Archive for the ‘ Tech Savvy Parents ’ Category

Teaching Kids About Tornadoes and Helping Others

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Chances are if you’ve been keeping up with the news about the tornado damage following yesterday’s twister that caused widespread devastation in Moore, Oklahoma, your kids are probably asking questions about tornadoes. It’s a great time to seize upon the teachable moment for a science lesson about tornadoes and to talk about ways your family might be able to help those affected.

What is a tornado? The definition of what a tornado is should depend on the age of your child. According to Weather WizKids, a tornado is a “violent rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground.” Younger children need simple explanations with concrete examples so illustrate this by rotating a household funnel. National Geographic Kids has an easy to understand video for kids called Forces of Nature: Tornadoes 101. Older children will want more in-depth information and may have questions about tornado-related vocabulary that can be answered through the glossary of tornado terms on EnchantedLearning.com.

Are there different types of tornadoes? Yes, there various kinds and shapes of tornadoes. Tornadoes can also appear to be different colors! The different or kinds of tornadoes and their cousins are described on The Weather Channel Kids! and pictures of some types of tornadoes can be found on ThinkQuest.org.

How does it form? Tornadoes form in complex weather conditions, usually when two large air masses of varying temperatures collide. RiaNovosti has a great graphic showing tornado formation but younger ages will probably understand the animation of formation and destruction of a tornado on ThinkQuest.org.

What’s more dangerous? A hurricane or a tornado? According to Scholastic.com, hurricanes take days to develop whereas tornadoes tend to develop quickly but it’s hard to determine which is more dangerous.

Will a tornado hit where we live? It depends. According to National Earth Science Teachers Association’s Windows to the  Universe site, 75% of tornadoes happen in the United States. Most of these occur in the Great Plains, a place that weather watchers call “Tornado Alley.” Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana comprise Tornado Alley and while tornadoes are common in these states, it does not mean that they can’t occur in other states.

Are we safe? It’s always a good idea to make sure everyone in your family knows your emergency plan for any disaster that could strike. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Ready.gov page on tornadoes has information about how to prepare before a tornado, what to do if your area is under a tornado warning, and what to do after. Ready.gov’s Family Emergency Plan is a free, printable PDF that can be filled out so family member’s names, healthcare information, etc. is in one place and easiy accessible.

How can we help? Not only is a great time to teach your kids about tornadoes and review your family emergency plan, but it’s an excellent time to reinforce charitable acts by figuring out how you can help. Type A Parents’ How to Help the Oklahoma Tornado Victims by Kelby Carr shares ways families can offer assistance. Talk as a family and choose a method that works well for you or come up with a strategy to raise money for those affected.

Tornado about to make damage via Shutterstock

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Developing a Smarter Thermometer to Map Human Health

Friday, May 17th, 2013

What if your thermometer could tell you what illnesses were going around in addition to taking your temperature?  What if you could forecast the illnesses in your community to know the likelihood of your family getting sick ahead of time and be able to take preventative measures to stay well? A new smart thermometer and app being developed by Kinsa works to leverage the power, display, processing, and connectivity of your phone to create a real time map of human health to forecast the health of your community.

As parents, we know that one of the first devices we reach for in order to determine the health of our child is a thermometer since fever is an early sign of many illnesses. Kinsa’s Smart Thermometer works to collect your child’s temperature that is displayed by being plugged into your smartphone. At the same time, this data is being synched through the Kinsa App that uses GPS technology to track the health situation your community through a map displayed through your smartphone.

Called “health weather,” this map allows users to monitor the health of their community to know which illnesses are circulating. Parents can see if the flu, strep, or other illnesses are prevalent in their immediate area shared by others using the Kinsa Smart Thermometer and app. Even though you can’t tell who has what illness thanks to anonymous data, you can tell if there is an outbreak in your area and take preventative measures to keep your family healthy. Kinsa calls their goal of distributing 10 million Smart Thermometers over the next few years “aggressive” but is excited about creating the “world’s first living map of human health.”

While the Kinsa Smart Thermometer and App is still in development with plans to launch later this summer, it’s an innovative idea that leverages technology in a new way to keep families healthy and paves the way for other smart products.

Sick kid with high fever laying in bed and mother taking temperature via Shutterstock

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4 Travel Essentials for Tech Savvy Families

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

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3 Easy Ways Share and Create Products with Your Digital Photos

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

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How to Parent in the Digital Age: An Interview with Raising Digital Families Author Amy Lupold Bair

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!

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

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