Saturday, June 2, 2012

Parenting & Technology: An Update

I haven't been posting about raising kids in this technically dense world as much as I'd like. Here are some quick thoughts...

Stuff in the house


  • We're a heavy Apple house.
  • A few mac laptops.
  • A central/common-area big screen iMac in the "computer room."
  • Mom/Dad iPhones
  • Kid's iTouches
  • Sonos
  • AppleTV
  • Tivo
  • Wii (barely used anymore)
  • XBox
  • BlueRay player (almost never used unless true 58Mbit throughput uncompressed 1080p resolution is desired (e.g. remastered Star Wars))
  • One "big TV" in the family room (no other TVs in the house).
  • Comcast HD Cable
  • Comcast Cable network connectivity (as fast as they offer for residential; 50'ish Mbs/sec up/down IIRC)
  • A few Amazon Kindle's (the kids have their own, and I have one)
  • A few iPads
  • Some cameras
  • a bunch of other stuff I'm missing


Tearing Apart Technology

When I was a kid my dad would let me tear apart old music players and telephones. It was a total blast. That's a lot harder to do today because everything's soldered to circuit boards and there are no moving parts anymore. It's less interesting for the kids, because the physicality of the process is vastly different. Electronics are just smaller now, and everything's solid-state. Yes, you can get into a conversation about silicon, circuits, resistors, and capacitors, it's just not as fun.


Network Availability

I have mixed feelings on this one. By now I'd expected the network to be persistent, and everywhere. Neither are true (not in the slightest), and my 9 yr. old son is keenly aware that connectivity must be sought and established if he's away from home-base. A positive outcome from this is that he understands "connectivity." I was worried it would be so ubiquitous that the kids would never actually understand that there even was a network.


Identity

The big one. I'm very strict with unique accounts for family members; everyone has their own accounts/logins, and I don't like it when I see them shared. We're pretty good on this front. There are so many things tied into "your account" today it's simply too much to manage. My diligence takes an inordinate amount of energy.

  • Installed Apps are bound to accounts. If you mix accounts, then your iPhone (for example) becomes littered with kid's game apps, or kid's education apps. Conversely, your kid's iTouch becomes littered with your apps, and before you know it, they're, unknowingly, racking up your iTunes bill by messing with your apps.
  • Music is bound to account. Similarly with Apps, if you mix/share accounts, your music (explicit lyrics in my case, not to mention songs my kids don't want to listen to) winds up in their player, and vise versa. You don't want Justin Beiber showing up on your iPhone do you!?!
  • Movies are bound to account.
  • TV shows are bound to account.
  • Parental Controls are bound to account.


Money

This is a big one. If you just share iTunes/Amazon accounts, your child has no concept of money. Their only understanding is that when they want something, they run over to you so you can type in your password to "get it." If you share accounts, it hits your bank account, and they learn nothing. We setup bank accounts for our kids awhile ago, replete with debit cards (which they don't use yet, but we use the account numbers from), which we wire into their cloud/operating system accounts. This way, they can see their own account balances, and associate credits/debits with earning and spending. They are exposed to the boundaries of spending.


Protection

This one I did a 180 on. Pre-heavy technology use I told myself "I'd educate my kids about stuff as they came across it, and everything will be fine." Today, we have Parental Controls enabled on the kids' stuff/accounts, and passwords on communal devices (like AppleTV, Tivo, XBox) to prevent willy nilly content acquisition. The reality is that within a few clicks, young minds can be exposed to things that, even with your explanation, cannot be understood at a young age (it's not the relatively innocent stumble upon of a Playboy magazine like it was for me 30 years ago, anymore). So, you either allow a developmentally incapable mind to be exposed to some stuff at the wrong time (and suffer whatever consequences come out of that), or you lock down.

I've been impressed at the options in "locking down." They're better than I expected; not great, but pretty good. Of course, soon enough, the kids will be able to get past everything (or just go over to a friend's house where things are wide open), but at that point they'll be more prepared and able to understand some of the content they're exposed to (with explanation and discussion) anyway, so, life will go on.

We block network access to the mac addresses of our kid's devices between the hours of 8pm and 8am everyday; just in case :).

My daughter just woke up. Gotta go!

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