Report on Screen-Free Week 2016

Posted by on Sep 7, 2016 in Kids & Technology, Parents are People, Too | 0 comments

(Image courtesy Micah Purnell via

(Image courtesy Micah Purnell via

We did it. We survived a week without screens—more or less. The week before school began, our household—consisting of two adults, one fourteen-year-old male, one eleven-year-old female and a small assortment of pets—gave up screens for the week. We followed the rules as set forth in the previous blog post. Two exceptions were granted toward the end of the week for a little all-family TV-viewing time. (It was hot, we were tired.) The kids did great.

The adults, not so much.

It’s amazing how much screen time one can squeeze out of a “work” exception. Also, what if an important email comes in? Also, what if Trump finds a way to start a war with some country before the election even happens and I don’t know about it because it’s screen-free week? Also, the fact that I’m carrying my phone around the house means nothing; I’m not looking at it or anything. See? It’s just a prop.

Pathetic. And I mean me.

I wasn’t a complete failure the whole week.

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Screen-Free Week Is Upon Us

Posted by on Aug 24, 2016 in Kids & Technology | 0 comments

No screensEvery summer, we pick one week to go screen-free. For one week, I get to see my children’s faces as opposed to the tops of their heads. I speak to them and they reply with words, not grunts or silence. Their moods improve; they become more pleasant people. My kids always greet the week with lots of grumbling and groaning, but I secretly—and then not so secretly—look forward to becoming reacquainted with the kids I know are buried behind those devices the other fifty-one weeks of the year.

Each year, we spell out the rules in advance for Screen-Free Week. There are a few reasons for this. First, everyone knows that given the motivation, the vast majority of kids transform into brilliant lawyers. Absent explicit rules accompanying a prohibition, kids will find every loophole imaginable to get around that prohibition. Second, we establish valid exceptions that change from year-to-year, and we try to anticipate as many of those as we can to avoid constant choruses of, “What about…? What about…? What about…?” Third, following all of that forethought, we accept that although the kid-lawyers are smarter than we are and will find ways around us no matter what we do, we’re nevertheless going to try our best and anticipate that the week will end well.

In case you’d find an example informative in the course of trying your own screen-free week (with exceptions, natch), here are the rules governing ours for 2016. Keep in mind that our kids are 14 and 11; age and personality obviously influence the rules. And yes, parents: my husband and I have to adhere to these rules, too

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When You Get a Social Media Account Because Your Kid Does

Posted by on Feb 18, 2016 in Kids & Technology | 0 comments

Instagram and other Social Media Apps

I’ve been making an effort lately to spend less time on social media. Twitterholic that I am, I find it just takes up too much time that I could be spending writing, enjoying friends and family in three dimensions, or participating in any number of real-life activities. Some days I’m good about this; others, I get sucked down the chirping rabbit hole and can’t find my way back for at least an hour. (Yes, I realize something’s wrong with that metaphor. On the other hand, it’s about Twitter, so anything goes.)

So why did I just join Instagram? It wasn’t because I wanted to add another social media service to my daily list of obligations. Rather, I joined because I’m a parent. To be more specific, my fourteen-year-old son, “Jack,” decided to get an Instagram account. As I told him, wherever he goes in the world of social media, I go, too. That’s part of the deal. So I found my way to Instagram.

Now, those of you who are shaking your head at my helicoptering, hang on a second. And those of you who are shaking your head because I allowed my son to venture into the soul-sucking world of social media at all, hang on a second. I believe neither of those characterizations to be true. Here’s how I view kids and social media:

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5 Online Good Citizenship Lessons for Teens & Their Adults

Posted by on May 20, 2015 in Kids & Technology, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 1 comment


This is not another post about online safety. Instead, this time I’m talking about road rules, or ways to make the internet a better place for everyone. There are a few behaviors I think kids need to learn as they make their way into the interwebs. And to be honest, every one of the points below is on my list because I know a few adults could use these suggestions, too. I’ll put down my smartphone an hour early for the next week for every reader who can run through these points and honestly say he or she can’t see him or herself in any of them. I’m safe, aren’t I?

