Spy on your Children’s Tech Use?

I was in a meeting yesterday that mentioned a business in town that makes their primary product to spy on your child.  They do it at your request… and say it’s to protect your child from exploitation.  As a parent of three boys, two that have were teens, what I forsee is a lot of kids that will not trust their parents again for a long time.  Additionally kids that have absolutely no freedom in my opinion, take off and run wild as soon as they get a chance at freedom. IMG_3079(1) IMG_3078

I was very lucky to know how to keep an eye on my kids tech use myself, but even knowing how, I didn’t monitor them 24/7.  I wanted them to have some freedom.  My boys each had their own domain starting at an early age, and access to the internet starting early.  We also had discussions about internet safety and how easy it is to pretend to be someone your not when online.  Internet crime was a popular discussion in our house as well as a few movies like Hackers.

With the recent stories like the one about the 13 year old in the news that was lured off by older kids she met online, the online social networks are pretty scary.  When I was a teenager, my mother lectured me on the danger of going off with people I met at the roller skating rink….  and other places around town that kids met.  At the time a typical Friday night could involve cruising up and down main street, stopping in parking lots at night to talk to people that you didn’t know.  It was rare for things to happen, but without the internet the stories didn’t spread as easily as they do now either.

Now parents are limited more by their own knowledge of the technology. Kids pick up computers and devices and quickly get them all figured out, parents are just lost… For every technology that parents come up with to track kids, kids will come up with a technology to circumvent it.  Think calculator app that was really a photo sharing app!

Parents should :

  1. Have open discussions with your children about the dangers of social media
  2. Talk to your teens (and pre-teens about social networks)
  3. Read up on Social Networks
  4. Give your teens (and pre-teens) some freedom
  5. Make sure your children understand that they can talk to you (without punishment) about questions and concerns and what they are doing
  6. Don’t over-react to what your child admits (no matter how scared it makes you!)

A forensic scientist pulls out all the information they can find, providing you with data. From the website in this case, it sounds like for their cheapest price they will give you a list of who your child is talking to (contacts on their phone – my phone bill has that) and the list of contacts.  For more money they will get you a list of what apps your child has on their device (see below) – maybe even deleted info, a history of activity (history is under a menu item if you want to find it yourself).  Really they are going to get on your child’s device and tell you everything they can find out about it for you and give you a list for that one time.    A little research and you can do it yourself when you want…

The question is how much should you invade your child’s privacy?  When I was a teen this would have been the equivalent of reading a diary… Not that mom’s didn’t do that too!  How do you decide when your relationship with your child has reached the point that you need to take this step?  When you do, how to keep yourself from letting them know what you know (unless what you find out pushes you to the point of necessity to speaking up)

Good business plan?  Would you use a service like this?



Posted in activities, kids, Social Networking | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Spy on your Children’s Tech Use?

iPad Locked? Forgot that code?

iPad DisabledFor us, it came about because I left the room during an update. My youngest, who is normally wonderful with technology, and great at remembering all codes (cover your screen when putting in your password!), noticed the iPad was at the point of needing to go on and finish the update.  Apparently in the update process the iPad had automatically set the option for a code.  Being there I would have turned this off, but not being there, my youngest thought it was required.  He proceeded to set a code. Entering it not once, but twice.  When it came time to remember it though his answer was, it starts with 105 – leaving 10 combinations if he had the first three characters right.  As we tried each combination the iPad disabled itself for longer each time.  Hooking to a computer did nothing as it needed approved to allow me to approve it and to do that you have to unlock the iPad.

After trying all the combinations and nothing working, the only solution was to reset the iPad…. in our case the iPad had been a gift from grandma so it included a phone call to get her password also.  To unlock the iPad we did:

  1. Turn the iPad completely off
  2. Start iTunes
  3. Hold down the home button for a little while
  4. Plug the iPad into the computer while still holding down the home button
  5. The iPad will be in reset mode. (my itunes had to download an update, so it took two tries for me)
  6. Choose Reset instead of upgrade
  7. You will need the original owners password (in most cases this is your own, in ours it was my mothers)
  8. Once reset finishes you will have to walk through set up again and re add accounts and apps.

NOTE: If you reset your data and pictures will be gone!  But if you can’t figure out the code there is no other way in that I know of. My youngest took this really well and didn’t seem upset that he lost all of his stuff.  I think he took it as a chance to start over.



Posted in app reviews, iphone ipad mobile apps | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on iPad Locked? Forgot that code?

Cursive needed?

Is cursive necessary?  My husband and I go back and forth on it.  I actually even use the script font sometimes on my computer.  Part of that though is the fact that my handwriting is really bad.  I suspect we all want to eliminate the things that we aren’t personally good at, and add more of our favorites.

Seeing a graphic on facebook of a teachers note saying stop writing in cursive – you have had several warnings originally made me wonder if the teacher herself doesn’t know how to read cursive, but it’s probably more that she doesn’t want to encourage cursive that isn’t part of the school’s learning plan.  In my opinion some schools today try to keep students together in their learning. Almost a teach to the middle, but there are mandated programs for students lagging behind.  Students that are ahead are given busy work to keep them occupied while teachers work with their peers.

Cursive though! Do we need cursive in the schools.  Cursive is something that in most cases I’m sure could be eliminated and the students wouldn’t notice.  The top students would pick it up on their own and the slower students would never miss it.  That being said, I’m convinced that cursive like learning another language or working on art can help develop new pathways in the brain.  It has been shown that learning more languages helps develop pathways for math which also ties to music. (I would almost bet someone could do a study showing that adding cursive directly correlates also in the same way as a new language….)

