Apps & Privacy Settings Can Help Protect Kids on Social Media

mobicip on newscast

Mobicip was featured on TV news recently. Yay! Thanks a lot to WBIR, an NBC affiliate. Also Katie Roach and tech expert Dan Thompson, we couldn't have said it better. You are awesome! Here's an excerpt from the article:

Tech expert Dan Thompson with Claris Networks says there are some apps out there that can help parents control when their kids are on the internet and what sites they are visiting.
The first one is Mobicip . Thompson says you can set restrictions for multiple users and multiple devices. Features include a time table to restrict access, content blocking and a report that shows what sites each user visited. Mobicip is a subscription service, but Thompson says it gives you the most control and the most features.


The Evolution of Blended Learning

In 2004, Achieve, a nonprofit education reform organization, published a research report titled “Ready or Not: Creating a High School Diploma That Counts” that pointed to the fact that in USA, high school standards were not meeting the expectations of employers and colleges. This led to the development of a Common Core State Standards initiative in 2009 to improve the standards of high school education. With 46 of 50 states of USA adopting the common core, there has been a paradigm shift from rote-based learning of yore to interaction-, collaboration- and communication-based learning. Such a shift has necessitated the insurgence of technology into the classroom which was, prior to the initiative, an optional addendum. Consequently, the concept of “blended learning”, which was introduced as early as 2000, has assumed more importance than ever before and has transformed from a theoretical concept with rudimentary applications to an essential part of mainstream education, encompassing a wide array of technological tools, gadgets and concepts.

Students participating in blended learning

Blended learning, which once referred to use of computer and web based training in class, has now evolved into a mammoth education program that merges traditional classroom-based instruction with technology enhancements such as electronic whiteboards, Internet devices, multimedia assistance, digital textbooks and online lesson plans.

Infographic on blended learning

Blended learning, in its current avatar, is a complicated endeavour that requires meticulous planning before and during implementation. It goes beyond just providing schools and students with computers, and entails creation of personalized learning models that match the student, school and societal needs and competencies.

Blended learning models largely fall into one of two categories – rotation model and flex. In rotation models, the student alternates between face-to-face conventional classroom learning and guided computer learning. This is usually practiced at the primary school level. The flex model is preferred in high schools where a digital curriculum comprising projects and online tutoring allows students to work independently and at their own space and pace. A third model called “self-blend” model is described by Innosight Institute, where the student chooses additional online courses to supplement her school curriculum in order to gain credit or recover a missed credit.  Innosight Institute also proposes a fourth model, the Enriched Virtual Model, where an entire course or class is taken online with occasional face-to-face meetings with the teacher or convenor.  

The U.S. Department of Education reports that instruction combining online and face-to-face elements was found to be better in terms of student outcomes than purely face-to-face instruction or purely online instruction. With that in mind, the best model for a particular school is chosen based on its vision and goals, student levels and infrastructure/human resources available. The first step towards establishing blended learning is to answer a few key questions:

  • Why would a school want to engage in blended learning? Will it meet the goals and objectives of the school vis-a-vis societal expectations?
  • What student benefits are sought? Academic success in terms of grades? Time savings?  Preparing the student for college?
  • Which model will suit the school, its students and the community and why?
  • What is the support (monetary, technical) available? How much of community engagement will it entail?

Blended learning has been gaining acceptance in the high school level throughout America.  What started off as 45000 K12 students taking online courses in 2000 has grown to over 4 million students participating in some kind of formal online-learning program by 2011. Two factors, beyond the need to comply with common core standards, drive the adoption of blended learning by schools – the growing shortage of teachers combined with cost and time savings possible with replacing some of the human resources with digital media, and the “the No Child Left Behind Act” that has elicited competitiveness among schools and students in statewide summative assessments. Another subtle, but important influence is the morphing of many technology companies into providers of learning management systems, online assessments, digital gradebooks, and education data systems, who have, by their aggressive marketing strategies, increased public awareness of alternatives to traditional learning methods.

Being a nascent field, there are naturally many technical, organizational and design challenges to blended learning that include the need for teachers and schools to adopt a different approach to teaching, complexities in managing the dual learning environment and the importance of preparing the setting. But these can be surmounted by methodical, diligent and consistent effort.  What can be more difficult to surmount are attitudinal blocks, in that blended learning challenges the status quo and can be perceived as collapsing the integrity of the traditional academy.  Attitudes not only hinder (or advance) the technical, organizational and design activities, but can also significantly influence policy planning decisions.

