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TechMama Talks: Work, Family, Education and Mobile Tech

TechMamas talkIt may have been a month since I last posted, but that gave me some time to think. During that time I decided to channel my dear Grandmother in my writing, who as she got older decided to share her authentic voice. Of course, that involved some embarrassing moments such as when she met a new boyfriend of mine for the first time and asked “I look forward to seeing you walk down the isle together”. I joked and said “you mean at the grocery store?”. But my Grandmother must of been reading our body language because we did end up walking down the isle and are a happily married couple running after our adorable but energetic three boys. I feel privileged to have met an amazing community of bloggers online and share my insights on technology. Now I want to go back to sharing my musings on life and important initiatives.

 

Parents and Work: I am excited to see women developing initiatives to empower and promote career advancement for women at work.  But from what I experienced as a parent, the job market is very tricky these days so finding work that offers a salary to cover the costs of childcare and extra incidental costs is a challenge. Many parents also need some sort of offer flexible work environments, which can add to the challenge. The job market has changed, there are new job skills required including technology and social media. In addition, while online networking has created multiple channels for career advancement, choosing the right channels to create real business opportunities is an important consideration.

 

The childcare challenge is not just a mom problem – it is a “parenting” challenge. I started a lively discussion on Facebook about this topic and I was thrilled to see responses of parents that are overcoming all types of challenges to work and also parents making the choice to stay home. I made a comment that we all value time with our children, that their happiness is the most important goal of whatever arrangements are made. I look forward to share stories on my blog of women that have found creative solutions to adapt to the modern workplace. Including women that have taken time off for kids then not only ramped back up to work years later – they BLASTED OFF!

 

Family Technology: We are at a time where you can stream, automate, use voice, consume content and entertainment in many ways and multiple devices. But families are struggling with helping their kids set screen time limits, stay safe online, learn social networking etiquette, decide what devices they really NEED and HOW TO use them. To make matters more complicated, kids now grow up surrounded with technology so it is second nature. For example, I have an Internet connected TV and my kids are the ones that signed up and are power users of Netflix compared to me. I feel so old school watching shows on TV networks. I know how to stream everything on my PC’s but at night I still like to turn on the TV and watch a show. My kids hardly watch traditional TV networks anymore.

 

Luckily because of my business, I also consume information and social network online which allows me to talk my kids’ language. At the same time I realize the online world is a dangerous place for kids that require a new type of education. I have been writing online for years about the concept I describe as “Internet safety is the new sex talk”. I remember years ago when I first said that at a social media conference in New York there was silence (shock) then lots of tweeting to share. Now that mostly all devices have a web browsers, it is hard to lock our kids away from the online world.

 

My perspective is that parents need to first educate themselves, then their kids, then create regular conversations and family rules about Internet Safety (and logical consequences if they are not followed). For example, sitting down with teens “together” to look at the privacy controls for all the platforms they are on and “discuss” which should be set to remain safe. But open conversations are key, and it should include cyber etiquette and consequences for inappropriate cyber etiquette (including going to jail!). In our family discussions, I also share age appropriate news stories as examples.  I want to spend more time covering all the online platforms kid spend time on. Of course, I find new platforms cropping up it seems like every day! Automated internet safety controls such as web filters, monitoring apps and privacy control settings are also an effective supplement, but they won’t keep kids safe everywhere they go because as I said web browsers are everywhere! So parents need to do the balancing act of setting “relevant” automated controls, communication and education. That balance is not easy!

 

No matter what strategy parents have, new challenges come up. Like how I tell a bunch of 10 year olds during baseball practice last year that they “HAVE NO REASON TO BE ON INSTAGRAM.. SERIOUSLY!”. Or how do I tell a lovely teen girl (family friend) that the number of LIKES she receives on her Facebook photo does NOT reflect her TRUE BEAUTY. Or how smartphones have become a tool that can get kids arrested if they take the wrong picture or participate in the wrong social media exchange. Or how dangerous the online world is, so much so that I need to have a SCARED STRAIGHT strategy constantly updating the teens I know of the mistakes I read about hoping that they can learn from them. At the same time, I am regularly amazed at some of the positive ways teens are creating support online. When our beloved hamster died recently my son said he received comfort from a Reddit Hamster sub directory (created to memorialize Hamsters that had passed away).  My son received sympathies from around the world when he posted a picture of our Hamster.

