Back To School Tech Tips To Keep Parents Sane and Kids Safe

Back To School Tech Tips

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It’s back to school season and for many it means new tech and upgrades to existing tech, and not just for the kids. Parents are often introduced to new technology to help kids with homework, communicate with the school, or just stay connected in an increasingly connected world. Kids may be experiencing new technology at school, switching phones, or trying out different accessories. Whatever it is, back to school marks a time for transition.

Whether it’s the same routine or something new, when it comes to going online more and more young people are connecting through smartphones or tablets. This makes learning possible everywhere. That’s good. But with the good comes the bad. And that’s where it’s important to re-evaluate how you approach internet security. So, here are a few back to school tech tips for keeping your family in tip-top shape.

Back To School Tech Tips To Keep Parents Sane and Kids Safe

  1. Keep it charged – Many kids are given tablets at school and are responsible for bringing them to school every day fully charged. In addition to having a designated charging station at home, think about having a portable battery to help keep them connected throughout the day. Especially important with older kids, having an external battery will help them do their work without having to be tethered to a wall. Or, having to deal with running out of power just as they’re in the zone. You may even want to invest in a car charger just incase they realize on the way to school they don’t have much power.
  2. Protect the screen – whether it’s with a case or a separate screen protector, don’t leave the screen exposed. Tiny dirt and dust particles can scratch the screen, making it difficult to use over time. Many people worry about cracking the screen. And while that’s a real concern, the fact is a scratched screen is annoying and may impacts the quality of what you see on the screen.
  3. Individualize it with a case – Sure a case can protect the device, but why not sell it as a way to personalize their device. With so many kids having the same type of device it’s easy to get them mixed up. With smartphones there are so many case options and most of us show our personality through our cases and covers. For tablets, especially those issued by the school, if permitted, find a case your child likes to help them take a little more responsibility for their device. Not only does it protect the device, which many parents may not realize they are responsible for, but a cool case also gives the device some personality and helps differentiate it from the sea of black and silver tablets on a table.
  4. Talk about online safety – I know you’ve had the talk before. But just like having to remind your child to turn off the lights, not slam the car door, or take a shower (yes, every day!), talking to kids about online safety is an ongoing and continuous conversation. Kids may think they know everything about being online, but the fact is that many kids are vulnerable and need to be reminded that sometimes things aren’t as they seem. Making mistakes online in this day and age can have long-term and very serious consequences. Teens and tweens, especially, need to know that you’re ultimately responsible for what they do online.
  5. Don’t just talk, take action – As parents, we do a lot of talking. When it comes to online safety for our kids, though, we have to take action. Whether it’s checking their device daily, requiring an approved family member or friend to be friended on their social network, or adding parental controls to their devices, we can talk all we want but action is required. It’s not about not trusting our kids, it’s about not trusting the freaks out there. If you’ve never used IFTTT, or don’t use it for this purpose, here’s an easy way to keep on top of what’s going on. Check out these IFTTT recipes to help keep your kids safe online.
  6. Trust your gut – Too many times we second guess our gut when it comes to what our kids are doing online. This isn’t the time to worry about if our kids think we’re annoying (we are, we’re parents!), being the cool parent (we are the cool parents!), or respecting their privacy. If you’re not hovering over them 24/7, you’re likely giving your kids the privacy they’ve earned. Earned, that’s right. Privacy is not a right in the Kingdom of Mom and Dad. In Mom and Dad Ville, the right to search and seizure is without limits. In Momtopia, you may have the right to be silent but unreasonable search and seizure is a real possibility. Trust your parenting gut when it comes to the safety of your kids. You may need to tone down how you want to react, but if you get that feeling, don’t over-react, just act.

Back to school is filled with so many emotions. But those emotions don’t have to carry through the school year. With a keen eye and a kind heart, our amazing kids will make it through another year. And so will we!

What tips to do you to help keep everything in check during the school year?

Sara

7 Tips for Making Middle School Pick Up Less Stressful for Everyone

School Pick Up Line Tips

For most parents, when we talk about ‘back to school’ there’s a bit of melancholy in our voice. Having the kids home for the summer means lazy days, less rush, fun vacations, staycations. Lots of summer stuff making memories. But after all the “I’m bored!”, “There’s nothing to do.”, and “I’m hungry!” wails, there’s a small part of you that can’t wait for school to start. While I love having BabyGirl home for the summer, I know she misses her friends. And being an only child means hanging out with adults, which isn’t always that fun. So while there’s an excitement in the air about back to school, as a parent there’s one thing I dread – school pick-up.

