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Making allowances

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“Here’s your allowance: 150 lucky coins for Angry Birds Epic, 10 jewels for Playmobil Pirates, and a box of keys for Farmville. Oh, and a ten-dollar bill.” Kid stares at ten-dollar bill: “What the heck do I do with this?”

Okay, we’re not quite there yet. But I give it five years before you start hearing business updates on the news about how Gems are trading against Gold Coins.

💰

I drew this and six other cartoons about parents, kids and tech for Alexandra Samuel’s session at SXSW 2016, The Myth of the Family Tech Market. It’s based on her two-year study of how more than 10,000 North American parents manage their kids’ interactions with digital technology.

Find out more about Alex’s work around digital parenting here.

Drop the Playstation Vita and back away

Drop the Playstation Vita and back away published on No Comments on Drop the Playstation Vita and back awayPurchase print

It’s amazing the stuff that gets into your house despite your best efforts to shape the influences in your kids’ lives. Barbies. Disney. Pokémon. Tambourines.

When my kids were younger, the main vector was well-meaning relatives giving presents. But now that they have a social circle, it’s their friends who act as the conduit for all that’s awful, counter to our values or just unhelpful. Thanks for bringing that Nintendo 3DS over, Miles. Thanks a crapload.

And the truth is, you can’t shield your kids completely, and you can’t shield them forever. Your best, most durable hope is to instill strong values and foster a rapier capacity for media criticism.

And maybe install one of those TSA body scanners at your front door.

🚨

I drew this and six other cartoons about parents, kids and tech for Alexandra Samuel’s session at SXSW 2016, The Myth of the Family Tech Market. It’s based on her two-year study of how more than 10,000 North American parents manage their kids’ interactions with digital technology.

Find out more about Alex’s work around digital parenting here.

Grounded

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There’s a lot of debate, for good reasons, around imposing consequences when kids’ behaviour doesn’t meet parents’ expectations. And when it comes to restricting their access to digital tech, there’s an added wrinkle: our kids may be able to circumvent them.

Sometimes it’s ingenuity on their part. Necessity is the mother of invention, and heaven help the obstacles placed between a child and their Minecraft time. Sometimes it’s just parental sleep-deprivation-induced stupidity… like the time I muttered my iPhone passcode out loud while unlocking the device for my son.

But I can already see that a third factor will soon come into play: the kids just plain knowing more than I do. This whole push to teach kids to code sounds like a great idea until your child roots your laptop from their Speak ‘n’ Spell.

I know, I know: we’re all supposed to be raising our kids in rural communes, and the only “devices” they should ever need are a butter churn and a sheep shear. But I’m more from the parenting school where the only response I expect to “Fetch me the switch” is “16- or 24-port?”

🔐

I drew this and six other cartoons about parents, kids and tech for Alexandra Samuel’s session at SXSW 2016, The Myth of the Family Tech Market. It’s based on her two-year study of how more than 10,000 North American parents manage their kids’ interactions with digital technology.

Find out more about Alex’s work around digital parenting here.

(parent to child) Sure, it starts with having your own phone. But soon you're on 4chan, playing the Knockout Game and recruiting other kids for ISIS.

Even worse, it leads to in-app purchases

Even worse, it leads to in-app purchases published on No Comments on Even worse, it leads to in-app purchases

Skim the media headlines, and there seem to be only two possibilities when it comes to parents, kids and technology. Either

  1. Parents should shield their kids from all screens until the age of 30, lest they become distracted, lazy and incapable of forming memories more complex than a 140-character message. Or,
  2. Learning to code will solve everything from youth homelessness to the mumps.

(Bonus points if you can find a writer whose byline has appeared under both kinds of headline.)

The myth of the Family Tech MarketMy wife Alexandra Samuel has studied the way parents tackle their kids’ relationship with technology over several years now. Her two-year study of more than 10,000 North American parents has some fascinating findings that she covered at South by Southwest, in a session dubbed The Myth of the Family Tech Market.

Alex has found that parents tend to fall into one of three broad groups: limiters, who try to minimize their kids’ use of technology; enablers, who give their kids more or less free rein when it comes to screens and devices; and mentors, who take an active role in guiding their kids onto the Internet. (Here’s a handy overview.)

I drew seven new cartoons about parenting in the digital age for her presentation. Drawing is easy; digital parenting is hard &emdash; we’ve found it tremendously challenging with our own kids. Parents have to sift through mountains of wildly conflicting opinions, suggestions, warnings and prescriptions. And there are plenty of people ready to condemn you loudly and publicly for whatever technology choices you end up making.

So I hope it’s clear these cartoons are meant with a lot of love. Parents are making hard choices every day based on incomplete information, being pulled in eighty different directions by people trying to sell them a product, a service or an ideology… and we’re expected to do it with confidence and certainty.

The truth is, confidence is in scarce supply and certainty is just plain dangerous. We’re all stumbling through this, and a little compassion and mutual respect around conflicting choices will go a long way.

BA, MA, PhD, DNA

BA, MA, PhD, DNA published on 4 Comments on BA, MA, PhD, DNA

I’m a few years away from having to see one of my kids leave home for college or university for the first time. So at the moment, it’s still an abstract thing.

But it’s coming, this thing where they grow up and move out, it’s coming like a bullet train, and it’ll be here before I know it. And as proud and excited as I’ll be, I know it’ll hurt like hell.

