Posts Tagged ‘ technology ’

Digital Helicopter Parenting 101


Helicopter parenting: It’s one concept I firmly believe I avoid. Or at least I thought I did.

As a parent, I’m a big fan of promoting independence and attempt to foster situations that allow my sons to figure things out on their own as much as possible.

Right up until it comes to schoolwork. I blame this on the school as much as on myself. Now that parents and teachers have a much more direct and near instantaneous line of communication we, as parents, are expected to be far more involved with managing our kids day to day school work and study habits.

This all stems from a recent struggle we’ve had with Big Bit. Now in the 6th grade, the workload and expected responsibility level are intensifying. Teachers update grades and homework expectations online daily. It’s great in that I know immediately when my son skips an assignment. We have time for a course correction and at least partial credit.

It’s not so great when a teacher ninja posts a new project after school has released on a Friday afternoon.

So, there we are – helplessly staring in frustration at a small series of zeroes due to yet again, missing assignments – and we ask ourselves, “How do we help him be more responsible for this?” At this point, we’re all exhausted by the daily routine:

  1. Check his completed assignments to what’s listed in his agenda.
  2. Check each teacher’s website to confirm he’s actually written it down properly and that there are no ninja assignments.
  3. Have him complete the at least one inevitably missed assignment.
  4. Check the school’s website that has the posted grades to see what’s missing from previous days. They’re still always at least one. Have him complete that assignment too.

Rinse and repeat daily. Now, despite the zeroes and 50% grades from missing and late work he still has an even split of A’s and B’s for his cumulative grades.

Then it dawned on me. In 6th grade I missed homework. I didn’t have a teacher’s website to check; if I didn’t write it down in class I had to phone a friend or deal with the consequences. My grades slipped and I spent the next quarter grounded. Funny thing happened next, I improved.

In this case, all these wonderful tools are preventing my son from just dealing with the consequences of not keeping track of these things himself. It’s time for him to sink or swim on his own. Time for a skinned knee or two. He’s going to falter and fall down, but he’ll get up, grow and learn. And I just need to step aside and let it happen.

Good Time


Warm tears streaming down my face, my body shaking with sobs I drove away from my boys. I’d just dropped them off for two weeks of fun filled summer camp and the bittersweet moment was hitting me full force.

This was the very same summer camp I attended as a child. Completely unplugged from technology, sticky summer days were filled with horseback riding, swimming, tennis, roller skating and a myriad of other activities. I did a lot of growing up there. I learned how to share a cabin (and one bathroom!) with 11 other girls. I had my very first kiss there. I helped younger kids overcome their fear of horses and reaped the rewards of their love and admiration. I mucked stalls. I fell off horses far more often than I care to admit. Huge capture the flag games, watermelon seed spitting contests, dances – all these amazing happy memories.

Driving away, I couldn’t imagine how my parents did it. I was only leaving my boys 2 weeks, but every summer I begged to stay a full 8 weeks. My parents only caved once and every year after told me they missed me too much to let me stay the entire time. I never believed them until the moment I watched my two little boys shoo me away so they could begin their fun.

This year, the camp has a new feature. Every day they upload photos to a secure website and every evening I race home and faithfully stalk the new photos. It’s my new evening ritual, scouring the albums for my boys’ faces. Seeing these photos has helped me cope with leaving them. I can see the happy glow emanating from them.

This proud mama oohs and aahs over a photo of my Little Bit, confidently standing at the top of a zip line, ready to jump! A few days later I puzzle over which critter Big Bit has trapped with a net. I’m not a helicopter parent, but I treasure these glimpses into their daily lives while away. I’m thankful that technology helps connect me to them without intruding on their independence and fun.

Then one evening something unexpected came in the mail:

I lost it. These two simple words meant more to me than all the photos combined. Clearly Little Bit was too busy having his “good time” to do anything more than scratch out these two little words.

