Do Kids Need GPS for Cyber-Navigation?

Are you like me? Are you a little confused by all our cyber wars? The rules keep changing as technology keeps evolving. Sometimes it’s really hard to keep up with the firewalls, the viruses and all the new software popping up at every internet search. Hey, an entire multi-million dollar film studio just got hacked! Wouldn’t you think that they’d know how to protect themselves from all kinds of cyber predators?

Sometimes I really wish I had a GPS button that I can push just to be sure that I’m visiting ‘a really trusted site,’ that would alert me and prevent a virus from embedding into my computer after signing off. Trust me, I do have all the anti-virus protection software installed. Additionally, I bought recently a, ‘scanning,’ software and it keeps finding junk files! And, I keep deleting them. Scary, right? How can there be so many junk files found in so little time? Well, yes I’m becoming a little paranoid. And, if I am, I can imagine the dilemma that parents are facing! I bet they’d love a GPS button too to vet all the content on-line before they allow their kids to view even the kid-friendly sites. So, is there 100% kid-friendly content out there? Sadly, I have to say no.

Last year, I reluctantly signed on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google! I had been ignoring the writing on the wall! But, technology is here to stay and whether we like it or not, it takes up a prominent space in our lives. That’s why I had to revisit my reluctance to be on social media when I decided to be an author. Trust me, you are expected to have a presence if you want your books to be noticed. And, with the internet and a sea of traditionally published and self-publishing authors, the arena has gotten so congested and so competitive.

Here are a few things that surprised me-or not-on my electronic navigation:

*Don’t judge a site by its name: Parental, conservative, religious and family type sites are not all 100% kid-safe. Sometimes they hire interns or professional content developers to build their social media presence and increase their followers. I was assuming all their content was vetted just because of who they are and their standards but I was wrong. I was shocked to find myself, on few occasions, bombarded by erotic & graphic photos. Originally, I started deleting or blocking some of these companies and then I realized after speaking to a few that they had hired out their social media maintenance. I made peace with that. Their motto hasn’t changed but the sourcing did. Some of the educational content still interested me. This brings me to this point. Even though you’ve set family computer screen time and blocked profane type content, ensure that the followers on all kid friendly feeds are clean too.

*Don’t assume that a published children’s book is a good book: I am always happy to connect with fellow authors who share my mission of instilling tolerance and an open minded outlook. But I also read their manuscripts. The internet is a double edged sword. It avails information and opportunity to all at the speed of light, a great positive. But, in the case of publishing, many release books without input from editors and other professionals, which I think most often is a big negative. So, I would really check them out first before introducing them to kids. I sometimes have to even check the source of stellar reviews and recommendations.

*Embracing our digital life with prejudice. The prevalence of electronic media in our day-to-day lives can be confusing and challenging for families. It was to me! Even though at times I wished for a GPS to zero in on the exact content I wanted, I still liked the access, rapidity and availability. Do you remember what it was like before Google? It’s now so embedded in my life that I really can’t remember what it was like not to have it as a tool. But not all that is written and Googled is truth! Finding it online doesn’t mean it’s a fact. Despite this limitation the internet remains a great learning tool. There are so many free kid friendly downloads from games to coloring books that can translate into educational activities for many age groups. It was so cool to observe my 2 year old nephew watch a spooling video of a Chou-Chou train arriving at the station while his dad explained a few technical things. It went on and on! And, he enjoyed it and got sleepy.

*Did technology change publishing and news? I’m happy to report that the basic rules remain the same. Content still needs to be vetted to be really credible. People writing, reporting, publishing are still held to a high standard. The internet and especially social media can rapidly annihilate a fake story and the storyteller. Most recent example is the tarnishing of Brian Williams ‘image, once branded as ‘the most trusted man in news.’

Did the internet affect publicity? The fastest way to get publicity is still to draft a press release and send it to the media. The way to draft it is still the same, being focused and to the point with an audience ‘hook’. Media outlets have changed a bit with all the electronic links. But being brief, prepared and engaging is still the best way to go about it. And, when it comes to publishing, the way we hear about books might be different but the way an author gets noticed is still the same. Traditional publishing is still followed in quality ebook publishing too. And, yes not all ebooks are created equal. Even if a children’s book author is contemplating self-publishing, story-telling structures need to be followed and professional editors and graphic artists need to be consulted.

Ultimately, I think the electronic age is a good thing. It should be embraced and valued for its contribution to our lives. Many aspects of it still need to be guided by parents. But as a whole its benefits outweigh the negatives. I for one will be navigating through it, making mistakes, learning and sharing my journey.