Taking Stock of Your Family’s Technology

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The highly ballyhooed  IPO of social networking giant Facebook certainly changed the landscape of the technology and social media markets. But as quickly as it became famous — it morphed to infamy given how the IPO was mishandled by everyone from management, PR and on through to NASDAQ.

And while the social-media giant did show some financial progress recently by reporting increased revenue and  user base of nearly a billion people — it was viewed overall as pedestrian progress. This leaves many investors and interested “watchers” wandering and wondering whether Facebook is simply the next MySpace who followed AOL, who followed Prodigy who followed CompuServe to the recesses of user’s minds.

For those of us that entered the business world in the 70’s 80’s and even the 1990’s might also recall brand names such Info-Vista, Betamax, Polaroid, Friendster, Napster, Commodore Computers, Sony Walkman, Pets.com and so many others. Each technology or product was ultimately replaced with something better, faster and cheaper.

With the growing consumer acceptance of  the “world-wide-web” in the 1990’s we should have learned that  change is constant. Moreover, keeping up with change requires vigilance not previously required by investors.

While this blog is for investors — it is for those interested in the growth of their most important asset, i.e., their children and extended family. Money comes and goes — but the most financially successful of us would trade our entire earthly treasurers to save our children from harm’s way and to help guide them along the proper path

What does this have to do with technology you ask? Simply that technology is woven into the fabric of our society.  Any students entering the first grade this year have never known a world without Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, or Text-Messaging. In fact as most parents today marvel, smart-phone technology, iPads and Android tablets are intuitive to children as young as three years old. And of course their correct. However, what is not intuitive are the rules of engagement of this technology.

A few years ago I was sitting on the couch with my wife Mary Beth watching the news. A horrific story was mentioned concerning a young woman from a local high school that had committed suicide. The anchor mentioned that the girl took her life possibly as a result of “sexting. I remember thinking, “Sexting? What the heck is that?”

Since this term was so new three years ago, the anchor explained that there was a growing trend for young people to send naked photos of themselves to boyfriends and girlfriends using cell phones within the context of a text message.

There I was someone that had been in the video, interactive media and telecommunication industries for most of my adult life — but I had never heard of the term or the practice. It then hit me that the very business that I was in provided the infrastructure for kids to connect to anything or anyone at anytime at most anyplace for any purpose — good or bad.

It was incumbent upon our industry to help families understand that as tremendous as this technology can be — if used improperly it can have the same devastating consequences as a child who is placed behind the wheel of a car without any training or knowledge of the rules of the road.

Thanks to my boss John Burns, President of CBTS,  we were able to develop a presentation in partnership with county prosecutors to help make students, parents and school administrators aware of the significant issues related to the use of today’s mobile and broadband technology. Over the past two years we have spoken to approximately 40,000 students on issues related to sexting, cyber-bullying and online privacy.

Although the original presentation was written for juniors and seniors in high school — school administrators quickly requested that we address children as young as the 5th and 6th grades. While we questioned the wisdom of speaking to children of that age, we quickly realized that the issues were every bit as real for them as they were for older students.

What I hope to provide over the course of this blog are insights into the trends of technology  — in particular social media sites and communication technologies and their possible impact on your children, grandchildren, neighbors and friends. When possible, I will also share some of the stories students and parents have shared with us.

As I mentioned earlier, while Facebook might be every parent’s concern this year — there are many other trends that might eclipse Facebook — much like Facebook eclipsed MySpace — and as Pinterest might eclipse them all.

I also invite you to share your stories or concerns with me. Perhaps collectively we might help others avoid the same traps that so many young people have discovered by simply not knowing the rules of engagement.


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  1. Steve, I’m looking forward to following your blog. I’m assuming that the program you developed addresses what “parental controls” ARE available, how best to use them, and what recourse parents have in appealing to the various platforms and services to address inappropriate material that does get posted. Obviously, there aren’t such controls for practices like sexting, and that’s up to the innate controls of behavioral expectations. For grownups without children, it’s not something we think about — we know we have to be our own censors/moderators of what we want to view. I’ll be interested to see what issues you surface.

  2. Hi Brad. Thanks for the note. You are correct. The current program helps students understand the issues related to sexting, privacy and cyber bullying — including the legal, cultural and future career ramifications. The parent program deals with similar topics including parental controls. We have several videos from around the country that I’ll be posting on this blog as well.

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