Posts Tagged ‘ technology ’

webRover, a New Internet Guard Dog, Monitors Your Kids’ Internet Time

Friday, March 14th, 2014

webRover-parental-control-internetEver worry about what your children are looking at online? Or worry they are spending too much time on the Internet? Of course you do!

There is so much to fear in the digital age, from online predators to cyberbullies to unwelcomed pop-ups and risqué advertising. But as consumers of the World Wide Web, we also know that so much good content is out there for children as well.

A new product just hit the market that may make it easier for parents to control the content as well as the amount of time kids are viewing it online. PowerCloud Systems, in partnership with Common Sense Media, launched a new parental control feature in Skydog (their home networking monitoring system), named webRover. The control is designed for monitoring kids between the ages 2 and 10. Through the Skydog-connected system, parents can set up multiple user accounts that can be controlled across all devices (including mobile and tablets).

“Kids can easily get exposed to age-inappropriate content,” says Caroline Knorr, the Parenting Editor for Common Sense Media. “They can do that by typing something into the Internet that seems like an innocuous search term, and they can arrive at a website that is not age appropriate.”

“Let’s face it, there’s no way that you can prevent your kids from being exposed to age-inappropriate content or content that you don’t approve of, but there are ways to manage their online activities so they are funneled into sites where they have a greater chance of finding age-appropriate, positive, nourishing websites versus what they might find on their own,” she continues.

Each webRover user profile can be customized based on what each parent deems appropriate for each child. For example, parents can schedule designated study hours during the week for school-age children where only approved websites can be accessed during that time. So even though kids may need the Internet to research a homework assignment, you won’t have to worry that they are wasting time playing an online game. For even younger children, parents can allow access-based categories, including learning potential. This is where Common Sense Media comes in.

The organization rates and reviews media across multiple platforms (like movies, TV shows, video games, apps, etc.) and assesses the appropriate age for each product. Multiple factors come into play, including violence, sex, cigarettes and drugs, language, positive role models, and learning capability. So, even though some websites may be kid-friendly, they may not necessarily promote learning. Through webRover, parents can customize the sites they want to allow, like ones with a higher educational rating. For sites that don’t have a ranking (like religious and regional websites), parents can manually enter in their own information and ratings. Parents can even override Common Sense Media’s ratings if they decide their young child can handle websites aimed at older children, or if they find something age-inappropriate based on their own values.

“Often parental controls are blunt instruments that block out too much good stuff,” Knorr says. “That’s been a real downfall with the controls up until this point. So the way Skydog has implemented it…they are saying, ‘You know what, we want to just curate the good stuff for kids.’”

The big key here is that although there are different recommendations about the what, how, and when children can access the Internet, the webRover feature allows ultimate control to be left up to the parents. And that deserves a little sigh of relief!

Download our Internet-use contract so your kids know the rules before they log in online!

Digital Devices and Children
Digital Devices and Children
Digital Devices and Children

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How to Make New Parents Even Crazier

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

The interwebs are abuzz with the Mimo, a baby bodysuit with a sensor attached that allows parents to track their child’s temperature, breathing, position, and so on from their smartphone. I saw it at a trade show last September and dismissed it, because 1) it’s creepy to have a sensor attached to your baby outside of an obvious medical situation 2) it’s $200! for the starter kit and 3) new parents need to sleep when their baby sleeps, not track each breath on their smart phone.

But the Consumer Electronics Show and one Today Show segment later, everyone is excited about how this will change the baby-monitoring world, and maybe it will. After all, a good video baby monitor costs about $200 (or more). And traditional baby monitors often have cords, which are a safety hazard, so maybe having the sensor stuck right on the baby’s outfit is best. The bodysuit is machine-washable, Mimo promises, and presumably can take the spit up/vomit/explosive diaper happenings that come with a baby. 

On the flip side, my brother and his wife are using a nap app, Sprout’s Baby Sleep Tracker, with my niece right now, and I am unsure if it is making them more relaxed parents or making them feel like scientists studying data. Presuming you put your baby in a safe sleep environment, does it matter to have a graph showing whether the last nap was 20 minutes or 40? I look at the bar graphs that the Mimo produces and I start to get agitated. A friend with a newborn posted to Facebook, in regards to Mimo, “Oh yeah. This won’t give me a nervous breakdown.”

