Easy Garage Door Automation with Chamberlain #MyQ Garage Door Opener

Garage Door App

Disclosure: As a member of the Verizon Insider team, I am sharing my experience with the Chamberlain MyQ Garage Door Opener and how it helps me with home automation.

These days home automation seems to be getting easier and easier as new apps and connected products are released. I have a few home automation solutions in my house. I have WeMo light controllers, a Belkin Netcam, and a Canary Home Security System. I love them all. They make managing important parts of my home very easy.

One home automation product I’ve had my eye on for quite some time is the connected garage door opener. There are a few out there, but when I was at my Verizon store recently swapping out devices I saw the MyQ Garage Door Opener. Part of me was just passing time as I waited for my turn, but I’ve always wanted a connected garage door.

It seems weird since it’s just a garage door opener, but my old school touchpad died awhile back and since I have an older model they don’t make replacements for it. So that touchpad mounted just outside my garage mocks me every time I pulled in the garage. Even more so, it would just stare at me the several times I was dropped off by a friend and had to text CycleGuy because he was out and I didn’t have my keys.

That all changed in June when Verizon sent me the MyQ Garage Door Opener to add on to my existing opener so I could now operate my garage from my smartphone and get notifications. It took less than an hour to install once I actually followed the instructions and mounted the sensor instead of having it on the stepstool next to me. Learn from me, read the directions and follow them step by step and you’ll be up and running in no time.

MyQ Garage Door Opener

MyQ WiFi Hub

MyQ Door Sensor

CycleGuy and I worked together because you have to press the training button on the unit mounted to the ceiling and then follow the directions on your smartphone at the same time. You can install it yourself, but make sure you’re not putting yourself at risk when you’re up on the ladder.

So why do I love this so much? Seriously, it just opens and closes the garage door with your smartphone and provides notifications. If you’re in the car you likely have an opener, so you wouldn’t really need your smartphone. If you’re dropped off, you probably have a key (unless you’re like me and thought you had the key in your purse but didn’t). So why automate something as mundane as a garage door opener?

  1. If you lose your opener or have a rental/loaner car you can still get in your garage.
  2. When you head out to run, bike, walk, do exercise, or just visit the neighbor you don’t need to take anything extra besides your phone.
  3. If you’re half way to work and can’t remember if you closed the garage door, in about 30 seconds you can find out. And if you didn’t close the garage door, with a push of a button you can close the garage door. No being late for work. No driving back only to see it closed.
  4. If you have kids who walk to/from school, if they have a smartphone you don’t need to give them a key they may lose. For me, this wouldn’t work because we lock the door from the garage into the house. Then again that would be the perfect reason to buy a biometric door lock or some type of automated door lock.

In my neighborhood, if your garage door is accidentally left open and the police come by they’ll come to your door and let you know. If you’re not home they’ll close it (doing that whole “run and jump over the beam” move) and send you a letter, which may include a fine.

Accidentally leaving your garage door opener is a common reason people report when they file claims for stolen items. Criminals don’t need to do anything to get to your stuff if you accidentally leave the garage door open.

I’ve been using the MyQ Garage Door Opener for about two months and here are my key takeaways.

      • Easy to install. It’s compatible with most garage door openers made since 1993.
      • Alerts you if the garage door is accidentally left open. Or you can go into the app and check so you don’t make a trip home to find it closed.
      • Remote open/close the garage door. Lots of reasons this is great.

        myQ App

 

      • Alerts you when the garage door is open. This is great for me because sometimes I’m in a zone when I work at home so I don’t freak out when CycleGuy is all of a sudden in my office.

MyQ App Alerts

MyQ App New Alert Setup

MyQ App Notification

One of the drawbacks of the app is that it’s not unique to the smartphone. I love everything about the opener and most features of the app, don’t get me wrong. But it would be great if the app allowed each user of the opener to set up their own account and profile. Just like with a home security system, knowing who activated the system gives you important information.

If you want to get one of the MyQ Garage Door accessories, they’re available at your nearest Verizon Store for just $129.99. While it may seem like a nice ‘toy’ to have, it really is a quick and easy way to automate your home and put an important part of your property on your smartphone. If you’re a renter, it’s a great way to add home automation and still be able to take it with you when you move.

