Hanukkah Apps, Videos, and Favorite Tech Gifts

Hanukkah Apps

This post is part of an ongoing series of lifestyle tech as a participant in the Verizon Insider influencer group. I’m thrilled to be part of this group for the past several years and I hope you enjoy my unique perspective on tech for families and entrepreneurs. There are affiliate links in this post, which help me to run this site and buy cool tech I think you’d love to know about.

This year Hanukkah starts on December 24th. This is so exciting! No only do I have something fun to do on December 25th but I get to take advantage of all the sales. And though Hanukkah is a festival holiday and, traditionally, not a big gift-giving holiday, it’s become more and more a celebration that includes gifts. Gifts go well with latkes and pear sauce, right?

What I love about tech is that it allows everyone to get in on the games and fun smartphone apps. Even songs, lots of Hanukkah songs! So I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite Hanukkah tech, from apps to videos to small gifts to things that may qualify as ‘the big gift’ this year.

Fun Hanukkah Apps

Light My Fire (iOS, Andriod) – Created by The Jewish Museum in New York, this app allows you to select one of the many exquisite Hanukkiah from their collection. I love this, especially for college kids and young adults who may not be able to light actual candles where they live. It’s also great for little kids so they can participate in lighting candles. I think it would be a great option for seniors who may not feel comfortable with open flames in their homes or senior living apartments and for parents of kids with special needs that may not be able to light candles in a traditional way.

Menorah (iOS, Android) – This is a nice app, with music by Mo Kiss, that lets you light the candles and sing along. Again, great for those in need of a virtual menorah.

The Chanukkah App (iOS, Android) – With a virtual menorah, some history, and a virtual dreidel game it’s a mobile party! This app features the blessings in 7 languages as well as incorporates social sharing so you can celebrate with your friends all over the world.

‘Twas the Night Before Hanukkah (iOS, Android) – An extension of the 2012 musical album of the same name, this app brings lots of fun holiday music to your smartphone with an epic musical battle between Christmas and the Festival of Lights. Something new and fun to give a tech/music spin to your celebration.

Match 8 Hanukkah Game (iOS, Android) – Tired of playing dreidel? Who isn’t! Here’s a fun little game to distract you from whatever it is you need distracting. This candle lighting game will test your skills at speed lighting. A great app for kids of all abilities to get involved in playing Hanukkah games.

Chai on Chanukkah (iOS) – A top app among Jewish families with special needs kids, everyone gets in on the festival fun!

Hanukkah Match Games (iOS, Android) – A Hanukkah twist on the traditional game of matching tiles. Fun for young kids and helps them make a Jewish connection.

Festive YouTube Videos

The Chanukah SongAdam Sandler Chanukah Song (3:55) – The original by Adam Sandler. In 1994, Adam Sandler wrote a Hanukkah song for SNL’s Weekend Update and it’s become a classic. Before this there really weren’t very many non-traditional Chanukah songs, so this is really the one by which all modern songs are measured. Most are parodies, but The Chanukah Song and it’s subsequent versions are all classics. Sandler’s Chanukah Song Part 4 was released in 2015, at a fundraiser with Judd Apatow. (Image Source: NBC)

Sesame Street: Hanukkah With Veronica Monica (2:43) – if your kids love Sesame Street, this is a fun little video of the Hanukkah story. If you like this one, check out Shalom Sesame.

The Maccabeats – Candlelight – Hanukkah (3:41) – Candlelight is a Jewish parody of Taio Cruz’s Dynamite. With over 11 million views, I find myself singing this all year ’round. Funny thing is that when this song came out BabyGirl had never heard Dynamite and months later when she did she thought it was a parody of Candlelight. True story!

The Maccabeat – All About That Nais (2:55) – Not as popular, but still fun, this parody of Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass is a nice little story about latkes, dreidels, bubbies, and presents.

Six13 – Chanukah (Shake It Off) (4:34) – New to the Jewish a Capella scene a few years ago, Six13 puts together a Festival of Lights parody of TayTays Shake It Off. It’s a fun little ditty!

The Story of Hanukkah (2:15) – This is a storybook video of the story of Hanukkah geared to help young readers. Perfect for kids!

Favorite Hanukkah Tech

OK, so there isn’t really such a thing as Hanukkah tech (other than the cool electronic Hanukah menorahs) but when it comes to gift giving, Chanukkah can present more challenges than just how to spell Channukkah. Since Hanukah is a festival holiday, many of us grew up with little emphasis on the gift-giving  part of the celebration. Some small gifts for each night (candy, puzzles, games, etc.) or maybe one “big” gift (a bike, designer jeans), but gift giving has only recently become associated with Hanukkah so it can be difficult to figure out the ‘right’ gift. And that’s why I’m taking the stress out of your holiday and giving you some suggestions for gift options for your Hanukkah-celebrating friends and family. [Note: Chanukah begins on Dec. 24th this year, so waiting for those after-Christmas sales is highly encouraged!]

