Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sue Scheff Parenting Online

2009 will be here, as parents, making a resolution to learn more how to keep your child safe online should be a priority. With the ever expanding cyberworld - social networking - texting etc. the time is now to learn more.

You don't have to be a computer expert to keep your child safe online.As parents, we want our children to be safe and responsible while using technology. We will have succeeded when each child can recognize and minimize the three main risks associated with all connected technology (i.e., iPods, instant messaging, chat, computer games, game consoles, cell phones, text messaging, webcams). Read More
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Friday, December 19, 2008

Sue Scheff - Teen Social Networking and Parenting

As usual, Connect with Kids offers valuable articles for parents. This week they touch on the critical subject of our kids and the Internet. I know first hand the pros and cons of Cyberspace, however the challenge is getting our children to understand how important it is to protect yourself online and know that the Internet has a vast amount of great information but like with many things in life, you need to be aware of the pitfalls that may come with it.

Source Connect with Kids

“I wasn’t like other kids, you know, they had the Internet at home and I didn’t, so I felt like I was being deprived of something.”
– Ashley, 16 years old

Sixteen-year-old Ashley has always been a good student, but two years ago, she became a better student.

“In my history class, where we had to do a lot of research, I went from a B to an A,” she says.
What made the difference? Ashley believes it was her increased use of the Internet. She always had Web access at school but not at home.

“I wasn’t like other kids, you know, they had the Internet at home and I didn’t, so I felt like I was being deprived of something,” Ashley says.

Researchers, funded by the MacArthur Foundation, observed over 800 teens and their parents. The study found that, sure enough, parents think that spending hours online is unproductive for kids. But, the study also found that online teenagers are learning- socially, technologically … and academically.

“They are spending more time looking at text, so certainly they are going to be exposed to more reading opportunities,“ says Christine Colborne, an English teacher.

“You have to read through the websites,” Ashley says. “You have to read through the links and everything like that. So it does improve reading skills. And I think it improves vocabulary.”
But some experts warn parents to be cautious. Simply having online access is not a guarantee your child is learning.

“Many students are on the Internet simply in chat rooms. They are on the Internet looking up graphical material. They are looking up websites that are not text intensive where they are purchasing things or they are looking up pictures or downloading pictures,” Colborne says.

Ashley’s parents have set up filters on her computer that limit her access to inappropriate sites. Still, she says having the Internet at her fingertips at school and at home has opened a world of opportunities.

“I’m able to meet new friends, new people … to explore new subjects that I never knew about,” she says.

Tips for Parents

Another study by Michigan State University found that contrary to popular belief, spending time surfing the Internet can actually be beneficial to children. The study, which analyzed the Internet use of 120 parents and 140 children, found no negative effect on users’ social involvement or psychological well-being. In fact, researchers say that Internet use actually increased the children’s grade-point averages and standardized test scores.

As a parent, you are faced with the monumental task of monitoring the activities of your child in a world of virtually unlimited sources of information. One of the most expansive, confusing and frightening sources of information available to children today is the Internet.

You can take a number of steps to communicate the appropriate use of the Internet and other technologies to your child. The Cyber Citizen Partnership offers these tips for setting Internet limits for your child:

Be aware of your child’s computer skills and interests. Remember that it takes only a little knowledge to wreak a lot of havoc. Often, kids will develop technical skills and look for ways to challenge themselves.

Focus your child’s interests. If you recognize that your child is interested in exploring computer technology, you can reinforce positive behavior and encourage positive applications of this interest. Ideas include encouraging emailing with friends and family to become comfortable with appropriate and respectful online communication; recommending that your child adopt a position of responsibility in school as a computer monitor to assist classmates with computer use; fostering creative computer use by developing a personal or family website; or suggesting participation in school or community programs that teach in-depth technological skills or offer challenging technical opportunities.

Explore the Internet together. Ask your child to teach you about the Internet, visit educational sites, email questions and participate in online discussions together.

Take advantage of teachable moments. ­ When events or activities arise that provide the right time and place to do so, take advantage of these moments to help your child understand the issues involved in good cyber citizenship. For example, take time to read news articles about hacking or cyber crime incidents to your child and discuss the impact it has had on those involved. Use personal situations to frame the context of these discussions (e.g., ask your child how cyber crimes or irresponsible online behavior could affect friends and family). Address cyber ethics messages as your child conducts research online or shares his experiences on computers at school.

Cyber Citizen Partnership
Michigan State University
University of California-Irvine

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sue Scheff - Next Generation Parenting

Wow - I recently was introduced to this fantastic up-to-date information for parents on parenting the next generation.

From new parenting techniques, ideas, and how to be a smart parent today NexGen Parenting has it all! They also have a great selection of books and blogs to learn from.

Here is a brief example of their vast information:

Xtreme Parenting

The slacker image that Generation X earned in the early 90s is gone. No longer seen as lazy and directionless, the thirty- and forty-somethings of today are regarded as driven go-getters. Extreme and maniacally focused on everything they do from sports (X games), to work (Silicon Valley pioneers staying up all night to launch new tech products), to parenting. That’s right; GenX is turning out to be some of the most conservative, protective, proactive parents in history. They enact legislation for smaller class sizes, volunteer at school, leave their fast-paced jobs to stay home with their children, and homeschool their kids in record numbers.
In a modern twist, Gen X parents use technology to ensure the safety of their young. Baby monitors with video cameras or alarms that go off when infants stop breathing are immensely popular. Nannycams and Webcams are used to keep an eye on kids in daycare. Parents today purchase swings that play music, voice-activated bouncy seats with bubbling brook sounds, and software to teach phonics to preschoolers. While the last generation of kids begged to carry cell phones and pagers to be cool, Gen X parents insist that their children stay wired and reachable for peace of mind.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sue Scheff: Internet Addiction and Kids

Source: Connect with Kids

“You treat [Internet addiction] by improving the relationships in the person’s life, so that they have another choice of something that is more fulfilling for their heart and their soul to do.”

