Sunday, 6 March 2016

Internet safety

This is the last post on a series of three posts concerning the use of technology by children.

Key principles for all age groups concerning internet safety:

  • Keep lines of communications open.
  • Create a list of internet rules with your kids (See Rules 'N Tools Youth Pledge)
  • Set parental control at the age appropriate levels and use filtering and monitoring tools as a complement -not a replacement- for parental supervision.
  • Supervise all internet-enabled devices and keep computers in a  public area of the home.
  • Encourage your kids to come to you if they encounter anything online that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened (Stay calm and don't blame your child; otherwise, they won't turn to you int he future for help when they need it).
  • Teach them not to interact with people they don't know offline, because an online predator or cyberbully can disguise him/herself.
  • Check the history file on your computer to see which sites your child has accessed.
  • Teach your child the golden rule: do unto others as they would have done unto themselves. Research shows that children who are victimised online have often behaved aggressively online.
  • Keep doing research, e.g. google acronyms so that you understand the language children are using online.

Friday, 4 March 2016

TV watching suggestions

After a meeting with the ISKR counsellor, Suzy Cheal, we received the following suggestions around TV watching:

  • Keep TVs out of the bedroom. Children are more likely to watch a lot more TV (and at times when you can't control it) when the TV is in their rooms. Plus, it's harder for you to monitor what they're watching when they're behind closed doors.
  • Turn off the TV during meals. Make mealtime a family time.
  • Watch what your kids watch. Talk about what they're seeing. Ask provocative questions such as, "What do you think of that character driving all that alcohol?" State your values clearly. "I don't like it when people swear. I don't want you to swear either."
  • If you have a TV set that you bought after January 200, then the TV most likely has V-chip technology. This allows you to block programs that you don't want your child to watch. To setup the V-chip, check your TV's instruction manual or visit the on-screen menu options on your TV. The V-chip is controlled through your TV set's remote.
  • If you have cable with hundred's of channels and many setup options, you probably have digital cable. Digital set-top boxes provide advanced parental control capabilities. The features vary by manufacturer and model, but you can typically find specific instructions on how to set up parental control through on-screen manes controlled by your remote control.
  • Be aware that other families may not have controls on their TVs, so children often will spend time in homes that do not have parental controls.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Cyber safety and how to help children use technology

I have been worried about technology for a while. What to do, when, how, are there general good practices in this area?

We received lots of practical advice from the counsellor at ISKR, Suzy Cheal. She explained that, in her experience the biggest issue with technology is when it becomes an alternative to interaction between parents and children. Or when boundaries aren't set early enough, e.g. children are allowed to play video games that are not appropriate for their age, or parents let children watch tv until late at night because it is easier than insisting that children go to bed.

General rules she proposed:

  • Technology should serve the family and bring you closer; it should not make your family its servant and keep you apart.
  • Parents are their children's first and best teachers. Model appropriate technology and media behaviour for your kids.
  • Using cell phones, computers, televisions and other electronic devices is a privilege for kids, not a right.
  • Set a family media policy. Decide who can use what forms of technology, what constitutes appropriate content for each one, when and where it is acceptable to use each one, and how you will monitor usage. Make sure everyone in the family knows the policy.
  • Establish appropriate consequences, both positive and negative, for technology and media usage. Communicate those consequences clearly and often to your kids.
  • Establish "technology-free" zones and times in your home when you all "unplug" and concentrate on talking to each other and enjoying each other's company.
  • Help your children achieve balance in their lives by encouraging them to stay physically active, enjoy reading, and relax and have fun without electronics.
  • Take advantage of resources that "watch" media content, and use them to help you decide when you should say "Yes" or say "No" to your children's media/technology use.
  • Talk with other parents. Let them know what your family technology and media policy is and ask how they handle those issues in their homes. Support each other in helping kids use technology and media safely and appropriately.

Advice for children up to 5 years old:


  • The American Association of Paediatricians recommends no screen time for children under 2 on the basis that they have seen no studies that prove conclusively that it aids development.
  • Limit screen time to 2 hours a day or less for children over the age of 2. Practice "appointment" television. Use your TV guide, and decide in advance what's good to watch. 

Cell phones

  • Pay attention to the messages you model - stay off the cell phone and other electronic devices when you're driving or engaged in other activities that deserve your full attention.
Advice for 6-9 years old

Online safety
Content blockers and filters are great tools to use with younger kids. They allow you more control over where they go and what they do online. A content blocker sites with explicit material or limits a child's search to a predetermined set of sites. A content filter scans sites and images and blocks those that contain certain words, key phrases or content.

Look at games or sites with children
  • If your children has mobile internet access, it will  be more difficult to monitor and control his or her internet use.
  • Nothing can replace involvement and supervision by adults. Keep monitoring how your kids use the internet on a regular basis.
Next post on TV watching and internet safety!

Monday, 14 December 2015

How to cross the border between Uganda and Rwanda

Well, this is not exactly a post about children. It is a post that can make your life easy if you need to cross the Ugandan-Rwandan border at Gatuna.

We went on holidays to Uganda from Rwanda, and on our way there we had quite some delay because we did not know what we had to do exactly. Having three children in the back of the car, and having them going in and out the car several times did not help to have a good start of the holidays!

