Talking Social Media Do’s and Don’ts on PIX11 NYC

Talking Social Media Do’s and Don’ts on PIX11 NYC

Last week I talked to Kori Chambers, anchor for the PIX11 morning team about social media do’s and don’ts for parents. Covering apps that keep your family pictures private, social media shaming and creating a digital footprint for your kid before they can even walk – the segment covered a lot of advice for parents online!

Watch the segment and let me know if you have other online and social media parenting topics you’d like to see covered!

NYC Department of Education Releases a Social Media Guide for Students That Says…Nothing?

A lot of local media press is swirling around the new social media guide put out by the NYC Department of Education this week.  At first glance that sounds great.  Administration is stepping in to help kids navigate social media, provide tips and guidance and empower kids to make smarter choices online – or so you’d think.

But in fact if you read it, it is not a guide – it is a set of cliché ridden guidelines.  Complete with links to multiple Chancellor’s Regulations – because there’s nothing kids won’t enjoy more than reading the A-831 regulation to understand peer sexual harassment.

This guide contains such gems as this advice if you are cyber-bullied and would like to report it to the adult in charge at your school,”If you are not sure who your school’s Respect for All Liaison is, please look for their name on the RFA posters.”

And this warning about crossing the personal-school life boundary, “Sometimes, personal social media use, including off-hours use, may result in disruption at school and the school may need to get involved. This could include disciplinary action such as a parent conference or suspension.”

In other words, this is NOT a social media guide, it is a set of regulatory guidelines, and we shouldn’t be giving the NYC Department of Ed a big hurrah for publishing them.  They are not curriculum or actual teaching tools.

The good news is that there is a media literacy bill right now in the New York Legislature that would mandates the Department of Ed will develop standards and provide resources for incorporating media and social media literacy in K-12 curriculum.  And, it will make teacher training available for media literacy as well.
https://www.facebook.com/rebeccalevey/posts/10202911221120416?stream_ref=10

THIS is worth your time in sharing and talking about so we can actually create media savvy kids.

Martha Stewart proves that no one can talk sh*t about bloggers – except other bloggers

Martha Stewart at BlogHer 2012  photo credit: BlogHer

Martha Stewart at BlogHer 2012
photo credit: BlogHer

Yesterday a Bloomberg News video with Martha Stewart made the rounds on Facebook and ignited a frenzy of indignation from the women’s blogging world.   In the interview, Martha disparages bloggers by saying they are “not experts,” that they don’t fully test recipes, that many just repost other people’s work.  Here’s a sample of the conversation that exploded on Facebook yesterday. (Shown with permission from an expert in many things, Amy Oztan)

So, here’s the deal.

Martha is totally right.

And she didn’t say anything that bloggers haven’t said amongst ourselves every time we get together.  I had this conversation over and over again at BlogHer this year.

Are there amazing bloggers who are absolutely experts in their fields?  YES.

Are there bloggers that are full of it, steal other people’s work, put up anything any PR person sends them, are completely based on smoke and mirrors and everyone wonders why any brands work with them?  HELL YES.

Now aside from the fact that you can tell the Martha Stewart interview was edited down to just these perfect controversial sound bites – I’d love to see the context of Martha’s discussion of bloggers – there also has to be a reality check in the blogging world.  Not everything is cause for outrage.   And sometimes the very media outlet that puts out the video and calls it

Martha Stewart Speaks Out: Bloggers Are Not Experts

needs to be called out for playing this game in the first place.  This is 30 seconds out of who knows how many minutes of footage.  I’m guessing at least a half an hour.  And they got exactly the reaction they wanted – all of the bloggers making this video go viral.

Martha Stewart should know better than to ever say what she said, even just from a savvy PR point of view.  But, she is someone who truly knows the media landscape.  She knows that blogging and the content machine have changed the way people get and want their information.  As Cecily Kellogg points out over at Babble, Martha Stewart’s company has taken a major hit, as have all large publishing companies, as they try to evolve in the changing digital media world. But that doesn’t mean she’s wrong about how many bloggers operate – or large online platforms – Babble, Baby Center and even the New York Times have certainly had their share of plagiarism scandals.