Bluetooth Trackers – These little devices that attach to your keys, slide into your wallet, fit nicely in your center console of the car, attach to a zipper in your luggage, or connect to your child’s backpack, are awesome gifts. I’ve used the Tile, Tile Slim, and Mynt trackers and all have saved me from what could have been stressful moments. When I switched planes (and airports) to allow for a family to stay together, my Mynt tracker gave me peace of mind when I saw that my luggage had arrived to my destination. The Tile tracker was with me on a three week trip to DC this summer and when I left my luggage with the concierge I could see it was safe. And when I can’t find my phone, these little devices let me get an audible tracker even when my phone is on silent. Retail: about $20 each

Portable Speaker – When we went to Israel, we took the UE Boom with us so we could easily listen to music. We take it with us when we travel because it’s so easy to use and doesn’t take up much space. CycleGuy loves it for taking business calls because it turns his smartphone into a real speakerphone. The UE Boom 2 is shockproof and waterproof, making it even more versatile. The UE Roll is small, lightweight, and so easy to use for those with active lifestyles. These range in price, but are well worth the money!

External Smartphone Battery – Let’s face it, we’re busy people and don’t have time to worry about our smartphone running low. Sure, we can get a car charger or connect at home. But, with music and games, social media, and all the photos, those long-life batteries don’t always sync with our busy lives. I have 7 or 8 different powerbanks, each for different purposes. I have the ultra-thin charger for those times I’m going out and have a small evening bag. My original Mophie is always in my purse and CycleGuy has one in his messenger bag. I have a few larger Limefuel chargers with multiple ports so BabyGirl can always plug in with friends.

Multi-Port USB Charger – Seriously, you need one! Instead of plugging in all over the house or fighting for outlets at a hotel, a multi-port USB charger is a dream. I have three of these and they are the best! We have 7 smartphones, a Nexus, two iPads, wireless headphones, CycleGuy’s bike light, and quite a few other things that need to be charged and we can do it with such ease and convenience. A few brands I like are Anker, this value-priced Sabrent 4-port hub, this Photive 6-port rapid charger, as well as the more permanent option of changing out your outlet to a Top Greener Dual USB wall outlet.

Of course, who wouldn’t love a new phone? Sometimes that’s a very personal decision, but if you’re looking for a smartphone that is unique and has really cool add-on options, check out my experience with the Motorola Moto Z Force Droid. And, of course, you can’t go wrong with the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge either.

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Sara

Teen Tech Travel Tips

Teen Tech Travel Tips

FTC Disclosure

This is a sponsored post.

When it comes to traveling with teens, I’m sure I’m not the only parent who stresses over what they pack and the rate at which they pack. While BabyGirl is diligent and usually creates a packing list, sometimes she begins to over think what she needs. I remember doing the same thing when I was a kid, so I give her some leeway. On the other hand, when it comes to packing her tech it becomes a game of ‘didja’ – ‘didja’ bring the backup battery, ‘didja’ pack extra earphones, ‘didja’ make sure you have the right cable?

It probably doesn’t make sense to have a tech ‘go bag’ for the kids if you don’t travel extensively, but I’ve found that it’s important to start good habits early. We need to get teens thinking about what they need to keep their tech useable on the go. They’re likely used to grabbing their phone and going since smartphones today tend to have 10+ hours of battery usage. And even if they’re running low they likely have a friend who has a charger or they’re at school and have access to a charger.

While we may have some of the extras to keep the phones charged, sometimes we don’t. And with families often having different types of devices it’s possible we don’t have everything for everyone.

  1. Provide them with a tech travel checklist – this is good for everyone in the household because even those of us who are experienced packers often forget something. If they’re responsible for packing their tech, helping them be successful and avoiding stress while the family is on vacation is a parenting win!
  2. Get them their own accessories – while this may not be possible for everyone, if parents have to share chargers, backup batteries, extra lenses, headphones, fitness trackers, or other basic accessories this can be stressful for everyone. This can eliminate the ‘I thought you packed it’ conversation when something can’t be found. It also means that when your phone is running low you don’t have to share your powerpack or give up the only power cord. I recently got a cable that works with both the Apple lightening and the micro USB cable, (affiliate) mainly because I have both Android and iOS devices. I can’t tell you how many times it’s come in handy to have a cable that can work for either device.
  3. Label their tech – It doesn’t have to be obvious and in-your-face, but if you have more than one of the same thing being able to tell them apart is important for everyone. Even something as basic as a phone cable can be personalized with tape or a dab of nail polish. Of course, this won’t help get the item back to you if it’s lost but to keep things that look alike sorted is one less headache. I like to get each person their own color or style of phone cable charger. While the ones that come with the device are always best, there are so many great color and style options to help personalize the tech. When it comes to labeling in case of loss, I like BoomerangIt. I’ve been using their labels for well over 10 years and while not everyone will think to return a lost item, if there is an easy way to return it the likelihood of getting it back increases. I’ve also used Mable’s Labels to add a name since kids tend to have very similar items.
  4. Clean their tech – When was the last time you cleaned your phone or the accessories? Yah, I don’t remember either. Which is what prompted me to list this here. We all know that sometimes when we travel we get sick or are near people who are sick. And we set down out devices on tables, or even the floor, that may not be the cleanest. With tech you need to make sure you use something that won’t ruin it. I like PhoneWipes (affiliate link) because they’re good for other things but I know they won’t mess with my tech. This is also a great time to clean up the device to free up room for photos and videos or new apps.
  5. Have a ‘go bag’ just for them – While it may seem easy to have them throw everything into their backpack or other carry-on, having a smaller ‘go bag’ will help them keep everything organized. With multiple cables, chargers, headphones, and accessories, if everything is in one place it helps not only to find things when you need them, but when it’s time to pack up at the hotel they know where everything goes and can become familiar with what’s supposed to be in there so they don’t leave things behind. Together with the checklist of what they should have, it’s a great habit to start. I’ve always used makeup bags for my tech, mainly because years ago they were one of the few non-black bags I could easily and inexpensively purchase. There are many other options now, but I still think makeup or dopp kit bags are a great size and come in great color and design options.
  6. Use a bluetooth tracker – This is kind of an extension of the ‘label it’ suggestion. I have used the Tile for quite some time, and I actually have several other brands of bluetooth trackers that I actively rotate. Even if the kids aren’t prone to losing or misplacing things, stuff happens when we travel.

