Category Archives: Parenting

Turning The World….

image

I read a quote on Ello the other day that one of the writers I follow posted. I’m not sure if it was one of her own or from another source, but I found myself wondering about it a great deal.

“Many people, especially in technology say their productivity is changing the world, and this is irrefutable. But no one seems to know what they’re changing it into.”

Many commenters posted their thoughts, and much of it was about technology it’s self. I couldn’t understand that. Technology it’s self doesn’t have fully functioning rational consciousness…yet. So why is so much being said about technology when there are minds behind it? I decided to put my two cents in and commented:

This is precisely the point I had been trying to make in my computer ethics blog in college, and why I personally believe in the “design for good” movement. I think the use of technology and how to cause change in the world stems from the individual user and their choice, not necessarily the creator of said technology. Though I think the creator is the one who gets the ball rolling, it is the users who manipulate the technology’s usefulness and influence one another. Though, that is more or less dependent on the situation. Without context I get the implication that the quote speaks more on the unpredictability of the technology user to change the world and not necessarily the technology it’s self.

I think when it comes to technology we are too willing to blame situations on the device. Too often I hear parents ridicule their children about phone and computer use, but in the context of the technology. “I should get rid of that damn computer…” Kind of commentary is often times too common, but what it does is dissociates the user from the responsibility. It is not the computers fault that the individual spends so much time on it. It is the choice of the user to spend time on it, and in this particular case, it was someone’s failure to set appropriate boundaries for such use. Weather it be the parent or the child is another story entirely.

To take away the computer is far too extreme. It is useful. It is necessary as well. Technology use causes the world to turn. Most of our educational and work environments require the use of a computer for nearly everything now. Perhaps another case of people’s failure to set boundaries? Feel free to put your thoughts on that in comments below.

I must put a disclaimer as well. There are some technologies that are changing the world for very specific reasons. The above commentary I made speaks more on programs, games, social networks, internet use, apps etc. More socially oriented technology. There are technologies that are made for specific uses, like medical technology, where the goal is to change the medical field for whatever reason, and usually with a passionate cause and predicted out come. In those situations, the use of technology is entirely dependent on the proper functionality if the technology as well as the user, and the outcome is usually predictable because it is being made for a specific goal. That may seem obvious to mention, but I would rather mention it since occasionally, the technology has other outcomes as well that develop into another kind of technology altogether. Much of our popularly used tech was developed from military tech made public once it was found to have a variety of uses.

What are your thoughts on technology development and the quote above? I would love to hear perspectives.


Social Network Suicide Prevention: Is It Enough?

 

When you wake up on a Sunday morning, the last thing you think you’re going to encounter is a suicide threat on one of your social network feeds. I certainly didn’t anyway. Perhaps for some people that’s pretty “normal” (and I use the term very lightly). For me it wasn’t. And of all places it was on Instagram! A little iPod note screen shot talking about having decided on a suicide date. It caught me off guard so much I wasn’t sure what to do. Of course after a few minutes of reflection I decided to look up if there was some way I could report the person was suicidal, and thankfully I found it. Though others were coming to the rescue and commenting on the person’s status, I wasn’t going to try to talk down someone I hardly knew, and I certainly wasn’t going to let them post something that sensitive, without reporting it.

I still wonder if it was the right thing to do or not.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provided me with some great information about what social networks do in situations like this. Unfortunately Instagram was not on that list so it took me a little more time to try to figure out how to do it…which partially is why I’m writing this post. But, what shocked me was how little the social networks actually did in these situations.

Naturally when you send a report to a social network, they have a policy that they are not liable for the person’s actions after initiating contact. What they do is take the information from the report and send a cute little e-mail informing the person that an anonymous user reported them for (fill in the blank) and offer them the contact info of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline where the individual could get professional help, which includes both a phone number, and a live chat. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a very sensitive community, with the understanding that a person doesn’t have to be suicidal at all to call. On their site they say:

If you feel you are in a crisis, whether or not you are thinking about killing yourself, please call the Lifeline. People have called us for help with substance abuse, economic worries, relationship and family problems, sexual orientation, illness, getting over abuse, depression, mental and physical illness, and even loneliness.”

Super nice of them. Here is the kicker…

Of course the site Admin also informs the user that the information they’ve posted is a violation of the Terms of Agreement and promotes the issue of (insert issue here section whatever part who cares) and they will have their profile terminated. Instagram and other Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter terminate the account to prevent the escalation of violence. Instagram even has refused to allow certain terms to be searched and in some cases have warnings attached to keywords (click here for more info)

Yeah it’s a bit harsh…and can escalate the personal torment of the individual.

