Thursday, January 10, 2013

Say What? The iPotty

iPotty - Julie Jacobson
Here's a gadget I just have to share. The iPotty was recently featured at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Here is an excerpt taken directly from the Associated Press:
Toilet training a toddler is no picnic, but iPotty from CTA Digital seeks to make it a little easier by letting parents attach an iPad to it. This way, junior can gape and paw at the iPad while taking care of business in the old-fashioned part of the plastic potty. IPotty will go on sale in March, first on Amazon.com.

There are potty training apps out there that'll reward toddlers for accomplishing the deed. The company is also examining whether the potty's attachment can be adapted for other types of tablets, beyond the iPad.
"It's novel to a lot of people but we've gotten great feedback from parents who think it'd be great for training," said CTA product specialist Camilo Gallardo.
WHO IT'S FOR: Parents at their wit's end.
PRICE: $39.99
I don't really know what to say about the iPotty... well, yes I do, but I'll have to come back to it. This might be some interesting fodder for child advocacy groups !

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Culture of "Me"

Here's another article by Dr. Keith Ablow, one which I highly recommend: We are raising a generation of deluded narcissists.

As the title suggests, Dr. Ablow is flagging the growing epidemic of narcissism and self-centeredness in our society - a result of our infatuation with media and technology. Regarding the data that indicates a growing trend of narcissism in young people, Dr. Ablow writes:
This data is not unexpected.  I have been writing a great deal over the past few years about the toxic psychological impact of media and technology on children, adolescents and young adults, particularly as it regards turning them into faux celebrities—the equivalent of lead actors in their own fictionalized life stories.
Self-centeredness gives way to unhappiness and the realization that the world doesn't revolve around "me." Ablow says this:
That’s really the unavoidable end, by the way. False pride can never be sustained. The bubble of narcissism is always at risk of bursting...Distractions, however, are temporary, and the truth is eternal. Watch for an epidemic of depression and suicidality, not to mention homicidality, as the real self-loathing and hatred of others that lies beneath all this narcissism rises to the surface.  I see it happening and, no doubt, many of you do, too.   
Such an important article for parents to read. In spite of modern advances in other directions, I believe that it's getting harder to parent kids. We're responsible for protecting them from the infiltration of media and predatory marketing, which is getting stronger every day. The end result of letting down our guard may be unpleasantly surprising.

Parents can't do it alone. We need the help of everyone to acknowledge the negative side effects of embracing the onslaught of media and technology without reservation, self-reflection and regard for the public good. Change might be like turning around the Titanic. But we owe it to ourselves to try.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Digital Diet Review

Daniel Sieberg's book, The Digital Diet, is a self-help detox plan for those addicted to technology. The subtitle says it all: The four-step plan to break your tech addiction and regain balance in your life.

The whole point is to make technology work for you, and not be a slave to your gadgets, social networks and online time. I took the author's test to measure my "Virtual Weight Index," and to see how addicted I am. I scored a 33, which puts me in mid-range. (This blog, by the way, counts for two points towards my VWI score.)

Apparently I don't need total detox, but according to the author, I could use help staying "sane and organized." I'd like to think that I use technology less than others, but it's not true. The bummer is that I try so hard to put boundaries between me and my computers, and boundaries between my kids and computers. I'm trying to be aware of my technology usage, but I wonder how bad things would get if I gave up the struggle.

Sieberg points out that our tech addictions - or temptations - break our concentration and interfere with our efficiencies at tasks, including work tasks. So much for the notion of multitasking. I'm a prime example. If I get to a point in my task where I'm not sure what to do next, it only takes a nanosecond to "alt-tab" over to the next screen and play a quick game or check the news. When I work, I absolutely have to avoid this temptation. It's not right to purposefully break out of the flow of work to do personal things without stopping the time clock. It's a lot easier to dawdle during my personal time - balancing a checkbook, writing my blog pieces, and studying - and I could be so much more productive if I didn't stop over to the next screen to entertain a diversion.

Outside of old-fashioned discipline, what's a person to do? I learned through Sieberg's book that you can engage technology to help manage your technology. Quite the irony. One example is RescueTime.com. By engaging the time management program, you agree to let the system "divide your time into sections and channel your energy in a linear fashion." In other words, the system won't let you work on an account spreadsheet for work and then divert your attention by surfing the web. According to Sieberg, the program is:
...a bit like an intervention. It steps in and says "put away the mouse and focus on the keyboard." And it rewards you along the way.
Systems like this help you measure the time you spend on tasks (wait...I just spent over an hour playing games on Sporcle?) and rates sites and apps from "productive" to "distracting," presumably so you can make more informed decisions about how you spend your time online.

I was surprised that the book advised readers to play online games to sharpen the mind (there's a whole chapter promoting certain brain-training websites), when readers like me probably don't need other ideas where to squander their time online. Otherwise, the book was enlightening. Some advice that I appreciated:

* Set a time of day/evening when your devices are turned off until the next day.
* Establish a family rule of "no heads down discussions." In other words, don't have a conversation with someone with your head down, looking at your devices. If someone is looking down while you are talking to him/her, stop talking until they look up.
* Organize a game night with family and/or friends. Dust off the old board games.

Good advice.

I don't write this blog because I am anti-technology or because I have it all figured out. In fact, I don't have it figured out. I spend way too much time tethered to my laptop. The Digital Diet was a helpful and self-reflective read. I'm better off when I remind myself to "do better." Put the laptop in the other room when the kids get home. Plug my phone into the wall - and leave it there - when I'm home. Get outside (when it warms up). Play with my kids. Be a better listener. And maybe, just maybe, go 'cold turkey' on Sporcle for awhile.