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Wednesday, May 15th, 2013
Technology can provide hours of entertainment during road trips, plane rides, or when riding the rails but it’s important to have the right gear for all of your devices. If there’s a trip in your future, start by taking stock of the items you have to determine what additional items you need or how you can pare down what you already have to reduce the number of cords and chargers you are taking with you. Then take the following steps to ensure that your devices are ready to go when you are!
Get organized. It’s easy to make sure that nothing gets left behind when you leave your house or your vacation destination when everything has a place. Pouches that feature pockets for cords, earbuds, and accessories such as the Kangaroom Personal Media Pouch ensures that everything has a place so it’s easy to tell at a glance if something is missing. The Built NY Charger Notebook Accessory Organizer Bag is another great product that features larger pockets and is made of stretchy neoprene.
Invest in a good bag that will hold your devices. A checkpoint friendly backpack such as the Timbuk2 Uptown Laptop Backpack keeps your hands free during travel and allows easy access to remove your laptop quickly as you approach the TSA checkpoint and stash it fast when you’re done. If you’re looking for a more versatile bag, here are 4 stylish bags that go to the office, park, and beyond.
Bring along a mini extension cord. Tech savvy families know that having lot of devices require a lot of plugs and sometimes hotel rooms or family members’ home lack the number of outlets needed to keep electronics charged. To combat this problem, travel with the Belkin 3 Outlet Mini Travel Swivel Surge Protector with Dual USB Ports. This handy device provides 3 extra AC outlets and 2 USBs and swivels for convenience.
Keep devices charged when on the go. Nothing is worse than running your phone down to the red when on a trip and needing to coordinate plans. Portable power can be your savior and some of my favorites are Rayovac’s 7 Hour Power that provides an instant charge for USB devices like phones and tablets thanks to 4 AA batteries. Unlike portable chargers that are charged via an outlet and run out of extra juice with that first charge, 7 Hour Power provides the freedom to be without outlets. Carrying extra sets of batteries ensures that you can charge more than one device, or a single device multiple times, when on the go. Android users may prefer Rayovac’s External Micro USB Battery for Cell Phones that provides a 2 hour charge for your phone. While the charge is less than that of 7 Hour Power, the device is much smaller and uses a single lithium battery.
Traveling for the first time? Don’t miss my 6 Tips for Surviving Air Travel With Kids!
The public check in area of an airport with crowd control barriers via Shutterstock
Thursday, May 9th, 2013
Before our daughter was born, I had the best intentions to create a beautiful photo album documenting her infancy but sadly, that album has sat in a box for the past nine years as the photos have lived on my computer in digital form. I have no shortage of digital photos documenting my kids’ lives but like many parents, I’m strapped for time and honestly, just not really great at taking my digital photos and sharing them on a regular basis. I know I’m not alone in my challenge and thankfully, there are apps and services that allow busy parents just like me with ways to do something with our digital photos quickly and easily.
Shoot and Share with Story by Disney
This week Disney released Story for iOS, a free iOS app that allows individuals to use the photos that are taken with their iPhone to create photo albums that can be immediately shared. Easy for kids and parents alike, Story is a powerful tool that allows families to share favorite moments in real time with loved ones quickly and easily from the palm of your hand. Photos from your iDevice are pulled directly into Story and compiled into albums. Edit, remove, add a 75 character caption, or adjust the layout from two stacked horizontal photos or two verticals side by side with the tap of a finger.
When you’re done with your Story, share it via email or social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest or embed it into a blog post. Want a more customized Story? Tap on the Story icon with the plus in the upper right corner to create a custom Story using any one of the 5 different themes with photos from the camera’s library and captions as text or take a photo or video right from your phone to incorporate directly from the screen.
Create a Blurb book out of your Instagrams
Chronic Instagrammers who share their favorite photos socially can create a book of their images using Blurb. Blurb boasts one of the most impressive arrays of photo books that are available in a variety of sizes. A square Instagram book that measure 7”x7” starts at under $20 for 60 pages and is the perfect way to showcase Instagram photos in an album format. If you’re more of a Facebook photo sharer, Blurb also offers Facebook Photo Books in the same size beginning at $12.99 for 20 pages.
Hang your Instagrams on your wall
Art worthy images captured in Instagram can be turned into canvas prints thanks to Snapbox with a single email. The service provides darling sized canvas prints that look great solo or grouped together on a mantle or hung as a collection on a wall and start at $10.
Man’s hand making photo of a little girl with a mobile phone via Shutterstock
Wednesday, May 1st, 2013
With the online world changing at such a rapid pace, one of the challenges that parents face is keeping up with the digital age that their kids are growing up in. Amy Lupold Bair is former English teacher turned blogger and social media marketer as well as a mother of two elementary aged children whose familiarity of the online space and experience in raising her own digital kids led her to write Raising Digital Families.
In the book, Bair writes,“The technology that your children and their friends use daily may be unfamiliar to you. Even if you dive right into technology as quickly as your children do, you may not be aware of how your children experience the same platforms and devices. You also may not be familiar with the challenges and dangers associated with these technologies— dangers that are often unique to them.”