So there you have it, 5 (ok, 6!) simple tips to help you help your teen manage their tech when you travel. What else would you recommend?

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Sara

Add Productivity and Fun to Your Mobile Lifestyle with the MotoZ Force Smartphone

MotoZ Droid Smartphone

One of the newest and most versatile smartphones on the market is the Droid MotoZ Force from Motorola. As part of the Verizon influencer team I was given this revolutionary new smartphone and asked to use the it and share with you how this new modifiable smartphone can help busy moms and dads, as well as business professionals. It’s easily the coolest phone you can have.

From the front it’s just a regular looking phone. Sure, the MotoZ Force has a shatterproof and water resistant display, a 21mp camera, and up to 40 hours of battery life. But unlike every other phone, the MotoZ and the MotoZ Force (I have the MotoZ Force) are the first to have interchangable backs. You know how the first thing you usually do when you get a new phone is to get a case? With this smartphone there are no cases. With the ability to swap out the backs – whether it be for a chic designer back from Kate Spade, the Tumi woodgrain-look wireless charger, the JBL Soundboost speaker mod, the Moto Insta-Share Projector, or the other versatile mods – you can instantly transform a standard smartphone into an entertainment hub or productivity tool.

While the device comes with swapable backs in six different styles, it’s the ability to quickly change out the back that has me excited. Sure, a cool or cute case/cover is nice and allows you to personalize your phone, we rely on our devices to help us be more productive, more efficient, and so much more. How many times have we all been huddled around our or a friend’s phone trying to watch a funny video or photos from a trip? Countless, right? Have you ever been at a gathering, in your hotel room, in the back yard, beach, or park and wanted to listen to music with your family or friends but you don’t have portable speakers? I’m sure there have been times you would have loved to have that option.

 

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While I do have a great portable speaker, it’s not portable in the sense of tossing it in my bag. The JBL Soundboost mod, though, is one of the smallest and lightweight portable speakers. And to make it even better, this mod has a 10-hour battery built in! Bluetooth can use a lot of battery power, but with the integrated power with the stereo-quality JBL speakers your inner DJ will thank you. The interesting thing is that I never really knew I needed this mod until I got it and would leave without it and would want to listen to music or share something with sound and I’m searching for a cup or cupping my hand over the phone speaker to amplify the sound like some tech noob.

If you’re thinking that’s all fine and good to have a cool set of speakers, but how can it help me with my business or work, I’m here to tell you it’s even better. If you’re at a client meeting the speaker can act as a portable speakerphone to bring in a remote colleague in a professional way. With the JBL Soundboost any embedded audio in a presentation boosts that level of professionalism you’re going for in a business meeting. And, instead of having to connect via bluetooth to a separate device, just pop on the speaker mod and it’s a dance party! Or, you can listen to TED talks or  a conference livestream.

My favorite mod, though, is the Moto Insta-Share Projector. This is a game changer, folks! Besides being able to play movies, watch videos, or share photos directly from your phone for everyone to see the business uses for the projector will have your clients and colleagues amazed. The projector is a fun add-on, but let’s be real. As a $300 mod, it’s not for everyone. However, if you travel a lot and want to watch movies at the hotel or vacation rental, share photos with groups of friends and family, or even buy a movie screen and have backyard movie nights this projector mod is pretty awesome. As a business tool, $300 for a portable projector is an amazing price. It makes easy work of sharing presentations, showing what a design would look like on a specific surface, or sharing information with a group. I never thought I needed a portable projector; however, after having this one I found so many ways to use it for my business. And, of course, I’ve used it to project our summer travel slideshow.

There are a lot of different smartphone options on the market, but this is the first one that really takes portability to the max. The fact that the mods integrate seamlessly makes changing them out effortless. And with that ability to change how our phones work, business productivity and personal entertainment are taken to new heights.

The MotoZ and the MotoZ Force, along with the Moto Mods are available at your local Verizon store or online. With the best network come the best products!

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Sara

Fitbit Blaze Sweepstakes: Smart Fitness Has Never Looked Better #vzwbuzz #FitbitBlaze

Fitbit Blaze Sweeps Graphic

This is a sponsored conversation on behalf of Verizon and OM Media.

A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step. ~ Chinese Proverb

Fitbit Blaze 3

As a reluctant exerciser, this phrase motivates me daily. And while I’m just working toward 10,000 steps each day, meeting that goal begins with just one step. Whether it’s walking in the neighborhood, pushing through the pre-set workout, or just being active around the house, seeing those steps add up on my fitness tracker is motivation to keep going.

With so many fitness trackers on the market it’s hard to know which one to choose. Well, I’ll make it easy! How about a Fitbit Blaze? One of the newer fitness trackers on the market, the Fitbit Blaze is a fitness watch that looks like a watch so you don’t look like you’re wearing a fitness tracker. Designed more like a watch, it allows you to see text and call notifications.