Blended learning is an evolving, dynamic organism that cannot be forced into a custom template.  For example, is there a golden ratio to face-to-face and online learning activities? There obviously cannot be, given that there are unlimited possible combinations, all perfectly valid or invalid given the learning, social and cognitive needs of a community. While this fuzziness can complicate policy planning, the very same flexibility enables tailorability to maximize potential.  Good blending comes from establishing equilibrium between the learner and the learning objective.  

Whether blending is a simple process of combining two learning methods (face-to-face and virtual) in judicious proportions, or as complex as completing an entire education program, the “classroom of the future” has undoubtedly evolved from being a disjoint adjunct it was a decade ago, to mainstream education.

This is an unabridged version of the latest Mobicip Newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Photo credit: queensu / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Image credit: Blended Learning Implementation Guide

'Cloud'ing the Young Mind

Adolescents and teenagers of today belong to what is now popularly referred to as the digital native generation. They are very comfortable and fluent with the use of technology, especially the Internet, which as a whole, undoubtedly provides opportunities in terms of skill development, education, and entertainment. Beyond providing access to a broad range of information, the Internet provides opportunities for extensive communication among people and makes it easier to share experiences and expertise. Thus, the positive role of technology and Internet in life cannot be overemphasised.

Child looking up at the cloud

The negative impacts of the Internet on youngsters are not trivial either. It has been recognized that young people online are open to being exposed to inappropriate content or online bullying and harassment and loss of privacy. The momentary expediencies of Internet platforms including social media could be harmful to vulnerable youngsters who are just being introduced to emotional awareness and society. The anonymity of Internet gives the cushion for youngsters to reveal before reflection, with no direct verbal or visual cues available of the immediate or protracted impact it can have on the receiver of the information or herself.  The permanence of Internet content can be very damaging in the long run.

While effects such as the above are more objective and clearly defined, the more ambiguous and confusing effect of the Internet is on emotions and social skills of youngsters. Systematic research has shown that the injudicious use of technology, in particular, the Internet, is related to a few psychological problems. Children and young adults who overdo TV and video games are nearly twice as likely to suffer from a variety of attention-span disorders. Nicholas Carr in “The Shallows” claims that the hypertext hopping nature of the Internet could also contribute to low attention span of the Internet generation, but there are others who pooh pooh it as the neo Elvis Hypothesis.

There have been scientific studies that show a direct relationship between Internet addiction and loneliness and depression and low self esteem. The most disturbing finding yet is the fact that hostility and depression associated with Internet addiction was similar to that with drug-use. However, this is true only when there is addiction and compulsive overuse. Use of Internet itself has been found not to have any negative effect on the emotions of the user. So perhaps the psychiatric effect of technology is not as serious as the social effects.

The digital native typically prefers socializing and collaborating with others through technology, such as social networking, rather than in person; what used to be called “social incompetence” in the past now has a fancy name - Preference for Online Social Interaction  or POSI. This is not an unsubstantiated claim; the Pew Internet & American Life Project reports that 75% of all teenagers have mobile phones with one in every three sending more than 100 text messages a day, texting has now become "the preferred channel of basic communication between teens and their friends". And these numbers are only for phone, which is the tip of the whole computer assisted communication iceberg. Another report by Pew Internet & American Life Project and Harvard’s Berkman Center says that of the 95 percent of 12-17 teens who use the Internet in USA, 81 percent use social networks. It would not be a hyperbole to speculate that the value systems and outlooks of the digital native are fashioned more on what she learns from a virtual world than her family and upbringing.

There have been a few studies on the impact of the Internet on the social skill development in children and adolescents. But we don’t quite need scientific evidence were common sense would suffice. Time spent on a gadget is time not spent elsewhere, such as in playing outside, or having a face-to-face interaction with family and friends. While the Internet does facilitate communication with geographically distant people like never before, this is often at the expense of communication with people physically present around us. There is thus a tussle between social displacement and social compensation.

Virtual socialization and social anxiety are a classic case of chicken and egg. The anonymity of the Internet can potentially help people who have a pathologic problem in establishing social relationships and may aid social connectedness and provide a sense of belongingness. A study showed that socially anxious youngsters tend to use the Internet more for social interaction while socially comfortable ones use the Internet more for information. Another study shows apparently conflicting results: while Internet benefits depressed adolescents who have no company or friends, it exacerbates depression among adolescence who have social anxiety. This raises a vicious circle – the social anxiety causes people to seek refuge in the Internet, thus making them addicts, which in turn worsens the anxiety. Justifiably, Internet addiction has been labeled as a symptom of social tension. Indeed, Tamyra Pierce, a journalism professor at California State University, Fresno, showed that as students spent more time on online communication, they showed more symptoms of social anxiety.

