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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Is your kid ready for the Digital Driver License?

by Priyanka Raha ~ June 28, 2018

Practice good digital citizenship

A few days back I read a discussion on the interwebs about having a ‘digital driver license’. It did sound extreme at the beginning but the more I thought about it the more it made sense.  Do we tell our kids to never cross a road no matter what OR do we make sure we teach them good practices while crossing the road? When they are young we hold their hands. We say things like ‘Look left, look right and then walk’, or ’Wait for the walking man sign to show up’. When they are old enough we teach them how to follow the traffic rules, the signs, and the difference between the green and the red light. Many times we practice these standards with them even preemptively, when they are not old enough to be on the front seats of the car. Then why not do the same to help them navigate the digital world? While technology continues to evolve like a roller coaster without brakes it is far more imperative to define best practices for the digital world. I have come to realize there are quite a few similarities and analogies between a regular driver license and a digital driver license.

Let’s say, we had a system in place where we could hand out a digital driving license, what would that entail? I pulled out a few things that stands out as qualities of a good driver on the road and used them as guidelines for defining healthy practices to steer the digital world.

Use good judgement - As we make sure that kids use their good judgement on the road, we need to teach kids to make good choices while online. I cannot stress enough on this that digital tools are not just a medium of entertainment, they are tools to advance their learning and keep up with the changing technologies. In USA alone, 62% of working adults use the internet for their job and 96% use technology. This is the world that the current students need to be prepared for. We need to coach our kids on spending meaningful time on the digital devices besides just games and fun, programs that will supplement learning.

Think about safety - It is our duty to make our kids aware of the risks that online exposure can bring and hence teach them about safety. Tell them to be mindful of what they are posting online, never share passwords and never steal or damage others’ digital property. Six million teens report that they have received inappropriate images from someone they know. It is crucial to make appropriate decisions when communicating through a variety of digital channels. We must also help our children make responsible online purchasing decisions and protect their payment information. A typical teen reports having lost an average $400 to cybercrime.

Display respect and empathy - As you would practice to be respectful to other drivers on the road, model and practice digital citizenship in the classroom. Kids can use platforms like Seesaw or Google classroom to post work online and provide constructive feedback to each other. While commenting online, have kids use words as they would feel comfortable saying out loud in front of their peers. Encourage positive communication. 88% of social-media-using-teens have witnessed someone being mean or cruel. It is important to realize that harsh words through a computer screen can hurt as much as when they are said directly to us. These practices are not limited to the classroom environment. Practice and display the same behavior when discussing social media at home.

So, then are you ready to help your kid pass the digital driver test?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

How not to drown in an ocean of kids’ apps

by Shikha Das Shankar ~ June 21, 2018

Digital Parenting

A sense of responsibility bestowed upon me when I came across the term digital natives -- a generation exposed to technology from their formative years. Times have changed and so have our responsibility as parents. Marc Prensky coined the term in 2001 while talking about the difference in the thinking process of the generation of early technology users to those who were not. And in explaining his viewpoint, he also introduced us to the term digital immigrants -- a generation who were not born in the age of technology but introduced to it later in life. Think random requests from grandparents and parents to create email ids: worrying about internet speed as you get ready for a video interview with your prospective b-school, and the drive to earn well enough to earn your first smartphone so you can check your emails on your phone and download Bejeweled. That's us, the digital immigrants. The parents of digital natives. The one who felt proud of creating email ids for our folks but find it hard to keep up with all the new apps your child gets to hear at school.  As a mother raising two children in this ever-changing digital world, I am flummoxed by the problem of plenty. Blink an eye and you are sure to miss ten new children's apps launched in that nano-second. Once you start skimming through the plethora of children apps, a sensation similar to drowning engulfs you. For support, you read the reviews and review the ratings, and soon after a huge tide completely submerges you in water. How do you resurface? How do you conquer this wave of language, learning, art, music and gaming apps? By going back to the basics and remembering our rules of keeping it simple. While academic professionals, teachers, occupational therapists, and caregivers have elaborate criteria for choosing an app for students, we as parents can keep the following three points in mind without getting overwhelmed while downloading the next children’s app.

Simplicity: Easy user interface with simple directions that will enable the child to do most of the talking or typing in this case. If an app looks like a scene out of your child’s favorite tv show, he or she doesn't have much to do on it anyway.

Collaborate: Parents don't have to be passive spectators to what a child is doing on his tablet. Add another dimension to learning and fun by choosing apps that allow you, a sibling or your child’s friends to participate actively in what your child is creating. Apps that encourage collaboration have the potential to change classroom learning and is a thrust towards building long-term collaborative skills.

Empower: An app that empowers the child to steer his imagination in all directions without distraction is a winner. Children respond to and assimilate information better when it comes to them in a relatable and impactful way. More is not necessarily better. Less is not always boring.