Like most things in the baby world, whether or not you “need” something like the Mimo will come down to your personality and lifestyle. Does a flood of information calm you down, or key you up? Do you love tech, and consider yourself an early adopter? Or are you happier doing things the low-tech way? There is no right or wrong answer. Different strokes for different folks.

We are huge safe-sleep proponents here and do like that the Mimo promotes back sleep and teaches parents to watch things such as temperature (overbundling your baby, daytime or nighttime, polar-vortex or no, is a SIDS risk). Here’s a video with some more safe-sleep reminders. And what do you think, would you buy the Mimo?

How to Create a Safe Crib
How to Create a Safe Crib
How to Create a Safe Crib

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Play the Latest Sesame Street Apps!

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Who doesn’t remember loving Sesame Street as a child? I was so obsessed that my parents got Big Bird to come to my fifth birthday party, a day that still goes down in infamy among my family.

These days, Sesame Street’s educational and award-winning story lines aren’t just for television. The show now tops children’s learning in the digital sphere as well. Parents got the chance to check out some of the program’s latest apps, all designed for children 5 and under to expand their creativity. 

1. Big Bird’s Words, $0.99
Recently launched on Google Play (and soon on iTunes), Big Bird’s Words is an app that uses verbal cues to teach vocabulary. In the game, Big Bird and your child help Sesame Street’s friends find items on their lists, such as shopping for Cookie Monster at the grocery store. Once everything is checked off, kids can explore further by taking pictures of everyday objects matching each item and learning additional related words.
2. Elmo’s Story Maker, $3.99 
Based off Sesame Street’s “Elmo The Musical” segment, this app for iPad and Kindle allows kids to tell a story from beginning to end. They can choose or create their own characters and pick special objects as the tale plays out. The app reads your story out loud, or you can make a special recording. Later, share with family and friends through email or social media.

3. Sesame Street Family Play, $0.99 
Lacking inspiration for new games to play with your kids? The Family Play app available on iTunes features 150 ideas! Whether you’re at home or on-the-go, this generator will help you find an activity based on location, number of kids, and objects around you. Each idea encourages playtime outside the screen, proving technology isn’t totally necessary for a good time.

 

Also on our radar: Sesame Go, a video-on-demand service that will offer content from the show on any web-based application. Currently in Beta testing, the service will be available to fans in the next few months, proving Sesame Street really is just about everywhere you look…or click and tap.

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Google’s Latest and Greatest

Friday, May 31st, 2013

Google Glass DemonstrationI’ve seen the future–maybe–and it is Google. But you knew that already, no?

I was among a group of journalists invited to an event yesterday in which Google showed off some of their latest and greatest products, including the much-discussed Google Glass (worn by a Google staffer in the photo at the right). In a space set up to simulate a household, they showed, room-by-room, the magic that Google applications can make.

The presenters kept reiterating that Google knows “everyone is on the go,” and has designed its products to cater to that busy lifestyle. That’s doubly true for us parents, whether we’re running after the little ones, or carpooling the older ones. To that end, here are some of the highlights of what  saw at the event:

Voice-Activated Search
Voice search has come a long way. Using the Google search app from your mobile device, click the microphone icon and speak your query. On Android devices, it will speak right back at you, but that isn’t available on my iPhone, where I have to settle for it following my commands silently. Its ability to understand what you’re saying is solid, and beyond just searching the web, you can ask for directions, add items to your calendar, and send emails, all without typing.

Nutritional Information
Food-related searches will now bring up full nutritional information on foods. So you’ll be able to say exactly how many calories that slice of pizza will set you back or how much protein that smoothie will give you. This just launched today, so it’s hot off the presses.

Google Glass
What would a look at Google and the future be without discussing Google Glass, that tiny, wearable computer that clips onto your eyeglass frame? I didn’t get to try it, but did watch a demonstration, which helped me understand both the “what” and “why” of this technology. Glass is an attempt to address two paradoxical problems: We tend to walk around with our faces glued to our phones, while at the same time, we’ve all wished we could get to our phones–the camera, especially–quicker, before missing that unique moment. Glass sits just above your field of vision and is controlled by a swipe or tap of your finger, and significantly, your voice. Record a video, snap a picture, get step-by-step directions as you walk, send an email, all without breaking stride or burying your face in a phone. Imagine being able to actually capture your child’s first steps on video–while also being there to catch her when she stumbles.

Will it catch on? Only time will tell. Now, how about the self-driving car?

