something valuable, something enjoyable and something much desired, perhaps more so because of the effort involved.

Kids today really don’t know what they’re missing. The experience of going to the library these days is just not what it used to be. In some ways, it’s certainly more engaging, with computers and interactive learning a large part of most modern library systems. That said, the quaint efficacy provided by the Dewey Decimal System through simple index cards cannot be replaced. Accordingly, while technology has opened up many new doors for our children, another world - equally enjoyable - has been lost.

 
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Shoes.com

Well, the first day of school has come and gone and I’ve already retrieved the requisite crumpled piece of paper (important, apparently) from the bowels of my daughter’s knapsack. The lone form is followed by a pile - 9 pages to be exact - of similar papers, all requiring my completion. As a result, here I sit, filling out mountains of forms - physical forms - that are to be handed in to my daughter’s teacher.

Shocked?

I sure am.

Are we not living in a digital age? Last time I checked, most of us have access in some form, to technology. Email, by most standards, is considered old news. Who doesn’t have an email account? Yet the situation I find myself right now is certainly not unique. For some strange reason, educational facilities, specifically elementary schools, seem to be stubbornly entrenched in a previous era. In certain schools, there exists a mindset  in which reams of paper are the norm, where mimeograph machines are not too distant of a memory and where photocopies are part and parcel of the student’s daily experience.   A disconnect with societal standards and expectations is what is being practiced in schools and all of us as parents have cause for concern.

mimeograph machine

While we digitally communicate, text, broadcast and reach out through the ether, many of our kids are relegated to archaic tools of a bygone era, much to their detriment. No, paper isn’t completely obsolete; we do find use for it every so often. It’s when items such as paper are used with aplomb and abundance, much to the chagrin of many of us who are on the receiving end of the spectrum, that it becomes a problem.

Take a quick survey of most parents and they will tell you that they’d much rather receive communication from their child’s school in a digital format. Email, text, website, whatever - any of these options would be much better received than the rolled up mess that is often found at the bottom of too many kids’ backpacks. Yet the insanity persists.

The question then becomes: why? What is behind this desire to hold on to a communications method that is clearly flawed, to say the least? Paper does have its merits, one can concede, but personal background information, emergency contact numbers and a brief  synopsis of a child’s personality traits could be so  much more easily conveyed via digital means.

Is it that more recent technology has not yet reached the classroom? No - for many classes have computers, Internet access and Google that beckons from behind a flatscreen monitor. Kids - ironically - are able to access digital technology from within their classrooms; they’re just not able to receive any information through the same media from the school that houses the classroom. How odd. While teaching a lifestyle in which digital communication is assumed, the lessons sent home on this very topic are often on a few sheets of paper. The irony is not lost on many of us parents who sit down at the home computer or laptop with our kids, paper assignments in hand, searching Google and other online sites for answers to questions posed in said homework.

Teaching our kids to be technologically adept yet sending them home with a less-than-modern methods of communicating is a great way of giving our children a mixed message. Here we are, simultaneously touting the various advances we’ve made as a society and culture while at the same time showing our dependence on a methodology that requires more work for the user than it has to.

If we want to end the days of “the dog ate my homework” we need to take away the canine’s ability to actually do so. Let’s get our schools into the 21st century and digitize communications so that the days of soggy and crumpled assignments are a thing of the past.

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here.

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The Death of Cursive

by Samantha on August 5, 2013

cursive is important

It’s all over, folks.

Some of you may remember the time in public school when you got your first pencil. On a specially-lined piece of paper, you tentatively set the lead to the page and pressed. As you moved your hand slowly while concentrating on the script, shape and feel of the letter, you felt a wave of both excitement and pride in your discovery.

You were learning to write, and isn’t that what older, smarter and wiser people did?

Writing, you knew, was a way of having the world open up to you because with this tool, you could convey your thoughts and feelings and receive the same in return. Writing was the currency of thought, knowledge, investigation and revelation. Writing was going to allow you to express yourself in a way that had previously been impossible.

Even at your tender age, it was evident that the power behind the written word was unmistakeable. And that power would start with the simple stroke of a pencil, and later a pen.

But as with everything, all things must come to an end and the desire learn to write - literally - has all but disappeared from our cultural conscience. Children these days emulate their parents and elders and aspire to do what they see their esteemed role models doing. One doesn’t have to look very far to see that what is being done by these people  rarely includes anything close to the act of writing, of bringing pen, or pencil, to paper. No, what is being done involves keyboard strokes, texting and video or voice messaging. Writing with a tool such as a pencil or pen, is nowhere in the mix. As a result, is it any wonder then that cursive writing - once a standard of the elementary school experience - is in its death throes?