While I have a different fitness tracker, I love the sleek and versatile design and function of this smart fitness watch. And did you know that the Fitbit Blaze automatically recognizes and records your exercise for you, so you’ll get credit for a workout even if you forget to log it? My tracker has a similar feature, and I love it because at the end of the day when you’ve put in your steps you want to get credit for them, right.

One really important feature is the continuous heart rate monitoring. This will help maximize the benefits of your workout. I thought I was getting the most from my workout until I found out about the heart rate monitoring feature and now I can really focus on getting the best workout. Another feature I really like about the Fitbit Blaze is that it gives you music control so you don’t have to fool with your smartphone to get to the song you want!

A new feature from Fitbit is the FitStar workout, which can be used right on your screen. It’s like having a coach right on your wrist! You’ll get step-by-step instructions right on the screen so you don’t have to keep doing the same few exercises you’ve always been doing.

I know you’ll love the Fitbit Blaze as much as I love my fitness tracker. It’s stylish, versatile, and can likely help you reach your health and fitness goals. As always, before you start a new fitness program consult with your personal health professional. And always be careful if you’re outside with your earphones on. So, what are you waiting for?

  • No purchase necessary to enter.
  • Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.
  • Open to US Residents only.
  • Void where prohibited.
  • See Official Rules for details.

Enter now for a chance to win a Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch


Fitbit Blaze Sweepstakes

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More Things You Could Win!

Verizon is working with a few of my friends to bring you other great tech. Check out their posts and enter for a chance to win.

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Sara

6 Fitness Tips From a Reluctant Exerciser

Fitness Tips for FitbitFTC Disclosure

Let me say, for the record, that aging is not for the faint of heart. It seems that there’s a new study every week about how to age gracefully. Social media is full of posts with tips and tricks. But the reality is there are no quick fixes and since ageing is a part of life and everyone experiences it differently, you play with the hand you’re holding.

About three years ago I won a fitness tracker. In the world of health and fitness trackers that’s a long time ago. Compared to today, it was bare-bones. It tracked my steps and my sleep. It wasn’t very accurate and I would often get discouraged. As part of the Verizon influencer team, I was recently sent a FitBit Charge HR to show me how far fitness trackers have come and help keep my 2016 fitness journey going.

At the end of January I joined a gym, which for this reluctant exerciser was a big step. I saw a coupon on a daily deal site for a 30-day trial for less than the cost of lunch. I figured if I went a few times I’d have gotten my money’s worth. I ended up going about 5 days a week. I was going to get my money’s worth! Near the end of the 30 days I found out that my health insurance has a deal at the gym and for the cost of a nice meal out my whole family could join.

That was the start of my commitment to going to the gym and slogging through the ‘weight loss’ option on the elliptical machine. All of March and April I dutifully checked in at the front desk, cleaned off my machine, put in my Plantronics Backbeat Fit wireless headphone, and listened to podcasts as a way to distract me from the fact that I was at the gym.

I’ve now had my Fitbit Charge HR for a few weeks and I’m a bit obsessed with it. Before, I wasn’t tracking my steps or my heart rate so all I could rely on was the machine. But in these few weeks I’ve learned a lot and I want to share 6 fitness tips I learned with you.

  1. Those machines at the gym lie! Whether it’s number of steps, heart rate, or calories, you’re not getting the real information. I found out that that the machine I like bumps up my steps by about 20%. Sure, I’d like to get credit for reaching my daily step goal. But this is one of those times where we need the truth. I might not be able to handle the truth, Sir, but good fitness and heath can’t be built on a foundation of lies.
  2. Knowing your heart rate is more important than you think. There are different ranges of fitness heart rates and you need to be in the right zone to meet your goals. Talk to your doctor to make sure you’re good to go on a more intense fitness routine, but we need to get the heart rate up and start sweating sometimes. With the heart rate feature on the Fitbit, I open up my app and constantly monitor my workout so I know when I can push myself and when I need to just pace myself.
  3. Don’t wait to reward yourself with a fitness tracker. There are so many different options and price points, if you get yourself a fitness tracker now you’ll meet your goal faster.
  4. Get up and move! We sit way too much. I know, we see this a zillion times all over the news and social media. We’re too sedentary, and as a keyboard jockey I’m right there with you. So set alarms to remind you to get up and move. Even if it’s just to do a few hundred steps, you’ll appreciate the diversion of your time. And don’t be afraid to wander around your house just to get in your last few hundred steps. There are times I’ve closed the door in the bathroom to run in place or do jumping jacks to get to 10,000 steps for the day. It’s a reminder that I need to spread out my steps so I’m not up at 9pm walking laps around my house instead of snuggling with my family.
  5. Track all the things! If you need to keep track of your food or water intake, do that. Maybe you want to go old school and use a journal or notebook. Whatever you decide, if it’s something you need to track then do it. We lie to ourselves all the time and we don’t pay attention to serving sizes and ingredients when we’re being tempted by cupcakes and, well, pretty much anything other than vegetables.
  6. Listen to something you enjoy. Whether it’s music, podcasts, audio books, streaming video, or old voice mails from your best friend, find something to keep your mind off the time. I’ve found a few great podcasts that keep me moving and motivated to get to the end of the show. And when I was at the gym during the Preakness, I popped open the app to watch it live. Nothing like horses running at full speed to get you moving! Get a comfortable pair of earphones and get moving. As I mentioned, I have the Backbeat fit wireless headphones. I had been using the wired ones that came with my phone but the movement bothered me and I felt like one crazy move and my phone is going to go flying. With the wireless headphones I feel like I can pay attention to my heart rate and move around the machines without worrying about my phone.