It is clear that there is still much concerted research required to fully understand the interaction between social health and Internet use. From existing studies that often provide conflicting insights, it can be seen that technology cannot be written off as an unhealthy intrusion that must be uprooted, but rather as an aid within limits.

This is an unabridged version of the latest Mobicip Newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Photo credit: h.koppdelaney / Foter / CC BY-ND

Protecting Your Kids Online

The parental instinct, across species, includes specific actions associated with concern for their offspring: establishment of shelter, provision of nourishment and protection from natural enemies. While shelter and nourishment are, to a large extent, invariant across all life forms in the holistic sense of the term, the idea of protection take on many hues beyond “natural enemies” in the human race and ranges from justifiable species preserving concerns to paranoid parenting, sometimes the former morphing into the latter, especially in new environments. Such is often the case with the online environment.

Kids on the internet

While the utility of the Internet as a veritable source of information is indeed indisputable, the risks are very real and serious. There are three main risks associated with internet, especially when used by children – the loss of data, financial dangers and vulnerability to exploitation.  While social law enforcement agencies do indeed proactively seek to meet the challenge posed in a constantly evolving domain, the primary responsibility for protecting children rests with parents.

But before embarking on an extensive battle plan to counter threat, a parent must be aware that there are as many myths about the risks of technology as there are hyperboles. The myths are largely a result of salacious, sensation-mongering media headlines of rare or unusual events that are often caused by gross mismanagement, rather than common-sense actions. Before succumbing to mass hysteria, the parent must understand that such events are but outliers and do not represent common threats that are less sensational, but perhaps more damaging in the large picture. A logical analysis is very essential to contextualize the good and bad of the Internet and technology in general, so that a rational plan may be formulated to protect without restricting the young. This is particularly relevant in the present times where the online environment extends across several technological platforms.

Data Safety

Kaspersky Lab and B2B International recently conducted a survey of consumer security risks in the context of the multi-device world. The survey was conducted on internet users from 23 tech-savvy countries of the world. The caveat of “multi-device” is justified by the statistic that 77% of participants (~8600 of the total of 11135 people surveyed) used multiple devices to connect to the internet, at the same time. The good news was that 92% of the people used some form of internet protection on their Windows computer, but the bad news is that not as many protected computers with other operating systems, tablets and smartphones. Considering that twenty thousand malware are detected on Android OS every month, this does not bode well for users of non-windows devices without protection.

Loss of data from unprotected devices results from actual physical loss of the device itself – the survey reports that 18% of losers of devices were young people in the age range of 16-24, and through cyber attacks. Considering that more half of the people who used devices admitted that they value the data on the device more than the device, with 38% storing extremely confidential and important data, it is common sense to preserve the device as well as the data carefully. Protecting data involves a simple step of always using virus protection software on all devices.

Financial Safety

The internet has evolved from an information repository to a virtual market to buy anything ranging from utilitarian items to ridiculous things such as  people to stand in line for you.  98% of users surveyed by Kaspersky have used the Internet for some form of financial transaction.

online transactions.png

It follows naturally that children have started using the Internet for shopping as well.  Six in ten children have been reported to shop online with 54% of kids purchasing mobile apps and make in-app purchases and 41% using a mobile device to make general purchases. While smart phones manufacturers offer various tools to parents to monitor and manage the online financial activities of kids, a Microsoft survey shows that 77% of respondents are clueless and seek help from technology companies to manage their children’s app activities on their smart phones.

Personal Safety

Stranger–danger is not new to digital parenting, given the long history of fears regarding strangers in the real world; this is perhaps the only true instinct that human beings have towards protecting their children. Legislators, families, communities, and law enforcement agencies strive to alleviate this fear and obviate this threat through various rules and regulations, both enforced and recommended. The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in the US, for example, is designed to protect the personal information of a child, such as name address, phone number, social security number etc. and no site may collect such information from children without a parent knowing about it and agreeing to it first. But as with any governmental regulation, the primary route towards online safety is parental awareness.

