Thursday, November 17, 2005


There are a lot of new terms which have been created because of these new technologies so we begin with a short glossary.

Follow responsible safety practices yourself:

Install spyware and adware blocking software on your computer.
Make sure you have a working firewall.
Install anti-virus software and update it regularly.
Take advantage of spam-blocking tools offered by your Internet provider or e-mail software
-taken from:

"The average teen spends 13 hours a week watching TV 16 HOURS ONLINE!"
-Chuck Favata, Holland Middle School Teacher


There are so many resources for parents and kids to learn about internet safety. The following list of URLs is a good place to start. Copy an address and paste it into your browser address window to get to the site.



Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Good Kids Can Make Bad Decisions

A parent and teacher can give today's teens a lot of information about safety on the internet, but students can make poor decisions while on the internet. Keep your kids safe by educting them about your home rules, just as we do about school rules for using the internet. Set time limits. Find a filter that will do what you want it to do.

Read the history. If you suspect that your kids have been to inappropriate web sites, you can quickly check by opening the history tab on the left side of Internet Explorer. You can see the list of web sites visited on each day listed. Don't be alarmed if you find something, middle school kids are naturally curious. The repeated visits to inappropriate sites is cause for further family discussion.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Blogs - Students are writing! The topics need to be moderated, but the fact that kids want to write and be creative is fantastic. Encourage your child to create a family blog for all the members of your extended family to communicate with one another. It can be private, so the general public cannot enter comments. If let unmoderated, kids will put their phone numbers, and a lot of personal information about who they are and what they are doing. Some of the activities are fantasy life, some are real. Many students post their own photo or photos of friends. This is not a very smart thing to do.

IM - Teens are mostly worried about being accepted by their peers. Some are very shy and communicating by instant message may be the way they can easily talk to other students. The fun of IM is being online with several friends at the same time. When I surveyed my students, they confessed that they can IM 5 - 10 people at the same time! Be sure to know your students' password, so you can turn on archive. That will save the IM conversations and you can read them later if you are worried about what is being said. Also, you can limit the time your teen is online if you have AOL, and can set preferences to "only allow IM to people on my Buddy list".

Phone - If you have one house phone and basic service, then teens can monopolize the time if you do not set restrictions. We agree in our home especially to no talking at dinner time. That is our special time together and we do not answer the phone during that time. Cell phones and extended home plans offer many ways for kids to talk to their peers. Most are OK if you talk about the limits and set some rules.

Cell phones - First of all you must ask yourself "why does my child need a cell phone anyway"? Once you wrestle with that and the cost of the plan, know what you have agreed to. Basic cell phone coverage does not include text messaging. It is an extra fee per message sent AND RECEIVED. Once you teen discovers that mode of conversation, the phone will not be out of their hand. Find out what your cell phone plan is and communicate that and the rules for it to your child. Note that cell phones are not to be used during the school day and will be confiscated by the staff. If they are necessary, then they should be turned off and left in a students locker.

Picture/video phones -I can't think of an educational reason why any student would need a picture or video phone during the school day. The danger of these little gadgets comes when they are used inappropriately such as changing rooms, or taking video in a locker room and then posting it on the web.

Digital Cameras and camcorders - Kids are very knowledge about using this equipment for great purpose, family events, vacations, school projects, etc. The photos I have seen online of kids are appalling. Some are direct face photos, some are posed a specific way and others are totally inappropriate for public viewing.

PDA - If you have a PDA in your home or your students has their own and it connects to the internet, be sure to be in control of the passwords and install virus and/or filtering software there too. Very few students have pdas, but those that do in our school are not allowed to be connected to our network. For some students the pda is a good tool when monitored properly.

How do our kids communicate?

Today's adolescent and teens are communicating in ways we never had access to at their age. They use chat rooms, IM, email, beaming from palm pilots or other PDAs(personal digital assistant) 3-way phone conversations, caller ID, call waiting, text messaging, blogging podcasting, video conferenceing, video mail and more ways are invented daily. Many students have access to digital cameras and camcorders at their home and take advantage of good use of this technology. As a parent and teacher I have decided to embrace these technologies at my home, setting restrictions as necessary. There are so many things to control, so have a conversation with your kids about the rules for things listed above. If you have any other ways kids communicate that are not listed above, add your input with the comment link below.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Digital Books

Digital books can come in many different formats. They could be electronic to be read on your computer just like a word document, palm pilot, or read to you by the simulated speech built in to many computers. Another format is audio books whereby they are like music recording, only they are the spoken word of the book. Many audio books are read by the author, or celebrities. Audio books may be purchased online, or at book store chains like Boarders or B&N. The format is usually CD or cassette(boys there is an older technology!)

When researching digital media, you need to determine a few things before downloading:
-where will you play the download (iPod, computer, palm or pda, burn to CD to play in car or CD player, MP3 player)
-what software do I need(usually a free download too) to eread or listen to the audio book?
-how much room will it take on my reader/player
-how do I want to store the document(hard drive, burn to CD, download to MP3 player etc
-is there a cost?

There are many libraries that are making their classic works available for download for free. At the University of Virginia the top two downloads are: 1. AesopFables 4,656 downloads and 2.Lewis Carroll Alice in Wonderland (illustrated)4,212. There is a growing market for electronic books, magazines and older print material has been converted.

Chester County Library Audio Books

Create your own eBooks:

eBook Reader Software for the Palm: