Jul 24

Best of the Web: parenting blogs you will love

So today I’m sharing a few blogs I love to read. They are fun, a little bit left-off-centre, and all about parenting.

This parenting lark isn’t easy (ask me about the midnight ambulance/hospital/broken window run we had this week!?!) – and sometimes those that are right around us aren’t in the exact same parenting space as we are. But someone, somewhere is. Whether your kids are littlies discovering language and words, or older children and teendagers navigating friendships and responsibility there are blogs that will talk to you about your world.

Blogging is really important for us parents to engage with too – but we don’t need to be actually writing our own blog. We do need to understand how people talk to each other online, how we can chat to them in return and the kind of opinions and information that is out there (hint: there’s an opinion on everything, and kids need to know that we don’t need to believe everything we read online!)

So here are MY TOP 5 BLOGS to give you a giggle and a think this week –

 

mother natured

 

 

Penny of MotherNatured (http://mothernatured.com/) loves to play outdoors and shares great ideas for getting your kids off their screens and playing in the mud, grass, leaves…nature.

 

 

 

http://laughingkidslearn.com/Kate at Laughing Kids Learn is a friend of mine. She’s awesome and writes about great learning ideas for little kids (pre-school and younger). She’s just had her second bub (congrats Kate!) and is still managing ot post great ideas for kids – well done!

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 12.06.36 pm The parenting files, Tahlia is a family counsellor, mum and professional writer. There’s great things here about kids, spouses, family life, home….lots of fun and interesting stuff!

 

http://www.woogsworld.com/LOVE Mrs Woog! She’s irreverent, funny and writes about everything. No, reallly – everything. From queues at the fruit shop to why politicians are idiots. She is a very funny lady. She posts everyday and is always guaranteed to make you chuckle.

 

 

 

http://www.baby-mac.com/My last fave is BabyMac.com. A mum who has taken on a Tree Change, now lives in a small village and just gave birth to her THIRD gorgeous girl. She cooks, bakes, makes pretty bed settings and generally chats about life. She never takes herself too seriously and seems just lovely – even via the computer screen!

 

So check out my faves – and let me know if you have others to add. If you want to read these the easy way, try signing up to Feedly.com. It’s a ‘feed reader’. That means you get an account with Feedly, add in your fave blogs and it will AUTOMATICALLY collect all the new posts. Open the app online or on your tablet/phone and the newest posts will be sitting there waiting for you!

Hope you enjoy xx

 

 

 

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Mar 30

Kids Version of Facebook

It’s nearly Easter! That means school holidays, bunnies and chocolate. What will your kids get up to during the break? Hopefully there will be some outdoor fun and maybe some playdates. Looking at the weather here in Melbourne, there’s going to need to be some indoor times too. Rain, for days on end!

Once they have exhausted all their playing, making and doing and you hear the ‘I’m bored’ call, I’ve got a suggestion to keep them happy online, using a safe website that let’s them chat with their friends – but you can keep an eye on them as they do it!

First though, they need to be 13 or older. 13 is the age that most online resources set as the entry age. Just because our kids are 13, though, doesn’t mean we should let them go without supervision. You can, of course, lie and sign up if you areunder 13 but there are a number of good reasons not to.

The tool I’m talking about here is called Edmododownload

It’s a kind of Facebook-type website that uses a password to keep it safe (er).

You, as the adult, sign up and create a ‘virtual classroom’.  Then you give that private classroom code to the children you want to invite and they sign up. One good feature is that they don’t need to provide an email address or their full name, so it’s a way for our kids to practice their cyber-safety skills too.

I suggest they just use their first name and initial of their last name, just to be safe.

I use Edmodo all the time and I like it best because it keeps all the posts on one big page – like one giant Facebook feed.

That means our kids can’t go to an individual page and post something they shouldn’t. It also means that you only need to keep an eye on one page of posts. You won’t need to check a dozen different pages to keep on top of what they are doing!

edmodo

Your kids can share images, links, text, files – whatever they like. So that cat video that makes them giggle can be shared amongst them as a link, meaning they won’t necessarily spend hours on other sites – hopefully they will be encouraged to spend more time on Edmodo than on a hundred other sites that we don’t know about!

