How Parents Can Stay Relevant In 2016

Hello, all. Now that we are into the second month of the year, I’m hoping your resolution of practicing digital safety is still going strong.

As a mother of two, I’m constantly thinking about how I can keep up with my kids on social media and help them become responsible digital citizens. It’s really important for parents, educators, and anyone concerned with youth development to understand how technology impacts and affects children. What better way to do this than to understand it themselves.

One of the easiest ways to understand how gadgets and technology might impact the mind of our young ones is to follow latest trends. I don’t know if you followed the news coming out of CES 2016 (Consumer Electronics Show) but if you did, you would have discovered that 2016 is going to be another exciting year in the tech front. There is so much buzz about the Internet of Things and the fact that virtual reality is set to make inroads in our homes (as if it hasn’t already)! Soon we will be using sci-fi headphones, smart watches, connected cars and appliances like smart fridges too.

Just how much can you learn from one event, you ask? Well, CES is the consumer technology world’s biggest event where every virtually all major brands showcase their vision. This year, CES was abuzz with news of virtual reality focused devices. New Yorker editor Nicholas Thompson nailed the whole virtual reality craze succinctly by saying, “Last year was the year that tech editors used it, this is the year that my sisters used it and next year will be the year that my mother uses it.”

This means that technologies like virtual reality are here to stay and expand and touch all aspects of our lives. As parents, we need to understand this craze, accommodate it into our lives and help our children make the right choices.

Keeping pace with technological developments is not only interesting but also very educational. We are stretching our boundaries of possibility beyond all known limits! Children are already a part of it, by virtue of being digital natives. We’ve got to jump on the bandwagon too. Also, we will be able to offer informed advice to our family members when they have doubts regarding which phone to buy or argue about the best gaming device or smart wearable. It helps to be aware of the latest security products, new apps, and threats that lurk in the virtual horizon.

So be on the look-out for these in 2016:

  • Consumer electronics shows: There are so many global shows around the year where consumer electronics giants unveil their new products and ideas. You can get first-hand information on products, future launches, new ideas and beta apps and programs. CES 2016 is over but you can get a quick overview here. Look out for the upcoming China Consumer Electronics Show 2016, IFA Berlin, Global Sources Electronics Show, LEX, Mobile World Congress to name a few.
  • Radical new device launches: A whole array of smartphones are ready for launch, including iPhone7. And let’s not forget virtual wearable headsets like Samsung Gear VR Hands-on, Zeiss VR One headset.
  • Mind-blowing games on the horizon: If you and your child dig the gaming scene, then you will love what’s on the horizon for 2016. Starting with the XBOX game Far Cry Primal (note: No modern firearms involved in this one), there’s the huge PS exclusive No Man’s Cry; the next installment of Gears of War, to Nintendo 3DS games like Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam
  • New social media apps in the fray: Peach from iOS and Wanelo may become big hits with the young ladies, while chat sites KiK and the Snapchat rival Shots are likely to catch the interest of teens. Experts are also predicting rise in video-chatting apps like Blab and Slack and video-sharing sites like Periscope. Smart parents will find out more about these and sign up so they can guide their kids when the time comes
  • Tech toys that are slated to become more popular: WiFi-enabled talking toys like Hello Barbie and the wildly popular Hello Kitty are growing in popularity. Smart wearables and camera-fitted drones are also becoming popular as are hand-held gaming devices like Wii from Nintendo

In addition to all of the above, here’s a quick refresher on security tips:

  • Secure all devices using reputed comprehensive security tools
  • Activate parental controls on all devices
  • Change default passwords and create unique passwords for social media and gaming sites
  • Turn off Bluetooth and location-based services when not in use
  • Do not allow websites to save your credit card information
  • Maximize privacy on social media sites and befriend your children when they sign up
  • Read reviews of games before allowing your child to play. You may want to check for violence, language and mature content
  • Think. Connect. These watchwords should be memorized by parents
    • Stop — Take a moment to understand and spot potential risks before using the Internet
    • Think — Pause to consider how your online actions may affect your safety
    • Connect — Once you have taken these steps to safeguard yourself and your family, enjoy the Internet with confidence

The more you know, the more caught up you are in the excitement and enthusiasm of it! It’s such a dynamic world – don’t miss the opportunity to be a part of it, part of this age and part of your child’s world.