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Parents Daily News Roundup

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Child Care Centers Overhaul  Proposed By Federal Health Officials
Federal health officials say they will propose Thursday to overhaul federally funded child care centers across the country, beefing up safety standards including background and fingerprint checks for employees and requiring states to better monitor the facilities. (via Huffington Post)

Slightly high lead tied to less reading readiness
Children with even slightly elevated blood lead levels are less likely to be ready to read when starting kindergarten, according to a new study. (via Reuters)

Cracking the Tech Job Talent Crunch by Teaching Kids to Code
For all the parents losing sleep over their kids’ prospects in such a tightfisted job market, I can see at least one recourse: teach them how to code. The earlier, the better.(via Huffington Post)

Judge declines to nix ’79 NYC child-killing case
A man charged with murder decades after one of the nation’s most infamous child disappearances can be brought to trial, a judge ruled Wednesday, turning down the man’s claim that the case was too thin to proceed. (via Yahoo News)

Pop-Tart Gun Suspension: Attorney For Suspended Student Says No Resolution Has Been Reached With School
An attorney for the family of an Anne Arundel County 7-year-old suspended from school after being accused of nibbling a pastry into the shape of a gun says he met with school officials Wednesday in an attempt have the student’s suspension expunged, but no resolution was reached. (via Reuters)

Parents sue South Carolina, hospital over child’s sex assignment surgery
A couple filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the state of South Carolina for what they say was an unnecessary sexual assignment surgery performed on a toddler they later adopted. (via Fox News)

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Parents Daily News Roundup

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Goody Blog Daily News Roundup

CDC: 105 Children Died During Flu Season in US
Health officials say the flu season is winding down, and it has killed 105 children — about the average toll. The flu season started earlier than usual and ended up being moderately severe. (via FOX News)

Babies Shouldn’t Get Solid Foods Until 6 Months Old
A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found many mothers are feeding babies solid foods earlier than the recommended age of six months, according to the Cleveland Clinic. (via FOX News)

Kids Who Exercise Are Less Likely to Have Fractures in Old Age
It turns out that strengthening bone to avoid fractures starts at a very young age.
Physical activity, such as the exercise children get in school gym classes, is important for fighting obesity, but the latest research suggests it may help to keep bones strong as well. (via TIME)

Celebrity Endorsers May Impact How Much Kids Eat
Celebrities who endorse specific foods in TV commercials are a powerful influence on children, and that effect may extend beyond the advertisement itself, according to a new study from the UK.(via Reuters)

Some Schools Urge Students to Bring Their Own Technology
Educators and policy makers continue to debate whether computers are a good teaching tool. But a growing number of schools are adopting a new, even more controversial approach: asking students to bring their own smartphones, tablets, laptops and even their video game players to class. (via The New York Times)

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Faves of 2012: Google’s New Chromebook

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

A laptop for $249? It does exist–and not just on Black Friday! Google’s new Chromebook, in a partnership with Samsung, is thin, light, and has an aesthetic design similar to the pricey Apple laptops. So what’s the catch? It doesn’t run off of Windows or the Apple OS. Instead, it runs off of a system designed by Google, which allows for Chrome web apps. It’s a great choice if you’re looking for a first computer for your kid or even a second family computer for Web-surfing or to take with you on the go. Click here for more information on the Samsung Chromebook.

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Parents Daily News Roundup

Monday, November 12th, 2012

Goody Blog Daily News Roundup

Study Tentatively Links Flu in Pregnancy and Autism
Kids whose mothers had the flu while pregnant were slightly more likely to be diagnosed with “infantile autism” before age three in a new study. But the children’s overall risk for the developmental disorder was not higher than that of other kids. (via Reuters)

Next-Day Discharge After C-Section May Be Okay: Study
Some women who deliver their babies by cesarean section may be able to check out of the hospital the next day without raising their risk of problems, according to a new study. (via Reuters)

Children’s Headaches Rarely Linked to Vision Problems
If your child gets recurring headaches and you think they might need glasses, you may be mistaken – a new study says children’s headaches are rarely triggered by vision problems. (via CNN)

Early Stress May Sensitize Girls’ Brains for Later Anxiety
High levels of family stress in infancy are linked to differences in everyday brain function and anxiety in teenage girls, according to new results of a long-running population study. (via ScienceDaily)

Cell Phone Use In Schools A Possibility With ‘Bring Your Own Technology’ Initiative
As schools try to add more technology during a time when they are receiving less funding, many will begin to consider allowing students to use devices they already own. That will include cellphones and electronic tablets like iPads. (via Huffington Post)

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