 

Education Tech: One of the challenges of our education system is that while more and more kids relate to visual, interactive and experiential learning, many curriculum’s are still based on inflexible models filled with worksheets. The shining stars are the Teachers and Schools trying to transition to experiential learning. Luckily, now there are so many ways to learn online that I could spend weeks covering all the websites and programs. After speaking at a few education tech events and meeting the edtech company founders, I decided that sharing the exciting opportunities that exist in digital learning is a passion of mine. I want to highlight the education tech innovators on my blog as a way to help support their important contributions they are making to the future of education.

 

Family Schedule Tech:  One of the main reasons I wrote the book “My Parent Plan” was to help families learn project planning skills. After years of professional project planning I know the concepts but at times still struggle with how to balance it all. With three boys now going THREE completely different directions, I decided to dive deeper into tech solutions to help me manage. Or at least keep my head above water..

 

Health Tech: Feeding my family a healthy diet is one of the biggest challenges I have each week. While I like the concept of eating plant based foods I am also balancing understanding what is best for my family that has different nutritional needs. I will be covering some of online websites and apps that can help parents struggling with healthy eating solutions. I will also be covering my comic adventures trying to convince my sons why healthy eating is important. Including how my teen is “dreaming” of going to a local burger restaurant someday again as a reward. And how at times he sneaks out with his friends to get junk food for dinner after looking in the fridge filled with “green” foods.

 

So while I am far away from being a Grandmom myself, I honor her voice by speaking my own. Whats on your mind?

 

 

 

 

Branding, Miley Cyrus, #Twerk and Why This Matters For Parents

While the online and offline world are buzzing over Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance, I wonder where everyone has been for the last year. The performance by Hannah Montana’s alter ego was shocking – and not in a good way – but it was not too far off with what is already all over the web. Twerking has joined modern pop culture talk and videos all over the web, as evidenced with my favorite leading indicator of rebellious behavior….hot-selling shorts at summer beach stores.

 

 

Online dad Jim Higley agreed that we should not let Robin Thicke off the hook. Online  mom Beth Feldman (a.k.a RoleMommy) could not help but share her PR/branding tips to help Miley Cyrus and on OMG Insider:

 

 

 

 

 

Many teens and young adults believe that getting attention online, including social media, is a type of approval. Miley Cryus confirmed this point with her tweet after the VMA’s. Her performance had “306,000 tweets per minute – more then the superbowl“.

 

 

Is this type of attention the right type of attention for her brand? When I asked my teen son (who is very up on modern pop culture and a fan of rebellious musical performances) about Miley Cyrus’s VMA “Twerk” performance and how she was sharing how popular it was online he said “Ewwww“.  When my 10 year old sons have heard about the twerking incident, they shook their heads and said “What happened to Hannah Montana?”

 

With new reports that Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke knew they would be “making history” and that everyone is “overthinking it”, it seems as though it was a planned strategy.   I am also a fan of shocking musical performances such as Madonna and Lady Gaga, but  think this type of performance was not the right type of shocking for a professional image. Because I speak on the topic of branding for professionals, I thought I would share tips for parents to talk about branding/online image with their kids. With discussions raging on Miley Cryus’s behavior, this may just be the perfect time.

 

1. What is popular does not equal what is appropriate for your image/brand: I suggest that parents pay attention to the popular terms in modern pop culture (like Twerking) then help their kids understand what may be popular is not always appropriate. This goes hand in hand with kids’ understanding that the image they share online will stay with them the rest of their lives, and be seen by audiences varying from college recruiters to future employers. Then parents can discuss with their kids how to brand themselves with an understanding of allowing free expression that is appropriate to share online and what should be kept offline.

