How many of us have gone on a vacation and posted pictures of ourselves on Facebook? Or pictures of our kids’ first days in school? Or of their munchkin baby days? Most of us don’t give a second thought about our pictures once we have posted them. We revel in the ‘likes’ and ‘loves’, but forget that there is much more to what we share online than just reactions from friends. Our digital activity is slowly but surely building our digital identities, a very strong social factor in the age of the internet. Social identities can make or break lives. Ask a cyber-bullied teenager or a fresh college graduate in search of a job. As a parent in the millennial age, our understanding of our digital identities is crucial.
When Cat Coode realized the extent of impact our online identities could have on us, and how much we didn’t know about it, she decided to found “Binary Tattoo“- referring to our indelible impressions our online activities accrue, much like a tattoo. Her mission is to use Binary tattoo to educate and empower people in matters of digital safety.
Read on to a very enlightening interview!
Welcome to Kidskintha, Cat. Thank you for being here! You founded Binary Tattoo, a company that helps people safeguard their digital identities. Can you please tell us a little bit about what your company does and how we can all use this knowledge better?
I spent years working with mobile devices and writing software. One day I was thinking how lucky I was to be well versed in tech when raising kids in this digital generation. Then I started looking into things like privacy settings and data collection, and I realized I didn’t know much at all. Every time we post a tweet, picture, status, or even a ‘like’, we are adding a digital collection of data about ourselves. This computer data (stored in ‘Binary’) is permanent (hence the ‘Tattoo’).
I saw that by helping all people, especially parents, understand how their digital identities were created, that they could make safer and better use of the internet while avoiding risks.
I started out as a public speaker at schools, companies, and trade shows. Now I provide digital content by way of blogs, videos, and materials. More importantly, I have an online audit tool which helps people uncover their, or their children’s, public online profile so that they can adjust settings and protect what they share.
We know that you have always been a geek:). Tell us a little about your background and how you decided this would be your niche?
Shortly after graduating university, I started work at RIM making the BlackBerry, which at the time was just email and Calendar, no phone. Though I loved the fast-paced world of software and hardware, my passion has always been teaching. After leaving RIM I was looking for how I could best serve people in a way others could not. I kept coming back to the combination of things I loved: teaching, tech, and being a parent.
Not many people step bravely into this field. How would you describe your journey as a woman in STEM and what was your springboard?
I grew up with two older brothers. Though I had my own identity as a girl, things in our house were never labelled as “girls toys” or “boys toys”, they were just toys. So I had my Barbie’s and My Little Pony dolls, but I also had Star Wars, He Man, and GI Joe. It’s sounds trivial but not having a gender label on items meant that as I aged I mentally didn’t assign them to courses either. Math and Science were courses I just enjoyed. I never thought they may not be “for me”. Once I hit University I did become accustomed to being the minority (6 girls in our class of 90) as well as at work in software. I have lots of eye-rolling stories from being a woman in tech, but overall it was a great experience. I always felt valued and respected. As this generation starts to even the playing field, my hope is that my kids will enter their career path with the question of “what do I want to be” rather than “what should I be”.
You seem to focus particularly on protecting the digital identities of children and making them aware of the best practices of managing an online identity. What would be your advice in a nutshell to parents to help them achieve this.
It’s a big nutshell 🙂
My best summary on kids online and what parents need to know is here:
On my website, I also have a Network and App Resource that lists popular apps that kids use which helps parents understand what those apps are and the risks around them.
Additionally, these 5 blogs are very popular with teachers and parents:
- Why you need a device contract – When it comes to kids and digital devices, contracts are a great way to establish rules and mutual respect. We contacted both police and an addiction counsellor to create ours. Find out more, download a copy free, or get the information you need to make your own.
- How to Start a dialog with tweens/teens about their apps – Parents of tweens/teens want to help their kids navigate their apps and networks. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. Our guide will help you to begin a dialogue with your kids about their online lives.
- Sharenting: 5 Tips to keep your kids safe – Are you a parent? Then you probably ‘sharent’.. which is when you share about your kids. What impact is there where you do share online? Here are 5 tips to make sure you sharent safely.
