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Category: Improve Your World

5 Things You Should Know About Smart Tech in a Home with Kids

Smart Home Technology Families Kids

Smart technology is becoming the norm rather than the exception, with more and more gadgets helping make our homes more efficient. This technology can help make our lives more convenient, and our kids’ educational experience more enriched.

Smart tech can add an extra measure of safety in our homes, but parents also need to be aware of potential security risks. Here’s an overview of things to consider when adopting smart tech into your home.

1. Teaching smart online behavior is key.

As smart devices are becoming more integrating into your child’s life for entertainment, education and daily living, it’s important to teach them about safe online behavior. Older kids who are on social media should know why privacy settings are important. They should be selective about accepting friend requests and ensure location services are disabled. They also should understand the perennial nature of posting, and how nothing on social media is ever really gone.

Ensure your pre-teens and teens understand the nature of cyberbullying. This includes understanding that photos and situations that are funny to them now, might lose their humor down the line because they can hurt people’s feelings. These posts might come back to haunt them later when they want to join a club, get an after-school job or apply to college.

They also should understand that posting about an event or activity on social media can cause resentment by those who have been deliberately left out, helping them to think critically about what they wish to share publicly.

2. Smart sensors in the home make sense.

A smart home can incorporate many different types of smart sensors. Some are particularly useful for keeping kids safe, especially for curious toddlers who haven’t yet learned about boundaries. Sensors installed in doorways can create greater peace of mind for parents of small explorers. For example, they can send a signal to your phone when a child exits a threshold, or if an intruder enters one.

Sensors can connect to a video camera so you can check your phone to see what’s happening. Doorbell cameras are particularly useful for when your kids get older and start inviting the neighborhood over when you’re not home.

Motion sensors can be set up around danger areas, such as swimming pools or driveways, to provide a notification to you when a child has entered the area unsupervised. Window sensors can not only help save energy but can create an extra measure of safety by notifying you when one is left open or opens unexpectedly, ensuring there are no unexpected escapes or entries.

While every home should be equipped with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, smart versions of these devices can also monitor your home’s air quality, checking for pollen and other particles that can be troublesome for young lungs.

3. Smart light bulbs can improve school performance.

Smart tech in your home can include smart light bulbs, which can help your kids get better grades in school. How? For one, some smart bulbs can adjust their blue light emissions from day to evening, helping your kids be more energized in the mornings and move more easily toward sleep at night.

Blue light, which comes to us naturally through sunlight, can interfere with the sleep hormone melatonin when we get too much blue light artificially. Better sleep equals better performance at school and on tests.

4. Smart devices can protect infant safety.

Parents of newborns already know the important benefit of baby monitors in keeping an ear on activity in the other room. The frightening worry posed by SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome, has led developers of baby monitors to evolve the product. Some connect to your smartphone or can be sent to a mobile speaker.

Other smart items like onesies, mattresses or socks can measure and monitor your baby’s vital information like heart rate, breathing, movement, pulse oximetry and body position. You will be able to hear sounding alarms or receive notifications to your phone when there’s a problem.

5. Internet-connected smart toys need vetting.

Smart toys with an Internet connection—which can include robot dogs, dinosaurs, cars and other items—should be carefully vetted before purchase or forgone altogether. Many of these toys have cameras and microphones and can gather data during play as well as share your child’s location.

While these toys can provide educational opportunities, the Federal Trade Commission urges parents to carefully collect information on the toy before purchasing. That includes researching what kind of information the toy will collect about your child, learning of there are security issues or safety recalls, and knowing whether there have been security complaints.

Know the features of the toy and when it will be listening in, and whether you have the option to control the information. Smart toys, just like any other smart item in your home, pose a risk of being hacked or their data used in ways you didn’t expect.

Bottom line: Smart technology has great potential to improve safety and enhance kids’ lives when approached carefully and sensibly. Talking with your children and teaching them about the proper use of smart technology will help ensure the best experience for everyone.

By Hilary Thompson

Smart technology is becoming the norm rather than the exception, with more and more gadgets helping make our homes more efficient. This technology can help make our lives more convenient, and our kids’ educational experience more enriched.

Smart tech can add an extra measure of safety in our homes, but parents also need to be aware of potential security risks. Here’s an overview of things to consider when adopting smart tech into your home.

1. Teaching smart online behavior is key.

As smart devices are becoming more integrating into your child’s life for entertainment, education and daily living, it’s important to teach them about safe online behavior. Older kids who are on social media should know why privacy settings are important. They should be selective about accepting friend requests and ensure location services are disabled. They also should understand the perennial nature of posting, and how nothing on social media is ever really gone.