 

2. Parents Should Learn The Terms:  I was confused at how it took something as public as the VMAs to get people in an uproar about Twerking. It has been going on for some time. Yes, teens and dancing always seems to be a hot button or movie theme. So the more parents can keep up on the current terms, the better they will be prepared to discuss what is and is not appropriate for their kids age (again, what is popular may not be good for their personal brand). It’s great to give kids some slack regarding freedom of expression. But now that every event seems to have someone taking pictures and posting online, maybe some dances need to stay off the dance floor and social media platforms.

 

The task of trying to keep up to date on terms and websites kids are using may be overwhelming, but there are sites that offering information to help. My core philosophy is to start by rewarding kids for sharing what apps they are using and have regular internet safety talks.

 

At the same time, parents can look online to understand terms and apps. I start with monitoring research such as the Pew research reports and lists like the  top social media apps kids are using. Resources such as search engines and internet safety sites including NetSmartz, ESRB and Common Sense Media are also a great place to start.  ESRB has an updated version of its mobile ratings app to include interactive elements (shares personal info, shares location, users interact). Even though rumors about the word “Twerk” being added to the Oxford Dictionary may be wrong, the term WAS added to the Oxford Dictionary online (OED) which the Slate website called “a historical dictionary and it forms a record of all the core words and meanings in English over more than 1,000 years, from Old English to the present day, including many obsolete and historical terms. Words are never removed from the OED.” So the OED may be a good place to check to understand that foreign language our kids speak.

 

While the goal is to open up a respectful dialog with kids so they come to their parents to discuss issues, being a parent also means delivering the hard to hear but important information to protect their kids. This tweet shared by Miley seemed to show her Dad did not give her the difficult-to-hear feedback.

 

 

 

 

 

How do you keep up on terms used by your kids? Which ones do you have an issue with?

 

 

 

 

Top Questions To Ask Mom Before Buying Tech

Mother’s Day is just around the corner and tech is top of mind for many moms. In the past I spent countless hours putting together  gift guides. But this year I decided to keep the momentum going with my well known use of Twitter microblogging at @TechMama. Starting today and this weekend I will be tweeting out articles about Mothers Day tech. So please follow me @TechMama to find out what gadgets are being recommended for moms. One of my favorite sites for this type of “cool tech for moms” is CoolMomTech.  Of course, I could not post without giving my own tips – but they may just be different then most. In fact, my tips will be the top questions to ask mom before buying her tech.

Anyone buying tech for their moms has to step back and think about what tech “infrastructure and requirements” their mom (or wife) has. How does that special mom use technology in her life? Just because an iPad2 is the hottest gadget being discussed for mother’s day – does not mean that it is the right gift for mom.

WHAT? Did I actually just say that the iPad2 may not be the right gift for mom? YES… I did…

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More on the Apple iPad Debate, Why Moms Should Demand Open Web Standards

It is finally a beautiful sunny day so why I am online right now? It is that geeky side of me that has been glued to the online tech sites since the release of the Apple iPad. But not because of the iPad. I posted about the Apple iPad features which I think are a great fit for those using Apple gadgets and software already. My son has a Apple MACBook and iPod so the iPad would make a great addition, allowing him to enjoy the media he has on his iTunes, start finally reading eBooks, web browsing on the go and subscribing to online newspapers to read the news.

But what I have not seen discussed much by family bloggers is the Apple iPad’s lack of flash support. I posted with my thoughts on the Apple iPad features including the lack of Adobe Flash support. To get some feedback I also tweeted ( TechMama ) about it – hearing that others were also confused. JessWeiss replied back to me with “I find the omission odd, anti-web-ish myself“. From a mom’s perspective, the lack of Adobe Flash support on the Apple iPad means that there will be online content my son would not be able to access – including some of his favorite YouTube videos, CNN videos that he is now watching for news, online gaming sites and more.

I am Not so upset about him not being able to access some of the sites that the Wired Gadget Lab post pointed out. But kids can access inappropriate sites in many ways, Flash or no Flash. Internet Safety education and controls will still be an important step before any child uses any device with Internet access.