So let’s take a step back and get real.  Martha Stewart certainly doesn’t need me to defend her, but we also don’t need to be piling on one of the most successful female entrepreneurs – someone who elevated the crafting, food, and style niches to begin with, and proved there was a business model there – just to make bloggers feel justified about what they do.

If you’re an expert, prove it by turning out great, original content, and hopefully you will be able to make a living doing what you love.  And I bet if Martha asked you to contribute to her Pinterest Boards you’d do it in a heartbeat – because nothing proves you’re an expert more than the seal of approval from an indisputable expert in your field.

What’s a #Hashtag?

The pound/number sign (#) has become a celebrity symbol now that it has been reborn as “hashtag.”

What started out simple has of course become out of control – especially on Instagram.

It’s used as an aside, a note of sarcasm, a way to track interests or participate in twitter chats, run contests, aggregate content, and sometimes just be goofy.

Still don’t understand?

Watch this:

Don’t Blame the (KiK) Messenger – What the REAL conversation needs to be about Cyber Bullying

There was an extremely sad story in the New York Times about a 12 year-old girl in Florida who committed suicide after being relentlessly bullied both on and off-line.  It’s unfortunately an all too familiar heartbreaking story involving mean girls, cyberbullying, school officials who didn’t really know how to intervene, and a parent who did every thing she could to prevent this from happening.  And unfortunately the reporter took an equally well-tread path in blaming the use of apps as a catalyst for the suicide.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely think social media and mobile tech can amplify the effects of cyberbullying, and make it harder and harder for kids to escape bullying.  Whereas kids used to be able to come home, or go to an after school activity, and leave the school bullies behind, social media photos and texts follow a kid from place to place.  Even changing schools has less positive impact since so much bullying can live right in the palm of a kid’s hand via their smart phone or iPod Touch.   BUT there are key points missing from the reporting of this story, and in my opinion blaming the apps, specifically KiK Messenger and ask.fm, and the technology is diverting us from the real issues.

First of all, there was no mention in this article that at 12 years-old it was not legal for this girl to have a KiK messenger and ask.fm account.  That is because of COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) which prohibits companies from collecting personal information about kids under 13 without express verifiable parental consent.  Most companies don’t want to deal with that legal headache – and they want to collect as much info as possible about their users – so they are NOT COPPA-compliant.  But of course kids know how to easily lie to get on these social media apps.  All you have to do is scroll down and select the right birth year.  Most parents don’t even know that Instagram and these other social media apps aren’t allowed for kids under 13.  They’ve been so focused on Facebook as some boogeyman of the web that they haven’t noticed that kids are on apps – and Facebook is just not one of them. Though this young girl also had a Facebook page that was shut down.  So she was very immersed in social media – and that is very common.

Parents who think that shutting down a Facebook page is going to be enough, or commenters who said that kids just shouldn’t have smart phones and that would solve the problem,  are massively missing the point.  THIS is our kids’ world.  They are online.  They might not have a smart phone, but they may have an iPod Touch or a tablet.  Being connected is not just about a phone.  And in the end what we are left with is a generation that needs to have the tools to manage social media responsibly and safely.

And that takes me to the next big omission – where are the parents of the girls using these apps and social media as weapons?

At the core of this issue is the freedom that kids (and adults) feel to be outrageously cruel online because hiding behind the screen has a way of emboldening people to bring out their worst.  And tweens and teens who are already in a narcissistic haze of hormones and myopia are particularly susceptible to pushing these boundaries via social media (and in real life too.)  That doesn’t mean we should ban social media, it means there has to be real discussion about how to use it. There needs to be consequences for the bad behavior online – and not arrests after something horrible happens – but parents who are monitoring their children’s online behavior not just for being bullied but for being the bully too.

I’ve written extensively about how parents can and should monitor their kids’ online and social media use, and as the co-founder of KidzVuz – a site made expressly for kids under 13 – I see every day the kind of behavior that kids try to get away with and the information they try to put out there.  They desperately want to connect and share.  We give them a safe space to do that, but the truth is they see the huge popularity of Instagram and YouTube and it’s beyond exciting to them.  They don’t get that those sites aren’t going to moderate for inappropriate content or bullying, they are on their own.