I’m the farthest thing from a fitness expert, fanatic, or lover, but if this Fitbit Charge HR can get me up and choosing the gym over surfing Facebook on a Sunday morning then there’s some kind of magic in it. I have a mantra – Exercise is fun! – I say to myself as I drive to the gym; knowing one day I might actually believe it.

Now that BabyGirl is a teenager I can’t say any of this is ‘baby fat’. Sure, ageing has brought new challenges. But it’s also brought knowledge and awareness. Tools like my new Fitbit (which you can get from Verizon) are perfect for those of you who might be reluctant exercisers like me. It’s a great reminder to get moving and to do it in a safe way. To paraphrase Lao Tzu, the daily journey of 10,000 steps begins with just one.

Fitbit Charge from Verizon

Sara

5 Tips to End Distracted Driving Among Teens

Teen Distracted Driving

FTC Disclosure

Spring is in the air, and for many parents of high schoolers talk has turned toward prom and graduation parties. I look back on my experience in high school and better understand why my parents, and my friends’ parents, were worried about us driving. Like kids today, we weren’t bad drivers. But, like kids today, we often did stupid things after prom and at graduation parties. Today, though, every conversation seems to wind its way to the topic of distracted driving or texting and driving.

Distracted driving is nothing new when it comes to teen driving. Young people have faced distractions for decades. Today it’s texting, for my generation it was changing the radio or cassettes, for my mom’s generation it was radio stations and 8-track tapes. And, of course there is alcohol, shenanigans, and a host of other potential distractions. But when it comes to technology, we forget that every generation has their new thing that is problematic.

So what do we do? Obviously, teens are going to drive to prom and graduation parties and we can’t change that. What we can change, though, is their commitment to stay focused on their driving. And, honestly, that starts with us.

I’m not a big believer in having kids sign a ‘no texting while driving’ contract when the parents aren’t going to do the same thing. We’re their role models. If we do it, we’re giving them permission. Just like drinking and driving. We can tell our kids not to drink and drive, but we also demonstrate our commitment by not drinking and driving. It’s not different when it comes to other distractions.

Teens 15 to 19 have the highest incident of drivers involved in accidents while distracted. While they’re out celebrating the last thing we want is for any of them to get hurt or hurt someone else. So what can we do?

5 Tips For Helping to End Distracted Driving

Don’t drive distracted yourself. We set the example. If we’re picking up our phones, that mean they can too. I know there are important messages we need to see. But are those messages really that important to put the people you love most at risk? In March, 2016 the New Zealand Transport Agency released a video with a slightly different approach to the traditional horrifying texting and driving ad. It’s a new approach, and I think it could work better. While I’m still affected by the texting and driving crash videos, I think many kid are desensitized or don’t think it could really happen to them.

 

Know the law. If the law of mom and dad won’t work, maybe the state law will. Currently, in the US, 46 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands, ban texting while driving. The fines can be hefty, and getting a ticket, even if that’s the worst that happens, can put a damper on the fun of prom or the graduation party. However, distractions don’t only come from picking up your own phone.

Have someone else navigate. As the driver, their job is to get themselves and their passengers to the destination safely. Since they’re not always experienced with driving around town, have the teen ask a passenger to put in the destination into the GPS or map. Have you ever tried to type in an address to Google Maps or the vehicle GPS while driving? I can barely figure out the navigation on a car I drive daily. Imagine how challenging it can be for a teen who’s not used to driving.

Use a blocking app. If you’re not sure you or your teen can break the urge to check your phone when you hear the notification or know that friends are posting cool things to social media, use an app to block texting while driving. Just like not having chips in the house because you have no willpower, remove the temptation to be distracted while driving. I often pull out my phone at a stop light, but more and more I’m realizing that even that small glance means I’m not paying attention to what’s going on around me.

Empower the passenger. Most of the focus is on getting the driver to avoid distractions. However, just like educating the kids about not getting in a car with their friend if the friend has been drinking the same goes for getting into a car with someone who’s not paying attention when they drive. I know there’s less risk of being the lame-o if you refuse to get in the car of a classmate who’s drunk or noticeably impaired than if you don’t go along with all the “fun” when it comes to distracted driving. It’s new territory for us as parents to let our kids know we’ll go pick them up if they choose not to get in a vehicle with someone texting and driving or engaging in other behaviors that put the passengers at risk. You’ve seen the videos. Maybe your kids have too. But it’s worth watching again.

The end to distracted driving starts with us. But we don’t know what other parents are modeling for their kids. And because we don’t know what other people are modeling and teaching their kids, we have to teach our kids not only that they don’t text and drive or drive while distracted but that they don’t get in a car with someone who doesn’t take seriously their obligation to protect their passengers.

Accidents happen. We can hope our kids always arrive safely, but there are other drivers out there and we don’t have any control over them. We may not have full control over what our kids do when they get behind the wheel or hop in the car with one of their friends. However, what we can do starts long before the engine starts.

 

Image Credit: Viktor Hanacek

Sara

25 Slang Terms Teens Use Online That Parents Need To Know

Teen Slang Online

Disclosure: The following post about teen slang and digital parenting is provided as part of my relationship as a Verizon Insider and sharing about digital technology.

When it comes to teens, most parents will probably agree they have their own language. It’s been the case for generations. It’s often associated with societal changes. So it should come as no surprise that with regard to texting and online communication, teens have developed their own shorthand and way of communicating with their peers. Teen slang has been around for generations, and it keeps evolving.

As a parent with a teen who’s not all that interested in texting or social media, I breathe a sigh of relief because I get to put off that layer of being a teen for a little longer.  However, for the past 5 or so years I’ve been the “trusted adult” for several kids in my friends and family circle. If you’re not sure what a “trusted adult” is, it’s a great way to keep an eye on the kids with their knowing but not have mom or dad constantly ‘snooping’. Being the ‘trusted adult’ comes with a number of rules, most importantly not being able to like, comment, or respond publicly to the teen. However, the kids know someone’s watching. And I’m not just watching what they say or do, I’m also watching and reading (and screencapping) what their friends do.

I consider it a privilege to be the ‘trusted adult’. It definitely gives me a front row seat to some very interesting conversations. Unfortunately, over the years the language has changed a bit. What used to be shorthand no longer exists or means something totally different. It’s kind of when your grandma texts you and uses LOL and you think it means ‘Laugh Out Loud’ but she thinks it means ‘Lots of Love’. Pretty benign, really, but I’m sure you’ve seen those articles or posts on social media where mom is telling her adult child that someone died and mom ends every text with LOL. Awkward, sure. But mom or grandma aren’t using the shorthand as a way to avoid ‘prying eyes’ as teens (and tweens) may be doing.

Teens, on the other hand, have always developed a language that may mean one thing to parents who check their kids’ online accounts and something else to their peers. Which is why it’s so important for us to stay up on their teen slang. There are thousands, many of which you may use yourself. Slang such as OOTD (outfit of the day), TBH (to be honest), AFAIK (as far as I know), as well as IDK, LMAO, BAE. But you don’t need to know every one.

25 Teen Slang Terms Parents Need To Know

MOS/POS/SOS – Mom Over Shoulder or Parent Over Shoulder or Someone Over Shoulder

PRW – Parents Are Watching

KPC – Keeping Parents Clueless

PIR/MIR/DIR – Parents in Room, Mom in Room, Dad in Room

MOOS or MOSS – Member of Opposite Sex or Member of Same Sex

ASL (RP) – Age Sex Location (Race) (Picture)

CD9 – Parents Are Around (shorthand for Code9)

HSWM – Have Sex With Me

WYRN – What’s Your Real Name

459 or 143 – I Love You

RU18 – Are You 18?

8 – Oral Sex

GNOC – Get Naked on Camera

IHU or 182 – I Hate You

CU46 or LH6 – See You For Sex or Let’s Have Sex

LMIRL – Let’s Meet In Real Life

SMASH – I Would Have Sex With You

Cook Session – When a group of kids gang up on someone on social media

ILYSM – I Like/Love You So Much

KIK – The Kik App

RDH – Rate Date Hate (How do you rate me; Would you date me; Do you hate me)

TBR – To Be Rude

GOAT – Greatest of All Time

PAP – Post a Picture

Ship – Relationship

I hope you’ll find this helpful to keep you in-the-know when it comes to what your teens and tweens are posting and texting. While some of the teen slang is innocuous, having an idea of what they’re sharing with their friends is important. Keep in mind, these are some of the more common phrases and there is another sub-language used for sexting. Unfortunately, there are no parental controls for monitoring their every online move. Monitoring teens online takes more than just uploading some software and walking away. It takes a ninja-like vigilance, which is not for the faint of heart.

If you have friends or family members that need this information, please share it with them. If you’d like to share this on your social networks, just click the button(s) below and pass it along.

Teen Slang Parents Need To Know

Sara

Smartphone Etiquette – 6 Rules For Teens and Tweens

Smartphone Etiquette Tips For Teens

FTC Disclosure

When it comes time to hand our kids their first smartphone we’re often so focused on keeping them safe from predators and bullying that we forget to talk to them about basic smartphone etiquette. Our kids are digital natives so we think they’re familiar with how to use their phone. After all, they have been using our devices for years.

But using our phones and tablets to play games and watch videos didn’t teach them how to be a good smartphone user. It taught them other skills, but not many of the skills we take for granted and just assume our kids know. While we’ve had to weave tech into our parenting, there are many “old school” parenting things we’re still responsible to teach.

