Archive for the ‘ Devices ’ Category

5 Tips for Capturing Great Photos of Kids

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

The holiday offers for photo cards are flooding our mailbox and inbox, making me feel the pressure to capture the perfect shot to describe our kids and year in a single image. We’ve hired professional photographers from time to time to capture family shots but this year we’ll be taking our own pictures. The ritual of dressing up, going to an unfamiliar place, and trying to relax for someone you don’t know so well can be especially trying on kids and parents who know that the clock is ticking and need that perfect shot. This year take the pressure off you and your kids by taking your own photos with tips from the pros.

Well known for gorgeous images in each issue, National Geographic is always eye candy for the soul and the very talented Dan Westergren, Director of Photography for National Geographic Travel, and National Geographic Kids Photo Editor, Kelley Miller, are here to provide the following tips to help you capture the most stunning images.

Take photos of kids in an environment that they’re comfortable in. Miller often shoots photos of animals and feels that the landscape shows a sense of space that provides scale and dimension. The same can be said for growing kids. With your couch or favorite playthings around them, it’s easy to see how big they’ve grown but how little they were when you look back at your photos from year to year.

Take pictures in a place where there’s something to capture kids’ interest. Westergren says that a common mistake is to document children in front of recognizable landmarks that can be the “recipe for boring pictures.” It makes it easier to get children together if they find something of interest that keeps them actively engaged.

Prevent awkward smiles and posed photos. Westergren often asks his subjects to “to relax their mouths, then close their eyes and open them when I count to three.” Or he suggests a fake out by framing the scene and just waiting. While you may not get the most perfect smiles, “the photos that emerge will be a more meaningful expression of their personality.” Miller likes to “pursue the personality” of the subject she’s shotting.

Go for motion. Some of my personal favorite photos of our kids involve them jumping or running. It’s so fun to look back at pictures where they’re giving it their all with their feet off the ground. It’s playful and fun and captures their personality but taking action shots can be tricky. Miller suggests “get as close as you can to action. Timing is everything” and a slower shutter speed can also help.

Be creative with your shot. Different angles, zooming in for that closeup, changing the color to black and white, and making the individual stand out by using a simple background or a shallow depth of field are ways that Miller says will help your kids leap out of the printed photo.

For more tips on taking great family photos, visit Dan Westergren’s How to Photograph Kids piece on National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel.

Couple and children taking family picture via Shutterstock

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KidZui Provides Safe Browsing Tips Upon Release of New Mobile App

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

As parents, it’s our job to make sure that our kids learn how to be safe at all times whether they’re crossing the street, playing with friends, or online. KidZui, the company that has one of the most popular kid-safe downloadable internet browsers announced the launch of a new mobile app that is designed to keep children safe when accessing content on the go. This new app will be available for iOS download on Apple’s App Store on Thursday, November 14 and will available for Android soon too.

“After months of preparation, planning and research, we are thrilled with the results of the updated version of KidZui and are overjoyed with launch of the first-ever KidZui mobile app,” said Ryan Bettencourt, Vice President of Online for Saban Brands and one of the Founders of Zui.com and KidZui. “It’s important that we continue to keep the Internet safe for children while also making it fun and easy to use. The mobile app extends KidZui’s parameters, providing parents with the same assurances both at home and on the go.”

With safety being at the forefront of parents’ minds when it comes to content and our kids, I talked to Bettancourt about mobile devices, ways to teach our kids about safe searching habits as they grow beyond KidZui, and the things that parents need to be mindful about with safe searching as their kids increase the use of mobile devices to access content.

Tech Savvy Parents (TSP): With mobile devices being much more prevalent in our kids’ lives, this is an exciting announcement. What are some key things that kids need to know about searching in any browser via desktop computers, laptops, and mobile devices?

Ryan Bettancourt (RB): We believe that the big things kids need in searching in a browser is an experience that is built specifically for kids.  Kids generally don’t have the same intent that adults do in searching.  Adults go into a web browser and search engine with specific goals in mind.  Kids don’t do so to the same degree.  Therefore, the browsing and search experience needs to address that.  KidZui was built from the ground up for readers and non-readers alike and with a focus on how kids search and discover things online in a different way.  Frankly, opening a Google prompt that returns a million text results in a nanosecond isn’t important to a kid.  What is important to a kid is that they can discover things they didn’t even know they were interested in and do so in an intuitive and graphical way.

