Parenting is hard: when to allow our kids to have mobile phones

As I write this, E1 is 7 years old and E2 is 5 years old. Yes, definitely too young to be having mobile phones, but these rascals grow so quickly! It seems like yesterday they were still doll-sized, so I just know they’ll be pre-teens in a blink of an eye. And wanting their own mobile phones. So to avoid having to respond in a wild-eyed, unprepared and panicked manner, I think we gotta plan now for when to allow our kids to have mobile phones. (*ugh*)

I definitely think anytime before they are in Grade 7 is too early. But after they are going to middle school and extra-curricular activities by themselves? I don’t think that age alone should be the determining factor. Hence this haphazard plan below.

I don’t profess to have a grand manifesto that I’ve been planning for ages. These are just some of the random ideas and “risk mitigation strategies” that have been floating around my head lately. Maybe I’ll add to this list or take things away as the years pass. Definitely this post will be updated as things change. Looking at this list below, the daughters are going to have to do a lot of work to convince me! That might be enough to discourage it for a few years. But who knows, i’m writing this now in 2015 without knowing what the social and technological environment will be like when they are 13 years old. I’ll try not to be too hard on myself if this current best-laid plan doesn’t work out. Continue reading Parenting is hard: when to allow our kids to have mobile phones

Jeneral finds of the week: 2015-09-29

A deliriously fun music video using a car+instruments+desert track, a British puzzle book that was the “Lost” of that nation in 1979, lessons now for our cities’ future, artisan firewood, and learning to be lonely so we can learn to talk to one another – these are the Jeneral finds of the week for 2015-09-29!

  • Apparently I’m 10 years late being in-the-know, but I’ve found my new favourite thing, at least when it comes to music videos. I’ve spent the evening binge-watching all the videos of OK Go. They’re amazing in the sense of fun, wonder and joy they inspire, with real physical effects and often in single takes. One feels inspired that we can recreate many of the videos at home, if we happened to have the same dedication and creativity with the things laying around the house. Their treadmill video for their song “Here It Goes Again“, or the Rube Goldberg Machine video to “This Too Shall Pass“.
    But this one is definitely my favourite one of all: “Needing/Getting”. [su_youtube url=”” width=”480″ height=”300″]
  • In 1979, Kit Williams published a book in Britain that was an illustrated fable—which also incorporated clues to a treasure hunt in real life. Imagine in the days before the internet and smartphones, this mystery is put before you. Would you be able to solve it? It took 3 years for it to be found, and even then it was not buy solving the clues in the book (the ones who did were too late). This article in Hazlitt provides an account of the story, but also delves into the human nature of desiring to find solutions to a mystery, even in convoluted and obsessed manner.
  • This article “8 Cities That Show You What The Future Will Look Like” from Wired magazine has some stunning examples of urban design and thinking. Even if they are not directly applicable to us here in Toronto, it shows that innovative thinking and political will can help solve the problems our cities are facing now and into the future. It’s just too bad that our current political focus during this October 2015 federal election campaign features very little to do with urban planning. Discussions about transit, affordable housing, and infrastructure have largely lacked much substance.
  • There’s definitely been a movement lately away from mass-production of products of dubious quality towards the hand-crafted, quality and bespoke. But perhaps the earnestness in some places is overwrought. This recent satirical video from CBC’s This is That program hilariously skewers it, profiling an artisanal firewood maker (the name may be the best part):

  • In “Stop Googling. Let’s Talk“, Sherry Turkle eloquently and convincingly describes how the constant distraction available from our smartphones is causes us to lose the skill of learning how to truly talk to one another. What’s surprising to me is that the argument takes a step beyond addicted to the distractions of the phone, and towards our ability to be alone and to process through the silences that are natural in any conversation.

But this way of dividing things up misses the essential connection between solitude and conversation. In solitude we learn to concentrate and imagine, to listen to ourselves. We need these skills to be fully present in conversation.

~Jen, aiming to be fully present in future conversations

<–previous finds of the week

Scene from a household: That time E2 got a hamster stuck on her head

I was trying to not laugh too hard in her face. This is one of those parenting moments where your child faces some sort of misfortune of their own doing that is as hilarious to you as it is embarrassing to them.

It was near the end of our bedtime routine. E2 had already finished brushing her teeth and was in their room. I left the bathroom and rounded the corner to the girls’ room, E1 hot on my heels.

Me: “E2, why do you have a hamster on your head?”
She turned and looked at me with wide eyes. Continue reading Scene from a household: That time E2 got a hamster stuck on her head

Jeneral finds of the week: 2015-09-25

A 1980 homemade bomb plot fit for a Hollywood thriller, two sets of twins in Columbia switched at birth and finding the truth after 24 years, and a different argument against pot…after a little hiatus for the summer, these are my Jeneral finds of the week of 2015-09-24:

  • The 1980 extortion attempt, and resulting bombing, of the Harvey’s casino in Lake Tahoe is something I had never heard of until this week. Likely it isn’t notorious because no one got hurt, but a recreated model of the improvised bomb device is apparently still used in FBI bomb training. There were seven different ways the bomb could have been triggered to blow. This account here reads like a Hollywood thriller! It’s a long read but amazing, I’m in marvel of the perpetrator’s engineering feat.
  • It’s an amazing story of two sets of identical twins who were mistakenly switched in the hospital in Bogota, Columbia. Raised in completely different situations, (one set in relative middle-class in the city of Bogota, the other set in poverty in a rural area over 11 hours away) they accidentally discovered the truth when a colleague of one in an engineering firm walked into a butcher shop to discover him working behind the counter. The complexities of identity and fraternal relationships as the two sets meet and get to know each other are fascinating.
  • The mini-biographical snippets collected and shared by Humans of New York continually have stories and ideas that touch me or provokes a second thought. This picture and profile of a teacher has a viewpoint about marijuana use by teenaged students that made me have a second thought: “I’ve taught high school for 25 years and I hate what marijuana does to my students. My students become less curious when they start smoking pot. I’ve seen it time and time again. People say pot makes you more creative, but from what I’ve seen, it narrows my students’ minds…I hate when people say that it’s just experimenting. Because from what I’ve seen, it’s when my students stop experimenting.”


<–previous finds of the week

My PanAmazing Volunteer Experience

It’s been over a month since my volunteer experience at the 2015 Pan Am and Para PanAm games in Toronto finished. I signed up to volunteer to be a part of something bigger in my community that would likely be one in a lifetime. And yes, while there were definitely many moments of tedium, uncertainty, and inconvenience to my family and work, it was an experience that I value wholeheartedly—my PanAmazing volunteer experience.

When I put in my application in the summer of 2014 to volunteer at the 2015 Pan Am Games, I didn’t really know what was in store for me. When the organizing committee sent me my assignment in February 2015, I must admit that my first reaction to joining the Fleet Transportation team as a driver was one of disappointment. Knowing up front that I would not be driving athletes, it didn’t seem like a particularly fulfilling experience. Thanks to some insightful comments from other volunteers made on our FaceBook volunteer group, I realized that if I wasn’t volunteering with the spirit of
Continue reading My PanAmazing Volunteer Experience