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January 17, 2017 / JaymeJ

Technology Tips for Parents

child-1073638_1280Technology keeps advancing, ever encroaching on family time and creating parenting headaches our parents never imagined. The beauty of having elementary age students in this age of technology is twofold – first, we as parents still control their access to technology and, second, we are still their primary source of factual information. While managing our children’s digital lives might seem daunting, here are five tips to make parenting in the digital age seem a bit less overwhelming.

Model positive media use. Put the device down. Don’t check your phone at every stoplight. Be transparent about your own technology use. As adults, we use technology to access information, to keep ourselves organized, to stay connected with others, and to decompress. When using a device, disclose what you are doing. Communicate with children about how you are using technology so that they see you aren’t always “playing” but are using it as a productivity tool. I often say, “Mommy is going to spend 15 minutes responding to work email, then we can read together.” Or “Candy Crush time!” Also, consider how you communicate about and model your own use of social media. If you are constantly checking and liking things on Facebook, documenting every moment with photographs, or over-sharing about your children’s accomplishments on Instagram, what message is that sending?

Establish a device parking lot. Set up a central place to charge devices. All devices, including Mom’s and Dad’s phones, should be parked here during family time and overnight. Keeping devices out of the bedroom will preserve quality of sleep for all family members, both children and adults.

Make #DeviceFreeDinner a priority. Ban digital devices from the dinner table. Use this time as an opportunity to connect with your children about their day and to share the ups and downs of your own day. Not only will this encourage engaging conversation, but it will also allow everyone to enjoy their food and be mindful of their eating habits.

Be prepared – have answers to questions you know are coming. You know the inevitable questions are right around the corner — “When can I have a phone?” or “Can I have an Instagram account?” Talk with your partner and have answers to these questions long before you think they will be asked. Your family values should dictate how and when your children will have access to technology. Resources, such as those provided by Common Sense, can help inform your decisions and answer some of your questions around parenting, media, and technology use. If you are prepared ahead of time with not only a “yes” or “no” but also with rationale as to why you made the decision, it will make parenting in the digital age a little more manageable.

Ask questions and keep the conversation going. Allow your children to be the teacher. Ask them to show you their latest favorite app or, for older children, what videos are trending on YouTube. Have informal conversations about how their friends are using technology. Watch shows together and discuss how the characters are using technology – both positively and negatively. And clearly communicate how your family values inform how both adults and children use technology in your household. These conversations should be regular and ongoing. Keeping the lines of communication open is the best way to promote positive, healthy media use for everyone.

Photo by alphalight1 

December 14, 2015 / JaymeJ

Guest Post: Girl Scout PSA

My daughter created this Check, Call, Care PSA as part of a requirement for her First Aid badge. She is my guest-blogger today. Enjoy these safety tips!

November 13, 2015 / JaymeJ

Minecraft for Moms and Dads

Notes from our October parent education morning on Minecraft, MinecraftEDU, and Minecraft Pocket Edition. Reposted from Village School Tech Bytes.

We had a great turn out for our parent technology morning “Minecraft for Moms and Dads.” Thank you to those of you who attended! Links and resources shared are listed below or shared in this printable PDF.maxresdefault


from Sarah McManus 

What is this game my kid keeps talking about?

It’s like Legos online.
Those little blocks are like Legos that don’t hurt your feet. Kids can build freely in creative mode. In survival mode, they have to defend their builds against attackers.

On computers, Minecraft is a piece of software that, once installed, can be played in stand alone mode or connected to a server for group plan.

On iPads, iPods, or tablets, Minecraft is an app that can be played alone or with others, only if they are on the same wifi network.

Is it scary?
In survival mode, zombies,skeletons, and creepers stalk the players, forcing defensive moves and cooperation. The violence is extremely unrealistic, but kids under 7 or with vivid imaginations may be creeped out.

Is it teaching anything?
Yes! Play requires critical thinking and delayed gratification, and cooperation makes it more fun.
Kids learn online etiquette. Minecraft gives you the chance to discuss online behavior before the cell phone years.

Is it safe?
It can be. Kids are at risk for abusive play called “griefing:” think of one kid smashing another’s Lego creation. Kids need to know game etiquette.

Strangers can play with and talk to kids, too, in certain settings. Kid-safe servers and setting the Pocket Edition to Single Player may be right for your kid.

Truths to Teach

Have Fun the Smart Way

  • To play, create a safe password and a username that is not your real name. Keep this private information private!
  • Servers are public places, so playing online is like playing at a playground. Act and speak in a way that’s right for a public place.

Avoid Grief

  • GriefingTaking or breaking something that isn’t yours online. Bullying someone in words or actions online.
  • Don’t grief! If you accidentally do,apologize and offer to make it right.
  • Avoid griefers! If someone’s mean to you in Pocket Edition, open a new single player world…or create a newMultiplayer world and uncheck “Server visible by default” as you create it.Your world will be invisible.
  • Playing on a desktop? Consider a kid-friendly server. They have games and no griefing or bad language.
  • Trust your gut feelings. If a player starts talking to you and it’s awkward or scary, tell a trusted adult.

Balance the Time

  • Being online all the time makes you boring and unhealthy. So find some friends who like to do Minecraft, go outside, and play Creeper Tag!