Cursive - the ability to join letters via script in a conjoined or flowing manner is a lost art. Even amongst those of us who were schooled during a time where this skill was mandatory there is a large contingent of messy writers, whose attempts at using script is often mistaken for “chicken scratch” or worse. So reliant have we become on the keyboard and our digital methods of communication that the need for old-fashioned handwriting on those rare occasions that arise elicits feelings of incredulity, annoyance and often fear. Now seen as an anachronistic vestige of days gone by, script produced by one’s own hand is a skill that is being phased out of many school boards. Kids today apparently don’t need it, therefore it’s rapidly being removed from the curriculum.

“So reliant have we become on the keyboard and our digital methods of communication that the need for old-fashioned handwriting on those rare occasions that arise elicits feelings of incredulity, annoyance and often fear.”

Cursive appears to have become obsolete. The thought of communicating a message “by one’s own hand” - literally - is only seen as an acceptable form of interaction in the absence of more recent technological tools. Those who write are often scorned and “snail mail” is seen as an inferior and archaic method of connecting with others despite its once important role in our lives.

Yet the gains that we used to make by learning script and painstakingly writing each and every letter of the alphabet in a certain format has been lost in our zeal to make our lives easier. We love our tech tools and as a result we’ve got less patience, more anxiety and little time to learn a skill that may take a bit longer than crafting a quick text message or email. We’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater by reducing cursive to an old-fashioned way of doing things that has no place in the modern world.

The repercussions of our actions? Well, there are many:

  • The manual dexterity, precision and fine-motor control are skills that children gain from the act of using cursive will be in short supply
  • Our children’s academic abilities will be hindered when cursive writing is replaced by keyboard strokes
  • A large part of our cultural history will become lost as a result of cursive being phased out in schools
  • Children’s ability to read important historical documents or letters from grandparents or older relatives will be severely hindered
  • Our children will never know the sense of achievement felt after finally “getting it” following many months of earnest practice of each and every letter of our alphabet

What may on the surface seem to be a vestige of a less advanced time, cursive is, in fact, more that it may appear. Yes - it may look “quaint” in the face of our latest voice-recognition software that transcribes our aural words into text. It may not have all of the convenient shortcuts, bells and whistles of the most recent iteration or version upgrade available for quick and easy download. It may not even have the “wow factor” of being able to type without care, as sloppily as possible, only to have your super-intelligent A.I. clean up your dirty work, making you look like a precise and competent writer. Cursive and all of its inherent benefits provides us a link to our past, connectivity within our present and a portal to our future. So much of our history has been documented only through cursive script.  And moving forward, our future leaders and generations to come may be better able to understand each other - and themselves - as a result of the communications skills learned via cursive.

For these and so many other reasons, cursive is a skill that must remain within our schools and our cultural realm. Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater in our efforts to appear “advanced” because by doing so, we’re only hurting ourselves…and our children.

Do you think that cursive should continue to be taught in schools, or should we phase it out altogether? Leave me your thoughts in the comments below.

To read this article on Huffington Post, CLICK HERE.

Image courtesy of http://cursive-handwriting-worksheets.pom-pom.net

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Monday Musings - What Style of Parent Are You?

by Samantha on February 5, 2013

Mother scolding child




What style of parent are you and why?

We hear it all the time - the different styles of parenting and their relative merits and flaws. Some of us embrace Attachment Parenting, others are self-admitted Helicopter Parents and still others profess to followers of Maria Montessori, allowing their kids to learn at their own pace, within the parameters of a safe and supportive environment. Are you a strict authoritarian or a laissez-faire “live and let live” type?

Speak to any parent and they’ll tell you, often with passion, why they have chosen a certain method of raising their child. Some may cite their child’s temperament and personality while others will say that they’ve done their research and have found the most effective way of raising their child to be a productive, successful and happy adult. The common thread between these groups of parents is that they all think that they’re right. Yet we know that not everyone can be right; as is with many things in life, there are two (and sometimes more) sides to the story.

That being the case, it’s always interesting to hear how someone has come upon their choices in how they raise their children, often to the chagrin of close family and friends.

So this week’s question relates to the myriad of parenting styles that exist. What style of parent are you, and why? What made you choose your particular style of parenting and have you had much resistance from those around you about the choices that you’ve made in this area? Answer in the comments below - can’t wait to hear from you.

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A Young “Survivor” Fan on The Jeff Probst Show

October 27, 2012

  Who would have thought that lazy parenting could result in a national TV show appearance? Some time back, I wrote this post about the 5 things that make me a great parent. Included in this post was a video that I had posted to my YouTube channel that outlined the 5 things noted in […]

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Kids and Cell Phones: How Young is Too Young?

October 17, 2011

How young is too young for a cell phone? It may seem like a strange question, but I’m really curious.  Increasingly, I’ve seen kids as young as six and seven toting mobile phones, chatting away and texting. Often in the presence of their parents, whom I can only assume are the purveyors of these phones. […]

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Reality TV: A Parenting Reality?

March 5, 2011

I love this show: These two are by far two of my long-running, all-time favorites: Okay, so what do any of these have to do with this blog – which is supposed to comprise of musings of a frazzled working mom? Well it’s just that. Due to the Double F Factor as I call it […]

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