Pin MyQ Garage Door - Saving For Someday

Image Credit: Garage photo used courtesy of Kevin Wolf

Sara

Finding Dory Review

Finding Dory Review

I attended a press screening of Finding Dory prior to the movie’s public opening.

Finding Dory, the long-awaited sequel to the blockbuster hit Finding Nemo, takes us on a journey with the friendly blue tang fish, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), and her adopted clown fish family Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo. This is a special journey to reunite Dory with her parents. After over a decade of being separated, Dory begins to gain some of her childhood memory and decides it’s times to make that transoceanic journey back home, hoping her parents still remember her.

Unlike in Finding Nemo where Dory’s forgetfulness is played for jokes, it’s given a level of vulnerability and seriousness in Finding Dory. That’s important because it brings up in to her story, her desire to find her parents, her tenacity to ‘just keep swimming’, and her attention to details she needs to make the reunion happen. Rest assured there are plenty of funny moments.

Personally, I think Hank (voiced by Ed O’Neill) steals the show. An octopus with only seven tentacles, a septapus as Dory tells him, has many of the best lines. We meet up with him about halfway through the movie when Dory arrives at the Marine Life Institute in Morro Bay, California. Hank has ulterior motives in befriending Dory, but he signs on to help her find her parents.

Dory is reunited with her friend Destiny, a shark with vision problems who has a number of hilarious lines. Destiny and Dory were friends when they were younger, communicating through the pipes at MLI. This friendship explains how Dory ‘speaks shark’, as we discovered in Finding Nemo. Together with Hank, Destiny helps direct Dory to her parents. Of course there are side adventures along the way for everyone, it is a Disney/Pixar film.

Overall, it’s a great family film and will be a hit with kids and adults alike. There is enough adult-level humor to keep you engaged while the kids enjoy the colorful sealife, the friendships, and the interwoven messages of keep working toward your goal, you can count on your friends to help, and a parent’s love is everlasting.

In theaters beginning June 17, 2016, Finding Dory runs about 100 minutes. The 3D effects are done well and blend into the movie seamlessly. It’s nice to have that dimension and life-like feeling that brings familiar friends back to us after we met them for the first time 13 years ago. It’s a similar story told with slight differences. Only this time, Dory’s memory disability isn’t the punchline of every joke. To be sure, her memory loss is used a both funny and poignant. But in the end, we’re very much in 2016 where differently-abled individuals are finding how to use what could be their deficit as something that gives them strength.

Check it out and enjoy it for the entertaining movie it was intended. Don’t set your expectations too high and you won’t be disappointed. Finding Dory is charming and entertaining, but it is not the blockbuster spectacular that was Finding Nemo.

Like FINDING DORY on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PixarFindingDory

Follow FINDING DORY on Twitter: https://twitter.com/FindingDory

Follow Disney/Pixar on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/PixarFindingDory/

Follow Disney Studios on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/disneystudios/finding-dory/

Visit Disney/Pixar on Tumblr: http://disneypixar.tumblr.com

Visit the official FINDING DORY website for games, coloring pages, and other printables: https://movies.disney.com/finding-dory

Sara

Save Your Sanity with the Tile Bluetooth Tracker

Tile TrackerFTC Disclosure

Not too long ago I was traveling and when I got off the plane at home I couldn’t find my car keys. They were no where to be found. I retraced my trip and the only thing I could figure out is that maybe the fell out of my purse. Maybe on the plane or perhaps when I was pulling something out. At that point, though, it really didn’t matter. I was standing by my car in the parking structure unable to get in. Luckily, I had a spare at home and I could go get it and then go get my car. I also keep my car key separate from my other keys so while it was the big pain you can imagine it to be, it wasn’t a bigger problem.

Instead of going to my phone and opening up the Tile app to see if I could locate my key, I was putting in claims to the lost in found for the airline, TSA, the rental car company, the hotel, and two airports. I didn’t have a Tile tracker on my keys. It’s a little square ’tile’ looking device that allows you to find your keys, phone, laptop, camera, bike, and a pretty much anything you can attach a Tile tracker to. It uses Bluetooth Low Energy technology to locate your item. And while it works best if you’re within 30 feet, and can work up to 100 feet, it could have helped me even though I was likely hundreds of miles away.

