It’s Friday! Let the Kids Play Video Games

May 11

Everyone feels relieved when the No Video Game Rule is lifted Friday afternoon. I can relax by my laptop, or on a sunny day like today, on my deck sipping a glass of wine. The kids can play to their heart’s content without worrying about any mom-induced consequences.

So go ahead, kids. Play.

It's Friday, boys. Go for it!

 

Or just watch a YouTube video...

 

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May 10

We all know of the many actions we can take to make the world a better place: hold the door open for someone else, recycle your garbage, volunteer for a charitable cause. The list is infinite, in fact. Yet, as our society migrates to the web, many of us spend almost as much time online as we do in the “real world.” And, increasingly we recognize that online actions can be just as devastating or rewarding to individuals as those actions made in the physical world.

As the first generation of children grows up immersed in the digital culture, parents and society in general, need to consider ways to bring the same level of care in teaching kids social responsibility and kindness in real life to their online life. By creating a set of standards based on our real life knowledge, we can provide kids a map for navigating the internet with much needed compassion and responsibility.

Here are ten ways we can start to build a better internet for both ourselves, and our kids:

  1. Be respectful when you comment. There is nothing wrong with feeling passionate or angered by a post, but insults and derogatory phrases should stay out of it.
  2. Before posting a questionable video or photo of your friend, tell him your intentions, and respect his wishes if he asks you not to. Everyone makes mistakes and just because it happens to get caught on camera, it doesn’t mean that person should suffer its infinite presence online.
  3. Make an effort to post or message at least one compliment or uplifting thought every day on another person’s social media page (be it Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or a blog).
  4. When you read a mean or derogatory post about a person you know, defend him or her by either trying to have the post erased or by posting a kind comment to offset it.
  5. Every day, the internet is offering an increasing number of opportunities to educate kids, adults, families in almost every facet of academia and society. Seek them out. Expose yourself and your kids to the diversity of this world in a way that was simply not possible only five years ago.
  6. Set a rule for yourself to never post anything hurtful on your Facebook page. Ever.
  7. Refrain from visiting sites that encourage vices or addictions, (you know the ones).
  8. When you read an article that you really enjoy, leave a comment! That will encourage the site’s author to publish more similar pieces.
  9. Share your personal positive experiences, perspectives, or stories by starting your own blog on a theme near and dear to your heart. While we can’t prevent detestable content from being published online, we can do our best to overpower it by publishing even more “good” content.
  10. Seek websites that offer fulfilling advice or uplifting content and make an effort to visit them regularly for inspiration and positive reinforcement.

 

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May 09

Giving starts at home and comes in many forms.

We all need a good kick in the pants sometimes to remind us of what is truly important in this world. I got one today when I attended a tour of the new Ronald McDonald House® in Toronto.  If you’re not familiar with this organization, its very worthy mission is to provide a home away from home for seriously ill children and their families who require treatment in a Toronto hospital. I could easily provide a list of all the details that make this beautiful new Toronto house a wonderful place of comfort and refuge for families struggling with the emotional and physical challenges of treating a very sick child. In fact, I recommend you check out their website to see just how amazing this organization is. But what was more impressive than the building (which, believe me , is hard to beat) is the commitment of all the people working to ease the suffering of the families.

I was especially inspired by the presentations at the conclusion of the tour, which featured a video interview with Craig Kielburger and a live talk by Michael Pinball Clemons, that challenged me to pursue every opportunity to give of myself to those in need. Because the theme of the event was Celebration of Mothers, they spoke passionately about the importance of role modelling philanthropy for our children – the single most significant way to instil in kids a natural desire to give with empathy and kindness.

As Clemons so poignantly explained: “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one.”

Which brings me back to that kick in the pants. (I received my first kick last week with the tragic passing of a friend who was a pillar of kindness in our community). The kick said something like: Get off your laptop tapping butt and help the world – whether it’s a community event, a regular volunteer commitment, or visiting your grandma in her nursing home – stop thinking about it. Just do it. And, stop doing that thing that you do so well – making excuses.

Today (which happens to be my 40th birthday), I pledge to give more. Whether it’s giving big or giving small, doing it loud or doing it silently, helping a neighbour or helping a stranger, spreading good digitally or spreading it personally. The small voice in my head that has been whispering to do more will no longer be ignored as I step into the newest decade of my life.

