Videos Games and Movies
Are 3-D movies bad for my kids’ eyes?
Answer: Probably not. Which means, unfortunately, that you can’t use the “It’ll make you go blind!” excuse to avoid another trip to the theater. Still, 3-D technology is now invading the home front. Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp, and Sony are all manufacturing 3-D televisions, and Nintendo is at work on a 3-D portable gaming console. So moms should look to their children for any signs of discomfort. “Until we know more, logic should dictate. If your child complains of a headache after a 3-D experience, opt for the 2-D movie or video game,” says Martin Banks, a professor of optometry and vision science at the University of California, Berkeley, who has studied the effects of 3-D. It is wise to score seats toward the middle or the back of the theater or to make sure that your kids don’t have their noses glued to the television. Because 3-D works by having your eyes fuse together several images, the strain could be heavier when there’s less distance between you and the image.
My child says he plays video games at school. Seriously?
Answer: Yes, seriously. But before you protest (you’re paying how much for that education?), know this: Technology can be a great tool for teaching math, science, and problem solving, especially if it gets kids excited about learning. First graders, for instance, can bowl on the Wii and practice their addition while counting pins. Middle schoolers can work on their geography skills by searching for international treasure in Learn Geography for Nintendo DS ($20, amazon.com).
Is it poor etiquette to allow my kid to play with his Nintendo DS or my iPhone at a restaurant?
Answer: Not if it’s a restaurant where he would normally be doodling on the place mat with crayons anyway. “Playing a video game isn’t much different,” says Lesley Carlin, an advice columnist and a coauthor of Things You Need to Be Told (Berkley, $14, amazon.com). Indeed, an app like Paper Town Friends ($2) is like place-mat doodling version 2.0 (your child can use it to create and then dress adorable little people). “Have your kids play with the sound off, so as not to annoy others, and without earphones, so they’re not cut off from the conversation,” says Carlin. Still, when the old-fashioned apps (or salads or entrées) are served, it’s time to put away the digital ones. And if you’re somewhere special (where peanut shells don’t litter the floor) or with company, no games allowed.
Getting Friendly With Facebook
Should my child’s teacher or coach be her Facebook friend?
Answer: In short, no, says Parry Aftab, a New York City lawyer specializing in privacy and cybercrime issues. “Crossing that line allows for more casual and possibly inappropriate communication,” he says. While Aftab says some schools smartly limit or ban student-teacher interaction on social-networking sites, others do not. If the teacher or the coach wants to use Facebook to post assignments or discuss practice, (gently) suggest an interactive platform, like Blackboard.com or Uptous.com.
Should I force my child to be my Facebook friend?
Answer: You can, but remember: Not many kids want their moms posting love notes on their walls, and your child could simply open another account unbeknownst to you. If you vow to stay behind the scenes, your child may be more willing to let you poke around. For example, instead of infringing on her territory in a way that all her friends can see (“Cute pic! But you need a haircut! Love, Mom”), allow your child to open an account but insist on having access to it via her password. Or have a family rule that you can view her page occasionally when she’s on it, says Aftab.
Cell Phone Do's and Don'ts
Are cell phones bad for my kids’ brains?
Answer: The electromagnetic radiation from cell phones might be harmful to the developing brains of children, but the jury is still out. It could take decades for scientists to establish a connection. While cell phones are ubiquitous, they are still a relatively young technology. A World Health Organization study, published in May, suggests a link between heavy cell-phone use and a rare form of brain cancer in adults. (And get this: When data collection began in 2000, 2 to 2 ½ hours a month was considered “heavy” use.) Bottom line: It’s not a bad idea to have young kids use a speaker, and tweens can plug in an earpiece. Or get an unlimited text plan so they can talk with their thumbs.
Which educational iPhone apps should I download?
Answer: For preschoolers, try Fish School ($2), which is like an animated letters-and-numbers book, and iWriteWords ($3), a writing tutorial, says Anne Zehren, former president of Common Sense Media, an online clearinghouse about technology geared toward families (including heavier topics, like sexting and cyberbullying). For elementary-school kids, she likes Pentanimals ($3), a puzzle-solving game; and for middle schoolers, try Pocket Universe ($3), which maps the sky based on where you are, so older kids can find con-stellations. To stay up to speed on new kid-geared apps, check out Theikidsblog.com, which is run by two parents who also happen to be app developers.
How can I expect my kids to be social human beings when I never put down the BlackBerry? (I can’t! I’m working.)
Answer: First, make sure you are glued to that tiny screen only when you are truly working. “You can let your child know that you need to be available to colleagues,” says Zehren. “But when you’re done, be done.” Put the device in the trunk if you can’t resist checking e-mail. At home, set up no-tech times (dinner, for one, or Sunday morning) and have everyone follow the rules. (No cheating while the kids are engrossed in pancakes.)
Navigating the Blogosphere
Is it OK to write about my kids on a blog?
Answer: Yes, with limits. Before posting anything, Aftab suggests considering if it’s information you would be comfortable sharing with a stranger: “If there’s a woman in front of you in a line, you might tell her, ‘I have three kids, and here are their pictures. Aren’t they cute?’ But you wouldn’t say, ‘Here’s where they go to school and take ballet classes.’ ” If your last name is on the blog, you might not want to use your children’s first names. If you have tweens or teenagers, don’t post embarrassing stuff. (“Mooooom!” Duh.)
Is it OK for my eight-year-old to start a blog?
Answer: Of course. It’s a great way to share pictures of that recent Lego creation, and it’s a good exercise in writing. But she should stick to an easy-to-use platform with password-protected posts that only approved friends and family can access.