Tag Archives: technology

How to Talk to Your Kids about Internet Safety


Internet safety is a complicated and multifaceted issue, in part because a family’s culture and outlook on technology must be considered. As such, there is not necessarily a “one size fits all” method to raise your children with technology and the Internet.

It is important to view the Internet as a tool—in fact, picture a chainsaw. Like any tool you will want to set clear expectations and teach the user safety measures, as well as skills for handling the tool efficiently, and discuss hypothetical situations for what to do if there is an accident or emergency. The same can be said for the Internet and your children. Unlike a chainsaw, however, there is no operations manual for the Internet, so consider the guidelines below as you map out your family’s personal safety manual:

Parenting has not changed. Technology, particularly the Internet, has changed our lives, but it has not necessarily changed the rules of parental engagement! The world may be new, but the problems are not.

Content matters. Setting clear expectations for your child’s Internet use is a necessity. If your child were to play in the neighborhood, you would want to know who they are meeting, where they are going, what they plan to do, and when they will return home. Having that information allows you to set more targeted boundaries. Similarly, becoming more familiar with your child’s Internet use is an important hurdle to overcome.

Learn from each other. As you teach your children how to use the Internet, it will also be your responsibility to learn from them about the ways in which they use it and about dangers they may encounter.

Co-engagement counts. For younger children, be prepared to monitor their use much more closely and use parental controls. Plan to use the Internet together with your young child. I recommend “saddling up” to children when they are engaged in a game or video and to simply participate with them—what better way to learn together? As youth develop through their teenage years, foster more exploration and independence with continued monitoring and coaching of appropriate use.

Role modeling is critical. Take a moment to consider the ways you and other caregivers use technology. Some adults use their phones during dinnertime, and others might use devices in bed before going to sleep. Make sure to talk with other caregivers to establish consistent expectations for what you want to model to your children.

Create tech-free zones. Consider creating tech-free times of day for the whole family! Dinnertime and bedtime are good places to start. Remember that if you frequently use devices during such times you will be hard-pressed to enforce such tech-free zones for your children. Work with other caregivers to make this expectation clear and consistent.

It’s OK for your child to be online. In many ways, the Internet is like a diet. Your children live in a world of screens, and the Internet will only become more integrated into everything they do. Your job is to teach them how to have a balanced diet of educational, social, and entertainment content.

Kids will be kids. There will be missteps, but you must use small errors as teachable moments. Continue to discuss hypotheticals with them; what would you do if . . . ? Be supportive and empathetic and help your child learn from their mistakes.

Most importantly, accept that you are ready to tackle this challenge. Be there with them from the beginning and be ready to learn together as you all navigate the digital landscape as a family.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Douglas M. Brodman, PhD, is a clinical instructor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center’s Child Study Center. He provides clinical intervention and consultation to families and youth struggling from emotional and disruptive behavioral disorders.

Why Kids Should Learn to Code


Just as math and english are critical subjects for kids to learn, coding is increasingly becoming just as important. Our friends at The New York Code + Design Academy have compiled a list of important reasons kids must learn to code in today’s world. 

It will help them with their career.
“1 million of the best jobs in America may go unfilled because only 1 in 10 schools teach how to code”. There are always technical jobs available but are difficult to fill because there’s a limited supply of people with those skills. Having coding skills early in life will allow kids to build upon their knowledge and have better chances of employment later on.

It teaches cognitive skills.
Programming flow charts can be utilized to better manage problems and thought processes. Kids would learn how to break down complex problems into smaller ones to solve an essential life skill.

It allows them to build anything.
Let them create anything with their imaginations. Coding is just another way for kids to express themselves outside of music, writing, art, and other traditionally creative mediums.

It’s the future.
Technology is not only everywhere, but it’s advancing rapidly. The younger generation shouldn’t only be consumers of technology—they should help mold the future as well.

For in-person classes, The New York Code + Design Academy has two- and four-week summer coding camps for kids age 9-12 and 13-17 starting August 3rd. Learn more about how to get them started on building web applications here!

The Impact of Technology and Social Media on Kids

little boy at expressive face using a digital tablet in bedChildren’s use of technology and social media has become a modern-day focus for parents. How do you make choices about how much screen time your child/children can have per day and about what programming they can access? How does use of technology impact children?