Shikha Das Shankar is a storyteller. Multitasking dragon slayer mom. Happy hiker. When not writing, she is seen scaling heights, literally, with her favorite trio—the son, the daughter and the husband—around the hills of beautiful Seattle suburb or cooking her favorite foods in her de-stressing zone, the kitchen.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Human Factor in Technology

by Priyanka Raha ~ June 14, 2018

human factor in technology

Raise your hands if you think that we should take away ALL (and I mean all) the technology from our daily lives. I don’t see any. Don’t worry I actually can’t see you, we are not there yet but I didn’t think you would raise your hand. In all seriousness though I didn’t have my hands raised either. I am pro-technology but what I strongly believe is the human factor in technology. Last 20 years has seen unprecedented growth in tech. At 3.6B the number of internet users has surpassed half the world’s population. Let me ask you this - What is the most powerful tool in your vicinity? Here is a hint - Over 40% of the adults living in this country check it within 5 mins of their waking up and again look at it at least 50 times during the day. That’s right, it’s your phone. Children 8 years old and younger spend an hour each day on their digital devices. Yet we haven’t harnessed the digital medium when it comes to creating a valuable connection between parents and children.

Thus was born PopSmartKids. Before I had PopSmartKids I had 2 boys. Raising two kids, being responsible for two human beings made me realize how important and powerful that phrase is - the human factor in technology. It brought all of that into focus - of not letting technology own your life but you owning it instead. This is important because our kids are growing up researching on google and submitting projects on google docs. They will be exchanging ideas, building companies and creating masterpieces using technology. It is crucial that as parents we embrace the presence of technology in our children’s lives and go beyond that and teach the best practices. If not us, then who? PopSmartKids was forged out of this necessity to participate in our child’s creative endeavors leveraging the digital medium. My audacious goal is to build an offering of apps that will target specific aptitudes in the growth spectrum of a child’s development, but like any child PopSmartKids has to learn to walk first. So starting with one app that you will be able to run on your phone or tablet. 

With the first app, one thing I can promise you is that it is going to be a collaborative experience for parents - for when you are away or in the other room making dinner. It will allow you as parents to have an immersive experience in the creative pursuits of your kids and inspire them. This is built with the younger kids in mind. There are two explanations to this. First, kids this age respond and need the adulation of their parents the most. The greatest thing that motivates them is the fact that their parents have seen or witnessed their work. If you have an elementary schooler, how many times does he run to you in a day asking you to acknowledge the amazing drawing he made or the lego he built? You know what I am talking about. I am keying in on the two acts of love - words of affirmation and quality time. Second, this is also the age when kids are beginning to use the digital devices without their parents monitoring them and it is crucial to bring in the mentoring aspect of handling it. Think stop, drop, roll. Where have you heard it? Caution against fire, right? I think of the digital devices as fire, it is dangerous but we never reverted back to eating raw food because fire burns houses. With internet and digital medium we have discovered new fire. So instead of banning it I want to turn it around and evangelize screen time so that it is more than just entertainment. it is a channel of development for young minds. It does not need to be a black hole that our kids get sucked into.

While PopSmartKids is taking shape watch this space for more details.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Why we must make space for vulnerability?

by Priyanka Raha ~ June 7, 2018

Space for Vulnerability-inspired by Kate Spade

Today I cannot write about anything else but the recent happenings. The Kate Spade story left me rattled. The fact that she leaves behind an 11 year old girl makes me sadder than ever. She was a mother, a wife, a successful career woman and an icon. But above all she was a human. And like us all humans she was fighting her own battle against personal demons. This story by no means is the-one-and-only one. We see this happening to people we love, people close by and people who we look up to. Our upbringing as well as society teaches us to show ourselves as bold, courageous and strong. That makes us afraid to talk about our shortcomings. We have our guards up all the time. We are scared someone might think less of us. There is no space for vulnerability.
Social media amplifies this today. Our Facebook and Instagram posts are always our happiest selves. Getting likes on our tweets and posts make us happy. Our 24 hour access to the world means that we are constantly bombarded by tales of people who have crushed it and people who have got it all together. I read in an interview guide once to be prepared to talk about my weakness but to put a positive spin on it. It also mentioned that we need to sound authentic but come across as strong at the same time. I cringed! We are persistently managing our image, mending our words and revising how we feel. It shouldn’t be this exhausting. We are beginning to measure each other by how happy and powerful we are. But doesn’t it take utmost courage to be vulnerable and to accept failure. No, I am not talking about giving a positive spin to failure, just accept that I failed and it’s okay to flounder.
As I thought more and more about this I wondered how can we let our kids know that it’s okay to fail. It is okay to be wistful. How can we allow space for being vulnerable, to be a little foolish and to be a little silly?
No, I don’t have an answer, I just know - we must make space for vulnerability.