I share after-school pick-up duties with a friend, which is great. It gives both of us a chance to have an extra hour to cross things off our daily to-do list. We did the carpool program for two years in elementary school and it went rather well. There were a few parents who didn’t think the rules applied to them, but for the most part, elementary school pickup was met with order. For those times someone would double-park, cross between cars, or leave their car unattended the school was quick to give notice and nip the issue in the bud. And while I was at just one of the several elementary schools that feed in to the current middle school BabyGirl attends, I thought the other elementary school pick-up lines were the same. But I was wrong.

Based on the first two weeks of school, either some of the parents completely forgot how after-school pick-up works or they think the rules don’t apply to them. Seriously, how hard is it to follow a few basic rules? What happened to all those things we taught (er, teach?) our kids? Like, wait your turn, be patient, be courteous, watch what you’re doing …

Adults behind the wheel of a car are much more dangerous than the little mistakes our kids make when they don’t follow basic rules of courtesy. So I thought now is the perfect time for a few reminders to those who will be picking up kids after school. And while this is more specifically written for middle school (junior high?) pick up since this is what I’m dealing with now, it’s likely just as applicable for high school and elementary pick up.

7 Tips for Making Middle School Pick Up Less Stressful for Everyone

  1. If you don’t want to wait in a long line, get there early. Just like going to the movies, if you get there late you don’t get to cut the line just because you’re in a hurry. We all have places to go. And cutting in line isn’t just being a jerk, it’s dangerous because cars leaving the line aren’t expecting you to be cutting.
  2. Keep moving up as the line moves. This is how lines work. When people in front of you move, you move too. Think about how it works when you’re in line at the store. It’s the same thing. This is not the time to camp out in one spot like you’re at a General Admission concert. The kids will find the car. They’re in middle school. Finding the right car at the end of the day isn’t all that hard for the average middle schooler.
  3. Don’t be a double parking douche. Your precious unique flower child can wait just like everyone else. Having kids walk between moving cars is dangerous. You should know this.
  4. If your child is slow or needs help getting in the vehicle, find a parking space. It’s safer for you, your child, and the rest of us.
  5. Don’t get out of your car. I repeat, do not get out of your car. The pick up line is not the place for this. It slows down the line, and puts you and others at risk.
  6. Kids should only get in the vehicle on the curb side. This should go without saying. If your child has to get in the car on the street side, find another place to safely pick up your child. Think about how many times you have to tell your child to pay attention. Add moving cars and it’s a recipe for disaster.
  7. Drive slowly around the school. Those School Zone signs are not a suggestion. And just because your school may have them only in certain areas, slow down all around the school. Kids who walk home aren’t often paying attention. Parents getting out of the pickup line may have their view blocked by some ignoramus double parked behind them. There are so many things going on around schools, please, just slow down.

Parents have enough stress, school pick-up shouldn’t add to it. No one wants to deal with a child getting hurt because adults weren’t paying attention or were in a rush. And in the grand scheme of the day, a few minutes of patience and courtesy can go a long way. Getting into an accident, hitting a child with your car, or being stopped by the police because you were in a hurry at school pick-up will delay you much longer.

Be safe out there! Our kids learn from us. We need to be good role models. Because they’ll be driving soon and we can’t expect them to follow the rules and be safe if you’re not willing to do the same.

Edited: Shortly after this post was created my friend Jenny from Jenny on the Spot created this PSA. Enjoy!

Stay safe and have a great school year!

Sara

Could Big Hero 6 Create A STEMGirl Revolution?

Big Hero 6 Girls

Admittedly, I’m not up on all things Marvel Comics. Other than watching a few of the cartoons growing up, Guardians of the Galaxy was the first mainstream Marvel movie I went to see. Even the, when I went to the Guardians of the Galaxy screening I took my friend with me because she was more familiar with the franchise and would be able to explain things I didn’t get.