The most feared risk of safety is Internet-enabled sex crimes against children and sexual predators.  Although these are very rare, it is the most seriously considered threat of the internet. A more frequently occurring event is exposure of children to age in appropriate content that may be either sexual or violent in nature. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in a 2006 document titled “Online Victimization of Youth, Five Years Later”, reports that unwanted exposure to sexual material is the most frequent incident that jeopardizes the safety of children.

online victimization.png

Another underestimated albeit prevalent risk for children online is their susceptibility to cyber bullying., an online site helps educate parents about internet safety, reports that cyberbullying is of various types and includes sending negative or hateful messages and threats to children, spreading lies about them through social networking sites, leaving troll comments on social networking and blog sites, or in the worst form, creating a website to ruin the child’s reputation. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children reports that online harassment of youth ages 10 to 17 has increased in the last five years

It is very important for every parent to realise that while the power of the Internet in child development is immense, children definitely need extra guidance in their online ventures, because of their vulnerability. Many tools are available that allow parents to monitor and/or control their children’s access to online sites and every parent must be aware of them.   But beyond entirely relying on external support to protect children from the risks of the Internet, it is very essential that the parent participates actively in the online activities of the child.  For the uninitiated parent, there are many online sites such as and, and FBI’s kid safety site that can offer tips and advice to parents to ensure safety of their children online.

This is an unabridged version of the latest Mobicip Newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Photo credit: steveonjava / Foter / CC BY

Parenting in the Digital Era

No other topic in the world could raise a tsunami of opinions, judgements, beliefs and arguments as parenting. From whether or not to have a scheduled C-section, breastfeed, use pacifiers, or vaccinate, parenting involves mental and moral acrobatics that strain the human fabric to the extreme. Add technology into the mix and we have opened Pandora’s box.

Kids watching iPad over dinner

Today’s child is a digital native, the umbilical cord being replaced by the gadget power cord. A recent study conducted by the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) and Hart Research - “Parenting in the Digital Age” - reveals some interesting statistics. Virtually all parents surveyed (in Maryland) admitted to their children owning or having free access to electronic gadgets: 90% of the children had a computer, 93% owned a video game console, 88 % had cell phones, 81% had tablets (81%), and 70% of parents reported that the children had their own MP3 player. According to a survey by the Internet security company, AVG, in the US, 92 percent of children have an online presence by the time they are two years old. Is it, then, any wonder that parenting a child who has learned to swipe a screen before she can hold a crayon, raises hairy issues and dilemmas? Understandably, the digital revolution of the past two decades has induced a “moral panic” in parenting.   

The challenges in digital parenting arise from the general belief that now is probably the only time ever in human history that the child knows more than the parent. This belief is, however, debatable. The Hart research reports that 80% of parents of six- to nine-year-olds think they know more technology than their child. This drops to 44% for parents of 14- to 17-year-olds.  Such figures could be a result of the fact that parents of 6-9 year olds may be young enough themselves to have ridden the digital wave, as against parents of 14-17 year olds, who may predate the revolution. Education, economic background and ethnicity also play an important role in parent participation, as expected.

A technology-run world, while allowing young people access to invaluable resources and learning opportunities, also brings forth parenting challenges that include profitable participation in digital literacy/curriculum, management of screen time, protection from cyber crimes such as cyberbullying, filtering age-appropriate content, and more. In the parent-student-teacher triad partnership, parents play a vital part in teaching children the practice of “netiquette” outside of the classroom. All these require that the parent herself be digitally literate – “e-literate”, so to speak.  

A digitally illiterate parent poses a clear risk to the privacy and safety of children. A tech naive parent may, in a moment of parental pride, post pictures, videos or information of their children online, unaware of violation of privacy rights of children, and worse, opening them up for public scrutiny. Privacy management in Internet and social networks is possibly the primary and most important e-skill that a parent must possess.  It is important for every parent to understand that information in the cyber-universe is permanent and not difficult to retrieve and may thus pose a risk for the child’s future, and often, even present.  

Digital literacy also entails making informed decisions and knowing and enforcing limits.  Information is power, and power, like a pendulum, can swing both ways. Digitally illiterate parents may be naive enough to take illogical stances about technology – that it is a boon, or a bane - without fully understanding the advantages and risks. Another important skill essential for parental e-literacy is the know-how and commitment to manage their child’s technological activities. This includes being aware and/or moderating the duration, content and quality of the child’s digital involvement. All three factors are subjective and are a function of the child’s temperament, extent of parental involvement possible and the nature of the society to which they belong. For parental participation in digital literacy, it is also very important for the parent and school to have active interaction and open communication channels so that the parent clearly understands school and classroom technology guidelines, knows how and what types of technology are used in class, and if possible, obtains the tools required to complement classroom education.

Parental digital awareness hinges not only on the parent being well-informed of the tools available to children for safe and efficient use of technology but also on her personal commitment to lead by example. As James Baldwin said, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” If parental digital illiteracy can cause one type of problems to children, parental overindulgence in technology can raise a completely different set of equally serious issues. A constantly texting parent raises a constantly texting child. But more subtle, and more serious is the psychological effects of tech-saturated parenting. With increasing use of technology and gadgets by parents themselves, there is a very real risk of a social disconnect from their children, others, nature and often, themselves. This disconnect can have serious effects on the development of the child. The use of technology by parents as a baby-sitting aid has in part been fed by the often imaginary belief that “outdoors” is unsafe and the lack of time or motivation for parents themselves to spend leisurely evenings with the children out of the four walls of the house.

