Saturday, September 14, 2013

Big Brother is Watching Your Teen!

This from a teen I know. Advise your students, more than ever, what they tweet, Snapchat, Facebook,  put on Vine, etc, is not private or anonymous!

CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk)
A Southern California school district has hired a company to monitor students' social media posts.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

ASP Redux

A year ago my eldest son Jack asked me to be an adult leader on an Appalachian Service Project (ASP) that he was attending. From the volunteer stand-point, ASP offers families or groups the opportunity to travel to various Appalachian counties and help folks in dire need to make their homes "safer, warmer, or dryer".  I wrote about my experience last year here.

Jack and I had such powerful experiences that we opted to go again this year, and this time my wife joined us.  None of us were in the same groups, but we were able to take breakfast, dinner, and evening leisure together.  Again, we had a tremendous experience.

This year our project was to create a porch for a designated family. As sometimes occurs, my assumptions clouded my thinking early on. I thought to myself, "how does a porch create 'safer, warmer, dryer'?"  Upon arrival though I quickly realized the significance of a porch and stairs for this family.

"Our" family lives in a mobile home. The home has two entrances. The front door is about 3-1/2 feet off the ground. The stairs are very narrow, more than a bit rickety, and offer no hand railings. The mother indicated she's fallen off the stairs several times, as has their two year old daughter. The back door, also about 3-1/2 feet off the ground has no stairs at all. Too high for all but physically fit and adventurous adults to jump down from.  So, really all they have to get in and out of the home is the front door.

Adding to the challenges are the facts that 1, the mother is legally blind (no vision at all in one eye, and significantly impaired in the other), and 2, she is expecting another child in January.  With this added information, it was evident that a porch with stairs was s a safety issue!

Like last year, my crew of young adults was hardworking, smart, funny, caring.  Add all the other adjectives that paint a picture of young people who make you breath a sigh of relief regarding the world's future. In addition, my co-leader was also fabulous, and fun to work with.

As an Occupational Therapist I assess ways to help individuals engage in meaningful occupations.  Sometimes interventions are geared towards physical rehabilitation.  As an Assistive Technology Professional, sometimes the interventions are technologically oriented.  And, still other times, the interventions include environmental changes. This situation definitely called for an environmental change!

Consider that we have a mother who is
visually impaired and has to walk up and down harrowing stairs every time she chooses to go outdoors. This impacts her ability to play with her daughter outdoors.  If she gets hurt on the stairs with her child while her husband is at work, they could be in a lot of trouble. So inevitably they spent a lot of time indoors.  As a stay-at-home mom, that's pretty tough! Safe stairs increase the quality and quantity of Occupations the family is able to participate in.

The stairs we built are sturdy, and very safe. There are not a lot of perfect 90 degree angles, and the porch will never be in an Architecture digest.  It is more likely that it would appear in the MoMA!  But forgetting the angle issue, IMHO, the stairs are really quite lovely.

Our crew came back on our last day to say good-byes with the family.  We walked around the back of the home and found them hanging out on the porch, enjoying the outdoors.  For the first time we met our "mother's" grandmother. She was so delighted with the stairs and hand railing. She told me, for the first time ever she was able to enter their home. Because of her health issues she had been unable to climb the front stairs without railings.

Once again, ASP delivered for our group of students and leaders, and also for the families we were serving. If you ever have the opportunity to participate, run, don't walk to sign up!  Later in the summer, another lucky group of volunteers will build new stairs for the front door as well. Maybe that could be you!

Peace, Jim

Friday, April 5, 2013

Is that child REALLY a sex offender?

Do you know what sexting is?

According to Wikipedia, sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs, primarily between mobile phone.

Smart phones easily take and send photos.

In my school district, I seem to hear of at least one or two instances every year. A couple of times I have known the students, and I would describe them as smart, nice, and well raised young men and young women. My point is, anyone's child might stumble into this pitfall.

Did you know...The State of North Carolina does not have any specific laws addressing sexting? In fact, few if any states do.

In NC, the laws that come into play in a sexting incident are the state's Child Pornography Laws. As a result, any individual, even a minor, who is convicted of sending, or receiving a sexually explicit image (even of themselves) could be sentenced to jail time, and required to register as a sex offender. Even if a minor is sending pics of themself to another minor, the actions of both sender and receiver could constitute a felony under the North Carolina child pornography statute.