In searching in any browser, kids need to know:

  • How to distinguish ads from non-paid content
  • A general idea of what they are looking for
  • How to conduct a search and use it to also find related content

TSP: KidZui becomes a trusted way to search in households for kids as they get started being online. At some point, families need to transition away from it. How can parents help their children learn to be better searchers since it’s an important skill in today’s digital age?

RB: We have often said that KidZui is web browsing on training wheels.  Just like you use training wheels on a bike to learn balance and how to turn and navigate, you need the same online.  Technology is only going to become more important in the world in the future and empowering kids with skills to use technology for learning, discovering passions and communicating is critical.

Parents can help their kids by sitting with them as they get used to searching and teaching them to understand how to create proper searches.  They can also help kids understand websites and typical website navigational elements so that kids can easily navigate for the information they are seeking.

One important thing parents can do is sit with their kids as they use the internet (on KidZui or elsewhere) to do research on a specific topic.  For example, if a kid has a report due on insects, a parent can work with a child to conduct that research, extrapolate the right information, store information for later, copy and paste, and so on.

Finally, parents can help kids to learn how to store/favorite/bookmark content so that they can get back to their favorite things easily.

TSP: As a technology company that always keeps kids’ safety in mind, what do you see as things that parents need to be mindful of beyond safe search?

RB: At KidZui, our passion has always been to allow kids to safely discover the best things online.  We believe that enabling great “discovery” shouldn’t be sacrificed in an effort to be safe.  They have to be in equal parts.

I think the real thing parents have to understand is that search and communication have radically changed.  Google and Bing aren’t the only way kids are searching these days.  They use YouTube, Facebook (older kids), Instagram (older kids) and others to search.  Those are effectively search engines in themselves.  And, those environments can also quickly lead a child to inappropriate and irrelevant content.  It’s important that parents be active in helping their children learn how to navigate all platforms in an appropriate way.

And of course, within a smartphone or tablet app environment, parents also need to be mindful of how kids are using those apps.

TSP: What’s next for KidZui in this ever-changing world of technology?

RB: We have explored many different opportunities and are currently figuring out where we want to put our energy next.  We certainly need to create an Android tablet version of our KidZui app and figure out what a mobile phone version is like.

Kids using mobile devices via Shutterstock

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Tags: | Categories: Apps, Devices, Online Safety

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6 Things to Do Before Upgrading Your Apple Mobile Device to iOS 7

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Tomorrow, September 18, Apple is releasing iOS 7, a major software upgrade for iPhones and iPads that promises to be a visual departure from what you’ve grown accustomed to seeing on the screen. It promises a new look, all-new features for better multitasking, and built in iCloud connectivity. But before you upgrade your mobile device to take a look at these exciting new changes, is your device ready? To make sure that you don’t encounter any problems, prepare your device by doing these six things before putting the new operating system on your iPhone or iPad.

1. Check compatibility. Newer devices such as iPhone 4, 4s, and 5, iPad 2, 3, and 4, iPad Mini, and fifth generation iPod Touches are iOS 7 compatible. If your Apple mobile devices is compatible, then you’ll want to keep reading.

2. Take some time to delete apps you no longer use. Not only will you regain some storage but you’ll also have fewer apps to update in subsequent steps if you take a few minutes and clean up your app collection.

3. Connect your mobile device to your computer and make sure you have a strong wifi signal.

4. Update all of your apps. Find the App Store icon on your device. If there is a number inside a red and white circle, you have apps that need to be updated. Tap on Updates in the bottom right of your screen and then on the top right, tap Update All to automatically update all of your apps to the most recent version.

5. Back up your data. Go to Settings -> iCloud -> Storage & Backup and check at the bottom of the screen for when the Last Backup was performed. If the backup is not current, verify that your iCloud Backup is turned on and tap Back Up Now. If your backup is too large to fit on iCloud, you can reduce the backup size by deleting unnecessary videos and photos. Some users may prefer to backup the device to a computer with iTunes which is perfectly acceptable too.

