Monday, February 27, 2012

No Escape: Does Wired World Feed School Violence?

We are all reeling from the news of the school shooting in Ohio by an alleged bullying victim. And news of another unfortunate tragedy in California made recent headlines: two fifth grade girls get into a fist fight over a boy at their after school program. One girl loses her life.

The national news story by the Associated Press and run in several publications today, detail the sad events that lead to the girl's death, presumably by a fatal blow to the head.

A statement by a "national expert on bullying and school violence" at the end of the article caught my attention:
Fights involving young children, including girls, are increasing nationally, in part because of the wired world children now live in, said Travis Brown, a national expert on bullying and school violence.

Children used to have a disagreement at school and would have a night or a weekend to cool down, but social media and text messaging mean students can continue their dispute 24 hours a day, he said.

Social media sites also allow other students to weigh in and amplify the pressure to settle things in a public way, said Brown, who runs the website

"There was a time when a kid had a way to escape the things at school, but now there's no escape," he said. "That stuff just escalates to a point where it gets out of hand. This is an everyday occurrence."
One parent, whose daughter witnessed the fight, also said something important: "We've just got to pay more attention to our kids too, not just [when] dropping them off at the school."

Adolescence is such a difficult time for kids, especially girls. When I was growing up in the 80s, it wasn't labeled bullying. But that's exactly what it was. The hard times that I experienced as a preteen and teenager deeply affected who I am today, and perhaps that is why I'm already worried about my girls' welfare, even though they are still in early elementary school. Life for young girls just seems to be getting tougher.

What are we parents to do? Pay more attention. Support and protect our children. Stand up for them and parent our kids through this tough age the best we can.

One place to start is a cyberbullying tool kit by Common Sense Media designed for parents, educators, kids, teens and school administrators. Bullying and violence prevention is a topic dear to my heart, and unfortunately it doesn't seem like a problem that will be going away very soon.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bring Your Own Technology - to School

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) in North Carolina will offer wireless Internet access in all schools starting this August.The district, which includes over 141,000 students and 159 schools, is joining a national trend called BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology), according to the Charlotte Observer.

According to school leaders, it's the system's "best hope for getting some 140,000 students up to speed on digital learning." Rather than focusing efforts only on buying laptops for students and Smartboards for the classroom, the move will also support the use of personal digital devices that they bring into the school. Devices include tablets, e-readers and smart phones, something that the system can't afford for everyone.

The district is using federal and state funds to pay for the wireless system, and they have requested an additional $1.3 million from the county to hire a technology facilitator for 23 high schools. Additionally, $1.2 million was spent to equip school administrators with iPads and TeachScape apps, a classroom observation software.

These changes are significant. Citing a desire to move into the "real world," school officials and teachers have their work cut out for them. As the article says, "A BYOT environment poses plenty of challenges, from preventing theft and damage to making sure students use their devices for learning, not for playing Angry Birds or cheating on exams."

We as parents have to be as involved as possible in this process, teaching our children at young ages to be responsible digital citizens. I certainly hope that the school system is investing in programs that do that as well.

Read more here:

Friday, February 24, 2012

Tykoon: Startup Will Teach Family Money Management

I just learned about an upcoming technology tool for parents to help their kids learn about finances. Today the Charlotte Business Journal published an article about Tykoon, an Internet startup founded in Charlotte and currently located in New York. The full-length article is only accessible to Journal subscribers, so here's a summary.

Tykoon is in a beta testing phase, and the company will publicly launch in six weeks. Participating families can manage allowances, learn about basic budgeting, and experience "real-life saving and spending activity." Kids will have the option to donate a portion of their earnings to participating charities, such as the National Wildlife Foundation and Habitat for Humanity. Tykoon even has as a retail partner, which will be a platform through which kids can buy products online. Participating banks are also expected to partner with Tykoon.

The founders of the startup, LendingTree founder Doug Lebda and former Bank of America executive Mark Bruinooge, were inspired to start Tykoon through their efforts to teach their own children about responsible money management.

Financial education is of vital importance for kids. Tykoon could be a wonderful tool for parents, and I look forward to seeing it launch.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I have a confession. When my firstborn was an infant, I parked her in a bouncy seat in front of the TV for 30 minutes a day so I could make dinner.

She was a clingy baby and enjoyed being held. In fact, there was rarely a time when she was happy without being held. I was fairly young, in love with my new baby, and had the energy to accommodate. Yet when 5 o’clock came around, the TV went on, my baby got quiet, and my aching back enjoyed the break.

The programs I chose were always from the Baby Einstein DVD series. I had gotten them for my baby shower. The popular consensus in those days, not so very long ago, was that Baby Einstein videos were helpful. They stimulated your baby’s brain. They helped her learn to appreciate music, patterns, and art.

By the time my second child came along, the Baby Einstein craze was coming to a close. Or maybe I was becoming wiser. Oh, I still used the TV to keep my toddler safe and close to me while I fed my hungry newborn, which can be a seemingly endless task. But I began to seriously consider the potential negative impact that the tube could have on my kids.

My girls are now both in elementary school, and I still think about it. I’ve done some research. Did you know that the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend any television time for children under the age of two? Did you know that a nearly 30% of babies and 44% of preschoolers have a television in their own bedroom? (See Common Sense Media's report on children's use of media in America.)

The purpose of this blog is to help me write my way through parenting two girls during a time when all kinds of media – smart phones, iPads, flat screen TVs – are more than commonplace in our homes and schools. I think that some media can be harmful, especially if it is age inappropriate or used too frequently. Some can be helpful; I know that my phone does wonders to keep me organized and although I don’t have an iPad yet, I know that lots of schools are using educational apps in the classroom.

The bottom line is that I want my girls to grow up with a healthy understanding of technology, finding a balance so that it enriches - but doesn't rule - their lives. And as a parent, I want to set a good example, to put down my smart phone, turn off the TV, and talk to my kids while there is still time.