– Eddie Reece, M.S., L.P.C., Psychotherapist

Just ask any teen - and many will say they can’t live without the Internet.

“I’d say out of any given week it probably takes up more than half of my time,” says Adam Schindler, a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

“It’s a big part of my life,” says 21-year-old Chris Skinner. “And even when we have problems at home, with an internet connection. It’s like the whole world has crumbled, sadly enough.”

Internet addiction. It’s become so common the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto has started a new treatment program for teens.

Experts say signs that your child might be in trouble include isolation, giving up activities he or she used to enjoy and irritability.

”You come in and you are just asking what do you want for dinner, and you get snapped at because you have interrupted their virtual world,” explains psychotherapist Eddie Reece, M.S., L.P.C.

So what should parents do if their child is substituting a virtual world for the real one?

“How about working on the relationship that you have with your children, so that it would be more interesting to them to talk to you, than it would be to be on the computer,” suggests Reece.

He says along with setting limits on screen time, tell them why you’re concerned. “And then you can bring up the conversation of, ‘you know I noticed you haven’t been playing with Billy very much lately, you know what happened there? And then listen.”

“You have to go outside and make that initial approach sometimes,” says 21-year-old Jessica Criss. “And sometimes it’s hard, but it ends up being more fun than getting no new messages for the day.”

Tips for Parents

For many parents, video games are likely to be low on the list of addiction risks for their children. But as the video industry continues to grow, video game addiction is a problem being faced by more and more parents. This is especially true as the landscape of the video-game industry continues to change. Gone are the days of Super Mario and Donkey Kong. In their places are dark, adult-themed games like Grand Theft Auto and Mortal Kombat.

Why has the landscape of the video-game industry undergone such drastic change? According to the Entertainment Software Association, players 18 and older now make up more than 50 percent of the market. And although more games with fast cars and gun-toting villains are being created for a mature audience, these same games also appeal to younger teens. In fact, a recent study conducted by the Federal Trade Commission found that out of 118 electronic games with a mature rating for violence, 70 percent of them actually targeted children under 17. In addition, the marketing plans for 51 percent of these games expressly included children under 17 in the target audience.

One of the reasons addiction to video games is a reality is because it isn’t viewed as a serious addiction risk by parents. And while video games in and of themselves are not bad, excessive and unobserved game playing can lead to problems. According to experts at the National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF), there are steps you can take to lessen the likelihood of your child getting addicted to video games. Consider the following:

Limit game playing time. (Recommended: No more than one hour per day.)
Play with your child to become familiar with the games.
Provide alternative ways for your child to spend time.
Require that homework and jobs be done first; use video game playing as a reward.
Do not put video game set in a child’s room where he/she can shut the door and isolate himself/herself.
Talk about the content of the games.
Ask your video store to require parental approval before a violently rated video game can be rented by children.
When buying video games for your child, it is important to purchase games targeted at his/her audience. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rates every video and computer game for age appropriateness (located on the front of the packaging) and, when appropriate, labels games with content descriptions. The ESRB’s current rating standard is as follows:

EC – Early Childhood (3 and older)
E – Everyone (6 and older)
E10+ – Everyone (10 and older)
T – Teens (13 and older)
M – Mature audiences (17 and older)
AO – Adults Only
RP – Ratings Pending

There are also other considerations besides the rating to take into account when deciding whether to purchase a video game for your child. Children Now, a research and action organization, offers these additional tips for helping you to choose the right video games for your child:

Know your child. Different children handle situations differently. Regardless of age, if your child becomes aggressive or unsettled after playing violent video games, don’t buy games with violence in them. Likewise, if your child likes playing games with characters that look like him/her, purchase games with characters that fit the bill.

Read more than the ratings. While the ESRB ratings can be helpful, they do not tell the whole story. Some features that you may consider violent or sexual may not be labeled as such by the ESRB. In addition, the ESRB does not rate games for the positive inclusion of females. The language on the packaging may give you a better idea of the amount and significance of violence and sexuality and the presence of gender and racial diversity or stereotypes in the game.

Go online. The ESRB website provides game ratings as well as definitions of the rating system. In addition, you can visit game maker and distributor websites to learn more about the contents of a game. Some have reviews that will provide even more information about the game.

Rent before you buy. Many video rental stores also rent video games and consoles. Take a trial run before you purchase a game.

Talk to other parents. Find out which games other parents like and dislike, as well as which games they let your child play when he/she visits their house. This is a good way to learn about the games that your child enjoys and those that other parents approve of, and to let other parents know which games you do not want your child playing.

Play the games with your child. Know what your child is being exposed to and how he/she reacts to different features in the games.

Talk about what you see. If your child discovers material that he/she finds disturbing or that you find inappropriate, talk about it. This is a great opportunity to let your child know what your values are as well as to help him/her deal with images that may be troubling.

Set limits. If you are worried that your child spends too much time playing video games, limit the amount of time or specify the times of day that video games can be played.

Put the games in a public space. Just as with the Internet, keep your game consoles and computers in public family space so that you can be aware of the material your child is viewing.

Contact the game makers. If you find material that you think is offensive or inappropriate, let the people who make and sell the games know about it. Likewise, let game makers know if you think that a game provides healthy messages or images. They do care what you think!

American Psychiatric Association
American Psychological Association
Children Now
Entertainment Software Association
Entertainment Software Rating Board
Federal Trade Commission
National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Institute on Media and the Family