I am confident, those young people engaged in this innapropriate behavior had no idea of the potential ramifications, and they are not what most of us think of when we think of a sex offender. It seems to me, the laws were made to protect young people in a time when smart phones and texting technologies were not available. The laws have not changed to keep up with technology.

None of us want our kids sexting, but likely, we don't see kids who sext as sex predators... I think the laws will eventually become more sophisticated and nuanced to deal with texting teens, but until then, educate your youngsters, even if you think "they would never", because, they just might.

One more argument to keep tabs on your child's social media activities. If you don't live in NC you may want to look into how your state deals with such issues. My guess is that it won't be too different.

Happy parenting.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Teens and Cars: Texting, Talking, and Speeding...

My son got his driver's license back in January. He is a really good driver. For the last 5 years he has been driving a full size tractor mowing our fields (I called this pre-driver's ed). He is competent, and confident. Also, he is generally a rule follower. However, he is also 16, and there are a lot of opportunities to make simple mistakes while driving that can have complex outcomes... 

Our biggest fears are that he will text or talk on the phone while driving. There are a number of ways we could address this, including taking the phone away, buying a non-texting phone, or telling him to put his phone in the trunk when driving. All of those solutions have shortcomings.

 What would be terrific is if we could be notified whenever he makes a text, or phone call while driving, or even if he speeds. With Canary that is just what happens. The app is free for the first seven days. If you purchase the app before the seven days are up, it's only $9.99. If you purchase it after the seven days it is $14.99. Canary works with both the iPhone and Androids. By loading the app on the parent phone and on the teen phone parents get instant notifications when calls are placed or answered while on the road. Parents can also know exactly when there’s texting, tweeting or Facebook use behind the wheel. In addition parents can set maximum speed limits and get alerts when they are exceeded.

 A few other features include:
• Emergency button: Designate contacts to receive immediate alerts and location information in the event of an emergency.
• Instant locator: Find out exactly where your “Canaried” phones are.
• Customizable settings: Get alerts via push notifications or email. Set up daily or weekly reports summarizing each driver’s record.
• Advanced analytics: Access deep details, charts and graphs to track progress.

Let's take a look at Canary in action:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Catch up Parents!

As a parent, do you know which kids your child goes to the mall with? If your child says "I'm going out driving around with my friends", do you say "okay"? Or do you ask "who, what, where, when, and maybe why"?

An engaged parent asks those questions. 

I remember when I was a teenager. There were a few phones in our house. One in the kitchen, and one in my parents room. My last few years at home, I got a phone in my bedroom, but it was the same telephone line, and I was not supposed to stay on the phone during the day, as my father worked from home. Having private, unsupervised phone calls was a challenge.

Many teens today live in two separate worlds, the physical world where we reign as parents, and another, the cyber world where we are often woefully absent. Today's youth have multiple social media venues they participate in.  Many of them have a smart phone and maybe a computer to use as they see fit. At it's best, the cyber world is a tremendous social tool which they navigate with remarkable skill and it enriches their lives. At it's worst, it becomes a Lord of the Flies situtation with cyber bullying, sexting, academic cheating, and super-gossiping.

Either way, this cyber world and it's social tools are here to stay. We can catch up, and be stewards of our children in this complex ever shifting environment, or be left far behind, asking our children to raise themselves to the best of their abilities.

I challenge all of us to ask who, what, where, when, and maybe why regarding our kids social media usage. Know which tools they use. Friend or follow them. Make it mandatory. You wouldn't let them go to the mall with a known drug seller, or a kid known for shop-lifting, right? Hold the same standard to their social media.  My kids have to share their passwords to all their media tools with my wife and I. I go on as them periodically. I don't post as them, and I make a point not to embarrass them, but you will see things as the "user" that you can't from the "following side".

Happy Parenting!

Playtime Matters: another great Acorn Dreams blog article!

The blog Acorn Dreams provides tremendous early childhood resources that can "equip you to guide children, starting in the preschool years, to make friends, cooperate, handle anger and disappointment, calm down, and solve problems peacefully."  

The "blog discussions share information and effective strategies that nurture children’s social-emotional development and healthy behaviors. 

Playtime Matters is a really terrific article on the power of play, and what play can look like. Check it out!

Bike more, game less!

Ride Bikes!!

Recently read this quote:

"More young people know how to play a computer game (58%) than can ride a bike unaided (52%)."

I don't know the source, but as a parent, a therapist, an educator, and of course a rabid cyclist, I find this statistic disconcerting!