Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

So Long, Facebook!

As of today, I am 63 days sober after having dropped Facebook cold turkey.  I’d pondered the self-censorship for many weeks and discussed the possibility of doing so with my husband many times, but the way that it happened was almost as a shock to even me.

What brought about the sudden snub of one of the most popular social networking sites?  Growing privacy concerns, an ever-changing site format, and my personal addiction to posting and reading status updates.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved communicating with friends and family online, but I came to the realization that I was hooked when I found myself frequently checking my Facebook feed while on vacation – not from one device, but from three: my laptop, my phone, and my tablet.  I attribute the sudden epiphany to the proverbial mirror of one of those device screens in which I saw the image of a person headed toward a 12-step program.

Initially, I only planned to stay away from the site for the remainder of my vacation.  I intended to log in again to upload vacation pictures once we were comfortably settled back into our routine at home, but that didn’t happen.  The more I stayed away, the less I wanted to go back to my addiction.

Sure, I miss the countless people with whom I had loads of fun on the site.  They’re the coolest bunch of people I’ve never had the pleasure to meet in person.  I don’t know if I’ll ever reactivate my account, but for now, I am grateful for the memories of these amazing people.  I’m also grateful for the extra time that I now use to focus on my family.

No more worries about tending to five virtual farms in one game, a frontier in another, and a city in yet two other games.  For now, I am content to tend to the homestead in which I reside in real life.

Do you maintain a Facebook account?  If so, how often do you check in to post or read status updates?

CC

Facebook’s “Like” Button – Not Always an Easy Choice

What does Facebook’s “Like” button mean to you?  Does it have a different meaning depending on the status to which you’re responding?  Does clicking the button without commenting seem impersonal at times?

“I’m totally loving all the snow!” 

“TGIF!” 

“A friend is having surgery tomorrow.  Please pray.” 

“My neighbor is such a mean person.”

If a friend posted any of the above as status messages, would you click the “Like” button”?  Would you hesitate as I do sometimes before deciding whether or not a “Like” is an adequate form of support for a friend?

Usually, making the decision to click the thumbs up icon is an easy one for me.  If a friend is posting a celebratory message or an opinion with which I agree, a quick push of the “Like” button lets them know that I, well, like what they’ve posted. 

Take the first two statuses above.  Liking snow and Fridays is pretty straight forward, so I can “like” those without commenting and move along without feeling awkward.

However, what about the status that announces surgery and requests prayer?  Would you be so quick to “like” that one and move on without commenting?  Would it seem impersonal? 

At times, I’ve hesitated before pushing the button without at least leaving a comment, such as, “Praying for you…”  Something about just liking this kind of status seems impersonal to me.  I figure that if someone took the time to put themselves out there and request prayer, the least I could do is respond with words of comfort and affirmation.   (Oh, and as a side note, when I tell someone that I’m going to pray, I stop whatever I’m doing at that very moment and do just what I promised.  I pray.  After all, it’s not like I was really busy; I was perusing Facebook.)

How do you feel about liking a status that informs you of some kind trial that has been, or will be, faced?  Would it seem odd to like a status that announces bad or sad news?  “My car troubles are a bummer”, or, “I think I’m coming down with the flu”.  Pushing the “Like” button doesn’t seem like the right thing to do in these instances.

While I’m on the topic of potentially improper use of the little blue thumps up button, how would you respond to a status like the above one about the mean neighbor?  Would “liking” that status signify that you agree about your friend’s assessment of their neighbor?  Or would it mean that you agree with the neighbor’s alleged bad behavior – secretly thinking that your friend deserves what they’re getting?

Sometimes, we push the “Like” button and move on without commenting.  I’m guilty of that.  So, I’m trying to slow down a bit in order to really communicate my sentiments about a status update that a friend took the time to share.

I push the “Like” button at least a dozen times each day, but each “Like” has its own meaning.  Sometimes it means, “Cool”.  Other times it means, “Please let me know what I can do to help”.   Frequently it means, “I agree”.  Regardless of what it means each time I click it, I love the show of support that it allows me to demonstrate toward my friends.  I never want it to mean that I’m too busy and impersonal to be there for a friend, so when called for, clicking that button is followed by something else that Facebook encourages – comments.

CC

Togetherville: A Social Networking Site for Kids

Facebook is the social networking giant amongst teens and adults, but a new social network is brewing for the underaged crowd.  Togetherville.com is a hot new site that allows parents to sign up their 6-12 year-olds for accounts that are verified using their parents’ Facebook account.  While Togetherville is not affiliated with Facebook, it uses the networking giant’s login information to verify that users who sign up for “parent” accounts actually meet the age requirement for adulthood.  That’s not the only verification step to that grownups have to take before opening an account for children. Check out their page to read about other methods that they use to verify users.