I can’t help but ask myself how I feel about this whole scenario? Is it even worth it to report the issue if it means removing the self expression of the user? Does it even help the person if therapy is offered to the user? Perhaps not.

Knowing all this information I still had to make the decision whether or not I was going to report the user for self harm. And I did. Not because I felt it was right for the profile to be terminated, and not because I was obligated by any moral or social standing…but because I wanted to give the user another option. It is said that the main reason a person will post about suicidal thoughts is because they want either some kind of affirmation that they should go through with it, or they want someone to show they care enough to try to stop them. If they were suicidal and didn’t post anything to a social network or even tell anyone then one can assume that they had their mind already made up, and nothing can really be done for them…a sad assumption, but not an unfounded one. There are a lot of misconceptions about suicide. But even severely depressed people have mixed feelings about death, and most struggle until the very last moment between life and an end to their pain. Most suicidal people don’t want to die…they just want their pain to stop or someone to prove they care. The impulse to end it all, does not last forever.

After my struggle to report the user I posted info on how to do it incase anyone else wanted to try. Another user (one I know personally) pointed out how very little the social media sites actually do and that he felt these threats are the best form of awareness. He isn’t wrong. Seeing a real threat for yourself is definitely a wakeup call. But I feel it is better to offer the options to a hurting individual. If they do contact the Lifeline, law enforcement and intervention can be provided for the individual (because IP addresses are used to locate the nearest help center and ultimately the individual in crisis). I would rather offer them the option than nothing at all.

So are the policies of Social Networks really effective in these cases? That I can’t say for sure. every situation is different. Legally there is very little they can do, and with the masses they have to keep track of it would be unfair to ask them to take any more responsibility on the matter. But what I can say is that it offers a helpful option and removes the individual from potentially being a threat to others and ridicule.

 

Below are a series of helpful and thoughtful videos that touch on several subjects involving and related to depression and suicide (I’m addicted to TedTalks okay? They’re just so informative). 

 

Feel free to leave you comments, questions, or concerns on the matter or videos below.  

 

 


Free Downloads for Parents

Screen Shot 2013-05-05 at 1.21.42 PMAs I spoke of in my previous post, I’ve been offering many of my resources I found while researching my Senior Project. While off galavanting around the internet I found some helpful resources for parents to get their hands on. Here are some great free downloads for parents who are looking to be better informed about the technology their children are using and how they themselves can use it as an educational tool.

The Modern Parents Guide to Kids and Video Games: “Nearly 40 years after their invention and a decade after exploding onto the mainstream, video games still remain a mystery to many parents, including which titles are appropriate, and their potential side-effects on kids. Now the answers are at your fingertips.

Offering unrivaled insight and practical, real-world strategies for making gaming a positive part of family life, The Modern Parent’s Guide to Kids and Video Games provides a vital resource for today’s parent. From picking the right software for all ages to promoting online safety, setting limits and enforcing house rules, it offers an indispensable range of hints, tips and how-to guides for fostering healthy play and development.”

Own Your Space: “Whether you are a parent, caregiver, or educator, you can keep up with the latest computer and online safety issues and help kids learn to avoid the real dangers that exist in their Internet-connected world. In partnership with security expert and author, Linda McCarthy, we offer a free, downloadable version of her new book, Own Your Space: Keep Yourself and Your Stuff Safe Online.”

How the Internet Works: “The web’s place in our daily lives is undeniable. We can now access the Internet from our home computers, office, laptops and our phones. But even with this close intimacy many people still aren’t entirely sure what the Internet is and how it really works.

We aim to change that with MakeUseOf’s latest PDF guide, “How The Internet Works.” This guide, by Taty Sena, explores the hardware, software and organizations that power the modern Internet.”

 


Family Safe Online Games…That Don’t Suck.

Screenshot taken from Kabam.com

Screenshot taken from Kabam.com

One of my goals this semester was to survive my senior project: Complete success! Hopefully I will have more time to post things from now on (and I say hopefully very lightly).

My senior exit project was to create a design campaign that encouraged parents to become more actively involved in their children’s online lives and offering them all the quality free resources a parent ought to be able to get their hands on all in one website. However, since the project is only a prototype and I do not have the funds to keep the project running, I figured I would take all of my knowledge and offer it to you, my faithful readers (again I use the word faithful lightly).

One of the challenges I faced with this project was finding online family friendly gaming that…well…wasn’t a complete waste of time. Some games are neat, but overly violent, and other games were…well…they really sucked and were poorly designed…it was a nightmare.

One of the unique things about this generation is that we have an increase in parents who are gamers. Sure we all love Halo and Catherine just as much as the next guy, but are those games really appropriate for children to play 9or even be present while playing)? Then we run into the problem of how to choose what kinds of games kids like before we go out and find games to buy them? What do they even like out of a game?