Ensure your pre-teens and teens understand the nature of cyberbullying. This includes understanding that photos and situations that are funny to them now, might lose their humor down the line because they can hurt people’s feelings. These posts might come back to haunt them later when they want to join a club, get an after-school job or apply to college.

They also should understand that posting about an event or activity on social media can cause resentment by those who have been deliberately left out, helping them to think critically about what they wish to share publicly.

2. Smart sensors in the home make sense.

A smart home can incorporate many different types of smart sensors. Some are particularly useful for keeping kids safe, especially for curious toddlers who haven’t yet learned about boundaries. Sensors installed in doorways can create greater peace of mind for parents of small explorers. For example, they can send a signal to your phone when a child exits a threshold, or if an intruder enters one.

Sensors can connect to a video camera so you can check your phone to see what’s happening. Doorbell cameras are particularly useful for when your kids get older and start inviting the neighborhood over when you’re not home.

Motion sensors can be set up around danger areas, such as swimming pools or driveways, to provide a notification to you when a child has entered the area unsupervised. Window sensors can not only help save energy but can create an extra measure of safety by notifying you when one is left open or opens unexpectedly, ensuring there are no unexpected escapes or entries.

While every home should be equipped with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, smart versions of these devices can also monitor your home’s air quality, checking for pollen and other particles that can be troublesome for young lungs.

3. Smart light bulbs can improve school performance.

Smart tech in your home can include smart light bulbs, which can help your kids get better grades in school. How? For one, some smart bulbs can adjust their blue light emissions from day to evening, helping your kids be more energized in the mornings and move more easily toward sleep at night.

Blue light, which comes to us naturally through sunlight, can interfere with the sleep hormone melatonin when we get too much blue light artificially. Better sleep equals better performance at school and on tests.

4. Smart devices can protect infant safety.

Parents of newborns already know the important benefit of baby monitors in keeping an ear on activity in the other room. The frightening worry posed by SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome, has led developers of baby monitors to evolve the product. Some connect to your smartphone or can be sent to a mobile speaker.

Other smart items like onesies, mattresses or socks can measure and monitor your baby’s vital information like heart rate, breathing, movement, pulse oximetry and body position. You will be able to hear sounding alarms or receive notifications to your phone when there’s a problem.

5. Internet-connected smart toys need vetting.

Smart toys with an Internet connection—which can include robot dogs, dinosaurs, cars and other items—should be carefully vetted before purchase or forgone altogether. Many of these toys have cameras and microphones and can gather data during play as well as share your child’s location.

While these toys can provide educational opportunities, the Federal Trade Commission urges parents to carefully collect information on the toy before purchasing. That includes researching what kind of information the toy will collect about your child, learning of there are security issues or safety recalls, and knowing whether there have been security complaints.

Know the features of the toy and when it will be listening in, and whether you have the option to control the information. Smart toys, just like any other smart item in your home, pose a risk of being hacked or their data used in ways you didn’t expect.

Bottom line: Smart technology has great potential to improve safety and enhance kids’ lives when approached carefully and sensibly. Talking with your children and teaching them about the proper use of smart technology will help ensure the best experience for everyone.

By Hilary Thompson

Why Outdoors Activities Are Essential for Children and Teens: Nature vs Technology

Safe Teens and Techonology

Technology definitely has a time and place in our schools and we owe it to our pupils to teach them proper ways to use their devices for learning and communicating. However, we can also probably agree there are some downsides to all of this tech in our student’s lives.

Technology which opens our students up to a variety of pitfalls of dangers that range anywhere from cyberbullying to the health consequences of inactive lifestyles.

As educators, it’s no great surprise today’s technology is changing the way we monitor our children, communicate, interact, and engage with our students and, everyday we are on the frontlines watching and coping with the consequences as they unfold.

This makes it essential that we slow down and re-evaluate the role we allow technology to play in our classrooms. This is especially vital when we consider teens are digitally connected for 9 hours everyday! Yes, that is almost the same amount of time spent in school. If that statistic isn’t jaw dropping enough, we need to factor in that their younger counterparts clock in over 6 daily hours and children younger than 8 net nearly 3 hours a day!.

This data inevitably means that our children are missing out on important opportunities and activities to interact, explore, observe, and learn about the world around them. Instead of building new relationships or mastering valuable life skills, our boys and girls are inevitably living a distracted life. This is difficult for us to face, because we can only control what our students do during the hours we have them entrusted to our care. One simple way we can counteract too much technology is by examining the importance of outdoors activities and find ways for kids to strike a happy balance.     