A general guideline from the American Academy of Pediatrics has been that children and teens have no more than one to two hours of screen time per day. For toddlers, the recommendation for many has changed from none to more flexible thinking with interactive media, like Skype and FaceTime. Research on touch-screen apps isn’t clear yet. Limiting screen time is associated with a variety of health benefits, including lower rates of obesity, stronger language skills, and more opportunities to engage socially, face-to-face. Though difficult to implement in the short-term, there are longer-term benefits. Studies have shown that it may be harder for children to attend to satiety cues when they eat while watching TV, so they may eat larger portions. They also may eat less healthy foods while snacking and watching TV, which can also lead to obesity.

Parents often wonder why video games are so interesting, or seemingly “addictive” to their children. Well, they provide immediate feedback to success by distributing reinforcements and punishments. So, children get feedback right away about what they did right, and what they did wrong with the opportunity to try again right away. That can be very stimulating and engaging for many children. Video games also assist in learning at different rates, so children can practice, get better, and then gain mastery at their own pace. Repetition of information and practicing strengthens brain-cell connections, which is thought to underlie memorization and learning.

As a child psychologist, in addition to the time frame guidelines, I encourage parents to structure the use of technology as much as possible. This can mean a number of things. Since most children and teens are highly motivated by use of the iPad, cellphone, or computer, earning screen time can be a highly effective way to help children practice more behaviors their parents want to see—completing homework, chores, or morning and night routines. Since immediate rewards work best in helping children make behavior changes, awarding a child screen time daily or points towards weekend screen time can be motivating.

It can be difficult to manage older children’s and teens use of screen time when they use the computer for homework. Many students find themselves switching between researching for a paper and chatting with friends. There is ample research showing that multitasking actually leads to less effectiveness and efficiency because it reduces the brains opportunity to think deeply about one thing. Children and teens are likely to need help with planning out their homework schedules and building in breaks to surf or chat with peers.

Supervision with screens is critical in building trust that children and teens can be responsible and stay safe. When introducing more opportunities for screen time—like buying children their first phone or iPad—parents have the best results when children build up to earning more time and independence.

Though research on the effects of playing violent video games is mixed, dozens of studies indicate that playing violent games increases aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, in both the short term and the long term. Recent studies show that sensitivity for others can decrease the more violence one engages in through video games. The question of how much children or teens can become sensitized to aggression is a good one—and one parents should really consider.

Another area that parents ask a lot about is socialization and screen time. We know that if children and teens spend too much time with screens, they can lose opportunities for face-to-face social interactions. In these cases, children don’t have as many opportunities to read facial expressions and cues, or to practice responding verbally and immediately in conversation. Skype and FaceTime can actually help here. Good social skills are obviously critical for friendships, relationships, and skills like interviewing for schools and jobs. As with everything, there’s a balance and parents need to decide what is best for their child(ren), and children and teens can build life skills using technology—good decision making, estimating and managing time, rewarding oneself after work is complete, and connecting to the larger world.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiKirsten Cullen Sharma, PsyD, is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone’s Child Study Center. She is also the Co-Director of Early Childhood Clinical Service and a Clinical Neuropsychologist at the Institute for Learning and Academic Achievement.

Dr. Cullen Sharma has expertise in cognitive behavioral therapy for children who have co-morbid learning or attention difficulties and emotional or behavioral difficulties, and parent-focused therapy. She emphasizes consistency in use of evidence-based interventions that help children succeed at home and at school.

Dr. Cullen Sharma is a member of the American Psychological Association. She has published in scholarly journals and presented at local, national, and international conferences. She frequently participates in media interviews; these have included The Wall Street Journal, TODAY, NY1, and NY Parenting Magazine.

The Great E-Book Debate

The recent New York Times article “Is E-Reading to Your Toddler Story Time or Simply Screen Time?” asked provocative questions about the impact of reading e-books to children under two years old. With the e-book industry growing in leaps and bounds, and more and more titles becoming available all the time, many parents assume that if it’s available on the market it must be good for kids. We owe it to ourselves and especially to our children to consider the possible implications of our practices. Ultimately, we need to ask as a community how e-reading is shaping the experience of young readers.

Boy ReadingThe article captured the crux of the dilemma. On the one hand, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that children should not have screen time before they’re two. The AAP also says we should read to our children every day. It makes you wonder, do e-books count as “books” or screen time? More importantly, when we read e-books rather than printed books are we nurturing or impeding reading development?