Wrap Your Mind Around Minecraft

Tutorials & Articles for Parents

Parent’s intro to Minecraft

A more complete guide

The 10 Best Kid-Friendly Minecraft Channels on YouTube

Educational benefits of Minecraft

Minecraft glossary for parents

10 things parents need to know about Minecraft

10 problems that parents can have with Minecraft

Learn to play (video)

Kid-Friendly Servers for Desktop Play

Intercraften (most popular)


Sandlot (recommended)

February 26, 2015 / JaymeJ

What’s so great about Chrome?

Parent Technology Academy • Google Guru Workshop #2SNP_B2C03ED616BF779F63F0C9A9A1DF94298ACD_4411560_en_v0

During this session, we discussed the benefits of using the Chrome browser, including signing in to access your bookmarks, apps, and extensions from any computer, anywhere!

Apps – They’re like desktop software programs you install on your computer. The main difference is that you use apps directly within your browser. If you use Gmail, Google Maps, or sites like Pandora, you’re already using apps.

Chrome – a simple, secure web browser

Extensions – Extensions are small software programs that can modify and enhance the functionality of the Chrome browser.

Find These in the Chrome Web Store

Read More

February 26, 2015 / JaymeJ

Stop Drinking Water from a Fire Hose: Google Search Tips & Tricks


We all use Google search to find answers to our questions, but there are lots of things that Google Search can do to help save you time! For the Parent Technology Academy that I present at my school, January kicked off our Google Guru series, focusing upon tips and tricks for using Google Search. Our recap of Google search tips & tricks are being delivered in two parts:

Part 1 – Search Tools (click to read blog post)
Part 2 – Shortcuts & Time Savers (click to read blog post)

Learn More about Google Searching:

Google Inside Search – learn how search works, features, and watch search stories
How to Search on Google – tips and tricks to help you easily find information
Google Guide – interactive tips for novices, experts, and teens

And More!

There are lots of other things that Google Search can do. You can track packages, look up zip and area codes, find time zones, and more.

Watch: Search Tips & Tricks YouTube Playlist
Read: Learn more about other things you can ask Google
Try it: Need a timer? Google the word timer!

February 26, 2015 / JaymeJ

Tech Tip of the Week: YouTube Kids

Kids You Tube AppThe new You Tube Kids app was announced this week providing a curated library of family-friendly videos and channels from well known brands as well as lesser known YouTubers (from Dreamworks, Henson, Reading Rainbow, and NatGeo Kids, to Vlogbrothers and Stampylonghead). The app also provides a simplified interface and parental controls.

Suggested Videos, always a mine-field on regular YouTube, have been pre-filtered and are all just as kid friendly as the one currently being watched. Comments have also been disabled.

Download YouTube Kids for free on your Android or iOS device:

Read more about YouTube Kids:

October 28, 2014 / JaymeJ

Let and Streetchat: Two new social media apps targeting teens

Reposted from Village School’s Tech Bytes

Social media apps and websites are always being developed. The two mentioned in this blog post are merely the most recent iterations. We advise parents to also read our previous posts about Whisper, Instagram, SnapChat,Vine, and

Let: Social networking for teens

PictureNew to the social media scene is Let. Where LinkedIn is for business connections and Facebook user are trending older, Let targets teens desire to become a star by literally allowing others to “star” their posts. The more stars, the higher up on the leaderboard you rise. By turning the Facebook “like” button into a star, Let encourages users to publicize their posts across other social media platforms (Twitter, Vine, Instagram) and direct them back to their Let post. With “celebrity” as a driving force and the tagline Join the coolest Social Network. It’s fun, it’s anonymous, it’s cool., one is not surprised to learn that girls aged 13-18 are the main users of Let.

Like many newer social media platforms, Let is entirely mobile based (only an app with no online or desktop version). What makes Let different is how it populates your newsfeed. Instead of using an algorithm, it uses gamification – allowing users to decide what content is most popular and highlighting that in each newsfeed.

We Are Social Media describes the rating system:

Users give each post they see up to three stars, generating a ranking of the most popular posts and users. The more stars a post receives, the more people will see it. Simple, fun and efficient. This way Let can guarantee its users will see more of what is interesting and less of the clutter of boring uninteresting updates.

Read more about Let:
Meet Let-the teen social network based on gamification – WeRSM | We Are Social Media
Teen social network moves to LA after winning over YouTube stars – LA Times
New social network for teenagers experiences a growth spurt –

Streetchat: A live photoboard for schools and colleges

PictureThe app’s description says a lot:

Get a live photo feed of what people are posting in your school or college.
Streetchat is an anonymous bulletin board to post photos to the people in your school. It is a fast reliable way to share your thoughts and talk about things around you.

What it doesn’t say is that Streetchat is the newest platform for online bullying among high school students. Any time teens are encouraged to post, and then upvote or downvote posts, annonymously…it is an invitation for rude, crude, or socially unacceptable uses. While the Streetchat terms and conditions expressly forbid bullying, it also states, “We do not monitor content.”

Read more about Streetchat:
Do you know streetchat? – Common Sense Media
Streetchat is the new YikYak – Business Insider

Other social media networks:
15 sites and apps kids are heading to beyond Facebook – Common Sense Media