Content

While the site allows your children to post status updates, it  also boasts games for the younger crowd.  Parking Mania, Snowboard Challenge, and Lil Dress-up Time are just some of the pre-screened titles that have been tested and deemed suitable content for your little ones.  However, it’s not all fun and games, because Togetherville also has educational applications to enhance your child’s learning experience.

Three Ways for Your Children to Connect Safely with Their Friends

Parent Network: Only those people within a parent’s social network who also have the Togetherville application – and their child(ren) – can request to connect to a child.

School Network: When parents link their child’s account to their school, kids can discover their classmates and request their parents to connect.

Friending Codes: Each kid in gets a unique secret friending code to share with others they want to connect with in Togetherville.

Privacy

Togetherville does not share information with Google or other search engines, so your child’s profile is not searchable or discoverable on the internet.  Also, since you would select only trusted Facebook friends and their children to have access to your child’s safe and secure online neighborhood, there is no possibility of anonymous users having access to your child’s profile.

For more information about Togetherville, please visit their frequently asked questions.

Are you a user of Togetherville or some other kid-friendly social networking site?  Does your child use Facebook or MySpace?

Let’s chat!

Love to alL!

CC

Eight Tips to Protect Your Children Online

Connecting with friends and family, playing online games, and sharing photos are some of the things that make the internet so attractive.  But this medium that many of us use for entertainment purposes is ripe for criminals who have something sinister in mind for our children.  Before letting your child enter the wild, wild west world wide web, here are a few tips to help keep them safe.

Talk to your children about internet safety and your expectations regarding what information they’re allowed to share and access.  Tell them that many things and people online are not what or who they seem to be.  Arming them with this information will help them to make good choices and surf safely.

Set rules and consequences.  This is the step that will be hardest for most families; however, it is the most important.  Once you communicate your internet usage expectations to your child, inform them that internet access will be restricted if they participate in unsafe activities online.

Become their online friend.  If your child has a social networking profile, become their friend – not for purposes of stalking them, but to provide an added level of protection. Special note about Facebook profiles: Facebook offers special profile protection for subscribers who are under age 18.  Make sure your child is honest in submitting their age during the account set-up process.  Birth date, month, and year can be kept private, but are necessary for Facebook to set up age-appropriate settings.

Use parental controls software.  Windows Vista and Windows 7 have built-in parental controls that allow you to select content appropriate for your child to view.  You may choose to deny access to certain game ratings, downloads, or entire websites altogether (Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, or any other site of your choice).  Another great option is the ability to set time limits by the day and hour. E.g., blocking log-in access during overnight hours.

Log onto NetSmartz.org.  Their mission: “NetSmartz Workshop is an interactive, educational program of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® (NCMEC) that provides age-appropriate resources to help teach children how to be safer on- and offline.  The program is designed for children ages 5-17, parents and guardians, educators, and law enforcement.  With resources such as videos, games, activity cards, and presentations, NetSmartz entertains while it educates”.  The goals of NetSmartz are to “Educate children on how to recognize potential Internet risks; Engage children and adults in a two-way conversation about on- and offline risks; and Empower children to help prevent themselves from being exploited and to report victimization to a trusted adult“.

Set up Zoobuh email accounts for young children.  I opened an account for my now-11-year-old who wanted to communicate with far away friends and family via email.  Parental controls are the best I’ve seen for most kid-safe software on the market.  Zoobuh allows parents to create “safe sender” lists, add contacts and allow your children to send only to those people, reject email links and attachments, and restrict times and places.  You may also choose how to handle messages that are rejected from your child’s email account: send them directly to the parents trash folder or inbox for review.  Fee: $12/year per account.

Install adequate anti-virus software.  There are many to choose from, but AVG is a trusted anti-virus software that we use at home and work (my husband owns an IT company and installs this product for home and business clients).  Try the free version.  With safe surfing habits (not clicking on links or opening attachments from unknown sources and visiting risky sites), you may find that you won’t need to upgrade to the paid version.  AVG is great in that it blocks many pop-ups and unsafe sites from loading as well as prevents harmful programs from auto-installing and stealing your personal information or targeting your child’s computer to upload inappropriate content.

Keep the computer in a common area of the house.  This alone will deter many children from visiting unsafe sites.  Your presence and influence go a`long way keeping your children safe.