When the Big Hero 6 movie marketing started it was all focused on the lead character, Hiro, and the robot Baymax. And while it’s great to finally see a positive male Asian lead character, that was pretty much a given with the Big Hero 6 story. The same with Baymax. Afterall, this is a Disney movie. Which is why I didn’t go to the screening. I really wasn’t in the mood to see a superhero movie about men (even if they are really boys) saving the world from imminent destruction. Even if it had a soft, lovable, squishy robot turned killing machine, turned lovable robot.

Then the movie came out and I read a great article by Bob Yamtich about Big Hero 6 and giftedness. And I figured it was worth researching more. Everything focused on Hiro and his band of superheroes. But there are girls in the movie. Girl superheroes. Smart girl superheroes. Science-minded, brilliant girls! Characters that really can be role models for young STEMGirls like BabyGirl.

From my research, both Honey Lemon and GoGo Tomago are very different in the comic version. The writers didn’t have to make them equal in the movie. But they did. I’d like to believe it was a conscious effort to create both women as equals with respect to their male counterparts.

This might be the first kid-focused movie to have strong women scientist characters BabyGirl can relate to. Girls across the country have few, if any, STEM role models in movies. But Big Hero 6 changed that. Honey Lemon was a very talkative college co-ed with a love for chemistry. But she is also feminine and smart, described in the press materials as an “effusive brainiac”. GoGo Tomago is described as “tough, athletic and loyal to the bone, but not much of a conversationalist.

So what was it that brought these two characters to the big screen? I’ve not read anything about their character development or why the writers and developers chose to change-up these characters from their original. I realize much of their original back story wouldn’t work given that the Big Hero 6 movie is set in the fictional town of San Fransokyo at the local University. Since the characters themselves are kids, much of the original story had to be re-written.

Long before Frozen hit the big screen, this movie was moving forward in development so we can’t even say that Big Hero 6 needed something for girls to like coming off the blockbuster hit. Somewhere, someone realized that maybe the girls in the movie could be equally as capable, smart, and awesome as their male counterparts. And for that I’m thankful.

Whether there was anything consciously done to create these STEMGirls I really don’t know. What I do know is that if they keep this up more young girls will see that staying with science, technology, engineering, and math are cool. That they, too, can create things and be superheroes.

For now, though, I’ll let everyone else focus on Hiro and Baymax while I talk about Honey and GoGo. Because, just as people talk about how Hiro and Baymax really come to life in this movie, I’ll be talking about how these two female scientists not only came to life but also helped stoke the flame that burns inside a new generation of girls who believe being smart is cool and amazing.

Have you seen Big Hero 6? If not, do you think you’re going to see it now?

Sara

Project-Based Learning #STEMChat 11/13 9pm ET

STEM Chat

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Disclosure: I am a compensated panelist for #STEMChat. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Mark your calendar to join the November #STEMChat on Twitter this Thursday (11/13/14) at 9pm ET on Twitter. This hour-long chat will focus on project based learning and how project based learning gives kids a more broad-based education when compared to traditional rote memorization. Sponsored by IT’S ABOUT TIME® (IAT), we will have the opportunity to learn how It’s About Time’s project-based learning curricula and edtech is part of a comprehensive education program from kids of all ages.

The Twitter chat will be hosted by The Maker Mom, Kim Moldofsky, together with IAT. I will join the other panelists to talk about how project based learning can enhance gifted and homeschool education programs. As a STEM advocate, my goal is to encourage kinds of all ability to have an interest in STEM projects.

As she prepares for middle school, I’ve noticed that much of BabyGirl’s school time is spent in project-based learning opportunities. Gone are the days of reading a book and regurgitating what you remember onto an exam paper. Now, BabyGirl’s teacher is much more focused on interdisciplinary learning and having the kids become more engaged through project based learning. I’ve seen first hand the benefits, both in the quality of work and in the level of interest.

Meet the #STEMchat Panelists

  • @Venspired, Krissy Venosdale is passionate educator, STEAM advocate, Space Camp alum and maker of inspirational classroom posters. Learn more about her atVenspired.com.
  • @JanelleWilson, Janelle Wilson, is passionate about STEM, space, learning, and making all of which she shares with her chemistry and engineering students at Lanier High School in Sugar Hill, GA in a PBL-focused STEM-certified program. Read more about her at Stretching Forward.
  • @BetaMiller, Andrew Miller, is an educational consultant with ASCD and the Buck Institute for Education as well as a regular blogger for Edutopia.
  • @LaurieEDU, Laurie Kreindler, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of IT’S ABOUT TIME®. You can read her writings at Education Insider™.
  • @ItsAboutTimeEDU, IT’S ABOUT TIME®, is the leading provider of SF-backed, project-based STEM curricula and edtech for K-12 and college students across the country.
  • Moderator and host, @KimMoldofsky, also known as The Maker Mom and founder of #STEMchat. You can also follow her at @STEMchat, which is her default account if she lands in Twitter “jail.”