I’ve seen schools add everything from sign language to Chinese.  In grade school I personally learned the sign language alphabet, just because I wanted to – and I haven’t used it, other than one time to figure out what the drawings on my son’s school playground equipment say.  On the other hand, I’ve been working on transcribing notes from a journal and have been using cursive daily…. not to mention I use it in my own day calendar everyday.  Yes I could print, but for me I don’t….

Another language is also great! I personally have taken Spanish and French in high school, my oldest took Latin, Chinese, and Japanese, and my middle took spanish… (hubby took German).  Having a language is a good thing, but I don’t think these should be mutually exclusive.  One of the documents I want to translate was in Italian but Italian cursive.

There are several apps available to help with learning cursive writing. Several of these look good, but you can also search cursive and find more.  We haven’t started working on cursive at our house with my youngest yet, but this debate has brought it back to my attention and I plan to add it to the list of things to work on here at home.


Posted in activities, education, Languages | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment


Our most recent activity to try was to break geodes… My youngest and I found a kit and decided to give it a try.  Our kit came with two geode rocks and a hammer.  For safety we found a pair of goggles to use to protect our eyes and went out to the driveway.

The instructions with the kit said to gently tap the geode with the hammer and the geode would break – not too hard or it would shatter.  Interestingly enough ours seemed to be a tough rock!  We finally had to resort to getting my husband.  The first geode broke after some harder hits. Breaking into several pieces and scattering, but it was obviously a geode.

Our second wasn’t as easy, after trying to tap it fairly hard with a hammer we moved on to the flat side of an ax.  – Safety equipment was taken into account, and I should say if you try this yourself, make sure you have goggles and skin covered.  The geode finally broke and we found this one was 95% solid inside. That did explain why it was so difficult to break.

After breaking open our geode we had to venture online to find out how geodes are formed:

Geodes can form in any cavity, but usually means fairly rounded formations in igneous and sedimentary rocks. They can form in gas bubbles in igneous rocks, such as vesicles in basaltic lavas; or, as in the American Midwest, in rounded cavities in sedimentary formations. After rock around the cavity hardens, dissolved silicates and/or carbonates are deposited on the inside surface. Over time, this slow feed of mineral constituents from groundwater or hydrothermal solutions allows crystals to form inside the hollow chamber.

I’m not sure if we will save our geodes and do something with them or not.  I’ve seen bookends make from geodes before, but ours are smaller pieces of rock, maybe I can attach our geodes to keychains.


IMG_1889 IMG_1981 IMG_2552 IMG_2553

Posted in activities | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Geodes

Personal Robot

For the holiday we thought a Mecanoid robot would be fun. I stalked the black Friday sales and found the big one for sale at a good price.  My little one had thought they looked fun when he noticed one at the store, but by the time Christmas came around he had quit mentioning the robot and was asking for other things.  This wasn’t a great sign, but the Mecanoid was already in a box.

Mecanoid took two days to build!  The robot requires nuts and bolts put in all the right places and lots of instructions.  I had some problems with the instructions which were completely pictures, and in a couple places the pictures weren’t correct…. adding to the difficulty.  We finally did get the robot built after tag teaming the built between my two oldest boys, my husband, and I over the two days.  – I should mention that two days into the Mecanoid working one of the shoulder bolts came loose and had to be redone.  The arm was flying everywhere as Mecanoid swung it around telling us a joke.

After turning it on and going through some set up, we were able to control the robot.  He can follow voice commands for movement, tell us a joke, and many more things.  My youngest though was afraid of him at first.  After adjusting my little one did laugh at the jokes, and watch from a distance.  After a week he finally got to the point he was willing to work with Mecanoid enough to try to change his name.

My youngest names everything after something about themselves – that’s how we have a frog named Leaf 2 (Leaf was found on a leaf) and a Toad named Ignis.. (A fire bellied toad and Ignis means fiire in Latin)…. So a robot became Robby.  While hubby and my little one were working on setting the name of Robby the Robot though a mistake was made and Robby became fjaldfjdslfjadsf or something like that, that can’t be repeated.

The robot requires the user to say it’s name to command it to do anything, so we are stuck now until we reset the robot.  Next step to reset Robby back to the beginning and correct his name!

Some of the Commands a Meccanoid recognizes:

  • Introduce Yourself
  • List Commands
  • High Five
  • Tell Me a Joke
  • Walk with Me
  • Motion Control
    • Forward
    • Backward
    • Left Turn
    • Right Turn
    • Turn Around
    • Kung Fu
    • Exercise
    • Dance
  • Shake Hands
  • What Time is It
  • LIM (This is Learned Intelligent Movement)
  • Help
  • Settings
  • Go to Sleep

Of course all of these require that you be able to say it’s name first.  The Meccano robot will wait for you to say it’s name, and then when it hears it – the eyes change colors signifying time to start issuing commands.

It also appears to use the Arduino processor – meaning it’s open source and if you really want to get into the insides you can modify the programming.  I have downloaded the libraries, but haven’t played with them yet.

Time to try to reset the name on ours!

(This is the shorter robot G15 – the G15KS is the taller robot that we have.)

Posted in Cool Technology, kids, preschool | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Personal Robot