The Screen Time Dilemma

Like most parents, I am concerned with my daughter Soleil’s welfare and education. One of the most disconcerting things about this time period is her interest in video and games, and what is an often poor reaction to being separted from the media.

Soleil throws sever temper tantrums when she video and ipad time ends, which is now causing us to discipline her more frequently. Specifically, we are using corner time, room time, restricted access to video, and grounding to work through this period.

She doesn’t go to school yet, but her start is imminent (waiting on pddy training to take hold). Until then we’re actively reading with her and more. We’d love interactive games and fun learning to be a part of this. She’ll need the skills to succeed later in life, but the impact on her mental and emotional development requires close moderation of use and access.

The Need to Be Engaged

With education in the United States continuing to deteriorate (41st int he world), parents need to be more involved in their children’s welfare. It’s important for parents to actively participate in their child’s education. It’s not enough to go on autopilot and let schools and tools (technology and media) lead the way.

This is one of the reasons why I am thrilled to help my client the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) with its first annual Big Give, or the #BigGive4Families, this November 1. More on this at the end, but in short NCFL’s mission is to use the family as the focal point for learning.

I think that’s more imperative now, thanks to technology. Digital media are advancing so quickly that parents have to be actively involved in their child’s activities. There are many unexpected traps.

One example is the application PBS Kids. PBS offers great programming, but it’s also addictive and creates the Soleil zombie state where she won’t do anything else, and then throws temper tantrums upon separation. Perhaps that’s Soleil’s personality at play, but I would normally feel safe trading on the PBS name. Sorry Daniel the Tiger, but access to you has become restricted (My Little Pony, too).

Screen time behavior is the biggest challenge facing Soleil right now, so all in all, we have high quality problems. Soon she’ll start Montesori school, which has no tech, no phones lying around, etc, and that will help. Notice that we are sending her to private school.

It is my intent to make sure she has the opportunity to participate in the finest schools possible. If that means going to private shcool, then I will work to make it happen.

To be a part of Soleil’s growth, I make sacrifices, the same sacrifices that many parents choose; keeping that camera another year, buying a lesser version of a car, eating out less often, etc. Most importantly, I sacrifice my time. I stay up late and wake up early to work, so I can spend more time with her. I know spending time with Soleil on education dramatically improves her learning process, and increases her chances of a prosperous life.

Many families don’t have access to the education resources that I do, nor do they have the knowledge to learn with their children. Because of cost and the deterioration of the country’s educations system, I feel very strongly that NCFL’s work is necessary.

If you’d like to help me or the more than a dozen individuals fundraising during the #NCFLBigGive, here are two easy actions:

1) It may seem obvious, but if you can’t fundraise the best way to help us make our goal is to donate to my personal fundraiser on November 1 or before. Even $50 makes a big difference as we try to attain $25,000.

2) Participate in the #NCFLBigGive Thunderclap. Hundreds of people will blast out a timed Tweet on November 1 to launch the Big Give. Just sign up here and Thunderclap will take care of the rest.

How do you handle access to phones, TVs and other forms of screen-based media with your children?

P.S. Though NCFL is my client, fundraising is not part of my scope of work. I architected the big give, but also decided to fundraise because I believe in the cause.

The Library Is Dead. Long Live the Library!

Image by Camera Obscura 1975

The other day Caitlin told Soleil they would visit the library for story time. Their conversation unleashed a well of hope within me.

I had come to believe that libraries were dying, just like the traditional publishing business that fills their shelves. I remembered reading that libraries were dwindling, and just wrote them off. Like many other things in our world, it seemed the library could not survive the ongoing Internet revolution, and its eReaders, blog posts, and Twitter archives.

Well, the library is alive and well. In fact, the library stands as a critical part of American communities, and a fundamental aspect of a child’s formative years. According to Pew, 97% of parents believe libraries should offer programs for children, and 69% of all Americans use a library.
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Fertility Issues and Gratitude

Soleil Blows out the Cake

On October 29, my beautiful girl Soleil turned two years old.

People that know me understand how much I love my daughter, something I’ve written about before on this blog. But many of you don’t know why I am so grateful.

Of course, normal parental love factors into it. There’s also the very desperate reality I faced about infertility and not being able to father a child.

Rarely do you hear male fertility discussed, and that’s probably because from a guy’s perspective it’s akin to or even worse than erectile dysfunction.
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Soleil’s Digital Future Will Be Her Own


Earlier this week I shared that I’m posting less photos of my daughter Soleil online. It’s part of a conscious effort to be mindful about how my actions and attitudes will shape her digital future.

It’s just stunning how quickly time flies. I remember holding her in my arms when she was three days old. She literally fit between my wrist and elbow.

Daddy Holds Soleil

In just three months, she will be two years old. And many of you have seen her become a toddler before your eyes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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The Secret to Success: Impact and Experience

VCU Mass Communications Commencement Speech

I gave the following commencement speech yesterday in Richmond to Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Mass Communications. The speech focuses on what makes for a successful career in communications, specifically by navigating today’s fast moving media environment. The keys to success are gaining experience and delivering impact.

Thank you to Bill Farrar, Yan Jin, Jon Newman and the rest of the faculty at VCU for having me. And thanks to those of you who took the poll and answered questions on the challenges facing today’s communications students entering the job market.

Commencement Speech for VCU Mass Communications School

Will Media Make Our Children Think Differently?

Toca Tea Party
Image by Toca Boca

Semantic data, smaller screens, texting, social media, short videos, network update streams, augment reality, and more continue to evolve the way we receive information from both new and traditional email. As each new innovation arrives and evolves, people ask whether or not the new XXXX is harming our youth. Will they will be unable to think logically or effectively? Perhaps the right way to look at this is to ask whether they will think differently.

Inevitably, the answer is yes. Their media information environment is dramatically different than the childhood we remember so fondly.

Currently, there is much concern about literacy, and the state of language with texting and short form media. In actuality, what new media seems to be doing is increasing spelling skills and literacy. However, face-to-face skills may be suffering. Meanwhile, the iPad is revolutionizing learning with more than 40,000 education applications.

But, generally speaking, we have seen a decline in the general public’s ability to discern quality information with the rise of social media. As online media becomes more prevalent, it increases the amount of reading an individual is subjected to in their daily lives. More and more of it is headline oriented, and less and less of it is text rich. Sources are not validated, and this is already creating problems with poor media reporting, much less the general public’s belief in unproven data.

Mobile and tactile media continues this trend, leaning towards shorter media, less text, and more video. While this is a natural trend, there is no emphasis on quality or on educating people and youth on how to intelligently discern what is fact, what is fiction, and what is actionable. Further, they are not being taught how to create quality information either.

Adding to the face-to-face issues, we have already seen how millennials and generation xers will text to each other in a room rather than talk. Relationship break-ups are now occurring via text message. There is a general devolution or devaluing of face-to-face interaction that technologies inherently bring.

Yet, is this bad, or is it just change? Was the telephone and televisions’s impact on local neighbors any different? Would you get rid of voice and video technologies because of it?

Point being, media is changing. It changes us, and the way we behave towards each other, but that doesn’t make it good or bad, just different. The waters move further down river, and we need to move with them. Our children simply have an easier time of it.

What do you think of new media’s impact on the next generation?