Available online or found in the technology section of your local bookstore, Raising Digital Families is a handy reference guide for parents who are weighing the pros and cons of bringing various devices into their homes, allowing kids to play online games, allowing the use of social media as their teen turns 13, and how to ensure they remain safe. Raising Digital Families is a must-have parenting book for families with kids of all ages especially due to development of more educational apps and games for toddlers.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Bair and our conversation covered how to being conversations with kids about digital topics, the way she manages screen time in her home, personal concerns about her kids being online, and what’s next for her.
Tech Savvy Parents (TSP): Sometimes parents shy away from talking about difficult topics and things they feel they don’t know much about. Your book is a great resource and starting point for parents to educate themselves but in your opinion, what’s the best way to start discussions about topics like screen time, cyberbullying, and online safety?
Amy Lupold Bair (ALB): I think that if parents start by asking their kids to share what they know about each of the digital topics covered in the book, they’ll be surprised at how willing most kids are to take the lead in getting the entire family on the same page. Topics like cyberbullying and online safety are the native language of the current generation of kids, all of them digital natives. They’ve heard about them in school and in the media. It is only fitting that they should also discuss these topics at home and be provided with parameters and support by their parents.
TSP: You’re raising digital kids. How do you balance screen time and other activities in your own house?
ALB: We set strict screen time limits from birth, so my kids have fortunately grown up expecting rules use of digital devices. There are some devices that are only able to be used on the weekend, which helps carve out time during the week for after school activities, homework, and outside play. For example, we have a policy in our home called Wii Wiikends, so the kids know that they can only play Wii games from Friday night through Sunday. We also try to suggest and encourage specific physical and outdoor activities at the same time that we ask for devices to be turned off and put away. Sometimes replacing one activity with another is easier than just asking kids to stop what they are doing.
TSP: As a parent, what is your biggest concern about your kids being online?
ALB: I know that many parents are concerned about issues such as cyberbullying, online predators, and identity theft, but my biggest concern online is loss of innocence. We’ve worked hard to protect our children from inappropriate content in television and movies, but the Internet provides kids with access to thousands of unsavory sites with just one misplaced click. Thankfully there are enough safe search tools and rules within our family to protect our kids from everything from unfortunate Google Image search results to inappropriate suggested video links at the end of YouTube content.
TSP: In your opinion, what are the top three things that all parents should know about raising digital families?
This is a tough one!
- I think parents should know that anything sent digitally, whether through text or posted online, can NOT be taken back. Apps like Snapchat promise a share and delete, but it only takes a moment for someone to capture a screenshot of the image on their phone’s screen.
- I think parents should also know that their children are likely being exposed to more technology than they realize. There’s a section in Raising Digital Families For Dummies that talks about hidden screen time including computer use in the classroom, handing your child your phone in the doctor’s waiting room, playing video games at a friend’s house and more. When parents sit down to create rules and set parameters, they need to look honestly at their children’s typical day.
- Finally, I think parents need to know that even if they feel like they can’t stay on top of everything, they should still dive in and start somewhere. They may be surprised at how manageable a digital family can be!
TSP: You’re an English teacher turned, blogger and social media marketer, and now a published author. What’s next for you?
ALB: Right now the focus in on spreading the word to parents of digital natives that tools are available to them, including those listed in Raising Digital Families For Dummies. The next project is heading up the latest revision of Blogging For Dummies later this year!
Teenager and woman listening to music with smartphone via Shutterstock
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
As parents, there are topics that we need to address with our kids that are scary—scary for us to think about, scary to have conversations about, and scary for them as it means potential loss of innocence and childhood. Usually involving personal safety, discussions about these topics begin with our young children as we teach them to look both ways when crossing the street and about stranger safety then progressing to more age appropriate topics involving friendships, online safety, and cyberbullying.
But what about underage drinking? It’s certainly another safety topic that needs to address but if you think that your kids are too young, think again.
According to The Century Council, statistics show that nearly 10 million youths ranging in age from 12-20 report they have consumed alcohol in the past 30 days. Charged with providing information and developing programs that delay consumption of alcohol, prevent underage drinking, and reduce the access to alcohol by minors, The Century Council believes in parents being proactive by starting “the conversation at an early age and continue talking as they grow up.”
How do you be proactive and provide the tools your kids need to make good decisions? Parents weigh in.
Talk about it in an age appropriate way by framing the conversation about a healthy lifestyle.
Being proactive begins at a young age as we talk to kids about living a healthy lifestyle. Even though Grace Duffy from Formerly Gracie admits that her kids are so little that the “topic of underage drinking is still abstract” she frames it in a way that they understand. Not only does she limit their juice intake but has talks about what a grown up drink is versus a kid drink and incorporates nutrition and body chemistry.
Seize teachable moments
We know kids are observant and even when they appear to not be paying attention, they are. The Century Council’s Ask, Listen, Learn Brochure for Parents encourages taking advantage of daily opportunities. Perhaps there will be an article in the newspaper or a comment made about a friend that can serve as a springboard to conversation. Abby Hoffman is a mom of a third grader and high schooler and shared the following advice, “Most importantly, talk with your teen. Be involved in their life to a certain extent.”