Whether you homeschool, public school, private school, or charter school, please join us on Twitter, Thursday, November 14, 2014 at 9pm ET, for what is sure to be an interesting and informative #STEMChat about project based learning. We’d love to hear about your experiences as well as answer questions. Tweet you there!

Sara

Create The WOW – Parenting On A New Level

Create the WOW

As summer was coming to a close for most, my family and I headed out to Florida for our pilgrimage to theme park central. As someone who has strong memories from childhood, it’s important for me to help create opportunities for BabyGirl to make her own memories.  As an only child, BabyGirl is often required to be more grown up. It’s one of the reasons why theme parks are a “got to” vacation spot for us – because it’s a place where everyone gets to be a kid!

Part of our trip this year included the Family Forward retreat because I thought it would be great to learn how to better communicate as a family. At the kick-off, Jyl Johnson Pattee, founder of the Family Forward retreats, mentioned a phrase that really stuck with me throughout the entire weekend – Create the Wow! When I heard it I wondered who has time to “create the wow” except on special occasion or when you really want to make an impression. But soon I realized there was more to it.

Making Barilla Pasta Salad Family ForwardFirst, “create the wow” means different things to each of us. Just ask your kids! Sitting at lunch, which was sponsored by Barilla, it was fun to hear what kids from various families though could be done to make meals at home more special. I think most parents were surprised that it didn’t involve fancy food, elaborate meals, or over-the-top desserts. I heard things like have a picnic in front of the TV, use a table cloth, have a taco bar, and eat dessert first. Really? These are so easy! We can all easily “create the wow” at mealtime at least once a week!

Second, “create the wow” can easily become a family mantra or way of doing things. Kids need to be involved in creating the family dynamic and, unfortunately, they’re often left out. I know for me it’s easier to do things myself or make plans while BabyGirl is at school or one of her classes. Plus, I like doing “surprise” things for her. But at the retreat I realized that while my surprises are fun they may not be her idea of fun.

Give Kids the WorldThird, sometimes “wow” moments come from doing things for other people. As part of the retreat we were given the privilege of learning first hand about Give Kids the World, a family oriented village with a single goal – to give kids with life-threatening illness an opportunity to be a “normal” kid. Even if it was just for one week. The vision of one man, Give Kids the World gave me, CycleGuy, and BabyGirl the opportunity to see that doing for others – even in a small way – gives you a sense of “wow” and appreciation for what you have. It brings perspective that can get overlooked.

Adopt A Pilot SWAFinally, while not the motto of Southwest Airlines, a sponsor of the retreat, it was clear from the presentation by the two pilots in their Adopt a Pilot program that it’s part of why the program exists. Reaching out to the local community is important to many companies. But with Southwest it’s not just a company philosophy backed by money. It’s backed by employees who take their time to go to schools to get kids excited about science and math, staying in school, and studying. Yes, it’s fun and the kids love learning how airplanes work and what it’s like to be a pilot. But it’s a “wow” moment for many of the kids. And for the pilots too. Learning new things is a great way to bring WOW into your life!

I imagined I’d learn a lot and have fun at the Family Forward retreat. I didn’t realize it would have such an impact on my parenting. Being a mom to an only child has its own challenges. One of my biggest challenges is to make sure BabyGirl gets to be a kid and not a mini-adult. So this idea of “create the wow” really works to get me thinking about making sure she still gets to be a kid.

Have you ever thought about this concept of “create the wow”? How would you “create the wow” in your family?

