Dear Ms. Smartphone: I am stumped by holiday shopping for my nieces and nephews. They usually like to get a gift card so that they can download games and apps. They are all in middle school now and own phones or tablets. My problem is that I remember when my family used to get new board games for Christmas, and then we all spent time together over the next few days learning the rules and figuring out a strategy to win. Do you think I should cave in and get the gift cards or send them some games? Shelby, San Francisco
Dear Shelby: It’s really hard to know when to move on to a different way of doing things, vis a vis preserving the values and traditions that worked well in the past. It’s your gift to your nieces and nephews so let it reflect your tastes. But there are other reasons for agreeing with you. Families come together when they share an experience. So, try to choose games that the adults will want to also join in. This article, from an English newspaper, spells that out well (no pun: scrabble anyone?) Note that many of the games kids play online today are spin-offs from the board games you remember. Cuddle fairy helps you make a board game that parallels the digital version of Minecraft! What a great family project. As you make a decision, consider that kids today spend far too much time on their electronic devices and these devices are usually personal, one-on-one.
DEAR MS. SMARTPHONE: MY TWO CHILDREN TAKE THE SCHOOL BUS EVERY MORNING AND AFTERNOON. I HAVE HEARD FROM ANOTHER PARENT THAT THE KIDS ARE USING THEIR PHONES ON THE BUS TO WATCH VIDEOS OR GOSSIP. DO YOU THINK THAT THIS SHOULD BE ALLOWED? Kira, Cambridge
Dear Kira: School bus travel has always seemed like the “Wild Wild West” but smartphones on kids’ buses present yet another contemporary issue. Some school districts, and even an entire country (France) ban phones during school hours, but what should be done after-hours? Perhaps bus drivers like this because the kids are less rambunctious and loud. I would try to find out if the information from your friend is true. Then, limiting your kids’ phones to only Wifi (assuming the bus is not Wifi enabled) and using a tracking app, similar to the one on iOS12 might be first steps. Other parents? Join in!