This all leads to the answer of why I am sneaking some time online while my kids are busy playing on this sunny weekend afternoon. The lack of Adobe Flash support on the Apple iPad has brought on a very interesting discussion about open web standards by the top tech minds, summarized nicely on TechMeme. For me, this is better then celebrity gossip and may even top my obsession with celebrity red carpet dresses..

Ok, I am a real geek..

Talk about geeks – Robert Scoble wrote a post today titled “Can Flash Be Saved?” on his blog Scobleizer that summed up the debate: “Adobe’s best hope is to get Android to support Flash and Adobe’s best hope is that developers ignore the iPad and ignore the iPhone, or, at least, build better experiences on the Android and Google Chrome
platforms that include Flash
“. Click HERE to ready the whole post on Scobleizer, it provides a developer perspective to the current debate. He is a dad that seems to be spending his sunny weekend day the same way I am.

As a mom who is a PC user that also supports a household with numerous Apple products, I just wish everyone would stop going off in their corners and using applications with different web standards. I am tired of broken links.

I am giving tech companies a time out; You are leaving your customers confused and backing them into cyber walls. Please just adopt some open web standards already! Let gadgets communicate with  applications across the web. I will be happy and thrilled to pay for content over the web – as long as I can just get some open standards already.

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Apple iPad: Discussion of Features and The Name

My first step in coverage of the Apple iPad was to understand the features not only as a techie but as a mom that appreciates mobile gadgets. Yesterday I posted a write-up with all the information I could find about the Apple iPad features. Looking at the Apple iPad features I listed yesterday, there were many that make the iPad a valuable tool, including it’s user friendly design and interface, attractive build and access to a large number of applications from the iPhone (140,000 as of today), entertainment media and eBook libraries. These are all features that moms and families look for on a mobile gadget.  Today I wanted to look more into the Apple iPad features and reflect on the much discussed name “iPad”.

The features:

While writing the post about the features I did wonder if the Apple iPad had a webcam as some had speculated before the official announcement. Mashable wrote a post that summarized what features are missing, including a camera and no USB port. The Mashable article also summarized that the Apple iPad seemed to be centered on “media consumption, not creation”. Another missing feature in my opinion is the video webcam, which would of allowed use of Skype via the WiFi functionality, live video and video recording. Video recording is a popular feature many use on mobile gadgets, especially after seeing the video’s being made on the iPhone 3GS.

Walt Mossberg in his first impressions also mentioned the applications and build as a plus, but had questions about the comfort of using the virtual keyboard. Because I have not had any hands on exposure to the Apple iPad yet, I can’t add any personal experience about the keyboard.  David Pogue posted in the New York Times with his first impressions of the iPad and I agree that the iPad is like a giant iPod Touch. I also agree that reading eBooks or newspapers and watching TV shows or Movies (from iTunes) are a “natural” for the iPad. The iPad as an eReader for books and newspaper is a strong feature.

The next question I had was if the Apple iPad supports Flash. From what I have found, it currently does not support Adobe Flash. One of the posts on TechMeme that discussed this was from Anthony Ha of VentureBeat titled “No Flash on Apple’s iPad“.

The Adobe Flash Platform blog posted with the following details: “without Flash support, iPad users will not be able to access the full
range of web content, including over 70% of games and 75% of video on
the web
“.  The Adobe Flash platform blog also posted that Flash Developers are working on iPad applications, which will be an advantage for the iPad moving forward. Here is that post: Adobe Flash Platform Blog –   Building iPad Applications with Flash:

“We announced the Packager for iPhone at MAX 2009 which will allow Flash developers to create native iPhone
applications and will be available in the upcoming version of Flash Pro CS5. This technology enables developers to create applications for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad (though applications will not initially take direct advantage of iPad’s new screen resolution). It is our intent to make it possible for Flash developers to build applications that can take advantage of the increased screen size and resolution of
the iPad.”

**UPDATE Apple iPad – Adobe Flash info 1/29: The 9To5MAC Blog posted “The iPad has Adobe’s Flash on Apple’s video” and Mashable posted “Adobe Calls Out Apple for Lack of Flash on iPad“.

