3 Conversations to Have with Your Kids about Digital Consequences

Walking into the computer room at Fidgets2Widgets that’s affectionately nicknamed after Minecraft’s Nether realm, I noticed muted giggling taking place in a corner at one of the computers. Two third grade girls were flushed and smiling. I heard a couple of phrases that included words like “yummy, so much fun, awesome.”

“What are you two up to?” I questioned.

“We’re going to share the most amazing dessert at snack time,” Molly responded.

“A seven-layer cake,” Megan giggled.

My furrowed brow deepened and my investigation began in earnest. As it turned out, one of the girls had memorized her mother’s credit card number and in her generosity, ordered a cake for her friends from an online company. In the spontaneity of the moment, the lines between right and wrong had become blurred. Neither girl had any sense of concern.

Everyday, I am starting to read real stories in the news about youth who act with carelessness and irresponsibility online. From the young men whose Harvard University acceptances were rescinded after creating a secret, hateful Facebook page, to a young NSA-contracted woman who, depending on your point of view,  either inadvertently copied classified information to a flash drive or tried to enact an act of espionage. Today, a verdict of involuntary manslaughter was handed down to a young woman who as a  teenage girl sent texts encouraging  her boyfriend to kill himself. Locally, several seniors were charged with child pornography after soliciting nude pictures of their underage girlfriends.

What do these all-too-common news story tell us? Our children must develop strength of character online and offline.There is no such thing as true digital privacy and life-altering consequences are starting to emerge. Online play is no longer innocent.  As parents, guardians, or trusted adults to the young people in our lives, we have a responsibility to help them grow into good digital citizens—people who can discern right from wrong even from behind a keyboard or in  front of a screen. If your child is old enough to be on the internet, they are old enough to have these conversations with you. Here are three things to keep in mind when talking to your child.

  1. Use of Information: Do you own rights to the information you are sharing? If not, get permission. If it is yours and yours alone, make sure you are using the information ethically. Talk about ethics with you child and create a family honor system.

2. Hurting or Helping Actions? Will others be empowered by your actions or disempowered? Are your actions permanent or temporary? Will there be short term or long term consequences?

3. Right from Wrong: As real world consequences can be imposed on your child’s actions, make sure they have a lawful creed as well as an ethical one. As your child becomes a teen, make sure they know what actions could cross a line of no return.

There are a lot of articles and blog posts out there assigning blame to parents, the kids, Millennials as a generation, technology, and anything else you can think of. The truth of who to blame is neither one nor all of these, but that isn’t the point of this post. The point is to draw attention to one way we can help our kids to avoid finding themselves the subject of a news article and jail time—communication. We can no longer assume children will learn these lessons on their own. It is our job to be a good example to them, yes, but it’s time to have the hard conversations about right and wrong, about being safe online, and treating others as we want to be treated. These are simple conversations on the surface, but we all know they can be harder to have a sit-down serious talk over. But clearly there is a need for it. Fidgets2Widgets is here to empower and support in whatever ways we can, both with you and your children!

The time is now. Stand up—or rather, sit down and have these conversations with your children today.

Are we doing enough to help kids manage their fears?: Fear and stress after a school lockdown

police lights

“We’ve been on lockdown!” shouted a flushed child rushing to our afterschool van. “I was so scared,” the next child mumbled, looking over her shoulder, shaking. Several police cars with lights flashing were parked in the street.

This was the scene that met us on an otherwise normal March afternoon when my afterschool program’s carpool arrived at two elementary schools who share borders. A local domestic dispute had turned into a gunman in the same small neighborhood as the schools. We picked up twenty-four children who attend these affected schools, and they all rushed to our vans, some looking as if they were being pursued.

As my staff and I listened to stories shared at the back of our vehicles, the fears palpable, we realized our normal afternoon learning module would have to wait. The kids wanted, and needed, to come together as a group to talk about their fears. Sometimes it is more important to set aside your own agenda to be in the moment with the situation before you.

When we arrived at Fidgets2Widgets, we gave everyone a chance to share and be heard. Along with the day’s scare, many scary times of their pasts were revisited. The kids listened carefully to each other recount their individual reactions to the same event. No one was interrupted or disrespected, and everyone remained thoughtful and attentive. Just like anyone who has experienced trauma, the children needed to process it by telling the story over and over.

Eventually the storytelling slowed, but no one made a move toward the computers. There is a natural and organic saturation point when people have told their story and processed it enough so that it is no longer traumatizing, but that’s only one part of the process.

It became clear that though the kids had taken time to process their fears together, there was still more work that needed to be done. It was time to release the stress.

We talked about how animals release their fear. They tremble and shake and run and make noise. A scared deer runs away with frantic speed, but when she’s no longer afraid, she calms, looks around, and goes back to eating. And so we practiced doing the same.

We shook on legs made of spaghetti and trembled. We ran about and shook our heads. Then we stopped. We breathed. And then we were…done. Done with the fear, and ready to move on to what comforts us. We talked about what we enjoy doing most, and then the kids rushed forward to do those things—building with friends in Minecraft, horsing around on the Jungle Jumparoo, taking the Oculus Rift for a ride!

When the day finished and the last kids had been picked up by their parents, we took a moment to breathe. This experience made us realize that though most schools are equipped to institute precautions against an armed intruder, they aren’t always prepared to handle the fallout the stress of such a threat puts on the young minds in their care. When the threat has passed, it’s tempting to want to put it behind us and move on to regularly scheduled schooling.