The Tile app includes a community feature so you can mark an item as ‘lost’ and if a community member is nearby and your Tile connects to the app it would let me know. There’s a lot of technology behind this feature to keep it secure so no one would have known where I live or my phone number or anything like that. If someone had a Tile and saw mine (this is in theory since I didn’t have one) they likely would have figured out it was lost and could have helped me get it back. If you don’t have your phone, you can log in to your account on the Tile app from any smartphone to find your phone.

I go through this story because I finally got a Tile tracker. As part of the Verizon Insider brand ambassador team we each received a Tile device. It was after I lost my keys, so at least I didn’t have it but not use it. Anyway, I now have the Tile and I feel like I need dozens of them. They’re great for key, of course. And if you have a Tile you can find your phone easily just by pressing on the tile. Even if your phone is on silent, like mine is most of the time, your phone will ring. But you can also attach a Tile to a camera, a bike, your purse, or even luggage. You can also use an adhesive to attach it to things like the remote, a laptop, or other things that don’t have a ring-holder.

These little square Tile trackers would be great to give friends and family for any occasion, or no occasion. I think they’d be great for kids heading off to college, elderly parents who might be misplacing things and calling you to find them, busy parents, forgetful tweens and teens, and, really anyone. We all have things that tend to grow legs and move from where we last put it. You can get yours at the Verizon store. They’re $69.99 for a pack of 4, and will save you time and money more times than you’ll care to remember.

Places you can add a Tile to save your sanity

  1. Pet – attach a Tile to their collar if they tend to get out, hide, or sneak into the neighbor’s yard.
  2. Kids – if you’re concerned your kids might be separated at a community event, attach a Tile to a belt loop or tuck one in their pocket.
  3. Luggage – returning from Dubai a photographer put a Tile in his luggage full of equipment. Good thing because it went missing and thanks to the community feature it was located in Switzerland.
  4. Car – leave one in your car if you’re prone to forgetting where you parked.
  5. Sports equipment – these are great for golf bags, bikes, skateboards, and other sports bags.
  6. Tech – with an adhesive backing, Tile can be attached to laptops, remote control devices, tablets, drones, GoPros, and larger headphones.
  7. Keys – this kind of goes without saying since it was the original impetus for the product.
  8. Baby items – busy parents need a little help remembering where they left the diaper bag or stroller. I think this would be awesome a theme park where they tend to move strollers while you’re visiting an attraction.
  9. Backpacks & briefcases – especially for kids who put things down and don’t remember where they left it, a tracker would be great.
  10. Musical instruments – I still get heart palpitations thinking about the violinist who left her violin in a cab.

So you see, these little white tag have many great uses. I highly recommend them for keeping track of those things that may easily get misplaced. And for things that may not get misplaced but may mysteriously go missing, having a Tile tracker on it may not only save our investment but also our sanity. All for less than $20 each!

Tile Tracker

Sara

The Silence of the Stanford Sexual Assault Victim’s Parents

Stanford Sexual Assault Pin

In March, former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner was convicted of three felonies related to his sexual assault of an unconscious woman. In June, the judge sentenced the 20-yr old Turner to 6 months in jail. “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” Judge Persky said of Turner. “I think he will not be a danger to others.” As people got wind of this, outrage erupted. The outrage has been visible on every social network and in nearly every major news outlet.

The Stanford sexual assault victim’s impact statement has been published on countless websites and was read live, in full, on air by Ashleigh Banfield, anchor of CNN “Legal View”. She crafted a very vivid and powerful picture of who she was before the rape and how her life has changed. She addressed Turner directly. It’s quite a powerful narrative and definitely worth reading and sharing with others. It’s an excellent piece to use to talk to your teens, sons and daughters alike.