A disturbing Canadian study shows that parents spend an average 3.5 minutes per week in meaningful conversation with their children.  In many homes, the room with the television has become the dining room and family conversations have languished as a result of adults and children being glued to the big box, or its smaller hand-held versions. To adapt Sheldon Cooper, the smaller the box, the more concentrated the idiocy. Sherry Turkle, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Initiative on Technology and Self, found after painstaking research over fifteen years that parental overuse of technology fosters feelings of hurt, jealousy and competition in children.

Parenting, as is often said, involves giving kids wings to fly and roots on which to stand. Parenting in the digital age can only be more so. The only path ahead involves conscientious and conscious participation, rather than outright techno phobia or philia, to provide an inclusive life where the parents join children and schools in balanced technological engagement that does not compromise on the ability of  society in general, to stop and smell the roses.

This is an unabridged version of the latest Mobicip Newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Photo credit: cdorobek / Foter / CC BY

Promoting Participation in Educational Technology

With an entire generation “born-digital”, children literally hit the digital ground running. Inroads of technology into all facets of a child’s life – be it education or recreation – makes it essential to set a strong stage so that the child builds on a sturdy foundation. Setting the foundation for technology-enhanced learning, even life itself, requires active participation by educators, parents and children alike. An active discussion is essential to understand the needs vis-à-vis capability of this nascent field, the word “nascent” being used in the context of time in terms of human existence, and not proliferation or impact of technology. The design of a digitally enhanced lesson plan requires constant feedback that helps better integration of technology and learning.

Parent Teacher Student Discussion

Class discussions on the use of technology are critical to student understanding and help add relevance to curriculum, broaden both student and teacher perspectives, highlight conflicts and contradictions, buttress information, and support community-learning. The level of student understanding of technology and technology-assisted curriculum can only be assessed through open discussions. Interactions with peers, both within the classroom and/or school, and in extended virtual support groups can help question preconceptions, assist in clarifying notions, enhance understanding, and help students arrive at independent conclusions. An open peer discussion can help the student develop a sense of self-identity while simultaneously placing her in a cornucopia of experience, perspectives, and opinions. Discussion forums could also help in addressing the social dimensions of education, for example, letting students getting to know one another. The true benefit of discussion forums is that the participants (including the teacher) come together as a community of learners and instinctively develop a self-help group, so that eventually the teacher becomes a facilitator, rather than a guide.

The stage for discussion could be real or virtual, but the environment itself must be safe, while free enough to allow sharing of opinion, thoughts and experiences without fear of derision or exploitation. The convener of the discussion must therefore be trustworthy and competent enough to direct the four A’s that govern discussions – Approach, Attitude, Atmosphere and Action. She must also excel in moderating counterproductive reactionary responses and inappropriate activities. While spontaneous discussions could be very relevant to the course matter, it is essential to also have a well-planned forum that addresses concerns and questions periodically.

Technology can be used to enhance the discussion itself. Digital discussion boards can offer a versatile platform for interaction between students and teachers. With careful moderation, discussions can be highly interactive, and the fact that the discussion is recorded enables archiving and provides a fertile ground for the academician to design and direct the course. A less “open” and more private form of communication would be the use of mobile phones and emails which offers a certain amount of anonymity that the student may be more comfortable with. Interactive technology such as Clickers can be of great use between student and teacher and could foster a healthy discussion environment in the classroom.

But it takes more than the teacher and student to define education. Parents are essential part of the mix and have traditionally participated in the shaping of the educational system of the era/location. A recent survey by MetLife Survey of the American Teacher shows that parent engagement in American schools has increased in the past 25 years. This is true with technology-assisted education as well. The goal of parental involvement with technology enhanced education is to not only keep the parents informed, but to also establish contexts to strengthen learning and development. Given the newness of the concept of digitally driven education, schools may still be uncertain about the quantum of technology involvement in education and may want to obtain parental consent or input for the use of technology in the classroom. Although there are no set rules and legislations that prescribe the extent of parental say in designing a tech-enabled curriculum, the underlying understanding is that children are given technology exposure and education in accordance with parents’ approval.