There are so many emotional and maturity level reasons they shouldn’t be on these apps and sites in the first place, but they are – and at 13 they are allowed to be legally.  A 13 year-old isn’t exactly the epitome of a careful, thoughtful person.  So even if you are shutting your kids out of social media until they are “legally” allowed to be there, they will have NO idea of what to do or what the ramifications of their behavior will be when they turn 13, unless you teach them.

The most important take-away parents must learn is not to just monitor but to participate.  Have the same social media apps as your kid, connect your iTunes account, friend them on everything, and most of all if your kid is the bully shut THEIR account down.  Take away THEIR phone!  Most of all, don’t be afraid to parent.  You would never say you don’t want to know the friends your child hangs out with everyday or going to parties with, but parents turn a blind eye to the “friends” online all the time.  There is no distinction between the online and offline world for kids – and parents need to respect and understand that in order to parent Generation Z.

KidzVuz in the News – on E! News, Fox NY and going viral!

fox ny set

What makes a video go viral?

My husband described it as lightening in a bottle – and I think that’s true to a degree.  It is rare, and it has an element of impossibility.  This past week we watched our first honest to goodness viral video happen at KidzVuz.

We’ve had videos get tens of thousands of views, we have one video that consistently gets 1000+ views a week and we have no idea why – but this week GlitterGirl, one of our KidzVuz star reporters, interviewed Ryan Reynolds on the red carpet of the Turbo premiere, and this video had the secret sauce.

People Magazine, Pop Sugar, ABC News, and E!online were among the 25 news outlets that picked up the video.  Then E! News played it on air as one  their best of the weekend videos.

Here’s the E! News clip of the video:

She’s adorable.  He’s got fatherhood talk swirling around him.  The question was different and adorable.  Is that what made it a viral video hit?  I don’t know.  And anyone that tells you they can make a guaranteed viral video is lying.

But I can tell you that what makes this, and all of our KidzVuz videos special is that they are the definition of authenticity. And that can make all the difference.

GlitterGirl joined me on Fox NY Good Day Street Talk last week too.  We talked about internet safety, parenting and how she ended up on the red carpet!

(and no, she is NOT my daughter!)

Twitter is NOT for 1st Graders – and other things teachers should know

no twitter allowedToday I read an article in Education Week summarizing some of the “mind-blowing” professional development tips given to elementary school principals at The National Association of Elementary School Principals Conference.  These lessons in how to integrate and open up their classrooms to tech were dished out from a professional developer named Alan November of November Learning.  One nugget of tech advice that made my head spin was this gem:

There are so many things wrong with this that I had to read on to see if this was actually what he was suggesting to principals.  And, yes, it was.

First and foremost what is upsetting about his advice – being given under the auspices of a tech “expert” – is that kids under 13 are not LEGALLY allowed to have Twitter accounts.  Or Facebook accounts.  Or Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat – the list goes on. Why can’t they?  Because there is a privacy law, which I’ve talked about endlessly on this blog and elsewhere, called COPPA.  That law is meant to protect kids, their personal information and their data.  (I don’t even know if I could possibly write about it more than I already do!)

To not let that little fact be known to principals who are now going to go back to their teachers – their employees – and say,

“Hey, we should be using Twitter, it’s a great (free) tool!  Now we’re using tech in the classroom, woohoo!”

is malpractice.

I don’t know what the full agenda was at this conference, but ANY conversation with principals and teachers looking to integrate tech into their school has to begin with a discussion about privacy.  Just as parents need to understand it, so do teachers.  You cannot introduce apps and websites into a classroom without knowing what kind of data is being collected and why.  You most certainly cannot introduce children – 1st graders! – to a website that specifically bans them as users!  Maybe they should learn to mix cocktails as a science project – that would be some good real world job skill training!