A few families I know have used Edmodo as a way to keep their kids happy (they get to go online) and to make sure they are well-supported and kept safe too.

You can set up a ‘classroom’ really quickly and let your kids chat and share – but know that you can check on them anytime using the website or app. I love the app because it’s easy to use and gives you notifications when anything is posted. A quick check and then you move on. Easy and not too time-consuming!

 

Do you let you kids go online? Use social media? Let us know what you think about using online social media at home??

 

 

Jan 05

Holiday Checklist – don’t forget the charger!

Hope you’ve had a great break over Christmas! In Australia, schools are still on the long summer break and lots of us are heading off on holidays to the beach or the bush. This year we don’t have a lot of time off together but we are hoping to manage a couple of nights away here and there. Every year I forget something – no matter how hard I try. So, in an effort to get better at holiday packing – with my all-important tech-toys! – here’s my quick list of reminders. Maybe it will help you too :0)

I do unplug when I’m away. Nothing like a good book or crappy magazine on holiday but I also keep in touch with family and friends online – bit of balance is a good thing, right!!

  • First of all – my iPad. Yep. I’ll need to keep up with this blog, my work and all the other blogs I follow – oh and Facebook of course :0)
  • This year, I’ve got a new cover for my iPad that protects the front and back (previously I only had the front covered). Your kids need one that protects it well. Especially the corners – that’s where the damage occurs and the screen smashes when they ‘bounce’ it off the floor…maybe speaking from experience there ;0(
  • I’ll also need to bring my charger and the car charger too – for those times we camp without electricity, not too often but it’s nice to be totally unplugged sometimes.
  • Next, I’ll need to bring my Kindle Paperwhite ! I know I can read on the Kindle app on my iPad but if I’m sat by the pool or on the beach, it’s just too bright to read on the iPad. My new Kindle has a backlight and I can read it in any light. It’s got a month long battery life – so no need for the charger :0) – BONUS: The Kindle is really light in my handbag. Anyone else have a ridiculously heavy handbag in summer…sunscreen, bug spray, brush, deodorant… !!!
  • I bring my external battery charger too – I hate when my laptop dies half way through a movie!

  • Finally, I need my Fitbit. It syncs to my iPhone and lets me know when I need to move more. Especially important when I’m eating for England on holiday ;0)


For the kids –

So on family holidays, I bring at least two 4-way power boards. You know, like the ones below, that mean you can plug in their toys after the long drive (or long day).

I also like these ones with power surge protection. That way if your holiday house has a not-so-modern power set-up, (meaning it may not have the built in surge protectors most of us rely on at home), I won’t lose expensive iPads, laptops and games systems from a power surge or lighting strike – they only cost $13, a good buy I think.

      • Next, I set up a charging station at our holiday house. All digital toys get plugged in centrally overnight.
      • Finally, if our holiday house has wifi I make sure I’m the one who knows the password. I’m in charge (or the hubby) of setting up devices on the wifi. That way I know who is online and when.
      • I have also been known to turn the wifi on and off during the day. Off during the morning and lunch. On for quiet afternoons watching movies online. Off for dinner. On for an a hour or so of downtime before bed. That way I can filter what they are doing when :0)

I’m also going to be taking bathers, towels, sunscreen, sun glasses, a bottle of wine and couple of glasses. And that will be all I need :0) Ok. Chocolate and cheese too. Of course.

 

Have a lovely break – or week – if you are going away! Let me know what I’ve forgotten here, would love to hear from you.

 

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Oct 24

Cyber-Safety: 3 Things To Know To Keep Your Kids Safe

Online safety is the number one fear we parents have when our kids are online. Our kids need to know how to keep their personal information safe online and how to deal with anything unpleasant that happens too. Just like in the real, physical world, our kids are sometimes exposed to things we’d rather they weren’t – nasty comments, being left out, maybe called a mean name. We teach our kids to deal with these things. We don’t say – that’s it, no more talking to anyone for you! And it’s the same with technology, we have to teach them how be safe, rather than just remove the technology.

