Aug 03

7 things to know about Pokemon GO before you head out the door with your kids

Do your kids play Pokemon GO?

If the answer is ‘I don’t know’, then you need to ask them today (or check out their device for the app).

Pokemon GO is huge right now, and for good reason, it’s fun! There’s a fantastical storyline through the game that, for many young adults, reminds them of the Nintendo GameBoy games they played in their teenage years – there’s a lot of nostalgia in Pokemon GO for some people! For others, this is a relatively new type of game. It’s augmented reality, what you see in the game is the real world, overlaid with fantasy animals and virtual landmarks.

Through my work at university, I’m researching the impact of this type of game on how kids learn, and what motivates them to persist when things get hard. Pokemon GO is based on some software developed for another, very similar game, called Ingress (check it out if you like the idea of Pokemon GO but aren’t into made up creatures – Ingress is based on a much more low-key Sci-Fi story but it’s very similar in other ways).

There are some reports of ‘bad’ things happening within the game. Mainly folks getting distracted and wandering into the road…This is easily avoided!

We need to teach our kids real-world safety as well as online safety – that includes roads and traffic :0) With the hype around Pokemon GO at the moment, I know a lot of parents are being nagged to take their kids out Poke-hunting. I think that’s great – good times for all! Before you head off though, here are the 7 things you need to know to look good in front of your kids this weekend!

  1. Pokemon GO is a virtual reality game that you play but physically going to places in the world. Be prepared to walk!
  2. The game involves finding and ‘catching’ Pokemon. These virtual creatures can fly, walk, crawl and swim, so you need to look for them everywhere. They also appear at different times of the day (fairies only come out at night, don’t you know). They appear in a modified map on your phone screen. When you tap on them your phone camera turns on and you can see the Pokemon located in your actual environment – a bit like a video overlay on the world. Get ready to learn lots of Pokemon names!
  3. Pokemon are sneaky. You catch them by launching ‘Pokeballs’ at them, (flinging virtual balls at them from your phone’s screen and trying to hit them), but sometimes they duck out of the way. Keep trying!
  4. You’ll need ‘supplies’ to play the game and reach higher levels. You can collect everything you’ll need by visiting landmarks in the real world. These are called PokeStops and are where your kids will want to go! In the game they look like giant lollipops on sticks. Be ready to visit new places and to set boundaries about where your kids are allowed to go!
  5. When you get to level 5, you can visit gyms. Here you can virtually battle other Pokemon to score points and control the Gym – all from the screen of your phone. This gives your team extra points and extra supplies. This part of the game is cooperative – and you will need to carefully supervise your kids and explain how to play safely. Remember to discuss cyber-privacy and online safety!
  6. PokemonGo is fun, engaging and motivating for adults and for kids. If your children are young (or young at heart), they will need your guidance and common sense. A big part of this is the fact that as you get further in the game and play collaboratively, you’ll need to be aware that other players can see your location. Of course, they don’t know what you look like in the real world and one way to confuse other players is choosing a player name of the opposite gender (so, if your name is Rachel, call yourself Bob in the game: other players will be looking around them for a guy….). Be ready to talk about this aspect of the game and monitor kid’s use!
  7. Playing this game you will likely exercise more, get outdoors more and visit places in your Neighbourhood you didn’t know existed. PokemonGo is a great family activity and a fun way to get your kids out and walking around. Don’t be afraid to play the game. If you have younger kids, install the app on your phone and be sure to supervise their use. You can maintain control but your kids could use the navigate features to practice location skills while finding new Pokemon, or they could launch PokeBalls at the Pokemon and experience physics and angle and velocity.

There are lots of learning opportunities in the game – Get ready to have fun!

Feb 25

5 Top Tips for Your Child’s New Technology

It’s that time of year when our kids are bringing home new technology. Maybe you paid for it or maybe it’s provided by the school (from your school fees of course!)
But it’s a tricky time, especially as they may know more than you about how to use it (you haven’t had a chance yet!) and they have had instructions from school about care and use too.

So my advice to parents is always to set some ground rules as soon as you can. Makes it easier on everyone in the long run. There are a few things you can do – besides talking to your child about what they are up to of course – to help things run a bit smoother.

Charging
All digital devices should be kept out of our kids bedrooms wherever possible. Charging should be done overnight in a shared family space. Maybe the kitchen bench or the office or family room. Check that devices are charged before you go to bed and you won’t have problems with complaints in the morning when you are running late and they’ve forgotten to charge it up. You also minimise the disruption to their sleep that the constantly pinging and flashing of laptops or tablets bring with them. If you do only one thing – make sure that there are NO devices in your kids’ rooms at night.