I love technology. I love how amazing it is at making distance meaningless. But, sometimes it’s the simple things that mean the most.

Connecting


Deep down, I think all any of us really want is to connect to someone around us.  Albeit to varying degrees, we all want to have a sense of belonging, a sense of being understood, a sense of being cared for and a sense of being listened to. In return, we want to reciprocate and mirror these feelings to at least one other human being out there.

Recently I’ve been deeply touched by an outpouring of positivity on a newer project of mine. I’ve been organizing a group of people who want to come together and discuss how technology affects the modern family; both good and bad. What’s amazed, flattered and moved me isn’t just how many people were interested in the project. What has stood out the most is how many have thanked me for my efforts.

It is in that moment that I’ve realized how much this simple connection means to us. I know that many parents, children, teachers, relatives and mentors struggle with similar questions about how to integrate and prepare for this world that insists on evolving at light speed. There’s no right answer, but the discussion seems to be an important one for an increasing number of families.

With a simple idea, we reached around the planet and connected so many separate people questing for the same answers. Our problems, families and issues are all different but at the root of it all, we’re all intrinsically the same. No matter what type of tech question or challenge came up, I keep hearing the same solution: build a good foundation and be open to communication.

It’s such a basic human need. To understand and be understood, to love and be loved, to listen and be listened to…

…and sometimes it’s the internet that fulfills that need.

Through this electronic connection, I find so many communities and they all fill different roles for me. Facebook connects me to my close friends and family, Reddit fulfills my inner geek and need for debate. With Skype I maintain friendships face-to-face, even when they move away. And Google Plus gives me the chance to discover new people, both in text and through face-to-face communication.

These interwoven webs of people are driven by common ideas, regardless of location. The world begins to shrink.

Down the Rabbit Hole


DING!

DING!

DING!

My phone notifications were insistently dinging at me. My hand hovered over my phone as I stopped myself short. I was driving and – immediate safety issues aside – I wanted to model good behavior for my children. When they start driving, I want them to have an example of someone who ignores their phone while the car is in motion.

This thought sent me down quite a mental rabbit hole!

My older son will be driving in 6 years and I wondered just how much technology would be different. Looking back at my life 6 years ago, I can see an incredible evolution. In 2006 I had just delivered a baby. My cell phone was only used for phone calls. I did not use it to text, take pictures, browse the internet or check email. My phone did not connect to any other devices, and while Bluetooth was out there – it wasn’t widely used among my circles.

Today, my phone connects me to my entire life. Email, photography, text, chat, video calls, Google searches, navigation, streaming video. Many new cars today are equipped to integrated with your phone for music, remote start, navigation and a variety of services. I can dial, text and compose thoughts through voice commands on my phone and I’m glued to my Bluetooth headset while driving.

So where will we be in another 6 years? Personally, I think the entire problem of texting and driving will be eliminated by then. I have no access to the secret labs at Apple, Microsoft or Google. It’s pure speculation. The speed of technology evolution is amazing.

Further down the rabbit hole I go….

Will our future look like the Cybermen upgrades found in Doctor Who? Will it be more like the implanted data chips found in Johnny Mnemonic? How about “enhanced reality” leaving a permanent virtual layer over our eyes? Further down the road do you see a Matrix-like submission into virtually-created worlds or a Terminator-like automated intelligence dominance? How about a society without currency, like in Star Trek? What type of future do you see?

Last year I shared this video with friends. One told me he felt this reality was far, far off and cost prohibitive to implement. I told him that this reality is far closer than he can possibly imagine. Today, I think we’re 75% there in retail implementation. There really is an app for almost anything and the cost of computing power has come down so far that “smart appliances” are working their way into the American retail market.

 

Where do you think we’re headed? What type of future do you see? Better yet, what’s the next game changer, industry revolutionizer? I have trouble imagining the next simple idea that will completely change the way we think and how we live our lives. But I know it’s out there.

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