Just watch your child’s face when the ad for a new launch is splashed across the newspaper and you coolly start saying, “Oh! So XYZ is finally coming out with this, eh? I love the camera and enhanced RAM but wonder at the live streaming ability and the battery power.

You will love the expressions of surprise, respect and pride that light up his face.

Here’s looking forward to a safe and gadget filled 2016!

Digital Responsibility Begins Offline

Hi There!

Settled down comfortably in the New Year 2016, have we? Hope we all remember to cross all dates as 2016 now instead of 2015 🙂

Now that we are set for a new year, I wanted to jot down my observations from the last few weeks of 2015. It was the holiday season. A season where kids and parents would be jolly enough to indulge in favorite past times with the family. Perhaps quite a few of you even indulged in buying those shiny new gadgets – may it be the latest smartphone or even a fancy smartwatch for the health conscious!

While all this happened, I couldn’t help but notice how a lot of kids today are privileged to multiple gadgets. That said, quite a few may not understand the responsibility that comes with securing those gadgets. After all, it’s but natural for tweens and teens of this generation to grow up with a tablet as it was natural for us to grow up with our copy of Calvin and Hobbes comic book. Ok, some things (Calvin and Hobbes) never get old! Thought I’d put up a quick blog to remind everyone that it’s up to us parents, that our kids become responsible with their gadgets as most of them are in real lives with their health and studies. After all, we all care about their footprints, both in real as well as digital lives.

Observe a toddler at play. One thing catches their attention and they will play with the toy till it breaks.  Suddenly, something else attracts their attention and this makes them turn to that new toy, ensuring that they completely forget about the previous toy.

It is the same scenario with tweens and teens these days. If a child has too many gadgets, he/she will

  • Never really learn to value them for they know that the gadgets will soon be replaced
  • Get bored easily, ignore all gadgets and demand new ones as soon as something fancier catches their attention
  • Likely that they will not be interested in caring for the gadgets which might lead to a high probability of mishandling and/or misusing the said gadgets

In today’s gadget-centric world, it’s important to teach kids how to handle gadgets properly and sensibly. We should encourage, and even incentivize our children to become responsible gadget users and alert them against misuse of gadgets. I believe that this is one of the primary duties of parents today. We should start this when kids are very young (even when they are toddlers!).

Some tips to promote the correct attitude in children:

  • SHARE – Siblings should be encouraged to share gadgets as far as possible. This will go on to enforce the value of the gadgets and they will not take gadgets for granted
  • TIME – Children can often get glued to their gadgets and in turn ignore everything else. Ensure to fix timelines for the use of gadgets
  • PLACE – As an extension of the time concept, the gadgets may not be the best place for a toilet, schools or even kitchen where they can be exposed to risk or misuse. Set up house rules that restrict usage of gadgets in certain areas. For instance: no phones to be used in the bedroom
  • MONITOR – It is recommended that parents have a free-wheeling chat with children about ensuring internet usage only under adult supervision
  • RESPECT – Once a gadget is broken, that does not mean that kids can immediately demand a replacement. Ensure that children are aware of the importance of regular servicing & taking care of their belongings first before they come up with demands for new gadgets
  • EXPECTATIONS – Set expectations with children about acceptable usage of gadgets. Better still, understand from them on how they believe that the gadget will help them improve their lifestyle and communicate your views on how it could be used by them

Once children start taking responsibility for their gadgets, you will notice a sea-change in their attitude towards everything else in life. As responsible young adults, we can expect children to be careful not only about their belongings but also for their words and action. This will help them become cautious in their online activity and promote responsible behavior once you become confident about letting them start surfing the digital world in an unsupervised fashion.

That would certainly be a relief for parents, don’t you think?