I have also been actively asking for input on Twitter to see what other’s think about Adobe Flash not being supported on the Apple iPad. Others also view that as “anti-webish“.  I do think that it is important to pay for content. I will be HAPPY to pay for magazines and eBooks – that is important to support authors and journalists. But I also feel that new gadgets should also allow users to view free content as well through sites such as YouTube (that requires Adobe Flash to view).  That balance is something that will be of much debate moving forward**

I also found a few other posts on TechMeme that added information about the iPad features:

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My Kids Are Awake With Access to Tech, But Pretend Play Is Still King

This morning I opened up the New York Times and read the article by Tamar Lewin called “If Your Kids Are Awake, They’re Probably Online“. Later I saw the New York Times article had made it to Techmeme.

While reading the article I took a moment to look at what my kids were doing. Were my kids using any technology this morning?

So I decided to review the morning’s activities: After my 10 year old and twin 6 year old boys ate breakfast, they went into our living room (affectionately called the “bouncy room” because sofa pillows are used for forts and jumping) for some pretend play before school. They had rolled up paper for swords and were pretending to fend off the “bad guys”. A few nerf guns sneaked their way in, but had no bullets so they ended up being a prop as well. When it is was time to leave, my boys put on their little yellow rain boots and rain jackets and went to school.

All of this “pretend play” happened in our house that is full of technology. We have multiple laptops including my 10 year old that has his own laptop, iPod and Nintendo DSi. My twin 6 year olds have Leapfrog moblie gaming units and their older brother’s hand me down Nintendo DS’s. The TV in our family room may be 10 years old, but it still works great. We have Direct TV DVR’s and a Nintendo Wii. We have multiple Nintendo racing, sports and Mario Bros Wii games with lots of accessories and just recently purchased the Tony Hawk Thride game and accessory board. My 10 year old has a simple cell phone that is “Pay as you Go” with no data plan but ample calling and texting. His friends have the Sony Playstation and they enjoy playing Lego Star Wars. We only have one TV in our family room, but multiple computer screens in our house.

The New York Times article “If Your Kids Are Awake, They’re Probably Online” brought up some very interesting discussion points about how much time kids are spending on technology each day:

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Thankful for Being A Mom Blogger Who Techs

I had one of those defining moments yesterday at a pre-Thanksgiving celebration. I was talking to a man who is a muckity-muck (Executive) at a top technology company. Armed with a long list of tech and gadget blogs I read every day, I asked "what blogs do you read?".

His answer, made me stop and think. Here is a summary of our discussion:

Tech Muckity-Muck Executive Guy: I read the Silicon Valley Moms Blog and another mom blog along with tech blogs.

TechMama: What, you read Silicon Valley Moms Blog and another moms blog?

Tech Muckity-Muck Executive Guy: Yes, I really enjoy reading mom blogs. The moms are "real" and (as a father myself) I relate to their experiences.

TechMama (who is also Chief Technology Mom and one of the Co-Founders of the Silicon Valley Moms Group blogs): Blush, Blush… Well – that is great.

…quiet moment, Techmama trying to hide her surprise that Tech Muckity-Muck Guys read mom blogs…decided to change the subject…

TechMama: So tell me what at your favorite technology gadgets, I am in the middle of writing my technology guide…

So today, on Thanksgiving I am sharing being thankful to be a mom blogger and a tech blogger, and have access to the amazing communities related to both areas. I decided to share more of my personal opinions on TechMamas instead of only going all tech newsy and gadgety. In my effort to build my creds as a tech blogger I somehow stopped sharing my personal opinions. Today I decided I can do both.

So is born the category "my two cents".

Happy Thanksgiving, especially to Tech Muckity-Muck Guys who read mom blogs. Or as my mom blogger buddy Jessica from the LA Moms Blog says "I am a Mother – not a mom blogger".

UPDATE: I don't want to forget the amazing Dad Bloggers, I just got a Thanksgiving email from one (Gunfigher: A Modern Warrior's Life) today so I decided to add them to my thankful list. Of course my favorite Dad Blogger is hubby Neil Blecherman.