This is my commitment. Are you willing to join me?

 

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Experiment Lets the Kids Get Messy: Learning About Catalysts

May 08

This is week 2 of my journey into the world of kids’  innovation and science. We’re back in the kitchen making goop (my kids like getting messy.) This particular experiment helps kids understand propulsion through the use of . Rocket fuel, for instance, is created when a catalyst is added to concentrated hydrogen peroxide and is used in jet packs to propel humans through the air.

But don’t worry – no kids will be flying across your kitchen.

Today’s experiment is called Elephant’s Toothpaste (don’t ask why, ’cause I don’t know).

It is taken from the book Science Rocks! by Ian Graham. (I highly recommend this book.)

Ingredients: empty plastic bottle, hydrogen peroxide, dishwashing liquid, food colouring, dry yeast, hot water, funnel, baking tray.

First - Measure 4 oz of hydrogen peroxide and pour into the bottle (which should be set upon the tray to minimize the cleaning later!) Then add a few drops of food colouring and a few drops of dishwashing liquid.

Let the kids do the measuring.

My boys chose pink dye.

A few drops of dishwashing liquid will do

Second - Mix a teaspoon of yeast with two tablespoons of hot water in a cup or bowl, then pour it through the funnel into the bottle. My kids thought it’d be fun to add some figurines into the mix, too.

Third - STEP BACK!

This kind of experiment is just what the boys love

Time to get the hands into it

I highly recommend this science experiment. It’s a big step up from the old  baking soda and vinegar trick and not a whole lot more work. As long as parents keep the mess contained within a baking tray, the clean up is swift, too. And by the way, I’d encourage you to include clean-up as part of the kids’ experiment (especially when the dishwashing liquid is so handy.)

Related Posts:

The Science of Slime for Innovative Kids

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Disney Movies Offer a Plot Structure for Dummies Guide

May 07

disney movies aid writers

Lion King's appeal is universal

Movies that have inspired my writing. This is today’s post theme for bloggers who are participating in thethrough the month of May. And, I have spent a good portion of the day agonizing over my inability to get inspired by this particular idea. Movies? Writing? Yes, the two go hand-in-hand. Good writing, after all, leads to great movies. Furthermore, great movies are often based on wonderful stories written by incredible writers. I get the relationship.

But still. I can’t drum up a list of movies that have had much, if any, impact on my writing. Sadly, my mind keeps meandering toward Disney movies. Embarrassing, isn’t it? How does an adult who has diligently pursued the craft of writing for several years relate her writing, in any way, to formulaic Disney flicks? And, just in case you’re wondering, I’m not the kind of person to traipse around the Magic Kingdom (which I’ve visited with my kids many times) wearing Mickey Mouse ears or flashing a lanyard laced with trading pins. I have too healthy a dose of cynicism to do that.

Since I began my latest rewrite of my middle grade novel, I’ve agonized over whether each scene relates back to the book’s main theme and plot. And, more pathetically, what exactly is the main theme of the book? Is the hero even moving toward the central goal that he will ultimately achieve? I often recount the simple formula of a Disney movie to remind myself to keep the book’s message universal, and thus, appealing to a young readership.

Everyone knows that Disney’s films are stereotypically simple, yet they are wildly successful among both kids and their parents. Why? Because every audience member immediately identifies with the struggle of the hero or heroine. Whether she yearns true love, parental acceptance, or a sense of identity, the desire is one in which every person can relate.

My novel, on the other hand, has meandered in and out of this simple formula and has become – at times – unnecessarily complicated. When I’m feeling frustrated and lost inside my own manuscript, I think about a Disney movie. It’s a sort of Plot Structure for Dummies guide that helps me clarify the direction of my story.

While I hope to finally craft a complex and well-developed character facing a challenge with many twists and turns along the way, I need to maintain a clear sense of direction for the character that keeps the readers rooting for his success.

Disney movies are uncompromisingly good at that. Within the first fifteen minutes of every movie, viewers know exactly what the hero or heroine needs to accomplish and what evil villains will get in his way. We’re cheering him on from the very beginning and experience fulfillment, ourselves, when he reaches his goal.

While I proudly admit that Prince Charming will not figure in my novel, I’m more than happy to have him lead me the way.

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If Only My Kids Could Regulate Their Own Video Gaming Habits

May 06

No video games from Monday to Thursday. Of all the family rules I have ever devised, this is the one that I treasure most, and try hardest to maintain. You can read about when I first instituted it here. It requires serious vigilance because this unpopular rule is under constant attack by its detractors (my three sons).

But like any sympathetic ruler, I offer generous rewards for their compliance. In return for their 4-day screen drought, I let them play without restriction during the weekend. Well, that’s a slight lie (what good ruler doesn’t do that once in a while!)

That’s what I had said in the hopes that they would learn how to moderate their own video gaming exposure if given the freedom to do so. Unfortunately, that never came to fruition. They would play for hours and hours, if given the chance. I’d no sooner let that happen to allow them to drink soda pop for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

When I observe they have been feeding off the IV of screen animations for too long, I will often erupt into a fit of exclamations that go something like this: “Turn that thing off! Can’t you find something better to do?” “Have you noticed how beautiful it is outside?” “Don’t you have a book to read?”

I don’t expect a response, nor do they have any desire to offer one. In fact, they’re quite skilled at ignoring me altogether (the dissidents). As their ruler (read: threatener of eliminating all things they love), I am eventually granted my wishes: they rise from the couch, release the game controllers, and march toward their new activity.

Why do video games irritate me more than any other activity? Certainly, I don’t resent my kids their copious amount of leisure time. They’re kids, after all. I never complain if they are playing a game of Monopoly for an hour. Or reading a book for two hours. And if they play outside, well, my entire body beams with parental pleasure at the joys of childhood.

I suppose a large part of my anxiety is a result of their inability to monitor their own screen time and balance it with other activities. I can’t think of any other activity that absorbs their attention so completely and for such long lengths of time than video games. Despite what my kids may think, I would be happy to let them play carte blanche all weekend long – if they could just figure out how to self-regulate the amount of time they spend playing.

In fact, once they’ve proven that ability, I will comfortably eliminate my rule completely. But I don’t see that happening any time soon. Just this afternoon, I hinted that perhaps they’d rather play a board game or go outside than continue playing on the computer. They ignored me, as usual.

It wasn’t until I forced them to shut their devices down, and they had to fill the growing void of boredom that results after an hour or so of screen entertainment, that they followed my advice and got out a board game.

Limit kids' video games

Play as long as you want, boys.

“Isn’t this better?” I asked, beaming. They nodded. Then lost interest in the game ten minutes later in search of something else to do. Now if only they could exhibit an attention span as short as that when playing video games. Then we’d all get along just fine.

More Posts You Might Like:

Welcome to the Screen Years, er, Tween Years

Get Comfortable With Saying No

Family Battles over Video Games

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Video Round-Up: What My Kids Watch When My Kids Watch YouTube

May 05

Three boys hovering over a glowing screen is a common scene in my household. Every once in a while I ask, “what are you watching?” Invariably it’s some inane YouTube video they are more than eager to explain to me in painstaking detail. Or worse, they ask me to watch it with them. As a digitally-concerned parent, I usually oblige. So for today, on my first Porridge Report video round-up, I am showcasing my sons’ top YouTube video selections.

what kids watch online

For the record, I was a little shocked by some of the videos they recommended (and apparently watch regularly). However, I try to maintain an open mind so that my kids continue to share their viewing habits. Tonight they excitedly told me of two favourite videos, which I watched for the first time while writing this post. I was surprised by the questionable content. But on the other hand, I also recognized that the videos are very funny and somewhat reminiscent of the Mad Magazine issues I perused as a tween myself – vulgar, satirical, and edgy – and, well, sort of brilliant.

Below is one example of the hundreds of videos created by Smosh.com. This one is called If Video Games Were Real (my 11-year-old was adamant that I watch this one). It’s pretty darn funny, but there are references to fake breasts, cursing, and violence. I get that it’s all satire but I’m a bit concerned that my young boys are watching this. Note to self: schedule a “chat” tomorrow.

 

This next one is by The Computer Nerd. It’s pretty lengthy. Clearly these young YouTube sensations know how to hold a boy’s attention for longer than any mother or teacher (I can barely hold any child’s attention for more than 4 seconds). It’s a funny commentary on Justin Bieber’s song Baby, although it still manages to have one violent scene.

What are your kids watching online? Be sure to ask them once in a while. You may be surprised by what they tell you.

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