6 Smartphone Etiquette Rules for Teens & Tweens

  1. How to properly answer a call. Don’t leave! Seriously, we have to teach our kids how to properly answer a call. Remember, when we grew up we had a landline and often raced our siblings or begged our parents to answer the phone. Some of us even created “an adult voice” so we could convince our parents we’d be OK to stay home by ourselves. But we practiced answering the phone – saying hello, being polite, asking for the person to identify themselves. Sure, there’s caller-ID, but what if they don’t recognize the number but they’re expecting you or another family member to call? What if it’s the school or a potential employer? And, yes, I know, chances are kids will let the call go to voice mail, but one day they may get a job where they have to answer a telephone and I’m sure they won’t want to tell their boss they don’t know how.
  2. How to make a phone call. I know, you’re thinking I’ve lost my mind and kids know how to make a phone call. Honestly though, I don’t think so. They text, they don’t call. And if they do call, it’s likely mom or dad they’re calling. Again, we practiced making calls. We’d call the grandparents and leave a message, or we’d call the store to see if something was in stock, or we’d call our friends and have to get past their parents. We did a lot of calling that kids today don’t need to do. That’s why teaching them how to make a proper phone call is so important. First impressions still count!
  3. Respect other people’s privacy. This has many applications, but I’m specifically talking about respecting the privacy of another person if you’re using their phone. While one of the rules most parents have for their kids is not to let their friends use their phone, there may be times when someone has to use their phone or they have to ask a friend to use their phone. Dead batteries happen, so let’s ensure our kids know not to go looking through a friend’s phone. Even more important, if they’re ever in a position that they’re being encouraged by friends to take another kid’s phone and snoop they may be more likely to think twice and not do it. Or, play along until they can tell an adult. But this idea of respecting privacy also means not looking over your shoulder to see what their friends are texting or trying to spy their password or unlock pattern.
  4. Be mindful of other people. It’s great that kids can keep themselves entertained while waiting. However, no one wants to listen to their music, text notifications, sounds from games, or any other sounds your smartphone can make. They can play games and listen to music, but they need to have the device on silent or use headphones.
  5. Do not share private information. Maybe not so much traditional etiquette as it is general rules for having a smartphone, but important enough to include it here. When we were their age we were constantly told not to tell people on the other side of the phone that our parents weren’t home. And while some people have had our address, we weren’t tagged with GPS for the whole world to find us. Of course we need to teach them not to disclose private information on apps or in game chats or on messaging apps. However, our private information is more easily disclosed inadvertently with geotagging, answering basic questions from “friends” (many of whom the kids have never met), or including information in photos (whether purposefully or accidentally). We need to be clear what is and is not private information, so the kids don’t have to wonder.
  6. Don’t interrupt a face-to-face conversation to use your phone. This is the general rule. And yes, there are exceptions – like when mom is calling. Generally, though, if they’re placing their order at the coffee shop, checking out at a store, or having a face-to-face conversation with someone they shouldn’t answer the phone whether it’s a call or text. It may be difficult, so you may need to role play this. While younger people may have more tolerance for this, in situations where you’re buying things it can cause miscommunication or delays that could easily be avoided by giving the situation their full attention.

Overall, I’m sure you’d agree these are pretty basic rules and likely easy for kids to follow. But while they’re easy to follow rules, some will require practice (and patience). For the most part though, even though they may not be intuitive for teens and tweens, I think kids will find them helpful. What do you think? Should there be other rules?

Smartphone Etiquette for Teens and Tweens

Photo Credit for top image.
Photo Credit for bottom image.

Sara

Parental Controls and Alternatives to Monitoring Kids Online

Parental Control Alternative For Monitoring Kids Online

FTC Disclosure

As a Gen-Xer my digital footprint didn’t begin until I was well into adulthood. Initially there was a sense of anonymity because we were able to use screen names. Quickly, though, we came to realize that we could be identified. Even in the early days of the internet there were ways to find out who was hiding behind whatever goofy name we chose for our email, bulletin board, instant messenger, and other lame-in-comparison-to-today social networks.

For many of us, though, our kid have grown up around increasingly sophisticated technology. These digital natives have faced concerns that most of us never did.

I grew up in an analog age. The fanciest of technology came about in high school when the Apple IIe came out when I was a freshman. While that was a huge step forward, it really didn’t impact daily life like technology does today. There was no risk of anything I did going too far beyond my little community. That’s not the case today.

Parental controls when I was a teen came in the form of not getting dropped off at a friend’s house, being picked up earlier from a party than my friends, or having to sit with enough distance between us if a boy had come over to do homework together. Ah, good times!

Now, though, parental controls are more invasive than your mom walking in offering milk and cookies when you’re trying to hold hands with that boy who came over to study with you. While we still could make decisions back then, today there is technology that takes the decision-making out of our kids’ control. For most parents it’s like manna from heaven. But what if you’re like me and are not a big fan of parental controls? What are the options? Is it even possible to parent today without enabling some feature on a smartphone or tablet to make sure our kids aren’t exposed to “inappropriate” content or spend too much time online?

When BabyGirl was about 5 or 6 I installed parental control software on the computer she used. It was a desktop computer I had used but replaced. It was her computer for all intents and purposes. I was homeschooling her at the time and she’d spend time online doing schoolwork or playing. That was in 2007 or so. Seems like an eternity ago some times.

Anyway, back then you’d do a search on Google or Yahoo and, like today, pages of results would be presented for you to check out. Search engines were primitive compared to what we use today. Invariably she’d click on something that was inappropriate for a 5 or 6 year old. She’d close the window and come tell me. We’d talk about it, and she’d go on with her day.

There was a big push about that time for monitoring software. I installed some monitoring software and set the parameters. And then every 5 or 10 minutes I’d hear that the computer wasn’t working. Instead of filtering out what would be truly objectionable content, the software had so many keywords it was checking that nearly everything was filtered and nothing would get through. I go in to adjust the setting and make it less sensitive. Still, it wasn’t possible to get to a lot of legitimate content. That’s when I stopped using parental controls.

Fast forward to 2016 and the sophisticated monitoring software and built-in controls on computers, smartphones, tablets, and other types of mobile devices. BabyGirl is officially a teen and I have never used parental controls on any of her smartphones or tablets. Really. I know many people love them and I have friends who’ve written extensively about the benefits of parental controls for TV and mobile devices. For me, I’ve taken a different route since she got her first mobile device.

