American Academy of Pediatrics Gives Good Guidance. Kids iPad ZillyDilly™ App Safe and Effective Media Manager is Next Step.

Although experts all consistently agree that kids need parental guidance to assure safe and effective social media and other online media consumption, there are few real tools available. We need to go beyond safety concerns to truly give families the benefits of technology.

Parents need to be empowered, educated and tech tools to assist them. Such an app is coming to the iPad from MyDigitalFamily. ZillyDilly. http://www.ipadforums.net/ipad-general-discussions/174-would-you-buy-ipad-your-child.html

Here are recent recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics about social media and online safety that provide part of what parents need to succeed.

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/reprint/peds.2011-0054v1.pdf

http://www.aap.org/advocacy/releases/june09socialmedia.htm

http://safetynet.aap.org/

ZillyDilly provides the other part- harvesting and serving kids a balanced diet of appropriate content.

 

Always Connected: The new digital media habits of young children – REVIEWED

Link to Original Article

A well-worthwhile read is Always Connected: The new digital media habits of young children by Aviva Lucas Gutnick et al. My own take is that yet again we are seeing the increasingly potent new technologies relentlessly pushing media towards the very same cradle where we nurture, protect, and love our young infants. Increasingly more kids are increasingly rapidly adapting to and experiencing media at younger ages, even as research findings have not yet cooled the fevered consumption of technology in families.

The time has come for overwhelmed parents, backed by professionals, to become empowered, and educated, and have the tools to manage the flow of technology to benefit family life and growing children.

 

Schwimmer’s ‘Trust’ Reviewed: Technology / Media Violent to Kids — Parents Need Help!

Link to the Original Article

(David Schwimmer and Andy Bellin’s important play Trust had a three months’ debut run at Chicago’s Looking Glass Theater a year ago, and is now resurfacing as a movie. My review of the play follows here.)

Trust is a moving portrayal of the life-changing consequences of an Internet romance between an innocent teenage girl and an adult male predator. Easy access and privacy in real time can be dangerous.

The truth of Trust and how close it is to all our lives and a threat to our loved ones are powerful. The audience seems to hold its breath as it watches the emotional trap laid methodically and carefully by the rapist, who lurks safely in the anonymity of cyberspace as he craftily manipulates a young girl’s budding sexuality. The piece exposes the deep and complex emotional traumas that spread like a concussion wave from the epicenter of the naïve teenager’s pain to her family members, friends, and caring criminal investigators, and portrays their difficult journeys towards coping and healing.

While the topics of cruel and criminal manipulation and rape of youngsters are timeless and compelling, what makes Trust especially relevant today is the role of technology. The audience sees the teen’s text-messages to her imagined lover as she sends and receives them. It is online and cell phone messaging and texting that enable the narrative’s tragedy – the evolving furtive relationship between the naïve child and her predator. Increased access and privacy in real time have real consequences.

The piece’s aim appears to be to bring this painful and real story to life to start a dialogue. After the play, the audience was treated to a discussion with local rape-assistant experts. The director stated that its intent is not to preach or provide solutions. But the well-delivered message is clear: Kids + technology = potential danger. I believe that this drama can be quite useful as a health-education tool that alerts media-soaked youngsters and their parents groping at the same time with powerful technologies, hormonal changes, and still-evolving but immature minds.

But it does not go far enough.

There are critical technology-related issues, central to the play and to our children’s lives, that go beyond the scope of Trust and must be considered if we are to save whole generations of children. These additional threats are not as obvious or sensational as those in the play, but their insidious danger to child development and family life can be more widespread.

The realities: Media are here to stay and will continue to evolve and bring new challenges. We have wonderful engineers and innovators, but they do not have the best interests of our children and families in mind. The basic needs of families have not changed significantly over the centuries, and the basics of child-rearing will not change much in the future, no matter what technology comes our way.