There are no easy answers, as the current research lags behind practice. So it will be years before we begin to articulate impacts on lifelong reading behaviors. A 2013 study of children age three to five at Temple University, however, determined that individuals whose parents read e-books had lower reading comprehension than those who read traditional books. Temple researchers cited “dialogic reading,” or the back and forth text discussion between adult and child, as a factor contributing to reading success. The article also referred to the work of Patricia Kuhl, a director at the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington, whose research compared language learning in nine-month-old babies when taught by adults vs. DVDs. The DVDs had no impact on learning, while the teachers made lasting impacts.

Where does all this quasi-information leave us as parents and educators? We need to ask ourselves, what am I really teaching when I read to a child, in particular a child under two? Am I mindfully pulling together the building blocks of reading comprehension? Only partially. As a mother of three boys now 12, 13, and 15, and an early childhood educator, my reading goals were twofold: to pass on a lust for literature and develop a loving relationship between us.

There’s no better way than reading to your child to give them a varied and colorful vocabulary, a deep interest in story and ideas, and to build empathy with characters and people. And this covers reading no matter what the medium. If you want a curious child you need to model curiosity yourself and what better way than through sharing a text? The close physical bond of cuddling together over a book (or e-book) sets the groundwork for deep affection. Set aside the guilt. Am I reading enough? Am I reading the right books? And now, am I reading with the right tool? Sharing the wonder is sharing the wonder. Intellectual companionship begins at birth, a child and an adult learning side by side and enjoying the marvels of the world together. Let’s give the research more time to unfold before we start beating ourselves up as we enjoy (e)reading to our kids.

4 Must-Have Educational Apps for Kids!

(Some rights reserved, Brad Flickinger via Fickr Creative Commons)

(Some rights reserved, Brad Flickinger via Flickr Creative Commons)

Most parents today didn’t grow up with smartphones—but their kids are growing up in a world that nearly revolves around technology. Some people have spoken out against this dependence on phones, tablets, and computers, but there are many others who tout technology as a lifesaver—especially when it comes to kids. If you’ve ever taken a three-hour car ride with a toddler, you know exactly what we mean! It seems that we’re cultivating Generation Z—a generation so involved with science and technology that they’re already developing revolutionary anti-flu vaccines at the age of 17!

Of course, a big factor for the successful use of technology with kids is how they use it at a young age. There are an endless number of fun and educational apps that not only let little ones swipe and play, but also teach them shapes, colors, reading, and math. So if your kids can’t get enough of playing on your phone and/or tablet, consider downloading one of these three educational apps for hours of learning and entertainment.

tynker appTynker
When we were growing up, it was unclear as to the direction in which technology would take us, and whether or not investing in a computer-related course would result in a stable career. Today, there’s no doubt as to the importance of computer-related knowledge, and some governments have even begun mandating the teaching of coding to kids 
as early as primary school. If you don’t have time to enroll your child in a computing class, try out Tynker, an app that helps kids learn to code by providing them with a tangible system and a way to enjoy the things they’ve coded in real time.

Reading Ravenreading_raven_app
For younger children who have yet to learn how to read, 
Reading Raven can be a wonderful tool. Not only does this app teach kids how to pronounce and read the alphabet, but it also eases them into learning how to read simple words and phrases with the integration of fun learning activities. The app comes with stellar recommendations from homeschooling blogs, but it can be a great complement for preschool work too. This app provides a great way for parents to sit and work on reading exercises with their kids, and is a fun complement to your regular reading exercises.

Read Me Stories – Children’s Booksread me stories app
Once your kids have a better grasp of language and can read simple stories on their own, it’s important to supply them with fresh reading material. In the past this would have entailed numerous trips to the library or book store, but modern technology allows us to have a nearly limitless supply of books through our tablets and phones. The 
Read Me Stories app is constantly updated with new books you can purchase for $1.99, so your kids will never tire of reading.

iTrace
While kids watch their parents type away daily on their computers and will have no problem picking up this vital skill, it’s still important for them to learn basic handwriting. iTrace helps them do just that—it’s the most comprehensive app for teaching kids handwriting skills, so kids can learn to form letters, practice their names, write out favorite words, and more! More perks of the app? It’s friendly for lefties and you can print paper worksheets right from the iPad app, so kids can practice off-line as well.

Are you a fan of any other educational apps? Are there apps you’ll always rely on for your kids’ education? Let us know on our Facebook page!