Talk Openly – Since she was very young, BabyGirl knew that sometimes there would be things on the internet that weren’t for kids to see. Just like in the “real” world, we can’t keep our kids blindfolded until we’ve had the opportunity to evaluate everything they see and hear, we can’t do that on the internet. And while there are filters that will prevent kids from gaining access to truly inappropriate information, for some it’s a false sense of security and doesn’t leave much room for open communication. As uncomfortable as these conversations can be for both of us, it has to be done.

Be Proactive – I’ve always been very up-front with BabyGirl about what she may see on the internet. No, I haven’t been graphic or given her information beyond what I thought she could understand. But I have worked with her one-on-one to learn how to use different search methods, what to look for in URL names and extensions, how to determine if she’s clicking on a reliable source, and things like that. Just like we role play for fire safety, we need to do the same thing when it comes to internet safety.

Follow the Rules – There’s a reason why most social networks have an age requirement. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is a law created to protect the privacy of children under 13. Not that all of a sudden at age 13 they gain a magical sense of maturity and capability. Millions of kids under the age of 13 have social media accounts, despite it being a violation of the terms of service. A few years ago my friend Heather wrote about why kids under 13 shouldn’t be on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or any of the multitude of social networks available. If we allow our kids to start out their digital life with a lie, it’s hard to expect them not to lie about other things.

Know their Login Information – I’ve been told many times that asking BabyGirl for her login information shows that I don’t trust her and I should just use parental controls if I’m so concerned. I’ve always explained that they’re missing the point. I ask this information because I do trust her, but I don’t trust the people on the other side. Being able to get in to her device and the different programs isn’t about snooping and seeing what she’s talking about. I go in to make sure other people aren’t doing stupid things that whether or not there are parental controls they shouldn’t be doing. It’s also an opportunity to make sure her device is up-to-date, clear out apps she doesn’t use any more, and encourage her to continue to make good choice since her parents can check in at any time. It’s kind of the digital equivalent of mom offering milk and cookies right when you’re thinking of kissing the boy who came over to study with you.

Parental controls aren’t the be-all, end-all magic potion many like to believe they are. They are one tool, but there are “old-school” parental control we can use in addition to using tech-based parental controls or in place of relying on technology to do our job. There isn’t one right answer. As with most things related to parenting, you just have to do what works for you.

Sara

5 Awesome Tech Gifts For the Procrastinating Gift Giver

Tech Gifts GuideFTC Disclosure

When December rolls around I like to think I’m completely on top of all the gifting needs that will come up. But, to be honest, there are always last minute tech gifts that need to be purchased. And, well, if I’m being totally honest, there are some bigger gifts, too, that I put off because I’m not really sure if those are the gifts I want to give. Together, this leaves me a little stressed out.

In November, as part of the Verizon Insider team, I attended an event at the Verizon headquarters to learn about some new tech, meet some of their great partners, as well as get a sneak-peek on a few of the holiday tech gift promotions that were planned. This gave me some very helpful information for those who, like me, may be needing a few gifts as the clock ticks away.

5 Last Minute Tech Gifts That Will Make You Look Like You Didn’t Procrastinate

UE SpeakersUltimate Ears Speakers – Whether it’s the UE Boom, UE Roll, or the DJ-worthy MegaBoom if you have a music lover on your list you can’t go wrong with any of the UE speakers. The Boom and MegaBoom are great for campus-living, the home office, small businesses, apartment dwellers, and anywhere your DJ skills could come in handy. And the UE Roll is the ultimate in portability.

Mophie External ChargerMophie – While devices have improved their battery life, having portable charging options is a must for anyone with an active lifestyle. I’ve had Mophie charges for years and they make so many different type that you’re sure to find one that will work for anyone on your list. Whether it’s a slim size, attaches as a powered case, supports a cause, or is waterproof you can’t go wrong with the quality of a Mophie charger.

Moto 360 Gen 2 Watch WomensMoto360 2nd Gen. Watch – Powered by Android Wear, it’s much more than a watch. Wearable tech is one of the top gifts for any occasion, and while these range from #299 and up a gift like this is perfect for the tech geek on your list. What’s awesome is that no matter which color combo you buy they can customize it with new bands and download watch faces that suit them.

Nest Smoke DetectorNest Home Products – As tech becomes more integrated at home, it’s easier than ever to add on a home protection device like a camera, thermostat, or smoke alarm. Perfect for renters and homeowners alike, these devices bring a new level of protection and information. If you’ve got a new homeowner, college student moving off-campus, or a senior family member on your list, Nest home products are designed to make managing things at home a little easier.

Motorola Droid Turbo 2 phoneDroid Turbo 2 Smartphone – I know. It’s not often you want to get someone a phone as a holiday gift. But, if your teen or college-aged child has been bugging you for a new phone this is one of the hottest devices to come out this year and can be customized in an array of colors and textures, something like over 1,000 different combinations. CycleGuy has been using his since Mid-November and likes that it has a unique look to it and isn’t like every other phone sitting on the conference table at meetings. Together with the shatterproof screen and the ability to charge the device in about 15 minutes, the Droid Turbo 2 is perfect for most anyone on your list who needs a new phone.

I’m a Verizon customer and have been for years, long before I started working with them to share about how my family and I use tech. So, for last minute tech gifts I know I can stop in to one of their stores and get any of these and be on my way. A nice gift bag and tissue paper and I get to keep my princess of tech tiara another year. Why settle for a gift card when cool gifts like this are so easy to get!

Sara