We’ve heard from a childhood friend of Brock Turner, Brock’s father, and Brock himself. All three have failed to grasp the gravity of Brock’s choice to sexually assault an unconscious woman. The friend, Leslie Rasmussen, a female, blamed political correctness for putting her friend on trial. Rasmussen went on to question why the jury should believe a woman who doesn’t remember anything. Rasmussen seems oblivious to the fact that being unconscious and unable to recall what happened is exactly why her friend was convicted. She tries to suggest this was some crazy alcohol-fueled college kid misunderstanding. Brock’s father, Dan Turner, also made a statement on behalf of his son. It seems Brock is so distraught that he can’t eat a nice steak or steal potato chips and other snacks from his father. And being the concerned parent, Dan goes on to say that his star-athlete son shouldn’t have to pay the rest of his life for ’20 minutes of action’, as if punishment is meted out based on how long the crime lasted. Dan also seems to think that his son could easily pay for his crime by talking to students about the perils of drinking and sexual promiscuity. Not once did he show any concern for the victim or how difficult her life has become since his son raped her. Finally, we get to Brock Turner’s statement, which is a diatribe about how he was forced to drink to have friends and he was doing what he thought drunk college kids normally do. Only his story was one that was crafted to explain everything away and shift blame to anyone he could.

In brief interviews, we’ve heard from the two students that chased, tackled, and held Brock until the police arrived. Carl-Fredrik Arndt and Peter Jonsson, both from Sweden, spotted Brock Turner on top of an unconscious woman and after a moment thought there was something wrong with the situation. It’s because of them the crime was reported. Had they not come along and intervened it’s likely the victim would have been left alone and when she regained consciousness, unable to recall what happened, returned to her home.

We’ve heard from most everyone involved with the parties of the Stanford sexual assault. And while we don’t know the victim’s name or identity, it’s her prerogative to remain anonymous. I don’t blame her. She’s been through enough. She doesn’t need to become the poster child of a movement. In fact, her voice is likely more powerful because we don’t know her. She represents every woman. She is all of us.

The people we haven’t heard from are her parents. I’m sure they were with her throughout the ordeal. In her statement, the young woman barely refers to her parents. I’m sure it was especially difficult to watch this circus and witness first hand the trauma of seeing their daughter dragged through a trial. I’m certain they were there to support their daughter, perhaps not knowing what to say or do but wanting to take care of their little girl.

No one has talked about her parents, so I will. I know they have a story but it’s so intertwined in that of their daughter they remain silent. If they come forward they risk removing the anonymity she’s worked hard to maintain. When it comes to the victim, rarely do others get to provide in-court statements about how awesome the victim is and how she’s changed because of the horror of being through such an awful crime. Victim impact statements are often singular, not a parade of friends and family providing insight and context to the life shattered. Unfortunately, many victims don’t even get to give a statement lest it be viewed as inflammatory or degrading of the defendant. Yah, seriously! Some judges limit what a victim can say because they don’t want to make the defendant feel bad.

We may never know the hell her parents have gone through. Parents of sexual assault survivors often stand in the shadows. Not because they’re not deeply involved in the care and support of their child. Rather, their pain is often so entwined in a story that doesn’t belong to them.

As parents we advocate for our children. Even as they become adults, we’re still there for them. Our child gets very sick and we start a website to keep everyone informed. Our child is killed in a senseless act of violence and we think nothing of talking to the news and sharing photos of our baby, even if that baby is a grown man or woman. Our daughter is involved in an abusive relationship, we’re open about it so we can educate our community. But when your child is sexually assaulted, raped, it doesn’t matter how old they are you are enveloped by a cloak of silence despite having a story to tell. Being the parent of a sexual assault survivor is its own story, yet it’s kept silent. Parents of sexual assault victims often suffer in silence not knowing that others have a shared experience and understand their pain, are able to overcome the sorrow they feel, and continue to advocate for their child.

So while we provide support for Jane Doe, give a little extra thought about her parents. People who have had to stand by and watch as the judicial system allowed her to be victimized over and over. A mother and father whose heart was broken upon hearing what happened to their little girl. Two people who sit in silence knowing that they don’t get a voice and an opportunity to tell you how they feel and how amazing their daughter was. And still is.

I feel for them. While I won’t go into detail why I wanted to give their silence some perspective, just know that I know this silence is isolating. And at times it’s deafening. They’re without a support network, much like other parents of sexual assault survivors. It’s a difficult position to be in, but like the many who’ve gone before them on this quiet journey they will emerge stronger. That is, if the silence doesn’t break them first.