Demonstrate your support
Talk the talk and then walk the walk. As parents, our kids need to know they can rely on us without getting in trouble or being judged harshly, especially when it comes to dangerous situations. Forbes contributor, Jim Henry, recalled a time when he was stranded after a rock concert in a bad part of Boston after midnight. He had to call his father to make a two hour round trip to bring him home but remembered his dad “never said one word of complaint and I was so grateful.” Author and blogger, Jennifer Wagner of Connect with Your Teens, echoed Henry by saying “the worst thing is for them to be scared to call when they are in a dangerous situation.”
Mom of 4 and Musings from Me founder, Jill Berry, encourages her kids to call her whenever they’re in a situation where alcohol is being served to minors because she “doesn’t want them at a gathering at someone’s home where alcohol is being served” even if the host parents are “supervising.”
But how do you give your child an out what could be a very uncomfortable situation? Father of three, Gabe Gonzales, remembered attending a talk by the Washington, D.C. based Parent Encouragement Program where he learned the importance of having a pre-arranged code word or phrase to use when they’re in an environment they don’t like. Gonzales described the benefit saying, “they can call you in front of their friends without losing face in front of them. So, for example, they could say to you- the parent- over the phone “I’ll finish that laundry tomorrow,” which would lead you to “demanding” that they come home right now” and provides a way for them to be picked up without embarrassment.
If necessary, provide concrete examples.
While shock and awe tactics may not be the best way to start a conversation about underage drinking, showing real life consequences to teens who may be tempted to imbibe are certainly memorable. Three parents reminisced about experiences that exposed them to horrors of underage drinking that they remember to this day:
“Every child should have a mother like mine. One that will take you to the morgue and show you what happens when you drink and drive and how it applies to real life.” ~ Lisa Frame, A Daily Pinch
“In high school we had helicopter pilots come in to talk to use prior to Prom Week and every accident they showed us was underage drinking by high school students. Some of the parents complained that the images were too graphic but they certainly had their place in getting the message across.” ~Rebecca Cervoni, Washington, D.C. parent of 2
“When I covered courts in Nashville, Tennessee, a surprising number of parents took their teenagers to Night Court on Friday nights to see what happens when you get arrested for DUI.” ~ Jim Henry, New York City based freelance writer
Teenagers enjoying drinks together via Shutterstock
Thursday, April 25th, 2013
When I was pregnant with our first child almost ten years ago, my mom was astounded to learn of all the new baby products on the market but at the time, the most high tech device we registered for was a baby monitor. Fast forward to the present and technological advances make it possible to share 3D images of your baby in utero with your social networks, charge your cell phone while out for a stroll, and pull up video feeds of your napping child on your smartphone.
As families make decisions about what types of devices are best for them, here are some of the new advances that tech savvy soon-to-be-parents might want to consider.
These days your baby’s social media footprint begins as soon as you announce your pregnancy via Facebook and BeBe Vu allows new parents to share images and videos of the baby in utero with family and friends via social media networks. Baylor Medical Center, Boulder Community Hospital, and Novant Health along with 400 local OBGYN offices now offer BeBeVu ultrasound. Interested parents whose OB offices already have BeBe Vu and can socially share a peek at their bun in the oven for the added cost of $29.
Once your baby is born, it’s important to keep an eye on them all the time. The audio monitors from a decade ago have been replaced by tech savvy video monitors. The Samsung Wi-Fi Video Baby Monitor connects to your router so you can monitor the feed from your smartphone, tablet, desktop, or laptop computer. Download the plugin to your desktop machine or laptop and you can watch a live stream of the action captured by the Samsung Wi-Fi Video Baby Monitor. Buttons on the screen allow you to record clips, upload them to a personal YouTube account, capture photos on Picasa, and even Tweet. While it’s a great thing to be able to access a live feed from inside your home while at work or as a security camera that keeps an eye on your house when on vacation, it’s also important to be mindful about what you’re sharing and posting online that could jeopardize your personal privacy.
To transport your tech savvy one, invest in the 4 Moms Origami Stroller. This self charging stroller features push button power folding, daytime running lights, pathway lights, and a LCD dashboard. IF that wasn’t enough, the dashboard displays a thermometer, speedometer, USB charging cable accessories, trip and lifetime odometers for you to keep track of how many miles you’ve pushed your stroller. It also has more standard features like adjustable reclining seat, cup holder, a peek-a-boo, window and lots of storage. This stroller would be great for tech savvy urban parents.
If you still have some items left to add to your baby registry but can’t decide what to get, SunnyBump helps new and expecting parents by bringing them together in one spot to share favorite product recommendations. This visual based community serves as an online resource to help parents figure out the best gear and share what they love with others through shared lists called bumps that provide recommendations from friends about baby and kid essentials. For parents who don’t know where to start or loved ones looking for the perfect gifts, the collections tool is a helpful feature of curated favorites of SunnyBump staffers.
Pregnant woman working on a laptop via Shutterstock