Tag Archives: social media

A New Kind of Playground? What Happens When Young Children are Connected with Technology

The Wall Street Journal published an article today entitled “What Happens When Toddlers Zone Out With an iPad.” I fully expected this article to be a story lambasting parents for using an iPad as a way to get some valuable quiet time in houses that are rarely quiet. I expected that this article would highlight the horrors of letting your child use an iPad, but that is not what this story is about at all.

I love my iPad. Honestly, it has changed my life in ways I never thought possible. I was sold on an iPad, when one of my colleagues told me that I could listen to legislative committee hearings from any location, instead of being chained to the committee room. But I have come to use my iPad for so much more.

This is not a commercial for iPads. But I am not a techie gal and this device has raised my technological ambitions more than I ever could have imagined. I am addicted – which is why I was sure the research would show that we should not expose our children to such addictive substances.

It turns out that some research has shown that iPads can help children learn! In fact, the article points out:

“One study using an iPod Touch and sponsored by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop found children 4- to 7-years-old improved on a vocabulary test after using an educational app called “Martha Speaks.” The 13 5-year-olds tested averaged a 27% gain. A study using a different educational app had a similar result, with 3-year-olds exhibiting a 17% gain.”

While I am still unsure about the implications of small children using an iPad for extended periods of time, and this article does encourage moderation, how refreshing to learn that there may be a tool to entertain our children that we don’t have to feel guilty about using!

What do you think? Do you allow your kids to use an iPad or other type of similar device? Do you feel that these tools present opportunities for your kids to learn?  Have you felt guilt about using these tools to keep your child busy when necessary? Have you found any strategies that have helped ensure that your child does not become dependent on these tools? Does this article make you, like me, feel better for your own addictions?

Please share your thoughts! And thank you for reading.


Filed under Education, Parenting, Relationships, Social Media, Youth Leadership

To Connect or Not to Connect? That is the Question…

My name is Jennifer and I am a techoholic. Today’s article is an opinion piece in the New York Times, entitled “The Flight from Conversation,” which was written by Sherry Turkle and can be found by clicking here.  This article examines the impact of technology on society, and on personal relationships in particular.

For me, the slide toward my current obsession with technology was gradual. I was a late adopter of the cell phone and only gave in to the temptation to get a cell phone when I was training for the Texas AIDS ride, when I would ride 80 miles or more on my own on deserted farm roads and felt the need to be able to reach out in case of emergency. But the lure of technological advancements has grown stronger and stronger for me since that time, culminating in my current “Crackberry” obsession.

I realized the magnitude of this problem this past Easter Sunday, when I was at church with my husband. We had just gone up to receive communion and returned to our pew. There were a lot of people in church that day, as there frequently are on Easter, so communion was taking some time.  All of a sudden, I felt the subtle pull to check my phone to see if the red light was blinking, which would mean that I had some sort of message – be it a voicemail, an e-mail, a text, a Facebook post or, even better, a Facebook friend request! I am nearly helpless in the face of that flashing red light; I simply have to check! I did deny the urge to look that day, but only because I knew that if I caught a glimpse of the blinking red light, the rest of the service would be torture for me until I could see what communication was waiting there.

Facebook and other technological advances have been a godsend for me in many ways. I have a complete aversion to the phone and rarely initiate a phone conversation. I am always grateful to my friends who live far away who reach out by phone to catch up; I almost never make that initial call. But Facebook has allowed me to maintain important friendships from afar in a much more effective manner than before I had access to this virtual connection.

And, just yesterday, I was able to catch up with a friend who I had not seen in years just because he posted that he happened to be in Boulder. These are some concrete benefits of technology that can, in my opinion, actually increase connections with friends and family.

But there does seem to be a downside to all of this connection; I should be able to ignore that flashing red light on my phone, when I am surrounded by people I love. And one has to ask whether all of these virtual connections really add to the personal connections that lead to a truly fulfilling life.

A few years ago, I received an invitation to my 20 year high school reunion. I was excited about the prospect of going back to Baltimore to see people who I had not seen in years. I am fortunate to have maintained close relationships with quite a few high school classmates, but there are other people that I have not stayed in contact with, and with whom I would love to reconnect. As my high school friends and I were debating whether to attend the reunion, one of our friends said that he felt that he was already connected to our classmates through Facebook. It turned out that I was unable to attend the reunion, but I couldn’t help hoping that Facebook made the conversations at the reunion more meaningful, enabling people to get beyond the “Where do you live? What do you do? Do you have any children?” conversations and onto meatier topics that could lead to true connections.

So, on this picture-perfect Earth Day, when the universe (at least in Boulder) has chosen to display the wonders of nature in all their glory, I challenge myself and all of you to see if we can find ways to disconnect from our technology and connect more with nature, with neighbors, with our family and friends. Let’s take a stand and scale back our use of technology in whatever way would be meaningful for each of us. For me, that might mean leaving the phone plugged in upstairs after 5 PM, so I can’t see that seductive blinking red light. And then maybe, with time, I will be able to see that red light and not even respond. That is the goal; that, and reconnecting with my real life. Happy Earth Day everyone!

Some questions for discussion: Do you share my tech obsession? Does this concern you or are you finding ways to make technology compliment your personal relationships, rather than replace them? If you have children, do you place limits on their use of technology? Are there things that have worked for you to encourage your kids to get outside more or to build more face to face relationships? How does this new connected culture impact the work environment? Do you have any tips for me or for others about how to wean off of technology without having to go cold-turkey?

Please add your thoughts! And thank you for reading.


Filed under Parenting, Relationships, Social Media

Selling You on Facebook

One article that struck me looking through today’s news, is entitled “Selling you on Facebook” and was written by Julia Angwin and Jeremy Singer Vine. It was published in the Wall Street Journal and can be found here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303302504577327744009046230.html?mod=WSJ_hp_mostpop_read.

This article raises concerns about the privacy settings, or lack thereof, for the new technologies that many of us use every day. It talks about a concept called “habituation,” through which ” people who see frequent warnings come to disregard them…people become accustomed to simply pressing the “yes” button when faced with an alert or warning.”

It seems to me that this could turn out to be the next huge corporate scandal in the United States. Technology has been advancing so rapidly, and regulations to protect consumers simply have not kept pace. Many of us, myself included, have become accustomed to agreeing to privacy policies rather than taking the time to read the fine print. Companies have made much of this information indecipherable for the average person, yet can hide behind the cover of a legal disclaimer if they are ever challenged.

This article raises some interesting questions: How diligent are you with reading the privacy policies of applications on your Ipads or smartphones? Does this trend alarm you? Have you experienced negative consequences from ignoring a privacy warning that you later regretted? Do you have any advice for other readers about how to protect themselves? And for the lawyers among us, does clicking “accept” really absolve corporations of any responsibility for how they use and share that information?

And from a corporate perspective, do you think that corporations will eventually pay a price for misusing consumer information or for asking for more information than is needed to run an app? Do you know of trusted organizations that help provide practical guidance on how to protect yourself from privacy violations?

The Wall Street Journal did add some practical guidance on how to protect your privacy on Facebook, which can be found here: http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2012/04/06/how-to-control-what-facebook-apps-see/

Please share your thoughts on this issue when you have a moment. And thank you for reading!


Filed under Privacy, Social Media