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Category: Andy Marken's blog Published on Saturday, 18 August 2012

Web is Rich with Info to Help Tweens, But it isn’t Kidproof


“Perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.” – Ash, “Alien,” 20th Century Fox, 1979

All around the globe, kids are about the only things that don’t come with halfway-decent instruction manuals and detailed warning labels.

The way we parents fumble through raising them, it’s amazing the little suckers survive.

Boy, they’re resilient.

They have to be because according to the PRB (Population Reference Bureau), 27 percent of the 2011 7 billion worldwide population was below age 15.

That means roughly 20 percent of the total (about 1.9B) are below 13 -- the magic age when they break through the teen barrier.


We can’t exactly recall, but we believe being a teenager is kinda’ a big thing.

Of course, they don’t wait until they’re teenagers before they start scoring on all of the technology stuff.

Head Start
A combination of parental guilt of not giving them a jump start on their future, dotting grandparents, peer pressure, and begging/pleading starts them on the path of getting their phones, tablets, computers, Facebook page, etc.

Hello Mom – It doesn’t take pre-preteens long before they know if you want to talk to someone you call them up. Or, if they’re too busy to call, you text them. They also quickly realize that it’s not just a phone; it has apps to fit your mood, ability and more. Source – Humorblog

Little ones start out with toy phones that do everything but connect to the real world.

For kids, cell phones seem to be just part of growing up.

And when they hit the tweens, the cell phone is almost a right of passage.

Ash commented, “It's adapted remarkably well to our atmosphere, considering its nutritional requirements.”

Tweens know they “need” one; and the mobile companies aren’t above appealing to them as well as their parents to enable them to keep in touch with the kids, keep them safe.

 

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Source – Nielsen

Staying in Touch – Increasingly, with both parents working, couples focus on not just being there for the kids, but also ensuring they can reach the youngster. While it isn’t exactly spying, some of the new iPhone/smartphone apps enable parents to monitor phone usage and where the youngster has been…just in case. Source – Nielsen

Do they really need a mobile phone? Probably not; but that doesn't mean that it is totally impractical, especially if both parents work and the kid has a busy schedule or you simply want to stay in touch with them.

But, more and more schools aren’t letting phones on the premises or requiring them to be turned off during school hours. Sorta’ defeats your ability to stay in touch with them at any time of the day.

Of course, tweens can always play the safety/security card; but it might be better if they know they shouldn’t put themselves in risky situations like riding with strangers, walking alone at night.

Then again, there’s always the “what if” and that added peace of mind for the parent and the tween when they have a mobile phone.

Besides, there’s a ton of good, fun iTune and android apps.

Speaking of apps, a smartphone may be iffy, but a tablet (especially an iPad) is important…just ask your kids.

We were quite taken with the LeapPad when we saw it late last year for toddlers.

Learning Apps – There are a growing number of child-friendly web sites that parents can go to with their kids to download appropriate educational applications and tools. In addition, they’re available for tablets such as the iPad, which is also good for dad’s games and sporting events. Source – AdAge

But if you look at the app stores, there are tens – thousands of really good educational, entertaining tools you can download with your kids to help them learn more about the world around them.

Generation C
Tweens have already been classified - Generation C – because they don’t know life without creating, collaborating and communicating with the iNet and apps.

The challenge for parents is to ensure they have the right safe tools – hardware, software, web locations – as they skip right past printed materials and use the hands-on multi-sensory learning products.

Most parents we know are amazed at how their tweens move effortlessly between multiple devices and store their information in the cloud.

And along the way, they can help mom and dad understand how to get the most out of their iPad and the games/tools they’ve downloaded.

Ripley watched what was going on and said, “If you have any trouble, I'll be on the bridge.”

There are a lot of apps your tweens can use on your smartphone, their iPod Touch or the family iPad.

There are a number of analysts who suggest tweens may become so adept, so comfortable in working with these mobile devices that they may never “advance” to a computer.