Why Outdoor Activities are Essential for Kids

Over the course of the last few decades, a lot has changed in education as we strive to include more technology and teach for the test. While this has helped push in more STEAM activities and HAL opportunities, it has also led to a significant decrease in the amount of time allocated for recess, physical education, and the fine arts. To put this trend into perspective, according to the National Wildlife Foundation, today’s children are spending approximately half the amount of time outside than we did when we were kids.

Listed below is a small sampling of why outdoor activities are essential for kids:

  • Poor indoor air quality is common in many schools. Fresh air is healthy!
  • There is an increased risk for obesity, hypertension, and more that comes with reduced exercise and sedentary lifestyles.
  • Green spaces have been proven to reduce stress and anxiety levels in children- and even adults. 
  • The outdoors provide exposure to dirt, germs, and bacteria which boost a child’s immune system.
  • Activities like gardening in the outdoors can help students develop observational skills and learn science concepts.
  • Sunlight provides beneficial vitamin D which can help energy levels and strengthen bones.
  • Adequate exposure to sunlight also helps set a child’s circadian rhythms, which will help them develop a proper sleep schedule to enhance social and educational performance in school.
  • Outdoor activities and green spaces naturally improve many of the symptoms related to ADHD in children.

The Dangers of Too Much Technology

The reasons why outdoor activities are essential for kids is pretty solid, but we can’t overlook the possible dangers associated with too much technology. Our students’ devices might be entertaining, but there are real reasons educators need to be concerned. The following list shows why we need to help students find a healthy balance with technology in their lives:

  • Direct links between overuse of social media and increases in depression, feelings of low self-esteem, and anxiety have been documented in young people.
  • Devices can interrupt or cause distraction during key learning times in a classroom.
  • Our kids might be set up for a lifetime of joint and neck pain if they don’t embrace proper ergonomics.
  • Digital devices and fast paced stimuli can actually physically alter a child’s brain.
  • The glow from our screens and constant notifications can disrupt circadian rhythms and sleep schedules leading to poor sleep.
  • Overusing technology limits one-on-one communication opportunities for kids which may inhibit relationship and social skills development.

Looking Forward…

Technology is obviously here to stay and we can’t feasibly ban all devices from our schools. However, a little mindfulness and proactive planning can go a long way. With a little creative thinking  we can help students find a healthy balance with technology and nature.

What are your some ways you handle technology versus nature in your school?

Technology definitely has a time and place in our schools and we owe it to our pupils to teach them proper ways to use their devices for learning and communicating. However, we can also probably agree there are some downsides to all of this tech in our student’s lives.

Technology which opens our students up to a variety of pitfalls of dangers that range anywhere from cyberbullying to the health consequences of inactive lifestyles.

As educators, it’s no great surprise today’s technology is changing the way we monitor our children, communicate, interact, and engage with our students and, everyday we are on the frontlines watching and coping with the consequences as they unfold.

This makes it essential that we slow down and re-evaluate the role we allow technology to play in our classrooms. This is especially vital when we consider teens are digitally connected for 9 hours everyday! Yes, that is almost the same amount of time spent in school. If that statistic isn’t jaw dropping enough, we need to factor in that their younger counterparts clock in over 6 daily hours and children younger than 8 net nearly 3 hours a day!.

This data inevitably means that our children are missing out on important opportunities and activities to interact, explore, observe, and learn about the world around them. Instead of building new relationships or mastering valuable life skills, our boys and girls are inevitably living a distracted life. This is difficult for us to face, because we can only control what our students do during the hours we have them entrusted to our care. One simple way we can counteract too much technology is by examining the importance of outdoors activities and find ways for kids to strike a happy balance.     

Why Outdoor Activities are Essential for Kids

Over the course of the last few decades, a lot has changed in education as we strive to include more technology and teach for the test. While this has helped push in more STEAM activities and HAL opportunities, it has also led to a significant decrease in the amount of time allocated for recess, physical education, and the fine arts. To put this trend into perspective, according to the National Wildlife Foundation, today’s children are spending approximately half the amount of time outside than we did when we were kids.

Listed below is a small sampling of why outdoor activities are essential for kids:

  • Poor indoor air quality is common in many schools. Fresh air is healthy!
  • There is an increased risk for obesity, hypertension, and more that comes with reduced exercise and sedentary lifestyles.
  • Green spaces have been proven to reduce stress and anxiety levels in children- and even adults. 
  • The outdoors provide exposure to dirt, germs, and bacteria which boost a child’s immune system.
  • Activities like gardening in the outdoors can help students develop observational skills and learn science concepts.
  • Sunlight provides beneficial vitamin D which can help energy levels and strengthen bones.
  • Adequate exposure to sunlight also helps set a child’s circadian rhythms, which will help them develop a proper sleep schedule to enhance social and educational performance in school.
  • Outdoor activities and green spaces naturally improve many of the symptoms related to ADHD in children.

