When Your Dad Is BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith Featuring Hugo Smith, age 14, grade 9.

Hugo Smith.

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How much time would you say he spends on his phone?

Well, a lot. He used to do this thing that would just drive me insane where, while I was talking to him, he would be doing work on his phone, and he’d just be like, “Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh.” And eventually I’d be like, “OK, what do you think?” And he’d be like, “Uhhhhhhhh.”

So what we convinced him to do was, when he needs to do work stuff, but he wants to spend time with us, and we catch him working like that—he goes into another room, does the work he needs to do, and then he can come back and give us his full attention.

So how did you get him to do that? Did you have to stage an intervention?

No, he sort of came up with it a bit. But also I’ve found that when I’m playing tennis, even just ping-pong, it’s great because we’re both so focused on each other.

Does your dad use Twitter a lot on his phone?

Oh yeah, occasionally at family events and stuff.

How do you know when he’s tweeting?

I check his Twitter account. He is always on Twitter.

So you’ll be at a family event, and you’ll look at Twitter just to see if your dad is tweeting?

Definitely. I’ll be like, “Dad, you retweeted something 30 seconds ago.”

But usually at those family events I’m retweeting things too.

Would you say your parents have a healthy work-life balance?

I think my dad’s definitely gotten better about it. A couple years ago, he worked more, but he’s definitely figuring it out now, it’s good.

What do you think motivated him to figure it out?

Just a lot of “Dad, get off your phone. Daddy, we’re talking to you.”

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How to Teach Your Kids About Digital Privacy and Security

Digital security

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First, tell kids the reasons behind the boundaries you set. When you ask a child not to share passwords or not to send messages to strangers online, also take a few minutes to explain why such behaviors could pose a risk.

Analogies using situations from the physical world can help. For example, children probably know that while it might be OK to share their home address in person with a close friend, it’s not OK to give it to a stranger on the street. But sharing information online, regardless of whom you’re sharing it with, requires extra care. This is because it’s easier for someone online to pretend to be someone else, and for information online to be shared with more than the person you intended. Remind children to check with an adult if they’re ever in doubt about sharing something online. And when they do ask you, explain how you made your decision.

Second, parents can look for examples of good or bad privacy practices embedded in everyday tools that children use. The website for PBS Kids, for example, tells children not to use any personal information, such as their last name or address, in their username. And instead of asking kids to create security questions, which often involve personal information, the site has children select three pictures to create a “secret code.” As children interact with sites like PBS Kids, parents can ask whether they understand why the websites have been set up this way.

Third, parents can check out existing resources related to privacy and security online. Common Sense Media and the Family Online Safety Institute offer great guides about privacy challenges children may face online and how parents can teach kids about them. PBS Kids, too, has created a series of technology-focused cartoon videos and parent guides that include lessons related to privacy and security. The U.K.-based company Excite-ed even developed a series of kid-friendly apps that include privacy-related tips and quizzes.

The task of teaching children about digital privacy and security shouldn’t just fall on parents. Educators are well positioned to help teach kids about these issues, given the increasing use of computers and tablets in schools. Companies who design and market technology also have a responsibility to respect children’s privacy interests.

New Facebook App for Children Ignites Debate Among Families

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Few big technology companies have dared to create online products for boys and girls ages 13 and under.

But on Monday, Facebook introduced an app, called Messenger Kids, that is targeted at that age group and asks parents to give their approval so children can message, add filters and doodle on photos they send to one another. It is a bet that the app can introduce a new generation of users to the Silicon Valley giant’s ever-expanding social media universe.

In doing so, Facebook immediately reignited a furious debate about how young is too young for children to use mobile apps and how parents should deal with the steady creep of technology into family life, especially as some fight to reduce the amount of time their sons and daughters spend in front of screens. On one side are parents like Matt Quirion of Washington, who said Facebook’s snaking its way into his children’s lives at an early age would most likely do more harm than good.

Activity Trackers Don’t Always Work the Way We Want Them To

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Many parents probably hope that shiny new technologies, such as Fitbits and other physical-activity monitors, might inspire our children to become more active.

But a recent study published in The American Journal of Health Education finds that the gadgets frequently have counterproductive impacts on young people’s attitudes about exercise and the capabilities of their own bodies.

…The teenagers were asked to use the monitors for two months, and then complete more questionnaires and participate in focus-group discussions. During the focus groups, almost all the young people expressed initial enthusiasm for the monitors and said they had at first become more active.

But the allure soon faded. After about a month, most of the teenagers had begun to find the monitors chiding and irksome, making them feel lazy if they did not manage 10,000 steps each day. Many also said they now considered themselves more physically inept than they had at the study’s start, often because they were rarely near the top of the activity leader boards. Most telling, a large percentage of the adolescents reported feeling less motivated to be active now than before getting the monitor. (The researchers did not directly track changes in the young people’s activity levels, because the study focused on psychology.)

Parents’ social media habits are teaching children the wrong lessons

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Many of today’s young teens were born in an era before social media. By the time they entered preschool, most of their parents had Facebook accounts. And many parents — new to social media — excitedly shared their children’s personal and embarrassing stories. I have written in the past about how parents must consider the effect this sharing has on a child’s psychological development. Children model the behavior of their parents, and when parents constantly share personal details about their children’s lives, and then monitor their posts for likes and followers, children take note. While most parents have their children’s best interests at heart when they share personal stories on social media, there is little guidance to help them navigate parenting in the digital age.

Everyone Makes Mistakes: Teaching Kids How to Fix Things When Texting Goes Awry

Instagram, texting, kids and cellphones, tweens and smartphones, friendship

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As parents or teachers we can get too focused on PREVENTING digital mistakes that can ruin friendships and reputations. We need to offer mentorship to our kids on how to repair things (when possible). We can model this in our own social media lives.

In my student workshops, I ask kids to brainstorm about how to correct such a mistake. A common problem is an “overshare,” where they have shared something too personal about themselves. Another is when your child shares a friend’s good news—or even a secret.

They know that they can’t put the overshare or secret “back in the box,” but kids’ instincts are to try to limit the damage. Quickly. In these workshops, they suggest taking down the offending post, deleting the picture, and apologizing, or at least letting people know that it was a mistake.

But how can they make it right? In many settings, from youth groups to religious schools to public schools student propose solutions that are concerning or ill-advised. For example,  many kids will try to “spread some lies” to cover up when they’ve shared someone’s secret and that person is upset with them. Another bad idea: “I’ll let them get revenge.For example: I’ll let my friend spread a rumor about me. As a parent and educator, I find myself shaking my head! But,  when embroiled in a social error, kids feel an urgency to take further steps to fix it “for good,” quickly.

These problem-solving techniques came from 5th and 6th graders who are just learning how to negotiate complicated social relationships. Many of these kids are just getting their first communication device, which adds another layer of complexity to the equation. It is important to look at where these kids are developmentally when we consider getting them a smartphone.

We have to help kids understand that rumors, lies, and revenge strategies just exacerbate the situation. Kids are focused on the immediate issue, and often have trouble seeing the larger picture. Sometimes when the parameters of trust in a relationship change, it takes time to fix—and your child can actually make it worse by trying to fix it in one gesture.