It is impossible for educators to stay abreast of technology trends without support and help from parents and this critically depends on maintenance of running conversations, establishment of house rules and making wise choices on the use of technology. This in turn entails that the parent be given a platform to interact with the school and children on the digital arena. Programs like Connecting Families are designed to enable parent participation in school and encourage schools and communities to be technologically connected through careful researched data, hosting guides, conversation topics and printable resources to share.

Schools must also take steps to ensure parents participation such as implementing digital use policy agreements as some schools already do. This is a classroom technology contract, so to speak, that describes in detail to the parent how technology will be used in class, the basic guidelines that both teachers and students must know and keeping parents regularly updated on tools their wards are using. This gives parents an opportunity to learn about the technology their children use, which can, in effect bridge the digital generation divide. Encouraging parents to participate in school-centric social networking groups and blogs can also help establish the school to home connection.

Unlike well-established traditional modes of education that are governed largely by academicians, parents, teachers and children collectively define tech-enabled education; their roles complement and reinforce each other and enhance education through continuous discussions. Thinking of parents, students and teachers as “partners” in a discussion rightly reflects the route toward a shared goal of a technology-ready future.

Image credit: Darien Library | FlickrCC BY-ND 2.0

Parent Mobile App Helps You Stay in the Loop

Setting up parental controls like Mobicip is the easy part. The hard part is staying in touch with and managing your kids' digital habits over weeks, months and years. At Mobicip, we have been hard at work trying to reduce this burden on parents. If you have any iOS device like an iPhone or iPad, all you need to do is download the parent companion app - aptly called the 'Monitor' - and you can stay in touch with your kids' online lives on the go. 

How can it help you?

  • Stay informed about which websites kids visit
  • View usage across multiple users and devices.

Mobicip Monitor Screenshot

  • Receive notifications when any unsuitable content is blocked.

Notification screenshot

Stay in the loop with your kids' online lives. Download the Monitor app today.

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This is a copy of the latest Mobicip Newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

The Hour of Computer Science

Mark Zuckerberg endorsing computer science education

Considering that less than half a century ago, the idea of using computers was considered fantastic, if not ludicrous, the proliferation of computer and technology not only into offices, but also into homes, schools and even handbags is nothing less than magical. Users of computers, in fact, technology in all its forms, now transcend age, nationality and gender. In most nations of the world that are economically and politically stable, technology is used in almost all facets of daily life and thus computers and software impact lives and society every day. The use of computers and other forms of technology at home has seen an exponential increase, as seen in the data collected by the American census bureau in 2011. While the data is for USA alone, it is reasonable to expect a similar trend in other nations as well.


The growth in technology use has resulted in the need to teach computer skills to children. Thus, the three R’s of learning – Reading, (w)Riting and (a)Rithmetic has, in the past decade, expanded to encompass a fourth “R” – (p)Rogramming. But has computer education kept pace with the growth of technology itself?

Apparently not. According to a study conducted by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), the situation is not encouraging. In the US, computer science is not considered by states and/or local school districts as part of the “core” curriculum offered to students at the secondary school level. In many states, computer science courses are still not counted as a separate core course, but are grouped along with mathematics or science courses. In fact, a study by the National Center for Education Statistics reports a disturbing trend that computer science is the only one of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields that has actually seen a decrease in student participation in the last 20 years, from 25% of high school students to only 19%.

Even more disturbing is the fact that there is a clear gender and racial divide with respect to the type of students who are offered or who take computer science based courses. In 2008, although 59% of students who took the Advanced Placement test in 2014 were women, only 25% of those that took the Advanced Placement (AP) computer science test were women [AP Program Summary Report]. Even more disturbing is the participation and success rates of ethnic races in computer science based AP tests. In 2012, only 8% of Hispanic Americans and African Americans took the computer science based AP tests, and the situation has not improved significantly since then.

Interestingly, countries such as RussiaChina and India have been offering computer science as a core course in schools and colleges and/or have separate schools that teach computer science and programming out of school hours, for more than a decade now, with excellent student enrolment. In the US, there are many factors that contribute to the alarming mismatch between need for computer science education and offerings of this subject as a core course. The current federal, state, and local government policies underpinning the K–12 education system are conflicted in the area of engaging computer science as an academic subject. The shortage of well-prepared teachers, on instructional materials and adequate resources and infrastructure to support teachers and student learning also contribute to the poor state of computer science education in the K12 system in America.