I offer you a solution of various safe online games to help get parents in the right direction and help them give their gaming children a taste of variety.

Safe-game.com: Okay, so the site it’s self is pretty lame looking, but it’s got gold…trust me. You’ve got you classic games many of us grew up with like Donkey Kong, Tetris, and Pac Man. In addition to that you’ve got a variety of gaming genres to get the kids started on and help them figure out what games they’re good at and what interests them. Great for ages 8+…and possibly a few parents looking for a taste of the old arcade.

Gamehouse.com: An awesome mixture of classic and contemporary games with varying game styles. You can also purchase games for both Mac and PC here and they also offer reviews and top picks. Better for older kids…I’d say for  ages 10+ maybe 13+ depending on the game. Parent discretion advised.

Bigfishgames.com: Not entirely family friendly. These games are catered to a much older audience and parents are cautioned to review games thoroughly before game-play begins (or are encouraged to  test run the game to see if they think their child can handle some of the content). However, there are some pretty cool graphics in a bunch of the games and most of them are pretty mild. I’d say for ages 13 and older (some of them I’d play myself ).

Kabam.com: I play on here all the time. Great free online strategy games with awesome graphics. They have a freaking Hobbit (yes as in LOTR) game on here. What’s not to love? Some mild violence (let’s be honest… it’s war strategy games). Best for ages 13 to 15+ …and mom and dad. It’s a bit more mature.


When Freedom Leaves Our Hands Tied: Online Parenting

Recently on my Facebook I saw a picture that portrayed an act of parental discipline. It was of a young (about twelve- year-old) girl holding a sign that read:

 “Since I want to post photos of me holding liquor, I am obviously not ready for social media and will be taking a hiatus until I learn what I should and should not post.

Bye-Bye 😦 ”

Of course a heated debate ensued in the comment section about what modern parenting should look like in terms of social media. Some thought the punishment was too severe (mostly young kids and inexperienced users) and others thought it was perfect (mostly adult women). I sat back and watch the comments fly and I pondered the words on that sign. They had a deeper meaning to me.

With the introduction of social media parents have a lot more they need to be aware of. With law enforcement consistently watching the online community it’s no wonder. Underage children are allowed to post whatever they want to “express themselves” but in the end the parents are liable for what their children post and Social Services can take children out of environments they think they are threatened or neglected…and all they need is suspicion.

Who really loses?

I’ve written enough posts about this subject before, but I simply cannot stress it enough. The most common issue with youth and the internet is improper education in Netiquette. Parents need to play an active role in their children lives on and off the net by teaching them wise internet use. The internet has been around for a bit more than 2 decades, and has already integrated a plethora of diversity. However, with this diversity came people who missed a few steps in the learning process. When I was younger, we were taught how to use the internet, but never any kind of internet safety. Social media was restricted to chat rooms that were few and far between, and parents didn’t know the extent of the online community. Generations experienced the online explosion without fully understanding it’s consequences.

What resulted from this online ignorance?

Today we have a generation that has the potential to be destructive. They can’t keep personal lives and professional lives separate because they don’t know how to log off. They say what they want, do what they want, and value “free speech” more than discretion and wisdom. They do not recognize authority or understand the emotional impact their words can make. Nor do they understand consequences because “it’s just Facebook” and “It doesn’t mean anything.” With the average high schooler having well over 300 friends “drama” can quickly become an all out war that leaves parents, teachers and principals looking to law enforcement to roam school halls and keep the peace.

In our online society…freedom has left our hands tied.

I’m not a parent. I do not claim to have any cure-all answers. I am, however, a person who has a passion for computer ethics as well as children and want to help parents become as aware as they can about the dangers and wonders of online use. I’m also a person who wishes someone had taught me more when I was younger about proper internet use (and thankfully my parents tried their best to ensure I treated people the same online as I would in public).The internet is a wonderful tool. But, as with all tools it has to be used wisely or someone could get hurt.

As I pondered the picture I found myself admiring the parents. That sign stood as a symbol. Though the daughter might have been upset she had yet to understand the importance of this message. What it really said (as I interpreted it) was:

“I love my child. I want her to make good decisions. I want her to grow up to be productive with a healthy social life. Parents, your children will be safe in our home because we do not condone this behavior. We are taking active responsibility to ensure this home is a safe place for everyone. Children, let this be an example to you to make wise decisions. If not because it’s the right thing to do or because you love and respect your parents…to save yourself from a similar punishment and embarrassment.”

For more information about how you can learn or teach your kids more about Netiquette feel free to visit this link: http://networketiquette.net/index.html