The Dangers of Too Much Technology

The reasons why outdoor activities are essential for kids is pretty solid, but we can’t overlook the possible dangers associated with too much technology. Our students’ devices might be entertaining, but there are real reasons educators need to be concerned. The following list shows why we need to help students find a healthy balance with technology in their lives:

  • Direct links between overuse of social media and increases in depression, feelings of low self-esteem, and anxiety have been documented in young people.
  • Devices can interrupt or cause distraction during key learning times in a classroom.
  • Our kids might be set up for a lifetime of joint and neck pain if they don’t embrace proper ergonomics.
  • Digital devices and fast paced stimuli can actually physically alter a child’s brain.
  • The glow from our screens and constant notifications can disrupt circadian rhythms and sleep schedules leading to poor sleep.
  • Overusing technology limits one-on-one communication opportunities for kids which may inhibit relationship and social skills development.

Looking Forward…

Technology is obviously here to stay and we can’t feasibly ban all devices from our schools. However, a little mindfulness and proactive planning can go a long way. With a little creative thinking  we can help students find a healthy balance with technology and nature.

What are your some ways you handle technology versus nature in your school?

Being Better Means Saying No

To many people, being “better” means smiling all the time, being quiet and polite and doing all their chores without being asked. You may picture “being good” as going to school, saying please and thank you and never doing anything to hurt another person. It means being sweet and agreeable.

Well, those actions are part of being a better person. Many times, to be a “better person” you need to say: NO.

Life can be so easy if you always say yes. Yes, you’ll skip out of gym class. Yes, you’ll try to hit passing cars with rocks. Yes, you’ll see if you can take that flash drive without paying for it. By saying yes, you go with the flow. You follow the lead of someone else. You know what you are doing is wrong, but when a group of friends is staring at you, waiting for your answer, being “good” can be hard.

Saying NO can sound mean. Saying NO can make your friends angry. They might not even want to be friends anymore. That can make YOU angry or sad. Being a good person sometimes means standing up for what is right, even when everyone else seems against you. Being good means saying NO.

Saying no can be hard. As your friends are looking at you, saying no can be the hardest thing you will ever do. The problem is that saying yes can be even harder—but not at the time. After all, when you say yes, everyone laughs, nods and slaps you on the back.

But by saying yes to your friends, you could put yourself in danger. You could end up in trouble with your parents, your school or even the police. Saying yes to a cigarette or pot joint might not seem like a big deal, but yes could lead to an addiction that takes years to beat and costs thousands of dollars. Saying yes can hurt your health and cost you years of life.

Saying no can sting. It can make people yell at you. It can make you seem like a chicken when in fact saying no can take all the strength in your bones. People talk about being better people—and saying NO can feel like the wrong way to do it. That’s a mistake.

Saying NO tells the world that you are you are able to think for yourself. It tells the world that you are working hard to be a good person, even when being a good person can hurt.

Talk to your parents about saying NO. Talk to your friends about how hard it can be to stand up to bullies by saying NO. By learning early on when to say that little word, you are on your way to being a better person.

 

To many people, being “better” means smiling all the time, being quiet and polite and doing all their chores without being asked. You may picture “being good” as going to school, saying please and thank you and never doing anything to hurt another person. It means being sweet and agreeable.

Well, those actions are part of being a better person. Many times, to be a “better person” you need to say: NO.

Life can be so easy if you always say yes. Yes, you’ll skip out of gym class. Yes, you’ll try to hit passing cars with rocks. Yes, you’ll see if you can take that flash drive without paying for it. By saying yes, you go with the flow. You follow the lead of someone else. You know what you are doing is wrong, but when a group of friends is staring at you, waiting for your answer, being “good” can be hard.

Saying NO can sound mean. Saying NO can make your friends angry. They might not even want to be friends anymore. That can make YOU angry or sad. Being a good person sometimes means standing up for what is right, even when everyone else seems against you. Being good means saying NO.

Saying no can be hard. As your friends are looking at you, saying no can be the hardest thing you will ever do. The problem is that saying yes can be even harder—but not at the time. After all, when you say yes, everyone laughs, nods and slaps you on the back.

But by saying yes to your friends, you could put yourself in danger. You could end up in trouble with your parents, your school or even the police. Saying yes to a cigarette or pot joint might not seem like a big deal, but yes could lead to an addiction that takes years to beat and costs thousands of dollars. Saying yes can hurt your health and cost you years of life.

