August 26, 2015

Back To School Tech Tips

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It’s back to school season and for many it means new tech and upgrades to existing tech, and not just for the kids. Parents are often introduced to new technology to help kids with homework, communicate with the school, or just stay connected in an increasingly connected world. Kids may be experiencing new technology at school, switching phones, or trying out different accessories. Whatever it is, back to school marks a time for transition.

Whether it’s the same routine or something new, when it comes to going online more and more young people are connecting through smartphones or tablets. This makes learning possible everywhere. That’s good. But with the good comes the bad. And that’s where it’s important to re-evaluate how you approach internet security. So, here are a few back to school tech tips for keeping your family in tip-top shape.

Back To School Tech Tips To Keep Parents Sane and Kids Safe

  1. Keep it charged – Many kids are given tablets at school and are responsible for bringing them to school every day fully charged. In addition to having a designated charging station at home, think about having a portable battery to help keep them connected throughout the day. Especially important with older kids, having an external battery will help them do their work without having to be tethered to a wall. Or, having to deal with running out of power just as they’re in the zone. You may even want to invest in a car charger just incase they realize on the way to school they don’t have much power.
  2. Protect the screen – whether it’s with a case or a separate screen protector, don’t leave the screen exposed. Tiny dirt and dust particles can scratch the screen, making it difficult to use over time. Many people worry about cracking the screen. And while that’s a real concern, the fact is a scratched screen is annoying and may impacts the quality of what you see on the screen.
  3. Individualize it with a case – Sure a case can protect the device, but why not sell it as a way to personalize their device. With so many kids having the same type of device it’s easy to get them mixed up. With smartphones there are so many case options and most of us show our personality through our cases and covers. For tablets, especially those issued by the school, if permitted, find a case your child likes to help them take a little more responsibility for their device. Not only does it protect the device, which many parents may not realize they are responsible for, but a cool case also gives the device some personality and helps differentiate it from the sea of black and silver tablets on a table.
  4. Talk about online safety – I know you’ve had the talk before. But just like having to remind your child to turn off the lights, not slam the car door, or take a shower (yes, every day!), talking to kids about online safety is an ongoing and continuous conversation. Kids may think they know everything about being online, but the fact is that many kids are vulnerable and need to be reminded that sometimes things aren’t as they seem. Making mistakes online in this day and age can have long-term and very serious consequences. Teens and tweens, especially, need to know that you’re ultimately responsible for what they do online.
  5. Don’t just talk, take action – As parents, we do a lot of talking. When it comes to online safety for our kids, though, we have to take action. Whether it’s checking their device daily, requiring an approved family member or friend to be friended on their social network, or adding parental controls to their devices, we can talk all we want but action is required. It’s not about not trusting our kids, it’s about not trusting the freaks out there. If you’ve never used IFTTT, or don’t use it for this purpose, here’s an easy way to keep on top of what’s going on. Check out these IFTTT recipes to help keep your kids safe online.
  6. Trust your gut – Too many times we second guess our gut when it comes to what our kids are doing online. This isn’t the time to worry about if our kids think we’re annoying (we are, we’re parents!), being the cool parent (we are the cool parents!), or respecting their privacy. If you’re not hovering over them 24/7, you’re likely giving your kids the privacy they’ve earned. Earned, that’s right. Privacy is not a right in the Kingdom of Mom and Dad. In Mom and Dad Ville, the right to search and seizure is without limits. In Momtopia, you may have the right to be silent but unreasonable search and seizure is a real possibility. Trust your parenting gut when it comes to the safety of your kids. You may need to tone down how you want to react, but if you get that feeling, don’t over-react, just act.

Back to school is filled with so many emotions. But those emotions don’t have to carry through the school year. With a keen eye and a kind heart, our amazing kids will make it through another year. And so will we!

What tips to do you to help keep everything in check during the school year?