Parents of Sexual Assault Survivors

Sara

Alice Through the Looking Glass is Over the Top but Still Entertaining

Alice Through The Looking Glass PosterPhoto Credit: Disney

You cannot change the past. It always was. It always will be.
Although I dare say, you might learn something from it. ~ Time

Alice Through the Looking Glass (PG) is this summer’s sequel to Tim Burton’s 2010 colorful and spectacular remake of Louis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”. With all the familiar inhabitants of Wonderland (or Underland if you’re a local), we see the calm and thoughtful White Queen, Mirana, (Anne Hathaway), the perpetually infuriated Red Queen, Iracebeth, (Helena Bonham Carter), the childlike Hatter (Johnny Depp), the morphing Cheshire Cat (voiced by Stephen Fry), and the caterpillar which became a butterfly in the 2010 movie (voiced by the late Alan Rickman), Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns to help her friend Hatter find his family, who he thinks may still be alive.

During Alice’s adventure, we’re introduced to Time (played by Sacha Baron Cohen). A steampunk character who controls time, he brings a great deal of humor to a movie that could have been too uptight. Since Hatter does not have as big a role, it was nice to have another character bring a few laughs even if they were puns that seemed to try too hard. In her reprised role as the Red Queen, Carter gives the villainess a humanity and history that seems to soften her. As the quasi-girlfriend of Time, Red Queen allows us to see her history and understand why she also wants to go back in time.

Alice plays two storylines, with her life in London not really getting enough treatment to make us care. And while I have never seen Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, I’m not sure there really is a need to understand that story to appreciate this new adventure. We know Alice is now a sea captain and while she was gone her mother made poor financial decisions. While this story gives us something to start with since Alice lives in our world, I think it’s there solely to connect to the end since Alice can’t stay in Wonderland forever so we need to know what she’s going to do.

Nonetheless, even with the bumpy plot, the visuals and pace keep you engaged. Part live action and part computer animation, Alice Through the Looking Glass is a feast for the eyes. Whether it’s the adorable robot-like helpers in the lair of Time, the heart-shaped world of the Red Queen, or the colorful Wonderland there’s always something to catch your attention. You can’t help but love the little soldiers working for Time. And, Time, himself, while dressed in black, has a colorful personality that keeps you hoping for the best.

I can see the movie getting mixed reviews. If you’re a Tim Burton fan you’ll love the movie. If you’re a purist when it comes to the retelling of classics, you’ll likely hate it. The movie bears little resemblance to Carroll’s novel, other than the characters. I think teens will enjoy the movie because it incorporates familiar characters and is entertaining. From a music perspective, there’s Pink with ‘Just Like Fire’, which just about everyone will love. And, of course, the fantastic Danny Elfman, adds the additional musical dimension to the show to keep you connected.

Overall, Alice Through the Looking Glass is a good movie. Not a great movie and not better than Burton’s Alice. It’s entertaining, visually appealing, funny, and, overall, a lovely story. It’s a nice way to step away from reality for a moment, enjoy a colorful film, and be entertained for about two hours. Oscar worthy, I doubt. Unless you’re talking about the makeup and costumes, those are pretty spectacular.

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

Disney Park Tips From A Tween

For many years BabyGirl had a blog. While she still loves to write, it’s not her primary space so I’ve decided to share some of her posts. This is one she wrote awhile back, from the perspective of a pre-teen about spending time at a Disney park. I think she hits the highlights.

Disney Tips from a Tween

Here are a few things you SHOULD NOT do while at Disney:

Lunch:

Don’t go to eat lunch when everyone else is.  Not only will the restaurants be crowded, but you’ll be missing the opportunity to go on that attraction you wanted!  This can apply for basically all the parks, as long as the attractions normally have longer wait times.

Shoes:

Don’t wear any shoes you deem even slightly uncomfortable.  A lot of the time, I have seen people wearing uncomfortable-looking shoes, and they often complain and don’t have very much fun while they are at the parks.  Sneakers (tennis shoes, whatever you call them) are your best friend.  If you want to be a little more fashionable, you can go for sandals.  However, these sandals must be made for walking.  Any sandals won’t do, as some sandals aren’t made for long-term use.