6. Don’t upgrade the iOS on your device until you’re ready. There’s no hurry to upgrade but when you’re ready, make sure you’ve performed all the steps above. Then initiate the upgrade by going to Settings- > General -> Software Update on your device. After the update has completed and your apps have been restored, go back to App Store -> Updates and tap Update All.

If you have trouble upgrading to iOS 7, here are some helpful resources that can assist you until you can get to the Genius Bar for some hands-on help:

Businesswoman work with documents and tablet computer like ipade, lies alongside gadget like iphones via Shutterstock

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Amazon Announces New Kindle Paperwhite Shipping September 30

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

The Kindle Paperwhite has been a popular eReader choice for kids and parents alike but today Amazon announced a brand new Kindle Paperwhite that will start shipping on September 30. Improvements include new display technology with even better contrast of print against the screen thanks to darker text, better touch screen that responds to the smallest touches, next generation built-in light that is less likely to cause eye fatigue by providing a great reading experience during the day and at night, and a faster processer that means books open faster and pages turn quicker. The long lasting battery reportedly lasts up to eight weeks on a single charge when the device is sued 30 minutes per day.

In addition to the great improvements, parents who are looking to purchase an eReader will find that the Kindle Paperwhite is more ergonomic than an iPad mini since it’s 30% lighter plus a lot less expensive. Paperwhites begin at $119, less than half the price of the iPad Mini that starts at $329.

The new Kindle Paperwhite will also come with new great features like Vocabulary Builder and FreeTime. The new Vocabulary Builder feature makes it easy for young readers to add new words to their vocabulary. Words looked up on Kindle are automatically added to Vocabulary Builder where kids can quiz themselves with flashcards to reinforce new word retention.

Previously available for other Kindler versions, FreeTime is a welcome addition to Paperwhite. FreeTime lets parents create personalize profiles for kids and provides them with access to titles from your collection of books. Kids are rewarded with achievement badges when they reach their goals and progress reports keep parents updated on total time spent reading, number of words looked up, badges earned, and books read.

Additional features that will be found in the newest Kindle Paperwhite include:

  • Page Flip that allows readers to skim books page-by-page, or skip through chapters without losing your place.
  • Goodreads integration to connect to the world’s largest community of book lovers to connect to like-minded readers, share recommendations and decide what to read next, straight from your book.

Image courtesy of Amazon

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Tips for Purchasing a Digital Camera for Your Child

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Summer is here and it’s often fun to let kids capture their own memories of a family by putting a camera in their hands.  Preschool aged children and older will love the freedom of taking their own pictures and adding an alternate perspective to the family scrapbook. Before you venture out to purchase a camera for your child, here are some helpful tips about the kind of camera to buy and how to teach your child to be responsible with their latest device.

With so many different options, it’s easy to find a good quality camera.  Consider both used or new depending on your child’s age and budget.

Used?  Yes, used!  Depending on the age of your child, they don’t necessarily need the latest and greatest featuring the highest number of megapixels and manual settings.  A hand me down camera, an older iPod Touch, or even a pre-owned camera from your local CraigsList will suffice. Purchasing a brand new digital camera can be a large monetary investment in a device that can be easily lost or broken.  There will be far less guilt and heartbreak when there is a camera mishap if you don’t fork over a ton of money.  And trust me, the likelihood is high even if the camera strap is always around their wrist!

If you’d rather buy new, you don’t need the latest model with the high number of megapixels that is compact in size, and features a ton of manual settings. Your child does not need those bells and whistles.

As exciting as a new or gently used camera is, have a conversation with your child about it before they are allowed to use it and be sure to do the following:

  • Label your camera.  Kids misplace things and even if you haven’t spent a lot of money on your child’s camera, you probably want it to come back to you if it is lost. Mabel’s Labels are bright, colorful, highly durable, and easy to spot at a distance and perfect for a camera and every other device and item you own.
  • Invest in rechargeable batteries and talk about energy conservation.  Turning the camera on and off wastes batteries.  There’s nothing worse than a dead camera battery when you need it most. Your child will quickly learn the same lesson out of frustration about not being able to use their camera when they want.
  • Discuss appropriate times to use the camera.  When our kids first got their new-to-them cameras, they wanted to use them all the time.  Talk about when it is and isn’t appropriate to take photos and respecting those who don’t want their picture taken.

Cute girl taking a picture against a white background via Shutterstock

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