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 BOYFRIEND AND I ARE BOTH IN TENTH GRADE. HE HAS A SECRET PHONE SEWN INTO HIS BACKPACK AND DURING CLASS HE WILL OPEN UP A FLAP AND BROWSE IT. IF THE TEACHER COMES BY HE CLOSES THE FLAP UP. SHOULD I REPORT HIM TO THE TEACHER? From Gabby, Stockton.
Dear Gabby: It is going to be difficult to confront your boyfriend, but if you care about your relationship you need to do this. You don’t want to have a friend you cannot trust. Tell him that you do not respect the fact that he is hiding the phone from the teachers. He may be hiding other things too.