Packing:

Don’t bring a huge bag with you in the park.  Only bring the necessities.  A phone, maybe an extra charger, a change of clothes (but really only if you go on a wet ride), ponchos, and a water bottle – it should be refillable, but if not that’s okay.  Not only will you have less weight on your back, you won’t annoy other guests by constantly banging into them!

Pictures:

Don’t take too many pictures.  A few pictures are okay; to capture the memories of going to Disney.  But if you are taking your phone out every five seconds to snap a photo of something, you need to stop.  Capture the important moments.  Don’t waste your memory on minuscule things that you won’t even care about in the long run.  And yes, I know that sounds harsh, but it’s easier on you if you don’t constantly feel pressured to take a picture of something.

Kids:

Don’t let your kids run wild and if you’re a kid reading this, listen to your parents.  Sure, this is Disney, so if they’re old enough to get food at a restaurant buffet, they can, but make sure you’re watching them.  I’ve heard a lot of website authors complaining about how parents at Disney let their kids run everywhere, and frankly, it’s annoying.  Don’t restrain them too much – let them have a chance to ‘capture all the Disney magic’, but you can’t let them just run around at risk of getting lost.

So, I hope these tips help you prepare for your trip to a Disney park. If you’re heading to Disney, take a moment to see one of the crazy things my family does when we go.

This article is a repost from BabyGirl’s no longer active blog.

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

Teens: If We Feed Them Well, Why Do They Choose To Eat Junk Food

Teens and Junk Food

For those of you with teens (or tweens), I’m going to assume you’re like me and have fed your family healthy foods most of the time. I’ve seen all the menu planning, Whole30, paleo, low-sugar, and low-fat posts. Even if we ate like crap before we had kids, things changed once the kiddos came along. So now that that’s out-of-the-way, let’s talk about what the teens choose to eat.

For most of us, I’m sure we’ve created over a decade of meals that had fruits and vegetables. There may have been a few monster milkshakes and over-the-top desserts along the way, too. Treats. We always used the word treats. These were anomalies and not the norm.

Same with the carb-a-palooza that seems to become the staple of teen eating. I think back to my teen years, which some days I wonder how I can think back that far, and am pretty sure my mom wondered how I thought cheese pizza and soda was an appropriate meal when out with my friends when she made fresh, from scratch meals nearly every night that were accompanied with a salad and at least one other vegetable (of which corn did not count as a vegetable). What is it that causes our brain to disregard all those meals at home and decide that mac-and-cheese and pretzels would be an a good dinner?

I’ve said ‘no’ to the child who wants a third helping of potatoes while the spinach salad has been disassembled and strategically located around the plate so it looks as if it’s been mostly eaten. I’m sure you have too. I’ve also said no to the request for dessert when just a few bites of dinner are gone, despite sitting at the table for half an hour.

There have been talks about serving sizes, how a 64-oz gas station soda is not a single serving, french fries are not a suitable meal, and carrot cake is not actually a vegetable. I’m sure there have been many discussions about food choices, too, especially when going out. Surely we’ve not only done our job, but we’ve been employee of the month a few times. We’ve excelled at the salad-eating, fruit-over-cake selecting, water-instead-of-soda choosing. And we know that when they eat at their friend’s house that their parents are doing the same thing. We all live in the same village!

So why when they walk out the door and meet up with their other teen friends all this knowledge is inaccessible? How come they can remember every trick to get to level 3,274 on the game they’re playing but not remember to select something more vegetable-y than, well, the garnish that inevitably comes with their carb and dairy bonanza of a meal. Why when they come home we think all these years of after school snacks of fruit and veggies will continue to be their choice but we hear the loud crunching of them eating cereal.

We did the same thing, I know. But that was back in the day when broccoli-rice casserole was an acceptable vegetable and fruit-dotted jell-o was considered a healthy dessert. Healthy back then was different, and, to be honest, we weren’t really outright taught about making healthy food choices.

I know I’m not the only one who wonders why this happens. Is it normal? Do we need to put more emphasis on healthy eating and making “good” food choices? Less emphasis? I don’t know the answer. I just hope that it’s, as a child psychologist friend of mine say, “developmentally appropriate”.

Why Do Teens Like Junk Food

Sara