Saying no can sting. It can make people yell at you. It can make you seem like a chicken when in fact saying no can take all the strength in your bones. People talk about being better people—and saying NO can feel like the wrong way to do it. That’s a mistake.

Saying NO tells the world that you are you are able to think for yourself. It tells the world that you are working hard to be a good person, even when being a good person can hurt.

Talk to your parents about saying NO. Talk to your friends about how hard it can be to stand up to bullies by saying NO. By learning early on when to say that little word, you are on your way to being a better person.

 

What Did You See? Really…

Imagine you are in the back seat, playing with your phone as your dad drives you to soccer practice. You pass Liam, a kid from school. His arms are waving and his face is red as he yells at a small boy you don’t know. And your dad has driven past the scene, his attention on the road.

You shake your head, then go online and post: “What’s up with Liam? Just saw him screaming at some little kid. He’s such a loser.” “We’re here,” your dad says. “Give me your phone.”

You do and head to the locker room.

After practice, as you’re changing, you tell your teammates about Liam. “You should have seen him. And the kid was half his size.” One of the kids you tell whips out his phone and posts: “Liam. Always thought you were a jerk. Now I know.”

Only when you’re buckled in the back seat does your dad hand you your phone. Turning it on, you see that lots of your friends have commented on how much of a jerk Liam is. You feel a burst of pride. After all, you were the one who told the world about Liam’s horrible behavior.

You start responding as your dad detours to the school to get your big sister from her basketball practice.

When your sister gets in the car, she’s excited. “Did you hear about the Jameson boy? He took off from his mom and was over by the freeway throwing rocks at cars.”

Your dad shoots her a strange look. “How do you know this?”

“Well, Liam was riding by on his bike and the kid threw a rock at him. So he pulled into the ditch and told him to stop. He tried to get the kid’s home number and the boy wouldn’t tell him. Our coach had to stop drills when Liam called her to get the Mom’s number.”

You feel the slow burn of embarrassment start creeping up your neck.

“Mrs. Jameson was frantic,” your sister continues. “She’d even called the police because she couldn’t find him. The cops showed up anyway because they’d had reports about a kid throwing rocks at cars—sirens and everything. It was a wild scene.”

“Wow. Scary. A little boy that close to the freeway. And throwing rocks, no less. Good thing Liam has a head on his shoulders. That Jameson boy could have hurt someone or got hurt himself.”

And there you are, looking at all the mean postings about Liam.

You take a breath and write your next post: “Hey, everybody. Turns out that the real jerk around here is me. I’ve just learned the hard way not to make fast judgments about people. Things aren’t always what they seem to be.”

Imagine you are in the back seat, playing with your phone as your dad drives you to soccer practice. You pass Liam, a kid from school. His arms are waving and his face is red as he yells at a small boy you don’t know. And your dad has driven past the scene, his attention on the road.

You shake your head, then go online and post: “What’s up with Liam? Just saw him screaming at some little kid. He’s such a loser.” “We’re here,” your dad says. “Give me your phone.”

You do and head to the locker room.

After practice, as you’re changing, you tell your teammates about Liam. “You should have seen him. And the kid was half his size.” One of the kids you tell whips out his phone and posts: “Liam. Always thought you were a jerk. Now I know.”

Only when you’re buckled in the back seat does your dad hand you your phone. Turning it on, you see that lots of your friends have commented on how much of a jerk Liam is. You feel a burst of pride. After all, you were the one who told the world about Liam’s horrible behavior.

You start responding as your dad detours to the school to get your big sister from her basketball practice.

When your sister gets in the car, she’s excited. “Did you hear about the Jameson boy? He took off from his mom and was over by the freeway throwing rocks at cars.”

Your dad shoots her a strange look. “How do you know this?”

“Well, Liam was riding by on his bike and the kid threw a rock at him. So he pulled into the ditch and told him to stop. He tried to get the kid’s home number and the boy wouldn’t tell him. Our coach had to stop drills when Liam called her to get the Mom’s number.”

You feel the slow burn of embarrassment start creeping up your neck.

“Mrs. Jameson was frantic,” your sister continues. “She’d even called the police because she couldn’t find him. The cops showed up anyway because they’d had reports about a kid throwing rocks at cars—sirens and everything. It was a wild scene.”

“Wow. Scary. A little boy that close to the freeway. And throwing rocks, no less. Good thing Liam has a head on his shoulders. That Jameson boy could have hurt someone or got hurt himself.”

And there you are, looking at all the mean postings about Liam.

You take a breath and write your next post: “Hey, everybody. Turns out that the real jerk around here is me. I’ve just learned the hard way not to make fast judgments about people. Things aren’t always what they seem to be.”