Much of technology can be wonderful and helpful, but if it is not planned, organized, and delivered correctly, it can be harmful. Commonly, however, parents complain that they have too few effective tools and strategies to manage children’s media lives, and too many parents are essentially abandoning their digital children to media that have become the central component of their environment.

The threats: Studies are showing that technology increasingly dominates kids’ time and attention to the detriment of family life and balanced development, while providing few clear benefits. Under-supervised children continue to stuff themselves with junk media as they do junk food. Limit setting and piecemeal ‘expert’ advice are only partially effective. Parents’ current practices — just put those wonderful magical technology devices into their kids’ hands, make a few rules, and walk away — are desperately insufficient. Teenagers keep finding new ways to assert their needs for autonomy, and they are not pretty. (see Tamar Lewin’s “Teenage Insults, Scrawled on Web, Not on Walls”, New York Times 5/5/10.)

The call to action: After over a decade of this laissez-faire approach and growing chaos, the time has come for parents to take a broad, systematic and serious look at the role of technology. Right now, parents are adapting family life to technology. The reverse has to happen, or we are in for a disaster as parents are excluded from larger and larger parts of kids’ lives.

Time is running out.

The solution: It is time to return to child-rearing basics and think of what kids and families need. Parents must change their own mindsets and behaviors and commit to an ongoing serious effort to take charge of the technologies in their homes.

Parents must now start early to actively fit balanced technology use into family life as they do healthy nutrition. Starting in early childhood, parents must begin to make media consumption part of normal family life and to raise kids who use media in balanced and healthy ways. It is time to systematically extract the good and exclude the bad, making technology positive and constructive for kids from the very beginnings of family life.

Parents need to be empowered, educated, and given tools by professionals and industry to manage the media lives of their children. Such an approach could prevent the type of catastrophe portrayed in Trust, as well as the longer-term and potentially more disastrous distortion of family life and development of our children that comes with the unsupervised and unorganized consumption of technology.

If we have the will, we can have better family lives and raise healthier kids who are savvy about the balanced uses of technology.

 

ROBOTS DANCING IN CHICAGO?

Link to the Original Article

The fourteen energetic dancers of Hubbard Street Chicago treated us to a mesmerizing interpretation of Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s new Too Beaucoup . Clad head to foot in flesh-colored body stockings and matching makeup, the anonymous, seemingly cloned, dancers were driven relentlessly by the persistent breathtaking soundtrack.

IMHO, what made this production essential viewing is its exploration of the increasingly busy, and at the same time, fuzzy interface between machine and man, human and robot. The timely dance masterpiece raises urgent points: How and where are human relationships with each other, with cloned creatures, and with intelligent machines evolving? By intelligent machines, I mean any digital circuit that monitors, inputs, processes, and outputs to us information-related stuff. I will focus on the robots and intelligent machines here because these devices have become essential accessories in our lives.

For example, you probably know one such disembodied robot, residing anonymously and totally formlessly somewhere that only the airline knows about, that says to you sincerely, “I don’t understand you,” like Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey, when you make a mistake entering your flight reservation. We don’t necessarily think much about this machine claiming an “I” for itself. Of course it is not human, but isn’t this boundary a little fuzzier now? I wonder if in the traditional 2nd Century A.D. myth the Golem claimed an “I” too?

How are our human and humane instincts going to serve us as our machines claim “I”s for themselves? Are they becoming our social partners? In these ways, we are making intelligent machines more and more in our own images. In other ways, as author Shirley Turtle cogently shows in so many ways in her Alone Together, our own humanity and the connections to each other that make us human are threatened by our chaotic use of interactive media. The problems are compounded for parents and kids and need differing solutions, as cover this topic more fully in my Kids, Parents & Technology .

But one thing was also obvious in Too Beaucoup: Never in the piece does any dancer touch another. And yet, they did seem somewhat connected to each other and to their groups. Alone together indeed.