Other Resources

ConnectSafely.org

National Crime Prevention Councilwww.McGruff.org

Safekids.com

Safeteens.com

Post now and share your tips for keeping children safe online.

Love to all!

CC

One-Day Technology Fast

“You want us to spend a day without what?!”  Cell phones, e-readers, gaming systems, the internet, iPods, laptops, and just plain old televisions are all forms of technology to which we’re tethered and even addicted.  What would life be like if you took a one-day technology fast?  That’s no TV, radio, internet, telephone, etc.  You may even have to give up driving your car if it’s a computer on wheels as many new cars are.  I’m going with the definition of technology that requires a small computer chip that controls devices, so no need to put down your hammer, saw, or shovel.

If I declare a technology-free day in my home, I may be the only one of us who participates and even that’s a stretch.  Two of us attend school online, one of us (me) works from home, one of us (husband) owns an IT company, and some of us love our cell phones, computers, DVD players, iPods, video games, etc.  A revolt would surely be carried out if I forbid anyone from partaking in the wonders of technology to which we’ve all become accustomed.

What would a technology-free day look like for me?  It would mean no:

  • cameras
  • credit/debit card
  • computer (I work on a computer, so I’d have to ”fast” on a Saturday)
  • dishwasher
  • driving my car (it’s a computer on wheels),
  • ice dispenser and icemaker on my refrigerator
  • internet use, therefore, no blogging
  • microwave
  • phone (cell, internet, or landline)
  • programmable thermostat (it’s computerized)
  • recumbent bike or treadmill (they’re computerized)
  • television

Let us not forget my stove.  Yep, that’s a modern marvel as well with handy dandy buttons that I push and alarms that sound when I program the stove.

The more I think about this challenge that I thought was a great idea, the more I talk myself out of disconnecting for just one day.  I’d have a ton of chores to make up for if I take off just one day!  Am I a junkie?  What about you?  Are you able to disconnect from technology for one day?  What sacrifices have you made (or will make) to accomplish a day free from technology?  Will you recruit friends and family to suffer fast with you?

Let’s chat!

Love to all!

CC

Can Social Media Rants Become a Workplace Issue?

We’ve all enjoyed ranting on occasion, but how is your career affected when that ranting is posted for all to see?  Well, if you’ve “friended” your boss or failed to protect your online account, workplace rants can spell trouble – even unemployment.

One group is hoping that will change.  Erik Hayden of the Atlantic Wire writes that “In the near future, whining about your boss on Facebook may be a protected activity.  At least if the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) gets their way”.  The NLRB filed a complaint against a company after that company suspended and later fired an employee for ranting about a workplace concern on a social networking site.  Lafe Solomon, the Board’s acting general counsel, believes that the judge may side with the complainant.  Stay tuned to see what the judge presiding over the case has to say when he hears arguments on January 25, 2010.

While we wait to see if your social media posts will become protected under the law, limiting access to your posts by choosing appropriate privacy options could save you a bit of embarassment.  The following tips are Facebook-specific privacy settings:

  • Change your photo and video “tag” features, so that no one will be able to tag you in a photo.  (You don’t want that embarassing weekend photo or video being viewed by everyone at work.)  
  • Choose “Friends Only” for your posts, including pictures.  In this voyeuristic society, we love to snoop on other people by browsing their social media posts and pictures and we often feel as if we owe them the same access to our personal information.  Protect your privacy above all else, because at the end of the day, we don’t owe anyone access to our personal thoughts.
  • Don’t “friend” people from work.  Instead, politely decline their invites and tell them that you wish to keep your work relationships professional.
  • Remove your name from Facebook’s public search option.  Also, check Facebook’s privacy settings to ensure that your profile doesn’t show up during a Google search.  (Note that the Google search will continue to show your name in search results until the search engine captures another snapshot, which could be weeks or months later.)

So before post about your latest workplace frustrations on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media sites, make sure you’ve taken appropriate action to protect your privacy.  Better yet, write it in the old-fashioned way (paper and pen), read it, and toss it (but not in a trash bin at work).

Let’s chat!  If you have advice or stories to share about embarassing social media faux pas, post them here.

Love to all!

CC

Is This Thing On?

Welcome to the first blog post of Random Mom! My husband thought that my random thoughts might benefit the masses, so here I am. Shh, I think his blog idea has one of two purposes: 1) for dear husband to snoop or 2) for me to talk off someone else’s ear.

The pressure is on for me to create enough content to keep this thing interesting, so I need your help. Read and comment often. If there’s a topic you’d like to discuss, post feedback, so that we can begin a dialog.

Much love to all!

CC