If we take the technology away from our children permanently then they will usually just find another way to get online – at playdates, the walk home from school, McDonalds free wifi, even mum or dad’s iPhone. For many of our kids, especially when they hit around 10 years old**, their social life is to some degree online. Take away the tool and we take away their tool to engage with their peers – not too mention the lost learning opportunities for their education.

***NOTE: Some parents won’t agree with me here. That’s fine. But what I would say is that if you do just unplug the computer or hide the iPad or turn off the wifi, your child will one day be online with less understanding and less experience in dealing with what are usually smaller issues. How do they then learn to cope with bigger problems like nasty emails at work or unwanted photos shared online that they may well encounter as adults?

The first thing to do with your child is make sure they know how to deal a tricky situation (there’s more tips here and here).

Basically, turn off the screen -NOT the computer – and tell a trusted adult.

Then the adult helps them report the nastiness (through the website if possible), saves copies if it’s ongoing and takes it to the next level if necessary. The ‘next level’ might mean talking to the school, to other parents involved or to the police.

I want to put a caveat there though – if you speak to another parent about their child’s behaviour, please, please remember that the vast majority of us are parenting the best we can. Be polite, listen to them and be open to hearing another side the story….that’s it, rant over, as you were…

When it comes to personal info, you need to remember (and remind your child) of the 3 Things Rule.

To steal your identity, do damage to your reputation, to try and hack an online account, or do other scary things to your computer or online accounts Nasty Internet Folks only need 3 things – 3 pieces of information.

cyber-safety and our kids

These can be any three pieces of information.

So, your first name, your last name and your address, or your school, or your football team or your street name or your car registration. You get the picture.

And pictures are the key. Be aware of what you are taking photos of…

That photo of your child’s football team with their team name on the jersey? That’s one piece of info. What else have you shared? Make sure you keep it under three.

That gorgeous pic of your child’s first day of school, is it showing the house or street number? That’s one (or two) things right there…and if they are in uniform and the school name is on their t-shirt….

The Internet is an amazing, growing, learning, developing, sharing tool that is just amazing for our kids to learn through. But precisely because it’s so open to opportunity means it’s also open to anyone and anything. We don’t want to throw out the baby with the bath water – so we need to think and educate our kids (and ourselves) around these challenges.

So teach your kids the ‘3 Things Rule’ and make sure you follow it yourself. It’s fairly straight forward once you get going :0)

A question for today – If you have Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, what personal info are YOU sharing? Would you let your kids share that much? Let us know how you are going with sharing your info online? Hard or easy?

**There’s research on that from the ACMA: 10-12 year olds are jumping into social media at this age in huge numbers according to the recent Australian census.

***Please note I’m talking about ‘removing technology permanently‘. I have no issue with the removal of technology as a consequence for poor behaviour choices – just like grounding our kids or removing privileges, it’s a way they learn about expectations of behaviour. However, I don’t think keeping them off tech forever is appropriate or helps them learn…

Sep 23

Web 2.What?

How are we today? I’m on ‘school holidays’ – which for me just means that one of my four responsibilities is quiet for two weeks. Just means more time for other things really! Does anyone else feel that free time just disappears during school holidays? Anyway, enough procrastinating…

Today we are chatting about Web 2.0. It’s a term that’s thrown around a bit and can mean a few things.

It’s important for us parents to know about Web 2.0 because of what it lets us and our kids do. Understanding what the Internet lets kids do today means we can prepare them and support them online. It’s about cyber-safety really.

But first  a quick history. The term Web 2.0 first appeared in 2004. It began with a techy/nerdy conference in the USA that brought people together to talk about all the cool stuff that the Internet was beginning to offer, like blogs, and Facebook and wikis. So it’s a relatively new concept.