Adopt A Pilot image courtesy of Southwest Airlines

Sara

Minecraft and Girls

Minecraft and Girls

Microsoft announced the purchase of Mojang, creator of the wildly popular game Minecraft, and there was a loud sigh in my household. BabyGirl is a Minecraft junkie and it’s a topic of constant conversation with her friends. Interestingly, she’s the one who came home and told me about the rumors of a sale. Minecraft girls

I don’t want to pass judgement on Microsoft, but, to be honest, I’m worried they’ll somehow screw up Minecraft. There’s no real history to support that belief. Sure, most of the companies Microsoft has purchased since it’s inception in 1986 were B2B focused so they were never on my radar. In the last few years, I actually cared because Microsoft bought my beloved Skype as well as the well-loved Nokia. Minecraft girls

But this is a game-changer (pun intended). See, Minecraft did something no game had done before. It attracted girls. One a very large scale. Minecraft could likely be, single-handedly, responsible for the growth of girl gamers.

I grew up with Atari and pong. Back then games weren’t geared toward boys or girls, they were just games. Kids sat around together and played them. Then there was a huge shift and game-makers decided games were for boys. So they created games that left girls out of their killing, destruction, and degradation of women. And then came Minecraft. And things changed.

Minecraft came out in 2009 and was an underground game that used bland-colored and textured cubes to create a 3D world. Very different from the games on the market that were much more realistic, color-intense, violent, and, well, male-oriented. I have a daughter, and there was no way I was going to allow her to be involved with games that incorporate gratuitous violence against women. Minecraft girls

Minecraft changed how I felt about online gaming for kids, girls especially. Yes, Minecraft is very popular among adults. But there is an innocence in the game even though there is plenty of killing and destruction. One of the key concepts of the game I really liked was that it could be a single-player game and you could bypass as much of the killing and destruction that you needed. I also liked that it brought the boys and girls together to talk about something they both enjoyed, since there seemed to be a natural segregation developing when BabyGirl was about 8. Minecraft girls

Minecraft gives kids more than just a game. It taps their creativity. It makes them think strategically. If they’re in survival-mode they have to think about life-saving concepts like building shelter, getting food, and fighting off predators. In creativity mode they’re free to use their imagination and not be hampered by too many restrictions. If they are inclined they can enter multi-player servers and work together with others.

Minecraft is the impetus for many kids learning to program. What better reason to learn JavaScript than to make custom mods, new creatures, or different color worlds? The intersection of learning and play is highly blurred in Minecraft. And as a parent, I don’t mind.

Minecraft welcomes girls! The colors in Minecraft are bland. Even the pink pig is a subdued pink. But you can make pink! But there is not a “girl version” of Minecraft. Everyone plays the same game. Not every girl wants to live in a pink-washed girl. Even my pink-loving, sparkle-wearing, glitter-needing BabyGirl loves that Minecraft is “regular”, as she says. She says it makes it easy to talk to people about Minecraft because it’s a standard game and even though you can add gems and jewels and “girl-ish” things the conversations are usually focused on what’s being built, how something was done, and sharing cool tips and tricks. She even finds that Minecraft is a common ground for talking with older kids.

So why is there so much worry over what Microsoft might do to Minecraft? I’m not sure. So far they haven’t screwed up Skype or Nokia (although I did hear they’re going to drop the Nokia name). That’s not saying much though, is it. Neither have the interactivity and ability to change things like Minecraft, so a lot remains to be seen.

I don’t want Microsoft to change the reason for Minecraft. Markus “Notch” Persson created Minecraft because he loves programming and games and doing things that are fun. The same reasons we want our kids to play this game for hours on end. It’s the perfect intersection of learning and fun in a make-believe world that helps kids (and adults) escape the many pressures of life. For BabyGirl, it’s given her new skills, taught her about architecture, improved her strategic thinking, and provided her a topic that is a great way to meet new people or be friends with classmates she may not have sought out.

This quote from Microsoft creator, Notch, in his open letter about leaving Mojang pretty much sums it all up.

I love you. All of you. Thank you for turning Minecraft into what it has become, but there are too many of you, and I can’t be responsible for something this big. In one sense, it belongs to Microsoft now. In a much bigger sense, it’s belonged to all of you for a long time, and that will never change.

Thank you, Notch, for creating this make-believe online world my daughter loves so much. And to Microsoft, don’t screw it up!