Get a filter
There are lots of great activities and resources online. And lots of not-so-nice stuff too. Make sure you protect your family as far as possible by setting up a filter. This ‘catches’ a lot of nasties at your modem, BEFORE it can be delivered to your child’s device. It’s not hard to set up. Instructions are here.

Ask lots of questions
Your kids will want to use their device all. the. time. It’s up to you to make sure you understand what they are doing. Kids are curious. They will click on links they shouldn’t and wander off topic (searching ‘Justin Beiber videos’ when they should be working on maths homework…). So we need to let them know that even know they are now in the online world, they haven’t left us behind. Even if you don’t know what they are talking bout, get the key words out of them (app name, website name) and google it. You have to learn this stuff too… Even better, get them to show you how their game/activity/resources work. Let them be the teachers for once and see them beam with pride :0)

No use in private spaces
Make sure that any time they are using their device, it’s in a space you can see them. You might not always be able to see the screen, but I’ll bet you can tell by their expressions and body language when they are doing something they shouldn’t be! If you are cooking dinner or working online yourself, have them near you. Ask questions and be interested and close by if they need help or support.

Get a proper bag for back support
So many kids carrying such heavy bags – and not computer devices but textbooks and sports gear and HUGE pencil cases (what is it with huge pencil cases!?!??). So we need to help them manage their bodies too. Most schools in Australia would have suggested backpacks for kids to use. These are usually ergonomic and better for our kids backs. They don’t have to cost a fortune but a good one is worth it – just compare the cost to 6 months worth of physio visits. The next step is to try and get your kids to carry it on both shoulders, with their heaviest items at the bottom. This is how the backpack is designed to be used. Yes, they may not think it’s the coolest but even if they ignore you at school, if you can get them walking from the bus stop with the backpack on two shoulders, it’s better than nothing…

 

New computers are exciting and kids generally love the way that digital devices let them learn. And with these few tips you can help them be safe, healthy and look after their new, expensive learning tool!
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Dec 16

Using Free Wifi – what you need to know

Isn’t it great how we can get online pretty much anywhere now? At the library or at school or work. Even at Macca’s now!
It’s great to have ease of access and know that we can make use of the great resources online whenever we need. No more last minute printing of meeting agendas or minutes – just pull them up on your iPad or laptop. Even on holidays most hotels and resorts have free WiFi . Awesome, right?
Well yes and no. Open (often free) WiFi means its open to EVERYONE. Even that dodgy looking chap over there. He’s online with you too. And he’s sharing your WiFi connection.
Not usually a big deal, except that these open WiFi set ups can be unsafe.
You will likely be fine to search online or maybe even check your email. But I’d be wary of checking my online banking or shopping online with these WiFi connections.
keeping safe online
That’s because the WiFi is so open-access that techno-criminals can hack the WiFi connection and see what you are doing on your computer. Of course not everyone is a criminal. But we do have to be safe with our online information. Remember it only takes 3 pieces of ID to steal your identity. So imagine what they could do with your banking password or email login details!
My tip is to make sure you use your own WiFi connection (or 3G/4G) on your phone or iPad to do the more private tasks like paying bills or signing in to an account.  That way you are a bit more protected than on an open hotel or cafe’s WiFi network.
Use that free WiFi on holiday of course – but do think about your privacy and your information before you dive into all doing all sorts of private things online. We don’t want your holiday ruined by identify theft or a credit card hack….
Stay safe with Holiday Wifi

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Oct 06

What’s a Selfie? And why do I need to know?

So I posted a while ago about Positive Selfies – and got a few questions about what they are. Fair enough. Sorry for assuming it’s a universal word!
Did you know that Selfie is officially in the Oxford Dictionary now? Imagine 15 years ago – we would have had no clue what this is and now it’s part of our ‘official’ language. Mad.
What's a Selfie? Parents learn tech

Source: Oxford Dictionary

Don’t you love that definition sentence?  You can post everyday but you don’t need to people. Oxford Dictionary may accept that Selfie part of our language – but don’t overdo it people. Please. Love it!

So it’s a photo you take of yourself. Maybe by holding the camera yourself or using a selfie stick.  Yep. That’s a purpose-made stick that you attach your phone to and use the button in the stick handle to take the photo. I think this *may* be the most narcissistic invention of the past decade. It’s basically designed so that you can take your own photo with a fancy sweeping background or with lots of people.