He also told principals they should use Khan Academy to teach math.  Just this past year I did just that with my daughters when we were preparing for a middle school exam based on math one grade level above their own.  It was truly awful.  AWFUL.  And my daughters are crazy smart math girls.  But watching Khan Academy math videos and then trying to fully grasp the concepts and then execute them on their own?  That was a huge waste of time that made us all frustrated.

I’m sure some people have had success using the online math tutorials, but the majority of stories I’ve heard have been similar to my own.  I can’t imagine if a bunch of kids had to watch on math on a screen every day.

Young kids need to be hands on – with math, with writing, with creating.  They also need to learn how to be safe online since that is where a good part of their life will be lived.

There are so many wonderful tech tools, apps and sites that can engage and excite kids in interesting and new ways.  We have many wonderful teachers using KidzVuz in the classroom as a tool for getting kids to write and produce video book reviews – but our site is built FOR KIDS!  Just using tech because it’s novel is a waste of time and money – and that slapdash approach won’t help a teacher with their ultimate goal – producing true thinkers and innovators, and kids who want to learn.

I hope this article was just a snippet of what was presented to those principals.  And I really hope that NONE of them go back to their schools and get their 1st graders on Twitter.  Most of all, I hope the people in charge of teaching the teachers do a responsible job.  There’s a lot of money being tossed around to so-called experts, but I’m not sure who is truly vetting them.

Easy Tips for Parents to Keep Kids Safe Online

On July 1st the new regulations for the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) went into effect.  But, COPPA really only concerns the collection of information from a child under 13.  It does not care about content, about moderation, about bullying, about many of things that actually concern parents when they think about their kids online.

Last week I was on the CBS show The Couch talking about what parents can look for to keep their kids safe online:

We were very ready for these changes at KidzVuz.com.  In fact, we’ve always required parental consent for kids to make videos on KidzVuz.  Now we have taken that a step further and implemented new methods of verifiable parental consent, starting with an easy to fill out form for parents, and some of which will be rolled out later this month.

On KidzVuz we watch and moderate every video and comment before it goes up – not just for lewd content, but for a kid wearing the name of their school on their shirt, saying their address or cell phone number, giving out their location, and more.  However, that’s not true of many sites – and certainly not true of YouTube and Instagram, two of the most popular places for kids to virtually hang out.  And, trust me, we see kids trying to give out this information all the time.

It’s important that kids under 13 do NOT lie about their age and open accounts on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or Vine.  It’s illegal, and it’s also dangerous because they are naive and earnest enough to really, really want to connect and get feedback from strangers.  From anyone.

Here are the Online Safety Tips for parents and kids we recommend from KidzVuz.com

Don’t Share Personal Information 
That means making sure your kids know what personal information is. Tell your kids never to share their phone number, email, full name, address or school name (even if it’s just a logo on the shirt they’re wearing in a picture) on any site, text, or app — even if they think the site is “safe” or “private.”

Treat your kid’s smart phone like the computer it is
Smart phones are basically powerful computers in the palm of your hand. So whatever safety precautions you take on your child’s computer should apply to his or her phone. (And don’t forget about geo-location – turn it off on your kids’ phone.

Have a Game Plan 
Your kids can’t protect themselves from what they don’t know: talk to your kids about what they might see on the internet — and what to do when and if they do see something they shouldn’t., or if someone contacts them in a way that makes them uncomfortable. Having a game plan will make your kids more likely to respond in a healthy way to unsafe situation.

Keep up on the latest apps and sites
You can’t protect your kids from what you don’t know. Your kids should know that you’re aware of the newest sites and apps they’re on, and ready to intervene should something go wrong.

Repeat yourself 
Parents need to have the Digital Safety talk with their kids early and often. Tell your kids about what they might see. Remind them about passwords and privacy. Let them know you mean it!

Read the Fine Print!
Read the Terms of Service and Privacy Policies of the sites your child is joining (and your own!). It isn’t fun, we know. But at least the new law has made it mandatory that sites make all that legal mumbo-jumbo easier to understand.

Opt Out
Many sites offer “opt out” provisions for being tracked on the web. Sometimes you have to dig tor them, but if you care about behavioral tracking this is key for you and your kids.