  • When writing an emotional and/or important email, fill out the “To” field last. This will save your butt when you are furious with a friend or colleague. You vow it’s the last time you’ll let yourself be treated that way and you fire off a few paragraphs so hot they make your computer sizzle. Or, over the course of two hours, you draft a careful cover letter for a job. But then you rethink your words as you write or you’re not quite satisfied with the letter, but the cat walks on the keyboard and…oh, crap. You realize you never should have sent that email. If you hadn’t filled out the “To” field yet, you wouldn’t have.
  • Should you really, REALLY use “Reply All?” The teacher sends out an email asking which families can make it to the class picnic on Friday. Or the manager wants to know who will be at the staff meeting. Suddenly a tidal wave of “Joey will be there,” or “Sorry, I’m having a root canal,” times thirty similar messages floods your inbox. Why? I don’t know. But I do know this: just because an email goes to a group, the answers don’t have to go to the whole group. Stop before you hit “Reply all” and ask if everyone really needs to know the information you’re sending, or if it only needs to go to the person who asked the question. Let’s try to cut down on litter on the information superhighway.
  • Remember that no one can hear the inflection in your head when you write.
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5 Links for Parents of Tweens & Teens

Posted by on Apr 29, 2015 in Kids & Technology, The World We Parent In, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 0 comments

Uncharted Parent is away this week, but I haven’t left you without anything to read. Here are some articles that grabbed my attention recently and made me think. Comments? You know where to put ‘em!

“Teenagers, Dealing With Addiction, on What Might Have Helped,” by Jessica Lahey – Jessica is a smart writer and an expert to boot. This post on The New York Times’s Motherlode blog really made me reconsider how I talk to my kids about drugs. Specifically, I hadn’t thought about being forward about why some kids—and adults–like to use drugs. But this piece makes sense.

“Inhalant abuse: why and how parents should talk with kids,” by Shannan Younger – You’d think with all the horrors I’ve discussed with my kids, I’d have covered the whole playing field. Apparently not. Sigh. At

“To the Well-Intentioned But Ignorant Parents of Teenagers,” by Kayla Nicole – I must get better about monitoring my kids’ internet use. I must get better about monitoring my kids’ internet use. I must stop typing and actually go look at what my kids’ have been doing on the internet. At

“Rock On: Getting Your Teen to Talk,” by Elaine Reese, Ph.D. – Okay, I’ll try anything. Now how do I fit that chair in my kitchen? At

“Just Boy Banter or Tween Mean,” by Jennifer Powell-Lunder, Psy.D. – Kind of relates to the previous article. Boys this age often won’t talk about it. At

Now, after reading all of that, go play with a puppy or something.

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7 Rules for a 10-Year-Old with an Email Account

Posted by on Apr 8, 2015 in Education & Learning, Kids & Technology, Parenting on a Daily Basis | 0 comments

iPhone work

Approximately three years ago, then ten-year-old “Jack” asked me if he could have an email account. I reacted as any parent would when her first-born stretches into uncharted territory: I peered into the future, envisioned every kind of horror that lay in wait, freaked out, then accepted reality and gave the kid an email address along with a list of seventeen rules to guide his behavior. My elder child, who thrives on structure and always likes to know where he stands, has managed his account well, and we all survived.

Now my younger child has reached the age of ten, and it is time for her to acquire an email address, too. Not because ten is a magic number, but because my husband and I have begun to find ourselves in situations where we would like our daughter to be able to exchange texts with us. We don’t think Emmie needs a cell phone yet, but she can text us via wifi on her iPod if she’s equipped with an email address. (In case you’re wondering: yes, we are aware that we are providing the catalyst for what will undoubtedly be a lifetime of nonstop texting. Well, someone had to do it.)

“Emmie” likes structure, too, but not in the same way Jack does. Seventeen rules would overwhelm Emmie, and she would end up following none of them. So while Emmie receives her email address with the same expectations with which Jack received his, for Emmie I trimmed the list of rules to seven. I explained to her that these rules are designed to keep her safe and to make sure she treats other people with the same consideration with which she would like people to treat her. We discussed the meaning of each rule when I gave her the list, and I provided examples to illustrate my points.

Emmie’s 7 Email & Texting Rules

  1. Protect your personal information. Don’t send anyone your last name, phone number, address, birthday, social security number or anything else private via email unless we tell you to do so.
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