- Rules for Good Digital Citizenship – Since we can’t prepare our kids for every possible scenario they will encounter in life, instead we teach them to be good citizens and follow sound safety rules. The same goes for our online lives. These rules for Good Digital Citizenship will keep your kids safe and help them establish a positive online reputation for the future.
- Safe email for kids under 13 – Unfortunately for kids, major email services like Gmail and Yahoo do not allow users under 13 to set up an account. How then do you set up email for a child? Here are some options you can use.
You run this technology company, you write for the YummyMummyClub.ca and you are a parent! Please tell us how you do it all? How are you so productive?
I love the question “How do you do it all?” because the answer is “I don’t!”. I *want* to get long hours in at my job, be totally present for my kids, and give myself proper self-care… all while cooking from scratch every day and keeping my house immaculate. The truth is that it’s too much. I’d need 50 hrs in a day 😉 My best tip is always to prioritize what you want to get done and don’t punish yourself for what you can’t do. And keep balance over a week instead of trying to make every day perfect.
What are your best time saving /productivity hacks?
Combining activities. Especially as your kids get older and have homework or lessons. In our house, homework is always done in the kitchen when we get home from school so that I can cook while they work but still be there for questions. While they are in lessons I sometimes do exercise or catch up on work. Or sometimes that lesson time is a time to take a break. Breaks for your mind and body lead to more productivity when you get back to work later.
What does your typical workday look like?
I am currently working from my home office with people contracted out for various roles. Most days I drop my kids off and come back home to work. Otherwise, I have meetings or seminars which I deliver across the city. I enjoy working from home because it allows me the flexibility to take a break and walk my dogs, which I find clears my head or allows me to think about a task. It did take me a long time though to get used to ‘working’ from home and not answering personal calls or running the laundry.
What personal habit do you have that you recommend for other business owners-cum-parents?
Set digital rules early on. Because my husband and I *can* work on devices, it is easy to use them whenever we walk by them. Kids see this and when they get old enough to have their own devices, they also use them all the time. By settings rules early with the adults (like no devices at the kitchen table) then kids follow suit. It also helps divide family and work time. When I am in my office on my laptop my kids know not to disturb. When I am in the kitchen I am all theirs.
[bctt tweet=”Set digital rules at home early on to avoid conflict once the kids have their own devices. ” username=”@kidskintha”]
What is the one thing you never miss in your day?
Breakfast with tea. I thought about this one a lot and though there are things I do most days, the one thing I never miss is breakfast with tea. It sets up my day and gives me a start to my routine. I also typically have the same shake every day so it’s one less thing I need to think about.
What’s the best advice you have received?
Good old Shakespeare: “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. It is from Hamlet and has been a favourite of mine since High School. Your life is entirely up to your perspective. There are things you can change and those you cannot but how you decide to look upon them and process them is your choice. Looking for the good is sometimes challenging but rewarding in the long run.
As somebody who has walked the path, what’s your advice to other entrepreneurs, people in STEM about starting up on their own?
Being a business owner and entrepreneur is a great path BUT it is by no means a get-rich-quick-scheme. There is a very small percentage of businesses that become extremely successful off the bat. Most businesses grow slowly over several years. If you are passionate about your idea and have the time to grow it, then it is a career that provides satisfaction and flexibility. But if you prefer a steady paycheque or want reasonable hours, consider it very carefully.
If you had the power to change one thing in the world today, what would it be?
Acceptance. It feels like 99% of the problems we have are because one person or group does not accept another. If we all cared more about working on the best versions of ourselves and less about what other people are doing then I feel we’d all be better off.
A few words on what you like most about Kidskintha?
So many things to like about Kidskintha 🙂 I appreciate that the writers are real moms as well as experts in various areas. The website is a positive place where you can get solid advice without feeling preached to. No one wants to be told exactly how to parent but it’s always great to get some advice and tips to make it easier.
About the author:
Devishobha Chandramouli is the founder of Kidskintha- a site dedicated to helping millennial parents raise happy kids. She believes that growing up well and happy is a function of growing up with well-informed adults. This site aims to deliver research-grounded and bite-sized pieces of information on two important facets of a child’s life- parenting and education. You can find her voice on the Huffington Post, Addicted2Success, TinyBuddha, Citizen Matters , Nectar and Lies About Parenting.