There are now efforts to repair the situation. Joint efforts by computer industry, academia and government policy makers have resulted in the introduction of programs such as the “hour of code” project to disseminate computer science education to kids, and encourage them to learn. The “hour of code” is a one-hour introduction to computer science, organized by and CSEdWeek, and backed by the likes of ACM, IEEE-CS, CA Teachers Association, National Center for Women and Information Technology. Statistics show that in 2013, over 15 million students worldwide participated in the hour-of-code to learn various aspects of computer science and coding, and going by the response of both teachers and students, it has been enormously successful. Although the one-hour introduction to computer science was held during the computer week in 2014 (December 8-14th), its success and acceptance points to expansion of the program into other times of the year.

The acceptance of computer science as a core course in the K12 curriculum depends on participation by policy makers, academicians and parents alike. Demand from parents for introduction of computer science courses to children will induce policy makers and academician at all levels to review the place of computer science in the core curriculum.  When introducing computer science as a core course in schools, it is important to keep in mind that computer science education must teach fundamental concepts of computing, just as a mathematics course must teach everything from number theory to geometry before embarking on calculus and higher math. So also, a computer science course must be a continuum, starting from basic concepts to advanced topics such as programming or even hardware design. It is obvious that such a vast breadth of topics requires an expanded time frame. Therefore it is essential that computer science not be introduced suddenly at higher classes, but started at the elementary level to allow the student to get a continuous and comprehensive feel of the field by the time she finishes school.

But why should computer science be introduced in school? A more compelling reason than the fact that when you are surrounded by something, it is only logical to understand it, is the fact that the computing sector will have 1.5 million job openings over the next 10 years. This number is not as staggering as it would be when read along with the following statistic. According to a study by Bureau of Labor Statistics, NSF, computer science is the only STEM field where there are more jobs than students [Source].


But that is not all. The knowledge and skills gained through basic computer science education enables innovation and deeper understanding in the other traditional fields of STEM. Computer modeling, for example, is an inherent part of any academic field, and involves many of the fundamental concepts of computer science.  The word “computational” is now a standard prefix to almost all areas of science, engineering, business, finance and perhaps even art!

It is imperative therefore that K–12 schools introduce computer science early and at all levels to make students college- and career-ready.

This is an unabridged version of the latest Mobicip Newsletter. Click here to subscribe

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Happy New Year of Tech, Gadgets and More...

The coming of the new year, like the air of cinnamon, fills our being with cheer and joy. The thrill of the season infects all, and the calm of the silent nightfall of the year fills us with eager anticipation for a new dawn that brings with it more joy, more hope. And more technology.

Kid with toys and gadgets

This year, more than any in the past, has been digitally driven. Technology is undoubtedly a blessing during the festive season in more ways than one. Take the simple phone call, for example; this apparently old-fashioned technology is so ubiquitous now that it is hard to believe that less than half a century ago, people away from home on New Year had no way to wish and be wished by their loved ones. Now, all it takes are a few numbers and a low-earth orbiting satellite to connect to any part of the global village that your loved one inhabits.

recent poll by the Barna Group shows that in America, 82% of people are likely to phone absent friends or family members. Even youngsters are just as likely as their parents and grandparents to pick up the phone on a festive day to wish loved ones – now if that is not the spirit of the season, what is? Close on the heels of the “ancient” technology of telephone comes social networking – facebook, emails, g+, blogs, skype etc. - especially among the millennials. E-cards have taken the place of paper cards that once adorned the fireplace, and as they say, a card-is-a-card-is-a-card.

But of course, it’s not all ho-ho-ho with the techie-celebrations. The 24% of the millenials, in the same poll, who prefer to wish people virtually than in person, could point to a social dysfunction that negates the camaraderie of the season. A holiday text or emoticon-rich e-mail, while convenient indeed, cannot replace the human moment of a face-to-face smile or the lilt of the voice. Living in the virtual world, tweeting, facebooking and emailing, when there are flesh and blood people who chose to share the special day does no one any good either. “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor” said Charles Dickens; why not spread this contagion during these holidays rather than viral posts that insult the physical presence of human beings?

Technology can be a boon or a bane during the festive season in ways other than communication as well. While shopping for gifts is made easier in the comfort of one’s home and a few numbers on a plastic card, it can, for some, destroy that “personal touch” involved in searching for and choosing gifts at a real shop. For others, this small drawback is overpowered by the obviation of finding a parking spot in the same zipcode as the mall! Although sales in brick-and-mortar stores have not lost their sheen, online shopping and in-store browsing are increasingly overlapping as many of the physical customers often research products online before making an in-store purchase or vice versa. Online sales on Cyber Monday this year hit a record $2.68 billion  – and this number will only keep rising as the holiday season proceeds.