Set a Google Alert for your kids’ names
It’s an easy way to keep track of new content being posted or created by or about your child.

and finally -

JOIN!

It’s not cool to be a Luddite when you’re a parent.  Get in there.  If your kids are on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube 0r even Club Penguin or Moshi Monsters you should be too.  You don’t have to live there – but you need to know the rules and your kid needs to know you care enough to want to know ALL their friends, virtual or real.

 

Why I’m Going to BlogHer – Again

going to BlogHer '13Every year around April and May in the mom blogging community a common refrain starts popping up on Facebook and twitter – “Are you going to BlogHer?”

I was on the fence this year.  It’s in Chicago so it means paying for travel and hotel.  To be honest, even though I technically went to the conference last year (it was in NYC) I didn’t even attend any sessions – they were too beginner level and didn’t really apply to me anymore.  People generally complain that it’s too big, too much about swag and just not a great place to really network anymore.

And, more and more over the past two years as my focus has been solely on building KidzVuz, I have blogged less often and been less active in the blogosphere.  So why would I go to the largest women’s blogging conference of the year?

Well, I felt the pull.  And I tried to understand why NOT going seemed kind of well, strange.

Here’s the thing about the BlogHer Conference – it’s like a family reunion, and so many of these women are my online extended family spread across the country that I rarely get to see in real life.

It’s hard to explain the mom blogging community to outsiders.  Perhaps they’ve read some of the disparaging or silly articles written in the past year.  Or they only see the free product bonanzas and giveaways, hear about the swag-fests and exclusive events, or even worse the petty infighting or bullying that occassionally happens online.

But, for most of us, particularly those of us who have been doing this since before the term “mommy blogger” was coined, there is a connection that is not quite definable.  A feeling that we’ve been in it together, built something together, watched each other grow and try new endeavors, helped define the space and sometimes even supported each other through loss and grief.

And, at it’s core, even though it’s become gigantic and slightly insane, BlogHer is still a celebration of that community – and all of the women blogging community, no matter what they write about, whom they write for or where they write from.

I’m fortunate I am able to go to Chicago this summer for BlogHer, and even more fortunate to reconnect and see so many women in person that I usually only see as a little avatar on my screen, and hopefully meet a bunch of new women whose blogs I can discover and who I will be able to add to my not so virtual circle of women I am proud to call friends – not “friends.”

Also, I’m ridiculously excited to hear Gale Ann Hurd speak.  So, there’s that.

Support the Arts in Schools with Blick- an Artsy Twitter Party

Blick Logo
As most of my readers know I am deeply involved in education advocacy and issues.  One of my favorite topics is the importance and role of arts education in our schools.  I actually think that art can and should be integrated into all curriculum areas – and that art can help illuminate concepts from math and science to make it more interesting and engaging for all students.
So, I’m thrilled to be a part of the Blick Art Room Aid campaign, and we’re kicking it off with a very hands-on event:  A Twitter Party!
#BlickARA Twitter party detailsWhat: Do you believe art is an essential part of your child’s education? Then you already know how important art education is — and how schools are struggling to keep their art programs alive. That’s where Art Room Aid can help! A program of Blick Art Materials, Art Room Aid is helping teachers across the country enlist the aid of parents, families, friends, and other art advocates to fund their art projects and keep creative learning going.Want to learn more? Join this Twitter Party to find out how you can support art education, make sure art continues to play a role in your children’s lives, and spread the word about Art Room Aid in your community. We’ll be discussing projects you can do with your own kids, and sharing sources of inspiration.

When: Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2 p.m. ET

Where: We’ll be on Twitter – follow the #BlickARA hashtag to track the conversation. See this Twtvite for more info and to RSVP: http://twtvite.com/BlickARA

Hashtag: #BlickARA

Prizes: We will give away five total prizes – two $25 Blick gift coupons, two $50 Blick gift coupons, and one $75 Blick gift coupon.

Hosts: @theMotherhood, @CooperMunroe, @EmilyMcKhann

Check out Art Room Aid here: http://www.dickblick.com/ara

Blick Art Materials website: http://www.dickblick.com/
Hope you can join the conversation!