But trauma advisors and school counselors exist for a reason. Why did our afterschool group come to our carpool still shaking with the release of their endorphins?

There are a few likely reasons.

  • The threat happened in the afternoon, so there wasn’t much opportunity for aftercare.
  • There are too many kids and not enough trained adults.
  • Evidence of the threat’s reality were still present (cop cars and their lights).

Whatever the reason, it highlights how important it is to know how to address our children’s fears after the threat has passed. As adults, we might want to rush the process with a well-meaning “It’s over, it’s done. You aren’t hurt. Please stop crying.” But this skips the actual processing part of the process and jumps right to the release.

When people are given permission to process their grief or trauma fully, they are able to move past the event without any long lasting wounding. Our goal at Fidgets2Widgets was to create space to fully process the incident so that it would not leave any lasting negative impressions on the kids’ lives.

We need to assure kids that their feelings are valid and that it’s all right to feel them. As parents, caregivers, and teachers, it’s our job to teach the children in our lives how to process fear and trauma. We won’t always be there to prevent it, after all. Giving them the tools to do it themselves is one of the best gifts we can give them.

The world can be a scary place, but as one of our Widgetarians said, “It’s good to feel safe again!”

Joy Can Be LOUD

Today was one of those days where everyone was HAPPY! There has been a fair amount of illness going around, so those who have recovered or never fell ill were feeling good. You know how I could tell? It was the volume. Didn’t matter which room I was in, the sound was joyful and loud. We are learning about board games this week and watched a very good video from Extra Credits on the subject.  We will be creating some games this week and learning about the Gift of Rules!  Extra Credits-The Case for Board Games

Kids With Too Much Energy

This last week at Fidgets2Widgets we learned about energy. We talked about where energy comes from, how to conserve energy and be wise stewards of the planet. But on Friday we looked at energy from a little different perspective. We looked at ourselves as pure energy. From the electricity that runs through our bodies, to the calories we burn, we each and every one are energy. This is a concept that every kid understands. They are used to hearing that they have too much energy. But do they really? I think the energy of childhood is what we all wish we had. We miss the never ending supply of enthusiasm, joy and curiosity. So next time you are tempted to chastise your child for having too much energy…..,don’t. Give them a hug instead and tell them just how great they are, high energy and all.

Five Local Businesses We Love

Fidgets2Widgets was recently included in a list of the Top 5 Family Friendly Things to do in Eugene, Oregon, compiled by popular travel blogger Meagan Wristen of Mommy Travels and featured on the travel site Kids are a Trip. The list also included local favorites like the Cascades Raptor Center and the Fifth Street Public Market.

We’re thrilled to be included in this list, but it also makes us think about some of our own favorite local businesses and things to do in Eugene. Here’s our own top five as suggested by our very own Widgetarians and their parents, after all who knows what’s best like the locals themselves?

Bounce Gymnastics

We’ve got several Widgetarians who love this place! With classes for toddlers to late teens, this gymnastics facility has something for everyone—even a Friday night special to give parents a night out on the town. Whether your child is interested in the aerial arts or just getting into tumbling, Bounce is the perfect place to explore and grow in the world of gymnastics.

Salon Nevaeh

This place is a favorite with our Widgetarian moms. Several have definitely dropped their kids off at Fidgets2Widgets and gone to get a relaxing mani/pedi while their children hang with us. Both kids and parents benefit from this arrangement!

Reclaim Physical Therapy

Okay, we’ll admit this one is a bit self-serving.  We’ve got several parents who take advantage of F2W since we’re in the same building as this physical therapy office. It’s easy to drop your kids off and know they are being taken care of while you’re taking care of yourself and your body!

Kiva Grocery Store

This grocery store is legendary! If you’re local, then this place is a must. Who needs Whole Foods or Safeway when you can support local business and get quality groceries and a friendly smile at the same time? At F2W we’re all about balancing healthy snacks, exercise, and screen time, and with Kiva as a brilliant resource, they make our job easy!

Science Factory

Is it any surprise that our Widgetarians love the Science Factory? Like us, the folks at the Science Factory work hard to make science fun and engaging for kids. They are inspiring the next generation of kids to take to STEM topics. With regular weekend Girls’ Science Adventures and exciting exhibits, this is a place you and your family will want to check out, as well as keep an eye on their events calendar!

You’ll have to visit Eugene to benefit from these great businesses, and we’d definitely encourage you to make the trip. Eugene is a beautiful city and a great representation of the Pacific Northwest. So, come on down and catch a Ducks’ game and see what else the city has to offer.

P.S. You can still get the fun of Fidgets2Widgets even if you’re not local by joining WidgetWatch, our online membership that brings our afterschool program home to you, no matter where you live!

Minecraft Build Challenge

During last Friday’s Middle School Game Night we had a Minecraft Build Challenge. Widgetarians had 60 minutes to build anything. Points were awarded for original ideas, theme, and appearance. We were seriously impressed by everyone’s efforts. We are endlessly amazed by the creativity and passion Widgetarians pour into their builds. Creative mode, indeed!

The winning build and first place belong to Sara and her magnificent manor!

Kolby and his upscale bank claimed second place.

Ben’s floating creation secured third place!

We’re very proud of all of Friday night’s participants. Check out the other creations and progress shots below!

Made by Sawyer
Made by Julia and Ian