Online shopping for the holidays with all of its frenzied activities stretches the limits of business technology as well. Increased online traffic and e-commerce sales can put enormous pressure on the infrastructure of the supplier. By staying one step ahead of the rush, the virtual shopkeeper can circumvent expected problems. Routine evaluation of the site and software, updating the design and front end to reflect the seasonal spirit and beefing up cybersecurity to prevent hacking and other mishaps are essential for the retailer to make most of the holiday rush.

Where does the equation lie when you add kids to a tech holiday? Do the benefits outweigh the risks or the other way around? Like everything else, it depends on how we, the adults, manage the mix. Children are indeed a vulnerable target and marketers overtly or surreptitiously target children through social media, websites and viral ads. It is very important to teach kids to think logically and objectively about consumerism and brand pressure during the holidays and help them find the joy of the season rather than the expedient pleasures of “buying stuff”.  

With the marketplace, both real and virtual, bursting at its seams with gadgets that beckon kids and adults alike, it is little wonder that 2014 holiday season was expected to see the highest levels of consumer spending to the tune of $33.76 billion on consumer electronics yet. It thus becomes challenging to choose gifts for kids (and adults) that are constructive and reinforce positive beliefs and practices instead of addiction and rampant consumerism. Books, board games (both old-school and digital) and handmade gifts may not speak louder than the din of branded toys and gadgets, but they undoubtedly make the experience of holidays more wholesome.

The Center for a New American Dream reports although most Americans (72%) believe that there is no need to spend money to have a fulfilling and enjoyable holiday, 4 in 5 people polled continue to mindlessly complicate gift giving. The pressure of festival shopping is driven by the need to meet real or imagined expectations and can be overcome through the simple belief that gift giving is only one way of sharing the sense of gratitude, joy and abundance. A simple verbal declaration of appreciation, homespun simple gifts and charity are perhaps better ways of sharing the spirit without the pressures of materialism.

Technology can be put to good use during holiday season without intruding on the spirit. Letting kids design their own new year cards in the computer adds personal touch and warmth. Kids can also be encouraged to make a difference to another’s life through donating online. Sites like We Give Books and Free Rice can change lives of children around the world by simple activities like reading and playing, and what better season to give than the dawn of a new year.

How can you make technology safe during holidays? Keeping your money safe by not using public WiFi hotspots to access your financial platform, ensuring that all financial transactions go through “https” sites, enabling your firewall, updating the antivirus software, and logging off any e-business website before closing the browser are common-sense steps to safeguard your purse and peace. Keeping the wallet and other valuables physically at a safe location and storing pin numbers and passwords in the head rather than cookies are rules that must be taught to children early on.

At Mobicip, the holiday season is literally the busiest week of the year. Little wonder, as parents are typically overwhelmed by the technology gifts their kids receive and therefore wonder about what they expose their kids to. After all, smartphones and tablets today are no less than full-fledged computers in what they do and what they allow one to do. The need for some sort of parental controls is felt by parents sooner or later, and the Mobicip team braces itself every year for an on-slaught of customer enquiries and support requests during this time of the year. The goal is to provide the tools that you need to equip yourself and help sustain a meaningful dialogue with your children on the challenge of staying abreast of a very tech-savvy generation.

Any festival is, as Coolidge said for Christmas, not a season, but a frame of mind that spreads joy and mercy. It is all about preserving traditions and creating meaningful new ones that transcend the mélange of matter. Let us, echoing Dicken’s sentiments, honor the new year in our hearts and try to keep it all year round.

Here's wishing our dear readers and customers a wonderful 2015!

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Photo credit: Leonid Mamchenkov / IWoman / CC BY

Mobicip Just Keeps Getting Better!

Happy Holidays

The holidays are upon us. And there is no better way to celebrate than by giving you a bunch of new features that give you the peace of mind you so deserve!

App Monitoring for Android

Android smartphones or tablets in the household? You can now keep a watchful eye on the apps your kids install, without touching the device. If you're a Premium user, login at and select Apps to get started.

Android App Monitor

Access Requests

Say some content is being blocked, and your child disagrees with it. She can now request an override. You receive an email and respond. As simple as that. If you're a Premium user, simply login at and select Requests.

Blocked page with access request button

Expand each request to decide if that content should be allowed. Allow that URL or the entire domain and it will be added to your whitelist.

Access requests screenshot

Filtering Levels Simplified

Login at and select Filter Profile to check out the brand new filtering levels and what they do. Available to both Premium and non-Premium users. Right now!

New filtering levels screenshot

Like what you see? Let us know. A whole lot of sweat and labor went into building these for the holidays, and we hope it helps you meet the challenges of parenting the hyper-connected generation. The entire Mobicip crew wishes you and your family a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year!

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