So: parents who are saying goodbye this week to your kids for the next year… this cartoon’s for you.

By the way, it was a tossup at my end between this caption and the one below. Big thanks to the NtoS Facebook posse for helping me choose!

2014.08.24.crapload-of-bandwidth

(grandfather to dad, who is using a tablet while his daughter plays on the floor) In my day, if you wanted to be emotionally unavailable to your children, you did it the old-fashioned way - with a good book or a newspaper.

Your childhood is important to us. Please remain on the line, and a parent will be with you shortly.

Your childhood is important to us. Please remain on the line, and a parent will be with you shortly. published on No Comments on Your childhood is important to us. Please remain on the line, and a parent will be with you shortly.

I see a lot of parent-shaming going on over mobile devices. The narrative goes that we’re updating Facebook, playing Candy Crush or seeing who’s checked out our fake Tinder profiles that we created just to salve our egos, except it’s backfired horribly and confirmed every fear we ever had about our own attractiveness (no? just me, huh?) — and meanwhile our children are tugging our pantlegs and whimpering “But daddy, dinnertime was seven hours ago. I’m sooooo hungry and the guinea pig’s starting to smell really tasty.”

I have moments I’m not especially proud of. But I also have a memory of my own parents and, loving though they were, they had their own ways to lower the Cone of Silence.

See, when it comes to child-ignoring technology, digital devices are strictly the new neglected kids on the block. As a parent, I represent a proud tradition of burying your nose in whatever’s handy: crosswords, the newspaper (“But honey, I hate sports!” “Shh! And don’t look up — you’ll make eye contact, and then we’re screwed!”), television, novels, the undersides of jalopies, papal bulls or cave paintings. (“Aw, that sabre-tooth tiger wants cheezburger.”)

It’s not all self-indulgence; sanity demands some alone time, and kids do need to learn a little emotional self-reliance.

But there’s a price to pay. While I’m writing this, I can’t help but think of how much I wish I was with my kids right now – joking with them, enjoying their laughter, loving each others’ company. I forget the moments of exasperation, the stress, the need to be alone with my thoughts now and then. (That’s one reason why parent-shaming works: it’s a reminder of the opportunity cost of everything we do, and it preys on our tendency to look at that opportunity cost in only one direction.)

The issue, as with so many things, is striking a balance. And being, if not comfortable, then at least at peace with knowing that means some frustration for everyone.

Also, putting a good child-proof lock on the guinea pig’s cage.

But “Pin the Tail on the Genius” will get you kicked out.

But “Pin the Tail on the Genius” will get you kicked out. published on No Comments on But “Pin the Tail on the Genius” will get you kicked out.

My wife and Social Signal co-conspirator Alex turned 40 last week… and, fittingly, spent a lot of the day in an Apple Store:

When May 5th arrived, we dropped the kids at school and headed directly to the mall. I was directed to a blue-shirted Apple staffer and handed over my shattered iPhone.

….By the time we left, we’d been in the Apple store for a couple of hours and knew the names, ages, blogging platforms and career aspirations of half the staff.

That’s just the beginning of a tale of crime, heartache and adhesive protective film that will have you hugging your iDevices close to you. Go read.

…and share alike.

…and share alike. published on No Comments on …and share alike.

Originally published on ReadWriteWeb with “mastodon” misspelled.

Past generations would be utterly baffled by some of the challenges parents and kids face today.

True, we don’t have to write notes to school like “Dear teacher, Monique won’t be attending classes today because our entire village was wiped out by the Black Plague,” or arrange birthday parties at the mastodon petting zoo without the benefit of Evite or Facebook Events.

But technological advances bring their own unique issues to contend with. Our parents’ and grandparents’ generations never had to wonder whether to tweet that cute thing their kid just said, or if they should ask permission first. They never had to worry about their kids’ privacy when half their peers are sharing smartphone photos on Facebook and videos on YouTube. They never had to vet hula hoops and Monopoly games for adult content, security issues or in-app purchases.

In short, sure: maybe they walked to school uphill both ways through three feet of snow nine days a week. But they didn’t have a peer group expecting them to check in on Foursquare when they got there.

Mmm… (redacted)

Mmm… (redacted) published on No Comments on Mmm… (redacted)

I’m trying to resist. But there are peanut butter cups and Coffee Crisps literally screaming my name from inside the cupboard. Forgive me if I prove too weak, kids.

(Well, technically, if I prove too weak again. For the third time today.)

And since we’re talking about Hallowe’en, check out Little Sweetie’s costume (complete with theme song!) this year.

Also, doesn’t plug-and-play well with others

Also, doesn’t plug-and-play well with others published on 4 Comments on Also, doesn’t plug-and-play well with others

You want to sound smart next time you’re at a tech demo? Learn to ask this question, “Yes, but does it scale?” Try to arch your eyebrows just a bit, so that you look skeptical but perhaps also hopeful.

If they answer yes, and start talking in technical language way over your head, you say: “I’ll be interested in seeing that play out under real-world conditions.”

If they say, “How do you mean?”, you say: “I think you’ve just answered my question.” (Then spin on your heel and get out. No further conversation can possibly go well at this point.)

2007-06-26-pantone

2007-06-26-pantone published on No Comments on 2007-06-26-pantone

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