While some people argue it’s not any different to what came before, the idea is that pre-2004, the Internet and technology was a one way conversation. Someone posted something or uploaded a web page and we read it. It took some serious tech skills to get a website going and that meant only those with the cash to pay or with the skills to do it themselves were posting online. Big corporations had websites for marketing and companies with big investors could launch social networking sites. Until that is, Web 2.0 developers started to create programming languages and software that let people like us in on the game. As the Internet became 2-way the new term was born: Web 2.0

Web 2 and cyber-safety

Web 2.0, to me, is anything online that lets us Communicate, Collaborate and Create. If it doesn’t have those three things, it’s not really Web 2.0.

It’s the communicate and collaborate that we need to think most about, asking, what are our kids doing online and with whom?

So think about the websites they are playing  on and ask yourself these questions:

Untitled design

Are they simply creating?

If so, who are they publishing to and why? Find our who they are thinking about as they create or build online. Check if there’s other elements going on. Like chatting with their friends as they create in Minecraft (not recommended by the way – read more here)

 

number 2Are they also communicating?

Is it an online community? Who is part of it? Ask about who they are talking with – and what about? Make sure you understand if it’s an open forum or behind an account. If they are logged into Club Penguin for example they might be chatting with others. It’s DEFINITELY not 100% safer than chatting on an open forum but these sites do have better ways to report problems and some do monitor the language and content. When our kids get to about age 12, they want in on these conversations and you need to know what they are doing. You might decide to block them from chat rooms. But you’ll only know what they are doing if you are online with them. At the very least, they should only be online in a ‘family space’ like the kitchen or family room. The ACMA suggest this makes it less likely they’ll do something dodgy and a bit more likely they’ll ask for help if you are right there.

 

number 3Finally, are they collaborating?

This is the educational bit. Teachers love the collaboration that Web 2.0 can offer and we are still working out how to find the best way to do this in a safe way. Websites like Edmodo offer private, virtual classrooms for teachers. Read more about Edmodo here. It’s key to preparing our kids to be successful in the 21t Century – they need skills like negotiating and working with others online and face to face.

 

Web 2.0 is basically all the exciting stuff. It’s Facebook and Twitter and blogging and wikis. It lets you and me contribute to the web and to interact with other people interested in similar things to us.

Web 2.0 is important to our kids’ futures too. They need to take advantage of all the online tools that can help them learn while learning about being safe and understanding who owns what online…

Do you use social media or blogs? Share what you think about Web 2.0 and your kids :0)

 

 

 

Sep 15

Social Media & Our Kids

Did you know…

Social networking is over-taking email and instant messaging in popularity with our students?
In a recent survey I did of the student population at my local primary school, 60% of students from Prep – Year 6 are members of at least one social network – and a large number of the remaining 40% had seen a social network and interacted with others online in some other way. And that’s when you ask the kids to identify what is (and what isn’t) a social network – some things they don’t count. Like Club Penguin, which is definitely a social platform…

This info is good to know!

Club Penguin & Cyber-Safety

www.clubpenguin.com

In Software/websites like Club Penguin and Moshi-Monsters, your child can become ‘friends’ with anyone and most children work around the ‘safe chat’ functions (even students as young as Prep have done so!). So they are chatting with anyone about anything. BUT – and this is important – it’s not all bad! They just need boundaries and to know what to do and how to behave online.

That’s because our kids often think and learn quite differently to us.

They can learn through social interaction, both online and off. And unfortunately, just unplugging the computer isn’t the solution! Unplugging your child just leaves them isolated and – as we all know – more likely to go behind our backs. The advice for the Australian Communications and Media Authority is to work with them and to supervise!! The ACMA is a great resource if you haven’t seen it. Try out the parent page.
So, what do we do? Well, here are my suggestions:

  • Continue to talk about their online worlds with them
  • Spend 20 minutes a month just watching what they do online
  • Moderate what they are accessing using filters.

Online social networks offer a world of learning for your child, but we wouldn’t let them navigate a busy road by themselves without help and training, so we should also support them in navigating their busy cyber-worlds with the same help and training.

Have you had experience with social media and young kids? Let us know your tips and tricks…I’d love to hear from you!