Tuesday 29 March 2011

Choosing a Digital Camera for Your Child: The Complete Guide

We lovers of photography who also have children usually don't have a problem pointing a camera at our kids time and time again. Many of us have entire hard drives dedicated to such pictures! As kids get older and they see their parents handling cameras, many get curious and want to emulate them.

If you know you want to introduce your child(ren) to the joy of photography from a young age, there a number of means, and a number of age ranges, to consider!


Monday 14 March 2011

Email / Gmail for kids

My child #1 is a 7yo in Grade 2 and the class is currently learning how to use email, on an internal school system, which means they can't send/receive email outside of that network. According to a 2009 Optus Family Communication Survey, over half (55%) of Australian children outsmart their parents in technology knowledge by the time they are 13 years old. Being the sort of geek I am, I set up Gmail accounts for my kids when they were young (so I could get good usernames!). So last weekend I decided to teach #1  how to use Gmail, and thought I'd share my setup process for anybody else that may be interested.

I chose Gmail for a number of reasons:
  1. I use Gmail, and like to think I understand it.
  2. I believe it's better to give kids tools and teach them to use them properly and safely, and supervise them - rather than locking everything down and giving them a challenge you don't want them to try to beat!
  3. In my experience, Gmail's spam filters are pretty good, and very few spam emails get through.
  4. It allows me to set up a POP/IMAP download into my own email. This means that I receive a copy of every email that is sent/received from the account.
  5. It allows me to authorise #1's account within my own, so I can access it at any time.
Here's how I set it up.
  1. First, follow Gmail's standard sign-up process to create a new account.* (If you haven't already created an account like I did, you may like to do this with your child so they feel like they have some input in the process.) Think about an appropriate username for a kid, something they can remember but also something that they can potentially keep forever. A childhood nickhame may not be appreciated when said child becomes a teen, and a surname may change. Initials are good, or a first name with some numbers. I don't recommend using a surname in an email address - it's easy enough to add this information in the "Last Name" field if you really want it on display. There's no rule that says you HAVE to give these big corporations all of the information that they demand. **
  2. Once the account is setup, log into it and click on Settings.
  3. On the General tab - Browser connection - set this to Always use https. This is more secure, but if you have trouble accessing Gmail from your browser you may need to go back and turn this off.
  4. Labels tab - I hide Chat because I'd prefer #1 didn't use it at this stage. I show Inbox, Sent Mail, Drafts, All Mail, Spam and Bin and hide the rest.
  5. Accounts and Import tab. Assuming that you have your own Gmail account, under Grant access to your account you can add your own email address here. You may need to click on an email link to confirm this. The next time you log into Gmail online your email address at the top-right of screen will be a link, and clicking on the dropdown arrow beside it allows you to view your child's account.
  6. Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab - ensure that POP is enabled. (If you prefer to use IMAP, ensure that that is enabled instead.) This allows you to configure your child's email account within your own email application (such as Outlook, Eudora or Entourage). Click here for instructions on how to setup POP or IMAP for Gmail within common email applications. Make sure that you look for an option like Leave a copy of messages on the server within your email application account settings, and enable it - this means that if your email application downloads the email before your child gets a chance to, it will still be there for them. (If you are familiar with Rules or Filters within your email application, you may also like to create a rule/filter to move your child's email to a separate folder).
  7. Chat tab (just in case your child does find it and starts using it) - click on Save chat history, and set Auto-add suggested contacts to Only allow people that I've explicitly approved to chat with me and see when I'm online.
  8. Web Clips tab - turn it off.
  9. Don't tick any of the options for Google+, Buzz or anything else that links the email account to anything else resembling social media.
  10. Lastly, on the Themes tab - let your child choose the look they want.
Once Gmail is setup, it's time to add some Contacts. At the top left of the screen are 3 tabs - Mail, Contacts and Tasks.  Click on Contacts. A new button will appear - New contact. Setup yourself as a Contact, and anybody else you are happy for your child to exchange emails with. Initially I setup parents and grandparents only, and only demonstrated how to send an email to a Contact.

Then it's time to show them how to use it! Gmail is fairly simple:
  1. Click on the Compose mail button
  2. Hit the first letter of the Contact you are sending to and when the suggested name pops up underneath, click on it.
  3. Type in a Subject.
  4. Type in a message.
  5. Click on Send.
I fully expect that #1 will eventually figure out how to access the Settings and change things, and send email to people other than those on the Contacts list. But for now we are just happy and a little bit proud, to be allowed to use something so "grown-up", even if only when Mum is there. #1 also understands that I can access the account, that I get copies of all messages and that any misuse may result in losing the account.

For more information about kids and the Internet, please visit KidSafety.net.au, a site I created for a school assignment last year.

* January 2013 - Please note, Gmail will now actively prevent you from creating an account if the date-of-birth you enter is under 13 years of age. Yes, the entire world is subject to the whims of the United States government's nanny-state COPPA law. Never mind if parents WANT to take responsibility for their own children online. Never mind that many 12 year olds are more competent using a computer than a lot of adults I know. Anyway... just so you know.
** I know of many people who choose to provide a different date-of-birth, for instance, on social media, in the interests of avoiding identity theft. Just saying.

Friday 11 March 2011

I think I have a phobia...

Now, before I go on, I don't agree with phobias.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines phobia as "an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something".  I like to think of myself as a logical, rational thinker and I've always thought that living your life in fear is nonsense, it's all in the head and you should just talk yourself out of it.