Sara

5 Vacation Memory Lessons From A Tween Traveler

Vacation Memory Lessons

I remember one vacation from my childhood, a trip to California with my grandparents. That family vacation was everything to me, not just when I was 7, but for many years to come. Even today it takes me back to 1977. vacation memories

So when I became a mom I wanted BabyGirl to have more than just one vacation to shape her childhood memories. About a year ago, as I talked to her about memories from our recent vacations I learned a big lesson. My desire to make memories for her, no matter how big or amazing or magical or fantastical were just that. My vacation memories. She needed to make her own vacation memories and instead of trying so hard I needed to let go.

5 vacation memory lessons from a tween

  • Kids will remember things differently than parents but it’s supposed to be that way.
  • A child’s idea of fun may not be the same as mom and dad.
  • Memories are personal and can come from experiences both big and small.
  • Parents’ joy and excitement, as well as my other emotions and feelings, shape the memories others make.
  • Kids aren’t thinking about making memories, they’re just trying to have fun in that moment.

Tween Vacation Collage

Out of the mouth of babes, yes? These kids are so much smarter than we give them credit. Shared experiences can turn in to memories. But as a parent my job is to provide opportunities to create memories, not to force my ideas of what should become her lifelong childhood memory.

Tween Statue of Liberty Selfie

Here’s to superhero families and childhood memories to last a lifetime!

Sara

The Back To School TED Talk Everyone Should Watch

Paper Towel TED Talk

In May, 2014 my friend Stephanie Quilao (famously known as @SkinnyJeans on Twitter) was doing a daily TED Talk challenge. One of the TED Talks she posted was about using paper towels. Compared to many of the inspiring and riveting talks, how could a less than 5-minute talk be so captivating?

Part of the draw is that it’s under 5 minutes. We all have 5 minutes, right? It’s not too long for kids to watch and pay attention. Even young kids could pay attention. paper towel ted talk

Another thing about this talk is that it’s a universal experience. We all wash our hands and need to dry them with a paper towel, especially in public restrooms. And if you’re like me, it drives you crazy when the kids grab 23 paper towels. I think of all that wasted paper towel. I bet you do too. paper towel ted talk

I’ve watched this video dozens of times. I’ve shared it even more. It’s really that good. Actually, I’m sending it to many of my friends who are teachers so they can share it with their students because they get tired of asking parents for more paper towels because the kids go through them so fast. paper towel ted talk

Your mind will be blown! Seriously, it will forever change how you dry your hands. And I guarantee it works no matter the size of the paper towel. BabyGirl thought I was crazy when I insisted she try the technique Joe Smith advocates. But now she knows it works. And she knows she’s helping to save the environment, too.

So take 5 minutes to watch this TED Talk. Your life will never be the same and teachers (and school custodians) everywhere will thank you.

OK, so, what do you think? Totally mind-blowing, huh? Now, go try it out and share this with others you know will appreciate it!

 

Sara

5 Ways To Help Protect Your Identity When You Travel

Ways To Protect Identity

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for LifeLock.

Just 10 years ago, if you headed out-of-town for work or vacation only a few people knew. Today, it’s likely most of your co-workers, friends, and family know everything about your trip. Unfortunately, it’s also very likely many strangers do too. And while it may not be intentional, we exchange so much information online in general conversation that we forget there may be others “listening”.

In addition to the time-honored tips our grandparents passed down – stop the newspaper and mail service, let a trusted neighbor know you’ll be out-of-town and to keep an eye on your place, and get some timers for the lights – there are many other ways to keep your personal information safe while traveling. It’s no longer just a matter of someone physically breaking in to your home that we need to be concerned with. Each year millions of people experience some sort of data breach related to mobile, online, or credit card use.

Whether you are heading out-of-town for work or play, by plane or car, add these 5 tips to your travel checklist and gain some peace of mind.

Check your social network settings

Of course you want to share updates about your life with your close friends and family. But social networks can change settings without you knowing. Before going out-of-town, double-check your settings to make sure you have the privacy you are expecting. It’s also a good time to talk to your kids, if you have them, about what they should and should not be sharing.

Find your phone

Almost every mobile phone platform and provider offers some type of app to track your phone or shut down your phone if it’s lost. Don’t make it easy for anyone to gain access to your private information and stored passwords. Before you go is a good time to look over what is needed if your phone is lost or stolen, especially if you are going out of the country.

Be aware of unsecured WiFi

Free wifi often sounds like a good deal. And, for the most part it is. But unsecured internet connections at hotels, museums, airports, or other public spots can be a way for unscrupulous people to gain access to your data, passwords, or other private information.

Safeguard your credit cards and identification

It’s tempting to just leave your wallet or purse in the drawer as you head down to the pool, but use the hotel safe. It’s easy to leave your credit card on file at the hotel or bar, but always ask if you can just charge it to your room or pay as you go. It’s more convenient to throw your wallet in the little bin at the airport security checkpoint and send it through the scanner, but keep it in your larger bag if you can. Know where your ID and credit cards are at all times.

Turn off your home wi-fi

While it’s not always possible to turn off your home wi-fi due to alarm connectivity or having a house sitter, if there is no reason to keep your wi-fi active then turn it off. It’s one less access point to your information. If you must keep it connected, make sure you are using a very strong password and, if possible, hide the connection so it’s not visible to anyone with a wi-fi enabled device.

Identity theft is a top consumer threat that targets people of all ages. There are ways to monitor your identity, depending on your level of need. The LifeLock Site offers many resources to help you determine how to best safeguard your identity as well as providing educational tools to teach your children about keeping their information secure.

Stolen Identity BookIf you’re more of a book reader or want to share information about protecting oneself against identity theft, Stolen Identity: What Anyone with a Name, Birthdate and Social Security Number Needs to Know Now is an excellent resource.

If monitoring your accounts is something you’d like to learn more about, visit the LifeLock Site and compare their product offerings. LifeLock Junior is specifically designed for advanced monitoring of your child’s personal information. If you decide identity theft protection services are for you, visit the LifeLock Site and use LIFELOCKSAFETY for a 10% discount. Identity theft can happen to anyone at any time. Learn how to protect yourself and your family, especially while you’re out working hard and enjoying life!

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Disclosure: This is a compensated conversation on behalf of LifeLock. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sara

3 Stargazing Apps For Every Smartphone

VZW DisclosureStargazing App

Summer is a time to relax and put the schedule aside. It doesn’t always work that way, though. And at the end of the day your mind goes over the 872 things you did that day and the odometer on the car that seems to spin like you’re looking for the $1.00 space at The Price Is Right showcase. And then night falls. And the quiet settles in and you’re thinking of heading outside to just sit and look at the stars.

Here in Phoenix, being out during the day is the last thing we want to do in the summer. We all do our best to manage it, but it’s just the reality here. Come nightfall though, we’re ready to go. Even though it doesn’t get dark until well after many kids’ bed time, sometimes you just need to stay up late and look up at the sky. With days upon days of cloudless skies and no school the next day, why not see what’s going on up in the dark sky?

Having spent time with professional stargazers and their expensive equipment, it spoils you. But we all can’t run out and buy a $10,000 telescope. What we can do, though, is download a few apps, look up at the stars and see what people have been look at for thousands of years.

1. Star Chart

What’s better than point and go when it comes to looking at stars that look like a bunch of little white dots in the sky? This augmented reality app is a top educational resource and will wow kids and adults alike. You can look at the sky visible to you or anywhere in the world as you turn your phone.

Available FREE on: iOS | Android | WindowsPhone

2. Sky Map

Another “point and look” app, Sky Map has over 11,000 star points and can pinpoint your location using GPS. While this app has the same name on all three mobile platforms, each is made by a different developer. Nonetheless, it’s a top app that works anywhere in the world day or night.

Available FREE on: iOS | Android | WindowsPhone

3. ISS Locator

Have you ever seen the International Space Station zip by? During an astronomy lesson I chaperoned for my daughter’s class we not only got to see the ISS fly by, but it was releasing a cargo pack and we should see that trailing behind as well. No fancy equipment was needed to see these. If you knew what you were looking for. Luckily, there are apps for all mobile platforms that will help you spot it no matter where you are in the world. Depending on where you live you may be able to see the ISS several times a week!

Available FREE on: iOS | Android | WindowsPhone | Web

So, get your phone, download these apps, and head outside after the sun goes down and re-live those times at camp when you’d stare up at the sky and wonder if the man in the moon really existed. Doesn’t matter if you have kids, if you’re a kid at heart, or just love checking out what’s up there in the dark of night these apps will surely make you popular at home or even at those summer evening garden parties.

Disclosure: I am a member of the Verizon Insider team. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Sara