Sara

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August 19, 2015

School Pick Up Line Tips

For most parents, when you talk about ‘back to school’ there’s a bit of melancholy in their voice. Having the kids home for the summer means lazy days, less rush, fun vacations, staycations. Lots of summer stuff making memories. But after all the “I’m bored!”, “There’s nothing to do.”, and “I’m hungry!” wails, there’s a small part of you that can’t wait for school to start. While I love having BabyGirl home for the summer, I know she misses her friends. And being an only child means hanging out with adults, which isn’t always that fun. So while there’s an excitement in the air about back to school, as a parent there’s one thing I dread – school pick-up.

I share after-school pick-up duties with a friend, which is great. It gives both of us a chance to have an extra hour to cross things off our daily to-do list. We did the carpool program for two years in elementary school and it went rather well. There were a few parents who didn’t think the rules applied to them, but for the most part, elementary school pickup was met with order. For those time someone would double-park, cross between cars, or leave their car unattended the school was quick to give notice and nip the issue in the bud. And while I was at just one of the several elementary schools that feed in to the current middle school BabyGirl attends, I thought the other elementary school pick-up lines were the same. But I was wrong.

Based on the first two weeks of school, either some of the parents completely forgot how after-school pick-up works or they think the rules don’t apply to them. Seriously, how hard is it to follow a few basic rules? What happened to all those things we taught (er, teach?) our kids? Like, wait your turn, be patient, be courteous, watch what you’re doing …

Adults behind the wheel of a car are much more dangerous than the little mistakes our kids make when they don’t follow basic rules of courtesy. So I thought that now is the perfect time for a few reminders to those who will be picking up kids after school. And while this is more specifically written for middle school (junior high?) pick up since this is what I’m dealing with now, it’s likely just as applicable for high school and elementary pick up.

7 Tips for Making Middle School Pick Up Less Stressful for Everyone

  1. If you don’t want to wait in a long line, get there early. Just like going to the movies, if you get there late you don’t get to cut the line just because you’re in a hurry. We all have places to go. And cutting in line isn’t just being a jerk, it’s dangerous because cars leaving the line aren’t expecting you to be cutting.
  2. Keep moving up as the line moves. This is how lines work. When people in front of you move, you move too. Think about how it works when you’re in line at the store. It’s the same thing. This is not the time to camp out in one spot like you’re at a General Admission concert. The kids will find the car. They’re in middle school. Finding the right car at the end of the day isn’t all that hard for the average middle schooler.
  3. Don’t be a double parking douche. Your precious unique flower child can wait just like everyone else. Having kids walk between moving cars is dangerous. You should know this.
  4. If your child is slow or needs help getting in the vehicle, find a parking space. It’s safer for you, your child, and the rest of us.
  5. Don’t get out of your car. I repeat, do not get out of your car. The pick up line is not the place for this. It slows down the line, and puts you and others at risk.
  6. Kids should only get in the vehicle on the curb side. This should go without saying. If your child has to get in the car on the street side, find another place to safely pick up your child. Think about how many times you have to tell your child to pay attention. Add moving cars and it’s a recipe for disaster.
  7. Drive slowly around the school. Those School Zone signs are not a suggestion. And just because your school may have them only in certain areas, slow down all around the school. Kids who walk home aren’t often paying attention. Parents getting out of the pickup line may have their view blocked by some ignoramus double parked behind them. There are so many things going on around schools, please, just slow down.

Parents have enough stress, school pick-up shouldn’t add to it. No one wants to deal with a child getting hurt because adults weren’t paying attention or were in a rush. And in the grand scheme of the day, a few minutes of patience and courtesy can go a long way. Getting into an accident, hitting a child with your car, or being stopped by the police because you were in a hurry at school pick-up will delay you much longer.

Be safe out there! Our kids learn from us. We need to be good role models. Because they’ll be driving soon and we can’t expect them to follow the rules and be safe if you’re not willing to do the same.

Stay safe and have a great school year!

Sara

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