Posts Tagged ‘Text messaging’

Parents Need to Get Their Hands Dirty With Social Media

April 11, 2011 7 comments

When I visit my family each summer, I watch my nieces and nephews text each other furiously. Their fingers are working overtime to host constant communication. I asked if their professors had any trouble with this during lectures, and my niece replied that they all have their phones on silent, but can still easily text without looking at them.

So while a professor may see a sea of attentive faces, quite likely they are deep in thought texting.

Tcchnology has changed the way our children communicate. How you feel about this personally is irrelevant. Texting, skyping, and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are only gaining in popularity and children are finding ways of adapting them earlier.

Your mission as a parent, if you choose to accept it, is to become versed in social media before your child has to teach it to you.

There are two reasons for this:  If they are on Facebook or another social networking site, you can (attempt, at any rate) to be on their contact list, or ‘friend’, and therefore watch what they are doing more closely.

Being knowledgeble yourself in social media is to take away another layer of potential misunderstanding between you and your children. You are bridging a gap. If you are using social media effectively, your children are more likely to see you as an ally when they most need one.

Cyber-bullying is a nasty consequence of the proliferation of online communication. It’s easier than ever to be mean behind the cloak of anonymity. The rash of suicides amongst teenagers citing online bullying as the cause is rapidly increasing. As governments and teachers rush to react with preventative policies, teenagers will continue to circulate hurtful lists on their smartphones with a vengeance. They will start nasty Facebook campaigns and they will tweet nasty comments. Cyber-bullying won’t disappear, so arm yourself and your child against it.

Yet I know a lot of parents who know nothing about social media. They view it as a waste of time. They can’t get their head around it. They prefer traditional methods of communication. Knowledge is powerful, and learning this strange new world of interacting and socializing is to learn the language of our children.

Adapting the attitude that social media is child’s play will only keep you out of the conversation.

The idiot’s guide to avoiding premium text messaging charges

January 14, 2011 10 comments

I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but sometimes the depths to which my idiocy can stoop surprises even me.

One day while surfing the internet, curious about how much it would cost to jump on a plane to Tahiti that same day, a pop-up jumped out of my screen begging me to do an IQ test.

Now, although I implied only two paragraphs ago that I’m a few beers short of a six-pack, secretly I harbor thoughts that I might be a genius yet untested.

Sensing my big moment was imminent and this experiment would prove it, I clicked on the pop-up, which was my first, but not biggest mistake in this tale.  I took the test, which seemed reasonable and well-rounded and therefore legitimate.  I even labored over it, so when they asked me to enter my mobile number so they could text me my results, I didn’t bat an eyelash.  Bring on my genius results – my Facebook status needs updating.

This, I will fully admit, was stupid, but still not the stupidest part.

They did send me my results, as promised  (I was smart, but not brilliant; I shuffled my Mensa application to the bottom of my to-do pile).  This strange 66066 number proceeded to text me everyday at precisely 2:00 pm with a random question, like “Is Salomon Rushdie an (a) actor, (b) musician, (c) writer?”  If only that damn IQ test was so simple.

I’m not a complete halfwit, I never replied to these questions, and quickly deleted them lest they infect my handheld bible with a virus, or attempted to track my whereabouts using GPS.  I took care of that.  (Where did I put that Mensa application again?)

What I didn’t realize because I don’t scrutinize my cell phone bill every month, but rather just pay the amount in the box and grumble about the injustice of my contract, was that I was being charged $50 for this random question delivered to me 25 times a month.  This was the stupidest part.  The Mensa application is now filed under ‘g’  (in the garbage).

It took about two minutes on eHow to determine that this five-digit number was a premium text number, and I only needed to reply to the text with the word STOP in order to be unsubscribed.  I finally did so, and immediately got a message back saying I would no longer be participating in their trivia service.  But I never did participate you blood-sucking, low-life spammer!

I’m frustrated that it took me a couple of months and funds earmarked for Hunter boots to figure this out, but hopefully this post will serve as a Public Service Announcement for all of my loyal readers.  To avoid premium text messaging charges, adhere to these rules:

1. Do NOT click on any pop-ups, even if they tell you you’ve won a million dollars or invite you to tea with the Queen.

2. If you drop the ball on rule #1 because you’re dying to ask the Queen why she wears those silly hats, DO NOT provide your cell number for your royal invitation.

3. If you don’t adhere to rule #1 and #2, congratulations, you’re my idiotic kindred spirit, but don’t make my mistake and do nothing about it for months.  Read your phone bill, don’t rely on the texting gods to make it stop.  Hunter boots are at stake.

While the rest of my neighborhood dons their ubiquitous wellingtons, I wear my silly blue rain boots adorned with skulls and crossbones in my walk of shame, like an albatross around my neck, a testament to either my stupidity or poor fashion choices.

What is the appropriate age for cell phones?

December 6, 2010 3 comments
Cell phone camera

My daughter started asking for a cell phone when she was in grade two.  My response was very contained and reasonable, and included the words “over my dead body.”  Perhaps I should have chosen my words more carefully, since I am still alive and she is now in grade six.  It is safe to say she wishes me dead.

Unsuspecting people who plan on having children should be aware that procreating in this day and age also means additional phone plans, so make sure your provider is up to snuff and offers additional phones at knock out prices; at the rate we are going kindergarten will be the new high school when it comes to the age that is appropriate for acquiring hand held devices.

In my child’s defense, many of her peers have their own phones and use them to text furiously with alarming frequency.  So in effect, she is being left out of the conversation.  Perhaps the upside is it leaves those dinosaur landlines available for other members of the family; although she commandeers our home computer to Skype with her friends in lieu of texting.

Curiously I notice my children’s phone skills are suffering.  I remember getting home from school and our phone would start ringing on cue, and we would begin dissecting what happened to who in school that day, despite having just said goodbye to these friends moments before.  When my daughter’s friends call – which they do rarely –  they have monosyllabic conversations that last less than a minute; a drastic departure from the hours I used to spend with the cord wrapped around my wrist, other household members ducking underneath it on their way to the kitchen.

Remember those cords?  Or how long it took to dial “0’s” on those rotary phones?  (Our family’s number ended in 7000 – brilliantly easy to remember, but you could have dialed Europe faster.)  Or even the first cell phones, the size of a shoe box.  The changes in telecommunication  in my lifetime alone like a roller coaster ride; I can understand her desire to ride the wave.

But unfortunately for her, as dogged as she is to acquire one, I am doggedly against it.  (This does not sway her a bit from asking for one every birthday, Christmas, Easter, and Valentine’s Day that passes, however.) The health risks are inconclusive, but it makes great sense to me that putting a phone up against your ear is akin to putting your head inside a microwave.  Especially since her brain is still developing, I see no need for her to take such risks.

Of course she is quick to point out she wouldn’t need to use it for talking, since it’s all about texting.  But to that end she can easily email, which I understand is slightly slower but effectively the same. And do I really want her to own yet another little screen to stare at?

She uses the safety argument, preying on my motherly instincts if nothing else, but the fact is she is rarely if ever on her own, which is another problem altogether.  In our hovering society, she is most often shuttled to and from school, play dates and activities, seldom out of arm’s reach of a land line, or at the very least one of her friend’s cell phones.

Everyday I hear about another one her friends whose parents have caved in to the cell phone pressure; or more pointedly she tells me of the younger kids in her school who flash the little beasts around.  It is the peer argument that smites the most; I get the overwhelming desire that she has to acquire something that seemingly everyone else has.

But adversity breeds character, I tell her.  You need a cell phone like you need a hole in the head – and at the end of the day, a hole in the head is precisely what we are trying to avoid.