February 5, 2014 | Volume 8, Issue 2

Smartphone apps, social networking sites can be dangerous for kids; parents need to know the dangers, including bullying

I was recently reading a biography of Benjamin Franklin. Why, you ask? I could not help but wonder why he was the only guy engraved on our money who was not a past president. Why was he so special?

It turns out that Ben Franklin was a lot like my ten-year old when he was young. At a young age, Ben was given some spare coins by some adult relatives and used all of them to buy an obnoxious tin whistle from an entrepreneurial neighbor boy. The tin whistle was so irritating that young Ben’s family loudly complained. When they found out how much he’d spent on it, they acted the same way we did when my boy sold his almost-new bike to the neighbors for $10.

Somewhere between the tin whistle episode and adulthood, Ben Franklin developed his “A penny saved is a penny earned” persona. So… I think there’s still hope for my boy.

Ben Franklin was an aspiring writer when he apprenticed at his brother’s newspaper shop. His brother wouldn’t let him write for the paper, however. So he wrote under an assumed name, Silence Dogood, and slipped his work under the door at night. His brother gleefully printed the letters until he realized the identity of Silence Dogood.

My boy decided to write an entire newspaper for our family and distribute it to the neighbors. His first and only newspaper contained the headline story of our cat giving birth to three kittens… six years ago. The only other item gracing his one-page newspaper was a copy of a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. His newspaper career only lasted about an hour and a half because he quickly realized that he detests writing.

Ben Franklin was an inventor and a scientific achiever of his age, yet he only had two years of formal schooling. I don’t dare tell my boy that little tidbit.

I think he would have admired Ben Franklin because he, too, is a tinkerer, but so far, he has just enough knowledge to be downright dangerous.

Ben’s inventions were as diverse as they were practical. He invented bifocals, an early electric generator, the Franklin stove, the lightning rod and the armonica – a musical instrument – among many other things.

My boy is only ten and yet he has invented an ATM machine out of Legos. He just can’t figure out how to get it to make money.

Last Christmas, he made a Santa Claus detector out of a PC and a mini camera. It stopped working just when Santa was coming down the chimney. Darn!

He also developed an automatic toilet flusher out of scotch tape, rubber bands, and his Erector set.

And one of his favorite “inventions” was Jello popsicles made out of, well… Jello.

I can hardly wait to see what he can do with an education and the correct tools.

The key here is education. Ben Franklin might have flown a kite in a thunderstorm trying to attract lightning, but he had thought about the consequences and built in safeguards to protect himself from certain death.

Flying a kite in a thunderstorm is definitely something I could see my ten-year old doing. The difference is that he would make the kite string out of copper wire and hold on to the key at the bottom, thereby ensuring a crispy end to his promising life.

If we can keep him out of trouble long enough to get that education, you may one day see my boy’s face gracing a piece of currency.

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