That this piece was conceived and its crucial questions posed by artists thriving in Israel should not be surprising: Israel is the cradle for many of technology’s advances. The brilliant matinee Sunday, March 20, 2011, at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park, received a long standing ovation.

In seeing Too Beaucoup, at first I wondered about the question it asked me to ask myself: Am I watching humans act as humanoids? Humanoids as humans? Humans as humanoids meant to seem human?…It can get pretty confusing, but the production was entrancing and, frankly, I stopped caring. That’s powerful!

(While not a dance critic, I am a fan because, IMHO the human body’s potential for beauty and grace is expressed best in dance, and I am ever-grateful for the human spirit’s miracle of creativity, dedication, and hard work of the choreographers and dancers.)

 

I Forgot My iPhone. What a relief!

The other day I had a sharp momentary panic when I realized I forgot my iPhone. I searched for it desperately. I called it. It was nowhere to be found. I felt naked, exposed, incomplete. I felt a hole in my world. I was suddenly in a silence — isolated and out of touch with what are surely crucial breaking news from my kids or patients.

The feeling is familiar – like when I forgot my wallet or keys — worry, tightness in the chest and a wave of hollowness in the pit of my stomach. That is what so many of us feel, as if, in the overall scheme of things, these devices are life-sustaining resources.

But wait a minute, unlike missing the wallet or keys, I suddenly feel a strange surge of relief. I can breathe easier now and feel lighter – a weight has been lifted. I am no longer tethered to a nagging persistent burden I had gotten so used to that I forgot was even there.

Hey, this is nice! I am not on call. I am free, like I used to feel as a kid walking out of school into my summer vacation. I will not be surprised or interrupted suddenly. I can take my time and enjoy the moment. I can stay connected in the present and hear myself thinking more clearly. I can relax with others and let go of all the noisy junk that my portable phone comes with.

There is an important lesson here.

Dr. Sherry Turkle in Alone Together offers a glimpse of how tech devices are insidiously permeating and probably damaging to our lives and making us less human than we can be. Studies are increasingly proving just how the consumption of media and communication with these devices are dumbing us down and degrading family life. In turn, my own book, Kids, Parents & Technology, provides a new way of thinking that empowers and educates parents and gives them the tools to manage their kids’ media lives for the overall health of family life and their development. Now FITGOALS® will be a hands-on application for parents and kids to enable parents to make for each child a healthy media plan.

One simple suggestion: Forget to carry your phone once in a while and enjoy the freedom. Carve out media-free times and places in your day, in your home, in your kids’ lives. Savor the freedom once in a while – the high heavens will not fall!

© copyright 2011 Eitan Schwarz

 

A SCHOOL SHOOTING IN THE COMFORT OF YOUR HOME

Link to Original Article

Many kids will go unaffected. Some kids (or grownups, for that matter) might get some ideas. But some will secretly see, hear, and almost taste themselves as shooters as they play the shooter. And some bad kids will imitate the shooters in real life. And some ill kids will cross it. And those already somewhat ill but not yet visibly so, the line becomes blurrier and blurrier as their illness blossoms and their judgment shrinks. And that game, that kind of game will surely push them too over that line. They will actually shoot up a school. And kids and teachers and janitors and parents and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters, and mothers and fathers and uncles and grandparents, and neighbors will die. And a community will die. And survivors scarred by other massacres will suffer again. And our world will be less safe yet again.

Professionals must speak out to the producers and merchandisers and let them know that it is wrong to release such a game. We all must speak out. Words are very powerful. It is wrong to yell FIRE in a crowded theater. It is also time for parents to become educated, empowered, and use the right tools to manage all the media consumed by their children so that it becomes a healthy part of life.

You cannot start too early,” according to Eitan Schwarz, MD, is a child and adolescent psychiatrist, Northwestern University Medical School faculty member, and an expert on violence, digital media, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.) Dr. Schwarz describes his thinking and suggestions in detail and an app that will implement them in his ‘Kids, Parents & Technology: A manual for Young Families.’