Is Your Cell Phone Hurting Your Children?

Is your reliance on technology hurting your children? A new study shows that perhaps parents are too plugged in. The story cites a young mother who was ignoring her toddler in a busy shopping mall while she had her head buried in her cell phone’s screen. It goes on to discuss the negative impact that constant device usage can have on a child’s psyche and upbringing.

The study talks about the negative effects that a parent’s desire to always stay connected can have on children, yes. But it doesn’t touch on the dangers that could happen. It only takes a split second for someone to grab a child in a public place. Toddlers and babies are kidnapped in an instant while their parent or guardian looks away at an item on a store shelf. It isn’t inconceivable that the same thing could happen while mom is busy checking her Twitter stream or dad is reading the latest email from work. Children can be hit by a car, drown in a pool or run off without supervision in the blink of an eye. If a parent is engrossed in their phone for a few moments, bad things could potentially happen.

I’m not saying that you can never use your devices around your children. I’m saying that you need to stop tuning everything else out while you check up on things. I’m just as guilty as the next person of this infraction. I am quite good at tuning out the world around me whenever I feel I need to. Parents build up this ability as their children get older. It’s almost a survival instinct. You have to be able to filter out noise and distractions to get things done, right? But what if something tragic happens while you’re tuned out?

Photo credit to The Chef Alliance.

How To Introduce a Child to Social Media

Kids want to grow up a whole lot faster than we feel is good for them. You remember what it’s like, I’m sure: you just know that you’re way more mature than your parents give you credit for. They don’t understand what it’s like. They are too old to truly “get” you. I hear from kids in our community on a regular basis, and many of them say these things. They ask me questions about how they can break into the tech scene and start to “get noticed” online for their efforts. I tend to point them towards places such as Twitter and YouTube. But what happens if the kid in question is truly still a kid? If they’re under the age of 13, they are automatically discluded from sites such as Facebook and many other popular social networking sites.

On Tuesday, the answer for these kids will go out of the beta phase, and be available to the public. Togetherville is aimed at kids aged 10 – 13 and the grownups in their lives. Founder Mandeep Singh Dhillon called Togetherville “the first platform that really integrates young children’s ability to use the Web with their grownups close by.” Anonymity is not allowed on the site. Kids sign up as themselves, without even an avatar to use. Parents control every aspect of the experience, right down to who is allowed to be a child’s friend. The site encourages parents “to create neighborhoods of the real people in their child’s life to be around their kid as they grow up online.”

The free site will let kids play games and watch videos. They can also create and share artwork. The chat feature doesn’t work the same as a normal one would. Kids cannot type something into the chat box. They have to instead choose one of the prescreened “quips” that the staff has come up with. This will reduce the risk of a kid accidentally revealing personal information. Videos that are available have also been screened before being added to the site, and deemed appropriate for the age group.

Another unique feature is that “parents must be Facebook members to sign up their children for the service. Parents sign in with their Facebook user name and password. Children’s information is never sent to Facebook so the only way information about a child can get onto Facebook is if the parent or another adult enters it–just as is the case with offline activities. Parents can also chose to allow adult or teenage Facebook friends to interact with their child but all of the interaction takes place on Togetherville, not on Facebook.”

Let’s face it: today’s kids are the first generation of a world that is revolving more and more around social and digital media. Togetherville is an excellent – and safe – way for adults to introduce the young people in their lives to social media. This site can help give you the tools you need to help your child become adept in the world of social networking.

Truck Stuck – A Story Before Bed

My nephew Zander lives down in Texas. I don’t get to spend time with him nearly as often as I wish I could. Just like any other toddler, he loves a good bedtime story. Since I cannot be with him each night in person, I decided to record myself reading a story. I went on the hunt for something that would work, and came across A Story Before Bed.

Choose one of the books in the library on the site, and record yourself reading it by using your webcam. It won’t cost you anything to get started. If you are happy with your recording and want to share it with a special child in your life, simply pay a flat $6.99 fee. After the fee has been paid, you can email the link to your story to the kids, and they can then watch it as many times as they like. This works great for parents who are traveling or in the military, grandparents who don’t live nearby, and even crazy uncles who live where it rains way too much at times.

As I said, I recorded a story for Zander, by reading the book “Truck Stuck”. I had a lot of fun doing this, and I’ve already been told my efforts were a hit. My assistant Kat has a granddaughter who is about to turn three. Kat showed the video to Jenna, who was enthralled by it. She made her Nanna replay the book four times in a row. I sincerely hope that Zander loves it as much as Jenna does.

I know I’m not the only one out there who has a special child in their life that you cannot be physically near. Why not record a bedtime story for them to enjoy? You’ll be creating memories that they can carry with them throughout their lifetime.

Starfall for Beginning Readers


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During Gnomedex, we held an open mic period where attendees could come onto the stage and pass along resources that the rest of us might not know about. Now, I know that this particular video will not interest many of our younger followers. However, it is a FANTASTIC resource for those of you with young children in your lives! If you don’t have kids of your own, forward this on to someone who does. I promise that they’ll thank you for it.

Starfall can help a child learn to read, or improve upon the skills they’ve already gained, by using phonics. There are several different stages on the site, including ones for children just learning their ABCs all the way up to activities for kids who can already read basic words and sentences.

This is an excellent way to boost your child’s skills in a fun environment.

Want to embed this video on your own site, blog, or forum? Use this code or download the video:

What Toy Would You Want for Christmas?

I admitted in a video earlier today that I still enjoy playing with LEGO Bricks. I also apparently still like the Lite Brite!

There’s nothing wrong with occasionally letting your inner child come out to play when you’re a grown-up. I personally think it can help keep you sane and stress-free if you let your hair down once in awhile, and take the time to remember what it’s like to play. What do you do during occasions like these? Do you indulge yourself with crayons? Do you prefer to duke it out with action figures?

What toys do your inner child still love to play with?

Now that Cyber Monday is here, our download center team is working hard to come up with new and amazing programs for you to grab at deep discounts. Be sure to check every day to see what they have found for you!

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