The holidays are here, and tis the season for non-stop travel for many families, students, and working professionals alike. Just one problem: Rumor has it that it’s flu and cold season as well – if you’re like us, you’re probably busy doing your darnedest to keep from catching anything before having to make a lengthy drive or train ride back home after New Year’s. Happily for everyone busy bounding over the river and through the woods (OK, sprinting between cross-country connecting flights to catch up with grandma or a client) tis year, there’s at least one easy way to keep germs at bay. If you haven’t checked it out, we recently stumbled across Contigo’s new Metra travel mug – an innovative new kind of beverage container – which features special technology (known as AUTOSEAL, or so rumor holds) that’s specially designed to prevent spills, and help keep out dirt and germs with a rotating lid.
Sound counterintuitive? You may be surprised. After doing a little research, our team stumbled across an interesting fact. Apparently, after studying travelers at busy commuter hubs – e.g. subways and airports – it seems that the Metra’s designers discovered that travelers were frequently wiping off their travel mugs’ mouthpieces with their sleeves or napkins. Two key takeaways from this research were: 1. Ewww, gross, that’s a good way to spread germs and 2. Apparently many of us have a problem we didn’t even realize. Being the new travel tech and gear-hounds we are, we were naturally amused to learn this, and a bit concerned, as it always pays to be health-conscious, especially when it comes to tagalongs. The good news: AUTOSEAL Metra’s rotating CleanGuard can help resolve the problem, but in addition, here are some recommendations to be more health-conscious when traveling. In the interest in keeping everyone from having to be quarantined at some point this season (we’re thinking it’s best not to make being bedridden a holiday tradition), you’ll find a few tips that we hope will help keep the sniffles away, and help keep holiday downtime to a minimum.
- Make a point to carry hand sanitizer – now available from most major retailers and drugstores in pocket-sized bottles – and use it to keep your hands clean, or wipe down surfaces you’ll be in contact with, e.g. seat trays on major airlines.
- Don’t wipe your mouth with a coat, sleeve, handkerchief or other item that’s been exposed to the elements, or picked up dirt and debris, as you’ve hopped between cabs or subway cars if it can be avoided. If necessary, keep a pack of tissues handy, or swing by a local fast food vendor to grab a clean napkin or wet paper towel.
- Keep the items your hands come in contact with most during the day – e.g. smartphones, tablet PCs, notebooks, etc. - – sanitized and germ-free. Pro tip: You can do this by regularly wiping them down with an antimicrobial wipe or (depending on compatibility — be sure to check your owner’s manual) wet wipe instead.
- When using the restroom, always use a paper towel to turn on/off the faucet, opening/closing stall doors, and when using the exit door.
- When handling items that may have come into frequent contact with others — e.g. restaurant menus, cash, door handles, light switches, subway passes, etc — be sure to wash your hands afterward.
- If you have to cough or sneeze, be sure to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your upper sleeve so you do not spread germs.
Digital citizenship is a concept pioneered by organizations like the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) in which parents, schools and other technology leaders recommend focusing energy on preparing students and kids for a tech-centric society by teaching them about appropriate and positive ways to use technology, as opposed to focusing on the potential negative outcomes of technology. Instead of spending all of our time teaching kids about cyberbullies and online predators under this system, for example, we might rather focus on teaching a curriculum of digital citizenship in which kids learn the right ways to act online and use the Internet for positive causes, such as charity. For those looking for advice on how to teach kids digital citizenship or immediately apply its principles, here are five tips to help the next generation learn to thrive online.
Do Unto Others…
Remember the golden rule, and apply it to your online interactions, especially on social networking sites. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated, with respect, dignity and extra attention to how thoughts and actions will affect others. Putting yourself in other people’s shoes is a great way to make sure you’re practicing positive digital citizenship.
The Grandma Rule
Before any post, message, or share, consider whether or not you’d want your grandma to see it. Because essentially, when you post something to a social network or send it directly to a friend, you’ve lost all control and it’s theoretically possible it could make it into grandma’s hands. So make sure everything you do or think passes the grandma test and it will likely keep kids from sharing or doing activities they otherwise shouldn’t be.
Spread Heart, Not Hurt
With a hat tip to Yahoo! Safely and Common Sense for the perfect turn of a phrase, we love the idea of a simple way for kids to remember to spread and embrace positive messages, and avoid engaging in negative behavior. Spread positive messages and watch your social network connections and online enjoyment grow, and learn how to appropriately deal with any negative behavior you do see online.
Remember the Three Ps of Information – All the information you share is permanent, public and powerful. Information is permanent because once you post it, it can live online forever, even if you delete it off your profile. It’s also public because everyone can potentially see it. And of course it’s powerful, as words and online actions can have a deep and lasting impact, so use them for good.
So what are specific ways we as parents or teachers help our children understand the ins and outs of being a good cybercitizen? Following are actionable activities, exercises, and questions for you to use to help your family understand the concepts. Think of this workbook as a quick how-to guide for your teaching your family about digital citizenship.
There are also a number of resources available for parents and teachers online, such as a free curriculum for elementary, middle and high schools at Common Sense Media that can help teach digital civitzenship. For example:
- The Family Online Safety Institute’s A Platform for Good is designed to highlight Digital Citizenship and encourage it by offering kids rewards. With sections for parents, teachers and teens, it’s a must visit for all families online.
- Connect Safely is the net’s most trusted resource for all things pertaining to online safety, featuring extensive tips, articles and links to other Digital Citizenship resources.
- One of the first sites to focus on the issue was DigitalCitizenship.net, providing an overview of Digital Citizenship, with links to resources and description of the Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship. Great for stimulating discussions.
Technology for parents & kids: Hints, tips, online safety strategies & more.
Whether you’re worried about social networks, texting, apps, video games, online privacy or other growing areas of high-tech concern, it bears remembering: Keeping kids safe in today’s online and always-connected world requires a multi-pronged approach. As with any form of technology, the most effective strategies are proactive. Educate yourself on new innovations and teach kids positive computing habits, and they’ll be better equipped to make good decisions when they encounter questionable content. Below, you’ll some practical tips for doing just that.
- Remember that homework is for parents too: Always study, research and go-hands on with new technologies to make more informed decisions.
- If time’s tight, get a crash course on new offerings, trends and features by visiting popular product review sites or searching for online tutorials, e.g. “How to Turn Off iPhone Purchases.”
- Besides employing kid-friendly software, apps and web filters, educate children on online dangers and encourage them to speak up when questionable content or situations are encountered.
- Use the parental controls built into popular entertainment devices, video game consoles and operating systems, and password-protect your settings – but don’t employ easily guessable choices like birthdays and anniversaries.
- Activate privacy features built into popular social networks to limit strangers’ access to personal status updates, photos and videos.
- Confine screens to common household areas such as playrooms and dens, so usage and play habits can be monitored.
- Establish predetermined times when usage of high-tech devices is permitted or banned (e.g. during dinner), and always shut screens off at least one hour before bedtime.
- Create and enforce house rules: Experts recommend no more than 60-120 minutes of screen time daily, balanced with other low-tech activities. Some families add or subtract time as a reward or punishment for children’s behavior.
- If you’re worried about children’s online interactions, use programs’ and devices’ built-in features to turn off Internet connectivity, disenable digital purchases and restrict interactions to pre-approved friend lists.
- Talk about safe online spending, and if you allow kids to make purchases, consider restricting these abilities to prepaid cards.