Why do we care? Well, our kids take lots of selfies. As the Oxford Dictionary politely suggest – we are taking A LOT of photos of ourselves these days in all sorts of emotional, dressed or undressed states. We need to know what they are talking about and what they are doing online.

  • Selfie of your and your hockey team after winning the finals? Probably ok.
  • Selfie of you with your best cats-bum face pose and low cut top? Definitely not.
Let’s help kids stay kids a bit longer and keep reminding them about why selfies aren’t always a great idea!
So – my challenge! Can you use the word ‘Selfie’ with your kids today? Without sounding like a d**khead?  Give it a go :0) Let them know you speak the lingo (?!?)

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Sep 01

Taking photos of your kids at school events

How is your week going? cold and rainy here with a side of nasty cold to top it off. But I didn’t log in to chat about my head (nasty, painful, thanks for asking). I actually wanted to write about a question that’s come up with a few parents and different schools lately – Is it ok to take photos of my child at school and put them on Facebook for the family to see?

Seems simple enough – yes, your child, your photos, go right ahead.  But of course it’s difficult because school events usually involve many, many, well, school children. Your beautiful darling may be dancing up a storm, but it’s likely that so are 24 other darlings right next them on stage.

So your photo that showcases their incomparable talent also shows 3 or 5 or 20 other kids too. And you probably didn’t ask each of their parents if you can post the pic online.

And that’s where the challenge begins!  We do want to capture those never to be repeated (except at next  year’s concert) moments, so here are my suggestions to make sure you can keep in with the mums at school…

  • Think about cyber safety – does the pic show the school name or location or any details about any child? If they are wearing school uniform it probably does – so zoom out a bit so it can’t be read in the photo.
  • If your darling has their photo take with with their BFF and you don’t want to cut them out (how rude!), just ask  their mum or dad ‘I’m putting this on Facebook to show the grandparents – ok?’ It’s just good manners!
  • If you have a photo you absolutely need to share ( I get it, sometimes our kids are just hilarious devine), use a free app like Skitch to blur the faces of those other kids. Bonus: your child’s face is the main feature of the photo now!
  • And finally, think before you share. Where are you posting that photo? Consider who will see it and whether you are ok with that audience :0)

For me, I think this stuff is important because our kids have online profiles from a young age, before birth in some cases with all the ultrasound photos out there…So we have responsibility for their online footprint just as much as our own, and with a little thought we can make sure we aren’t over sharing other children’s photos either.

Do you post photos of your kids online?  Let us know what you do or don’t do…

 

 

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May 06

My latest project…Super Simple Cyber-Safety ebook

How is your week going? I’m very excited today becasue I’ve got some great news! I have finished my free ebook for parents and it will be ready to be delivered to your inbox in the next week or so.

To received the free ebook you need to be subscribed to my newsletter – you can do that here.  If you are already subscribed you don’t need to do anything! Just wait for the goodies to drop into your inbox!

The ebook:

Super Simple Cyber-Safety ebook is your parent’s guide to cyber-safety at home. From tips on storing technology to ways to ask your kids about what they are doing online, this ebook will set you and your family on the road to safe and effective online learning for your kids.

Technology is great, but it’s what we do with it that makes it useful! This ebook is for all parents and you don’t need lots of tech-know skills to implement these 10 easy ways to keep your kids safe online.

Aimed at parents of kids in Primary and early Secondary school, you’ll find 10 tips to safely use technology at home.

So keep your eyes open! And sign up now to receive this great resource hot off the press!

 

 

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May 04

But they want to keep things private…

Today I’m answering a question from a reader. It’s one I get often actually and it’s about time I talked about it on the blog!

My kids are getting older and won’t tell me what they are doing online – how do I make sure they are being safe online?

As our kids get older, hit high school and start becoming more independent, it’s natural that they don’t want to share everything with us in the same way they have done. To us it might look like they are withdrawing but it’s really normal for them to want to have some privacy.

It’s part of becoming an adult and lets them figure their way through things on their own – friendship problems, maybe also managing school work and work-work and girlfriends/boyfriends. Just like with everything else, we want to help our kids through this, of course.

With technology it can feel really scary when they start interacting online in ways we don’t know about or even understand. You might even be tempted to turn off the wifi and take away the devices

My advice is: Don’t Unplug!

Our children need to understand how to deal with situations and a head-in-the-sand-turn-it-all-off approach doesn’t teach them anything.

Of course if there is some serious bullying going on, get some help from your school and maybe even your local police station. But turning off the device won’t help them the next time something untoward happens.