Well, now I'm a bit stuck.  My husband loves flying, I don't mind it - although I do get a bit nervous about the landing part - but I don't think that counts as a fear of flying.  So when he announced a few weeks ago that he had to go to Singapore on business, and he could arrange a 2-for-1 airfare if I'd like to go,  and his mother was happy to come and stay with the kids for a few days, and it was probably the 4th time he's asked, and I haven't gone previously - I thought it might be nice to have a long weekend away.  Problem is, since then all I can think about is - both of us flying together, without the kids, if something happens to us... I can't even say it!  I've turned into a nervous wreck!

My husband thinks I'm bonkers and jokingly asked if we should do as the Royal Family do, and fly in separate planes.  My friend thinks I'm bonkers and offered to go in my place if I didn't want to go.  I'm confident I know what the response will be from a whole bunch of different friends and family...

According to the above definition, this is what a phobia feels like.  So what should I call it, and how do I fix it?!  Because this is bullsh*t!


Well, whaddya know - I'm not alone!




Thursday 10 March 2011

Photoshop Tutorials To Suit Your Taste

Geek personified... but some of these are VERY awesome :>

Sunday 6 March 2011

McSweeney's Internet Tendency: Angry Birds - Letters from the Front Lines

This is seriously one of the funniest things I've seen in ages!

Friday 4 March 2011

NET204 - Week 1

In this first stage of the course we are reading to develop a background to the broad area of Internet Communities and Social Networks, particularly looking at virtual communities. It is important that you give yourself sufficient background knowledge of this area as we move into stage 2 next week.
Your first readings
There is quite a bit of reading for this relatively short (one week) stage of the course, but look at all these readings, and try to develop a background of knowledge around virtual communities to build on in stage two.
(2011). "Virtual Community." Retrieved January 19th, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_community.
Wellman, B., & Gulia, M. (1999). Net Surfers Don't Ride Alone: Virtual Communities as Communities. In P. Kollock, & M. Smith (Eds.), Communities and Cyberspace. New York: Routledge.
Available: http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~wellman/publications/netsurfers/netsurfers.pdf

Katz, J. E., Rice, R. E., Acord, S., Dasgupta, K., & David, K. (2004). Personal Mediated Communication and the Concept of Community in Theory and Practice. In P. Kalbfleisch (Ed.), Communication and Community: Communication Yearbook 28 (pp. 315-371). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Available: http://www.comm.ucsb.edu/faculty/rrice/A80KatzRiceAcordDasguptaDavid2004.pdf

Ridings, C., & Gefen, D. (2004). Virtual Community Attraction: Why People Hang Out Online. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, 10(1).
Available: http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol10/issue1/ridings_gefen.html

Having completed the readings have another look at the Wikipedia article on the subject. What do you think is wrong or missing with this article? Please post your responses to the blackboard discussion area. This will be the focus of the review of learning essay in Stage 6.
Wellman & Gulia wrote their article more than a decade ago when the World Wide Web was still in its infancy (and many of the works they reference were written before the World Wide Web was developed) , and Web 2.0 was not even thought of. How well do you think their arguments apply today? Once again post your responses to the blackboard discussion area.
It's difficult to say what hasn't already been said on Blackboard but I agree with what most people pointed out - that the focus of the Wikipedia article "Virtual Community" appears to be more on the virtual and less on the community.  As Wellman & Gulia say in the "Net Surfers" reading - "It is the relationship that is the important thing, and not the communication medium".  Considering they said that in 1997, it's not a new idea but the Wikipedia article seems to miss that.
With regard to Wellman & Gulia's own article - I think that many of the themes of this article still makes sense today but much has moved on, and I would actually question one or two points as being "true" even back then.  As a somewhat addicted IRC participant during much of the 1990's including the period this article was written, I take exception to the statement "Yet Net users usually trust strangers".  I don't recall this - if anything, we were all very wary of claims people were making about themselves. Privacy was a different thing back then. IRC allows everybody to use a nickname and nobody I met on IRC ever used their real name or gave away much more about themselves to strangers than "I live in Melbourne, Australia".  Of course, once we got to know people, many of whom knew each other IRL (in real life), we would share more - but trust was a very delicate thing and I think people are generally more likely to trust strangers now than they were back then.

Some of the things in the article that I think are no longer relevant:

- Overall the article implies a fairly clear divide between the online and offline worlds, which did indeed exist in 1997 but is not very clear any more.

- The statements "a survey of 'Web users' in Spring, 1995 found that women comprised less than one-fifth of their sample" and "about two-thirds of the sampled Web users had at least a university education, had an average household income of US$59,600, and three-quarters lived in North America" are obviously now incorrect.

- The statement "people are usually based at their home, the most local environment imaginable, when they connect with their virtual communities" is clearly not true any more, as people embrace mobile technologies.

However, I highlighted a couple of things that I think still make sense today:

- The authors suspicion that "as on-line communication becomes widely used and routinely accepted, the current fascination with it will decline sharply. It will be seen much as telephone contact is now and letter writing was in Jane Austen's time: a reasonable way to maintain strong and weak ties between people who are unable to have a face-to-face encounter just then" seems pretty accurate.

- The final statement - "scientists talk about the evolution of the information infrastucture, ... [we don't] talk about ... the technology.  We talk about ethics, law, policy and sociology .... It is a social invention" - seems to be more accurate than that Wikipedia article!


The Trouble with Bright Girls

Interesting article about the difference in the way girls and boys view challenges.  From the Huffington Post: