Echo Dot Dot Dot…

Remember when you first learned how to echo?  Maybe you were on a hike and your voice reflected off a wall or mountain.  Maybe you were imitating or repeating everything said by your best friend.  Maybe you were eliciting a sympathetic response to a sentiment expressed. Echo Dot is a hands-free, voice-controlled device that uses a smart speaker Alexa to play music, control smart home devices, make calls, send and receive messages, provide information, read the news and more.

Until recently echo meant any or all of the above.  With the introduction of Amazon Echo and, most recently, Echo Dot For Kids into homes around the world, the word “echo” has taken on new meaning.

Echo Dot For Kids

Echo Dot For Kids is being marketed as a kid-friendly DJ, comedian, and storyteller.  Boys and girls can ask her to play music, read stories, answer questions, tell jokes and more.  If there are compatible Echo devices in the house, parents and kids can even “talk” to each other or tell each other good morning or good night.

Unlike the outdoor echo experience of a voice bouncing off canyon walls, young voices are heard, responded to by a voice-activated speaker recording everything your child says all in the “privacy” of your own home.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that children are a key market for tech companies.  With the introduction of Echo Dot For Kids, advocates by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) say voice activated devices could prove to be a security risk as well as just one more device to encourage compulsive technology use.  Further, Google, Amazon and Facebook have all introduced devices or messaging services for kids that could potentially put a child’s privacy at risk and cause further exploitation.

What’s next?  Is parenting being replaced with devices?  What are tech companies doing to promote face-to-face, authentic, family connections?

School Shootings: How to Prepare our Kids

ONE school shooting is too many!  What are schools across the country doing to improve school safety and avoid school shootings?  How are children handling school preparedness?  Do students feel safe in school?

In response to recent school shootings, school security measures may actually be doing more to scare kids than protect them. It’s worth examining the notion that in our attempt to prepare and secure our schools, we might be overlooking some basic steps schools can take to improve safety that don’t terrify kids.

Security suggestions should include:

  1. Police and other first responders take regular tours of school grounds so that they become familiar with building layouts.
  2. Use apps available to alert teachers and school leadership about potential threats.
  3. While protecting students’ rights, set up a collaborative environment where parents, staff and kids are free to report any troubling behavior or potential incidents.
  4. Fund more qualified counselors and social workers to help with student mental health issues to discuss school shootings.
  5. Train staff in threat assessment management.
  6. Invite experts to evaluate the safety of school buildings themselves. Take into consideration entrances and exits, fenced areas, secured doors, fire code rules, cameras, how visitors gain access (ID, sign in, etc.) and mandatory school safety training for all staff.
  7. Emergency procedures must be clear and simple, rehearsed and practiced.

Rather than live in fear and create anxiety for kids, be prepared, be ready!

YouTube Safety: Get Involved

Are you involved with  kids safety online, especially when it comes to YouTube?

If so, what tips could you offer other parents about  keeping kids safe on YouTube?

What are some safety factors that parents tend to overlook but that are of vital importance to know about YouTube?

When using YouTube ask yourself the following:

Do you know how to set up a family account on YouTube?

Do you know how to turn on Safety Mode on YouTube?

Do you know how to create playlists on YouTube?

Do you monitor your child as needed on YouTube?

Do you know how to post in private on YouTube?

Do you know at what age kids are supposed to be able to start their own YouTube channel?