The best thing we can do is to start early with cyber-safety. As I say over and over again, you need to ask about what they are doing and be interested in what they answer.

Be involved early – before they hit the I-need-my-privacy stage – and have them use the devices in a public space where you can look over their shoulder and ask about what they are up to.

As they get older, you might not be able to see what they are doing online, but you can still ask. It’s not prying to ask how that game is going or whether they’d come across anything new or interesting lately. Even ask them to teach you a skill if you need – a great way to have a chance to work together and chat!

We want to trust our kids as they hit the mid-teens, but we want to be sure we are doing what we can too – just keep talking and make sure you listen to what they have to say!
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May 01

Where do your kids do their homework?

Happy Friday! I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me this weekend. Mostly typing and working at the computer, fun but lots of it! Where do you work at home? I recently made some changes to my home workspace, adding a new chair, new organising tubs and generally dealing with that pile of papers that just seems to magically build up!

Where do you and your kids work at home? With technology it’s a good idea to keep the devices in a public space. So maybe in the kitchen, family room or lounge room? The idea is that if they are in spaces where we are (even if we cant see everything they are doing) our kids are less likely to do something silly….I don’t think this is foolproof but it does seem to make our kids talk to us more about what they are doing online and even ask questions if they need to.

A workspace at home for our kids also helps delineate between playing and working, and hopefully helps them focus more on their homework! It doesn’t have to be a fancy set up either. A cheap desk or table and a chair is really all they need.

Posture is increasingly important for our kids too – slumped on their bed or the couch doing homework can’t be good for their backs and necks in the long run. They need a table-like surface and an upright chair – and if you are feeling creative, maybe some storage and stationary/supplies to keep them going…  (confession: any excuse to buy stationary and I’m in)

I’ve made up a Pinterest board with some inspiration for you  – but here are my top 5 kids’ workspaces that might work at your house.

(all these images and their sources are on my Pinterest Board)

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Really simple and doesn’t take up much space. From Ikea

 

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Really like this one – get those kids working together! A shared space can be really great for younger kids – and that storage is important too (for your own sanity)

 

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This one is just pretty – a chair with a proper back is good for out kids’ posture and the drawers keep mess out of site.

 

 

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So sweet and simple, a proper chair and a good light for working – and those containers are adorable!

 

 

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Love the natural light and that the table is the right height for little ones…

 

So have a think about where your kids are doing their homework. Is there a small space at home you can steal to set up a homework nook? Doesn’t need to be fancy but for posture, cyber-safety and just generally more being social (!) it’s a great idea!

 

 

 
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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??

 

 

Mar 27

Tech-Tip Friday – How to shop safely online…

Do you shop online? Or use social media? If so, you need to know how to check if a website is secure. There are lots of computer hackers that attempt to access your information as it get’s transmitted online so it pays to know how to check if you, and your credit card, are safe online.

First of all, check the URL (the website address). Does it begin with ‘https‘ – that ‘s‘ stands for secure. You’ll usually see this on a website that requires a username or password or if it offers items for purchase. For example, on Facebook, once you’ve logged in, you’ll see that the website address (URL) is https://www.facebook.com/

Checking the url isn’t foolproof but it is a good place to start in checking if a website is using some security.

I use a Mac computer, so here’s what that looks like on my computer:

secure website identification

See that padlock? If I click on it, I will find more information about what security this website is using.

HTTPS means that the information you put into the website will be encrypted (turned into code) when it is transmitted. This is to stop ‘middle men’ intercepting your personal information or credit card details as it travels through the Internet to the website’s servers.

Secure websites have to have a ‘certificate’ to make this work. This is a bit of computer code that they set up that then encrypts all the data, and makes it readable again at the other end. It’s usually managed by a third party company that we can find more about by clicking on the padlock.

This is the same process on a Windows computer – the padlock is in the web address bar, but on the other end, towards the right side.

IE security on a website

Here’s what you might see on a Mac when you click on the padlock:

certificate details maccertificate details mac

You can read about the kind of encryption they use and check that the certificate (the security coding) is still current- and if you want to know more about the certificate you can also Google the terms to get an idea of how

My advice is to check the URL and the certificate before you put any personal details into a website.  If you can, you might like to use PayPal, which is a good alternative to typing in your credit card details into every website you come across – the more times you enter your data online, obviously increases the chances for problems to arise. PayPal is a third party company that stores your details on very secure website and then pass your payment on to whichever commercial website you’d like them to.

Make a note to check out the websites you use as you shop online. Found any bargains lately? Do share!