Our (parent . thesis) blog is two months old now, and writing it has given me a renewed feeling that a woman's angle on technology is distinct from the male point of view.
When I was a high school student, I hated writing term papers. I thought the whole enterprise of collecting information was tedious and boring. I remember visiting the local college library to look for information for a term paper I was writing about Eleanor of Aquitaine. It was a struggle to find the five required references. I remember looking up books in the card catalog, then hunting them down on the shelves, and scouring each one for relevant information that I wrote down on index cards. Some books were missing, some were out of place. It took hours to gather enough information to begin even writing a paper.
Then there was the task of transforming these pieces of information into a coherent narrative, typed on an electric typewriter.
Boy do I feel old. But more to the point, it's ironic that I became a writer in the long run. It turns out that I love to do research, but only when I can get to the information I need as quickly as possible.… Read more
Baby naming has suddenly become a hot topic. News sources from Salon.com, to conservative commentator David Brooks have recently weighed in on the significance of a baby's moniker. The Wall Street Journal even framed the naming decision as "the art of 'branding' your newborn."
Parents' stress levels may be rising as the naming the baby becomes a high-stakes decision. Expensive consultants have even cropped up. The Today Show featured a self-proclaimed "nameologist," who charged a couple $300 to help them choose among combinations of Charles, Robert, and Matthew. I say keep the three hundred bucks and choose a name out of a hat if you are that undecided.
Luckily there are many free or low-cost naming tools that can add to the fun rather than the stress of baby naming. In addition to the many books on the topic, from the thematically-organzied Beyond Jennifer & Jason, Madison & Montana, to the encyclopedic 100,000+ Baby Names, there are many free resources available online.… Read more
Last week the new "Baby Einstein" study came out suggesting that "educational" baby videos are ineffective teaching tools. The most memorable conclusion from one of the researchers: "I would rather babies watch American Idol than these videos."
Over the weekend I was invited to debate BabyFirst TV co-founder Sharon Rechter about the relative merits of these products. BabyFirst TV is a 24-hour cable channel that broadcasts "educational" shows aimed at infants and toddlers. Their programming includes the Brainy Baby video series, some of which were included in the recent study.
Unfortunately, a technical glitch meant I didn't get to participate in the discussion as planned, but preparing for the segment gave me a chance to examine the culture behind these products. Why are these videos so appealing to today's parents? As I thought about it over the weekend, and re-read Susan Gregory Thomas' new book Buy Buy Baby I came to realize that there is a perfect match between the marketing messages coming from companies like BabyFirst TV and Baby Einstein, and the culture and socialization of Gen X parents in particular. … Read more
Earlier this month, New York enacted an Air Passenger Bill of Rights. Among other things, it requires that airlines make minimal provisions for passengers stranded on the tarmac for more than three hours. If you've done any traveling with kids, you probably know how difficult it is to both pack light (a key strategy for successful travel generally) and to pack enough stuff so that if there's a delay, you can keep the little ones occupied. The New York law bounds the problem a little bit: if your longest leg is 6 hours, you can be relatively assured that your outbound leg from a New York airport won't add more than 3 hours to that. But as the US Customs and Border Patrol SNAFU at LAX confirms, airport authorities don't seem to get particularly concerned about tarmac waits of 6, 8, or 10 hours, be they outbound or inbound. I think that when traveling with children, that's a bit much. What's a parent to do?… Read more
Parents may think that their kids are safe online as long as they limit their surfing to topics like squeaky-clean Disney star "Hannah Montana." Unfortunately, new research from McAfee points out that scammers hijack pop culture topics, so that when kids search for popular songs or stars, what they sometimes get is data-stealing spyware or porn-redirects.
McAfee research analyst Shane Keats was interviewed by Entertainment Weekly's PopWatch blog. Keats explains how an innocent search can go awry:
"When [kids] first get to an offer for a Hannah Montana screensaver, they just click yes. Three or four … Read more