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'Banana Moments' fundraiser for local schools

Newsletter about raising kids in the digital age helps fund local schools
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Joanna Jullien calls the Internet the “great home invasion.” Cyberspace seeped into the lives of adults, teenagers and children, forever altering the way people obtain information and understand the world and themselves. This digital world has also altered the way families interact with one another, she said. Jullien, a mother of two sons, has experienced firsthand the impact of technology on youth. By the time her youngest son Kevin reached his teenage years, she saw a marked difference between him and her son Benjamin, who is seven years older. Kevin and his friends seemed more disconnected from their parents and intent on keeping secrets. “I never expected to be smack in the middle of what (the Internet) was doing in the home life,” Jullien said. Six years ago, Jullien quit her job in project management and marketing of information technology to spend more time at home. Three years ago, she launched “Banana Moments,” an online quarterly newsletter to help parents and educators navigate what she calls an increasingly “cyber-powered network culture.” She regularly writes for Gold Country Media, which publishes the Press Tribune. Then she had another idea: She could use “Banana Moments” as a fundraising tool for local schools. The Smart Money fundraiser program is a collaboration between educators and parents. Every $10 subscription through the program earns $5 for a local school, booster club or athletic activities. Tuesday morning, parents and their kids wandered through Olympus Junior High School in Roseville for registration day for the start of the new school year. In the gymnasium, Jullien told parents about “Banana Moments.” By the end of the event, 160 households had signed up to receive the newsletter — raising $800 for the school. Tami Evans, a mother of four and member of the Parent Teacher Committee, learned about the newsletter for the first time earlier that morning. “It was totally great to learn about,” Evans said. “It helps families live in a digital environment.” Evans’ youngest child is 13 years old and her eldest is 24. She thinks parents should set limits to prevent their kids from becoming too reliant and focused on technological gadgets. “I’ve seen my kids’ friends say if they get their phone taken away they will kill themselves,” Evans said. The principal of Olympus Junior High School, Kelly Graham, was an early adopter of “Banana Moments.” He signed up because, as a dad, he was interested in obtaining extra guidance about parenting. “I thought it was a good message,” Graham said. “A lot of stuff in there needs to get out to parents. Kids are fluent when it comes to technology and very un-fearing of technology. They’re growing up in the technology age and it’s really all they know.” He expressed particular concern about boys interacting with computer gamers all over the world. He equates this to if a person knocks on the front door of a house and the child answers the door — a parent wouldn’t wait more than a minute to ask who the child was talking to outside. “Yet, a child can be in his bedroom, with the door shut on the computer and (you) have no idea who he’s talking to,” Graham said. As for Jullien, her interest in the effect of technology on human behavior and familial relationships began during her college years at UC Berkeley, where she majored in social and cultural anthropology. But a more profound, and personal, interest stemmed from her own sons. She remembers once when Kevin — who she calls “my digital native” — was 7 years old and as the two used the computer together, she clicked on a link that ended up loading a pornographic website. She quickly closed the page. “I realized this is not a toy,” Jullien said. “(The Internet) opens up every alley in the most dangerous city into your living room.” She and her husband always had strict rules as they raised their sons, she said. For instance, they taught their sons to be discerning about what personal information they share over the Internet. Unfortunately, she said, too many parents become isolated from their children, unaware of what’s going on in their kids’ daily lives. Children, meanwhile, end up developing more connections with people outside the home and school. The key is for parents to find a way to assert their authority without hovering, she said. “Banana Moments” is named for the surprise she felt one day as she shopped for bananas at the grocery store and she received a phone call from college-aged son Benjamin. He told her he had just gone skydiving. The newsletter includes topics on safe and productive use of the Internet, texting and driving, social media, cyber bullying, drinking and drug prevention, and more. “It’s enlightening,” Graham said. “We’re all running so fast, 100 miles per hour, we don’t always take the time to think about that stuff. For me, it’s about reflecting (on) those issues.” Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. ---------- To participate in the Smart Money fundraising program, sign up to receive “Banana Moments: Family Business Quarterly” for $10 a year. For each purchase, $5 goes to your child’s school. For more information, visit www.bananamoments.com and click on the Smart Money icon.