So, on our way back, I made a small list with the steps to be taken when crossing the border, this time from Uganda to Rwanda.

1. Cross the first gate
2. Go to the Ugandan Immigration Office. Get the passports stamped. Give the Interstate Pass that you got when leaving Rwanda.
3. Go to the police station. Show your car papers, driving licence and the driver's passport.
4. Go to Uganda Revenue Authority and get a stamp.
5. Go in the car and cross the second gate. You will cross a river over a bridge.
6. You will get your temperature checked.
7. Cross the third gate.
8. Go to the Rwandan Immigration Office (entry). Get the passports stamped.
9. Go to Customs.
10. Go to the police station, and show paper from previous police station.

11. Cross the fourth gate, and give the paper you received from the police.

Good luck!

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Sibling rivalry: what to do as parents?

Brothers and sisters fight from time to time; and which is the role that we as a parents need to take? Few months ago we had a session with the counsellor at the International School of Kigali; and she gave us quite some tips. Since I found them quite useful; I am summarising some of them below - I hope they are useful for you too!

  • Don´t be the referee. Have a consequence for all of the children if there are arguments and have a reward for all of the children if they can get along for a certain amount of time.
  • However, have consequences for significant acts that hurt another so that it is clear where the boundaries are.
  • Encourage children to come up with a compromise/solution to what they are arguing about.
  • Ensure restitution, e.g. if something is broken on purpose how can the one at fault replace it?
  • Describe the behaviour you want to see, e.g. "we speak to each other nicely" rather than "we don´t call each other names".
  • Praise problem solving and getting on, when it happens.
  • Encourage siblings to compliment each other. Go round in a circle giving compliments and then have each person say how it felt to be told something nice/be praised.
  • Use special time for each children individually so that they feel less of a need to compete with their siblings for parental attention.
  • Help children to identify when arguments are going to happen, e.g. what does their sibling look like when they are really angry. Then suggest walking away at that point until they have calmed down.
And here goes some more explanation on the psychodynamic perspective of sibling rivalry:

The oldest child experience the shock of losing the exclusive relationship with parents, their world changes entirely for them. The younger siblings never know a world without the oldest sibling/s, however, each time a new child comes along they experience the loss of their parents attention.

Families require different roles for different family members, e.g. the organised one, the naughty one, the helpful one, the funny one. It is normal to have roles that people take on but it is important to not let children become stuck in these roles, e.g. especially the naughty one, the one that fails. Remind children that everyone has different parts of themselves and it is ok to show all of the different parts, e.g. the angry part, the good part, the part that wins, the part that fails.

If two people clash strongly (as some siblings do) then it is likely that each person unconsciously wishes to be more like the other person but feels they have to suppress that part. When people see things from each others point of view and can understand that each person would like to be more like the other one then there is opportunity to move away from the rivalry.

Be ware that sibling rivalry helps shape future relationships, both friend relationships and work relationships. For example, if you have only sisters you may find yourself more competitive with girls. If you are a girl with brothers, you may find that you get better with boys. So it is important to help children work through sibling rivalry.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Cosmo in Barcelona

No, sometimes it is not easy to go with children to a café. Specially in the center of Barcelona, cafés tend to be narrow, with all the tables crumbled together. The stroller? No space for it.

Cosmo is different. They define themselves as café & art gallery, which is not what makes a parent with children think: "Hey, let´s go in!" But it is in fact, a very child-friendly place. It is located in Enrique Granados 3, between Diputació and Consell de Cent, so central and easy to reach. That piece of Enrique Granados is pedestrian, so it is great for children to play around or cycle in their bikes without the risk of being run over a car.

The drinks. Cosmo has a pretty good list of freshly made juices, which are a good option for children. Today we ordered apple, peer, orange and lemon juice (all mixed together), and Nicolas drank it in one go. I had to beg for a sip! Other options include juices with ingredients such as carrot, ginger, cucumber, which maybe are not so child friendly, but I think I will give it a try next time. The regular coffees, and a nice variety of teas are also available.

There is also a car for pedalling and a box with little toys, in case you did not bring anything with you to keep your child entertained. At the back of the place, there is a low table and chairs for children to draw.

Food. Well, we did not have anything to eat this morning so maybe that is a good reason to come back!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Apps review: Toca Tailor

I have been for a while trying and checking apps for the children. Honestly, I think it is a good practice just not to allow them to use my phone for playing. "My phone is not a toy", that is usually my answer. But there are always exceptions; like waiting for the doctor, long car trips, or other moments when the phone and its apps are actually handy.

So, one app which I find quite funny is Toca Tailor, made by Toca Boca. It allows you to dress a character and choose the clothes, textiles, and accessories. According to the designer:

"The aim of this digital toy is to combine the exciting feeling from a playful dress up party with the freedom of turning shapes, colours and patterns into garments and creating your own outfits. Here you not only choose your clothes - you get to design them yourself. In Toca Tailor your imagination is your wardrobe's limit."

They have the Toca Tailor Fairy Tales version with a couple of characters, and that one is for free. Get it to try the app! In Toca Tailor, you can play with four characters and more options; I bought it and I am quite happy about it. You can also take pictures of textiles you like and use them in your chosen clothes. Or place the character in your room and take a picture of it.

This is the result of Anna´s work, which I found in the Camera roll of my phone; quite nice!


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