Tech Tools and Tips for Parents

If you’re the parent of a son or daughter in elementary, middle or high school then you probably have a love hate relationship with new technology and social media. Smart phones, tablets, iPods, mp3 players, Kindel eReaders, Nooks, Facebook, Twitter,  MySpace, video sharing sites and so on . . . it never seems to stop! . . . and it makes some adults run for cover and hide (preferably in a dark cave) rather than talk to their children and teens about electronics they can, can’t, should or shouldn’t use in school, home or any other place.

For our parents, it was basic TV and land line telephones; with very simple operating systems our parents could see, touch and understand how to easily set solid ground rules that were monitored without too much trouble.

Today it’s much more complicated for parents, and only a few seem to have mastered techniques to control and enhance the education and communication skills their children need in the 21st century.  Responses from parents such as; “I didn’t need that stuff when I was your age” or “You really don’t need those things to help you with your school work” no longer work.  The “old days” of pencils, pens, notepaper, manual typewriters and encyclopedias are long gon. . . Like it or not, technology and social media are not going away; so bite the bullet and reap the benefits.

By learning the ropes of social media and Web based programs, you’ll discover great new tools to help your children with time management of school work and extra-curricular activities. You’ll also help them by learning safety and security settings of Internet sites they visit.

Social media sites can be a fun place for conversation with friends, or a nightmare for kids and parents not savvy in those arenas. Google Alerts  is a helpful online tool to keep an eye on bullies and predators.  Parents can set up alerts to get warnings and notices if their child’s name is mentioned on the Internet.

Become a silent friend on sites such as Twitter and Facebook; this will enable you to see how your children interact with others . . .  Please try to be  a silent friend (hard as that may be.) Nothing can break down communication and humiliate your child more than reprimanding them on their Facebook wall!  Have a conversation face to face to talk about rude or thoughtless behavior.  Privacy settings on these sites can limit who can see what they post. One of the best online resources on Internet safety is; it’s a free educational resource created by Carnegie Mellon University.

Google Apps and Google Calendar can put an end to excuses such as; “The dog ate my homework, “I thought I put it in my notebook.” and “I didn’t know about the assignment.” Google docs  is a free Web-based office suite and data storage service offered by Google, with all of the bells and whistles.  It allows users to create and edit documents online while collaborating in real-time with other users. If a homework report is due on the photosynthesis of plants, your son or daughter can type and save the report in a private online account you both have access to. On the day the report is due, it can be open and printed from a school computer. Ain’t technology grand!

Google calendar  can help teach your kids time management skills. You can set up and send alerts to remind them of upcoming assignments and activities.  The alerts can be sent to cell phones and/or email accounts. Send as many alerts as you like from any computer, and yes, it’s free. The calendar is stored online and can be viewed from any location that has Internet access. It can also import calendar files from Outlook (.csv) and iCalender (ics) – Multiple calendars can be added and shared, allowing multiple levels of permissions for each user.

Security software and online programs such as Family Norton and MacAfee Family Protection monitor Web surfing and can block sites you don’t want your children to visit.

For more helpful parenting advice and tips check out the book by Ian Lurie, The UnFun Parent: Keeping your kids safe online – He’s a good writer and knows  how to easily explain things without the complicated jargon.  Simple, straightforward, easy-to-abide-by rules to keep your young children safe online. This book is an good read and broken down into sections you can easily go back and reference the information you want to review again.

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