Lastly, we as caring parents and responsible adults should find it absolutely essential to keep our children safe from online dangers. This applies to every time they get an internet-enabled device so do secure those devices with comprehensive security software. Oh! And don’t forget to activate parental controls to limit allowed websites, turn off chat, and set internet-use timings.  After all, a happy kid is a responsible adult!

That’s all for today folks! Stay safe, stay happy!

Rewind, Revise & Retry this 2016

Is it just me or did 2015 flash by, way too quickly? I guess that’s what happens when we become parents and before you know it the kids are all grown up. Hope everyone caught up on some quality family time during the holiday season.

First and foremost: Wish you all a very happy & prosperous New Year! I hope that our online experience becomes safer and more pleasant this year.

2016 brings with it a renewed sense of vigor, hope and possibility to start afresh. Keeping with the sense of NEW, I thought it would be a great idea to share how we parents can move ahead in this cyber era. I personally, use the time tested idea of ‘The Three R’s. Want to know more? Here goes!

At the beginning of a year, the three R’s: Rewind, Revise & Retry, have helped me achieve quite a lot in the parenting department over the years

REWIND:

Think over all the discussions and arguments you may have had with your children over the previous year/s regarding online activities, including social media usage, online etiquette etc.

  • Were there more open talks or more quarrels?
  • Was it easy to come to an understanding regarding time limits for website access, uploading content and chatting with friends online?
  • Did you develop a keener understanding and awareness of all the online activities of your children?
  • Did your children break any cybersafety rules and if yes, how did you handle it?
  • Did you set guidelines for your children to follow? Which of your strategies worked and which didn’t?

Such a reflection may hold key learnings for future events and possibly highlight the best approach towards such discussions too.

REVISE:

Once you have an idea about what worked and what didn’t in the previous year/s, you are better equipped to handle issues this year. Change your strategy to improve upon areas which needed work in the online sphere.

  • Be positive: It’s important to give children a chance to showcase responsible behavior. For e.g., if a tween badgers you to let her sign up on Facebook because ‘all her friends are there’, you may allow her to use your account to connect with specific friends. At the same time, you will specify that if she displays responsible and safe online behaviour, you will allow her to have her own account once she turns 13
  • Be aware: You wouldn’t know if any online activity is right or wrong, or whether a website is safe or not unless you are active online and read up on current cyber threats. So you will have to make efforts to stay aware, for the safety of your children
  • Be on social media first: if you are already on several social media platforms, well and good, else sign up for a few just to know how they work and what your child will be exposed to. Think of this like doing your homework on a new playgroup or club or camp before letting your child join it
  • Be in control: Patience and understanding are key to a meaningful conversation with tweens and teens. If you tend to lose your temper fast or nag/ ground the kids, you may not be able to discipline them. Understand that kids are from a different time and their needs and outlook towards social media platforms can be vastly differing from yours. Parents need to understand that and empathize with them. This time around, plan to keep your cool and be silent rather than shout or ban.
  • Be united: Mothers and fathers should be on the same page regarding rules and consequences and have the same strategy in place to teach and correct children

RETRY:

You know the story of 2015. Have you given it a thought as to how you would have done it differently? The New Year may provide that opportunity so be prepared to act accordingly.

Also, children like hearing replies in the affirmative and pay more attention to your reasoning if you start with a yes. Ask them why they want to access a certain website or social media platform and then share your concerns. Tell them you will need some time to review the site. This has to be done more so, if you are unsure of its nature. Next, discuss the pros and cons with them and set clear rules for them to follow. Inform them that parenting controls will stay activated to enable parents remotely monitor their activities. Then give the green signal.

Try it. You will surely have a more peaceful household.

As we continue to strive for online safety, may we be more vigilant towards the choices we make online in 2016. Because this year we see technology becoming more integrated with our daily lives. With internet presence in every household & the mushrooming number of phones, tablets and even wearables, threats to our online safety will only rise. It will thus become increasingly important to secure all internet-enabled devices with a comprehensive security tool.

Have a prosperous 2016 folks! Stay safe, always.