Naw…they want the computer, the web, social media!

Worker Bees – While there are some indications that youngsters are perfectly comfortable doing all of their communications on a smartphone or tablet, most educators and young people who are surveyed agree that today’s newer, lighter notebooks/ultrabooks with longer battery lives and more power are preferable for more comprehensive studies--especially with the larger screen for long periods. Of course, as with any activity on the web, it does require parental monitoring. Source – momitforward

The notebook, or more likely the ultrabook – will continue to be part of their on-the-go access to the world bundle because they’re more in sync with their other mobile devices – light, good battery life, instant on.

It’s amazing (to us anyway) that there are so many really great sites out there designed specifically to help meet the pre-tweens, tweens and yes even teens thirst for information, knowledge and yet keep them as safe as possible.

Tailored Sites
And they’re so easy to find that even a parent can locate them just by using a search engine and plugging in preteen websites, apps + 9-13.

Of course, none of that works without parental guidance and assistance.

If we had all of the online information available kids today have, we might have graduated grade school before we got our drivers license (kiddin!).

There are math locations like MathsInsider and SpaceyMath that make learning interesting and fun. And apps like GeoPalz not only help parents keep track of kids’ whereabouts, they stimulate exercise.

Sites like DoInk help tweens express themselves on-screen and eliminate the need to clean the entire room when they’re done.

Instead of fumbling through the parental learning process as we did, there are websites that are tailor-made to help minimize mistakes.

They give great advice on tween online safety, tweens/fighting, tweens/alcohol, tweens/dating (we thought 20 was about right for ours), anti-bullying, ADHD, self-discipline, moodiness, sports and responsibility/trust

Facebook
What got us thinking about this whole tween challenge for parents was the fact that Facebook was suddenly going to allow 13 year-olds to have their own pages.


Facebook Faking – It doesn’t take a lot of heavy lifting for a tween to set up his/her Facebook page. Simply pick an age you want to be, do a little math and put in the appropriate data of birth and it’s done. Parents should set up some realistic guidelines for their kids and monitor the activities to keep them out of trouble and harm’s way. Source – sites.google

While it created a lot of backlash, Consumer Reports estimates that as many of 7.5M of the users are “underage.”

No big surprise because anyone can cheat and millions do anyway. There’s no third-party verification that the birthdate entered is correct as long as it makes him/her more than 13.

Today’s parents are so proud of their kids and their lives that they already post birth dates, birthday events, vacation plans, where they’re going/what they’re doing…cool mom, dad!

In fact, 62 percent of the parents surveyed indicated they friended their kids so you might think they sorta’, kinda’ already know.

The great thing though is that parents seem to be trying more to connect, communicate with their kids and really help them get ahead.


Multi-Device Kids – The Internet, social media and mobile devices have opened up the world for kids today—a world that parents and the rest of us couldn’t have imagined when they were growing up. Most parents want to help their youngsters with the connections, but there’s always that gnawing concern about what lies just beyond the screen. Source – Pew Research Center

Caution, security, safety for pre-tweens, tweens, and teens is naturally a major concern for parents.
After all, it’s tougher out there in social media land than the Wild West…even skeptical adults get in trouble.

Difficult IDs
The industry has flirted with age identification technologies since dial-up and ARPANET; and about all the technical experts can say is …good luck.

Ripley was so concerned she warned, “Listen to me, if we break quarantine, we could all die.”

Every time the idea of establishing a national identity database surfaces, privacy advocates and ordinary folks scream bloody murder that it’s a huge invasion of privacy.

And with all that rich information you just know someone would abuse it!!!

With the growing volume of data we’re leaving behind every time we use one of our devices, it won’t be long before people will be able to put together a very accurate picture of your kids and you…what you’ve done for the past weeks, months, years; where you’ve been; what you’ve done.  It’s all part of the challenge of being a parent.


 
And as Ash observed, “There is a clause in the contract which specifically states any systematized transmission indicating a possible intelligent origin must be investigated.”

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