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.

Pin for Later:

hanukkah-tech-pinterest

Share on Twitter:

hanukkah-tech-twitter

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.

 

A video posted by Sara Hawkins (@sarafhawkins) on

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!

Share this post with your community!

MotoZ Droid Smartphone FB

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

Official Rules

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.

Share this post with your community!

Fitbit Blaze Sweeps FB Image

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

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

5 Tips For Getting Your Child Their First Smartphone

Tips for Kids First Phone

FTC Disclosure

As we approach the gift-giving season, I’m seeing many parents asking about “the best” smartphone for their child’s first phone. Most teens who’ve had a smartphone are very clear on which new device they want. When it comes to getting a first device for a child, or for the kids to share, there are many different opinions. And sometimes they have exactly what they have in mind.

While you may be decidedly in the iOS or Android camp, there is so much more to giving a child their first smartphone than picking out which device. While I do believe that there is such a thing as ‘too much phone’, the fact is you should choose a device that can grow with your child so you’re not needing to upgrade too soon. But there’s so much more to think about beyond which device to get. Sometimes I think picking out the device is the easiest part. Currently, I’m splitting my time between an iPhone 6 Plus and the new Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus Verizon just sent me. I love them both, for different reasons. But my almost teen daughter isn’t a fan of either of them.

5 Helpful Tips For Parents Getting Their Child Their First Smartphone

Talk About Expectations Before You Give Them A Phone – This is not the time to treat the kids like the crazy animals they sometimes are. Don’t throw the phone at them and run for your life like you’re feeding a wild lion. I fully realize they may not hear but a fraction of the words you’re saying., but take a deep breath and set expectations. Even better, consider a written agreement so the expectations are very clear.

Teach Them About The Importance of Using WiFi When Possible – Certainly you’ve heard stories of parents getting huge cell phone bills because the kids have been using data 24/7. Not only is wifi often faster than the data service, it also keeps data usage in check. Even if you have ‘unlimited’ data, you’ll quickly see that it’s not as unlimited as you think it is. Of course, not all wifi is secure so that should be discussed as well.

Require Their Login Information – This isn’t about snooping, it’s about parenting. If you ever believe your child is in danger, at risk, or doing stupid stuff you should be able to access their accounts from anywhere. You should have the ability to shut down your child’s access by logging in from your device and changing the password. They may not like it, but when used correctly this is to protect them from themselves and others.

Explain Social Media Etiquette and Reality – Kids use social media differently than we do. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t rules, both universal as well as age-appropriate. Be very clear on the rules for using the device at school, taking photos of other people, sharing their location, giving out personal information, and other things that are of concern to you. In addition, make sure they understand that not everything they see on social media is reality. This last one is so important since they may not be aware that their favorite celebrities and Youtube or Instagram stars are posting photos that do not include any disclosure about being paid to post, it being staged, or that it’s really an ad.

Trust Them – I know this isn’t really a tip. And I know there are times when we need our kids to check in with us. Remember back when there was a time when we’d go to the movies, the mall, the beach, or just hanging out with our friends and our parents couldn’t get in touch with us. Yes, times have changed. But if you’ve laid the foundation and set the groundwork trust that they’ll do the right thing. Of course, you reserve the right to check in and to go all forensic scientist on their device while they’re asleep. So give them some freedom to grow and learn. And remember that talking about phone etiquette, the realities of social media, the risk of online predators, and other things about the online world will happen with or without our input. This is the time to make sure those lines of communication are open and free of judgement.

Bonus tip don’t surprise the kids with a phone you would want, get something they want. Sure, they’ll use it because the option of being without a phone isn’t really an option but their hands are smaller, they don’t usually carry a purse or bag to put it in, and wanting to be cool among their friends is important to them. You’d think BabyGirl would have the latest and greatest, but she doesn’t. She still has the Droid Ultra she got 2 years ago and she loves it. For her, it’s the perfect phone because it’s slim, lightweight, and very durable. It does everything she needs and she never worries about damaging it. And, ironically, it doesn’t have a case. Just a screen protector. There weren’t many cases made for it and she has chosen to be careful rather than have an ugly phone cover. Hard to argue with that, really.

If you’re thinking of passing on your phone to your child and upgrading, my newest obsession is the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus. It’s beautiful, lightweight, has a sleek design, and a totally drool-worthy camera. And those Edge features? Super efficient and functional. Samsung has so many helpful features like Samsung Pay, wireless charging, reducing window size, opening multiple windows, and so much more. Whether it’s because you want a beautiful phone or need one to help keep your busy life organized, definitely take a look at the S6 Edge Plus.

And now that you’re likely getting a device for your child, or maybe you already have and just stopped by, what other tips do you recommend before getting the kids their first smartphone?

Sara

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

Back To School Tech Tips

FTC Disclosure

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sara

Is There Such A Thing As 80s Remorse? #SwitchersRemorse

Switchers Remorse

Disclosure: As part of the Verizon Influencer team I have been compensated to share with you a situation in my life where I made a decision I later changed or wish I had. Because, really, who among us hasn’t had at least one of these?

Have you ever listened to Snap Judgement? It’s a show on NPR and I love it. It’s addicting (fair warning)! Mainly because I think the stories are so different than anything I would do. It’s stories of people who make decisions that take them down a path they never imagined. It’s so fascinating, and usually throughout the entire show I’m on edge and my heart is racing.

I’m not a seat-of-the-pants decider, but I know how to make a quick decision. I’ve had my fair share of times when I’ve over analyzed or have gotten into that “analysis paralysis” mode and have made decisions I regret as soon as the words come out of my mouth. That being said, I will never have a story on Snap Judgement. Ever! Really, those stories are just that weird. Anyway, …

When I look back, I don’t have many regrets for the decisions I’ve made. That’s probably because I was raised to make informed decisions and believe I made the right choice. My grandfather was a missile instructor. Making the wrong choice when you launch a missile can have grave consequences. And since I lived with my grandparents, my grandfather had a lot of influence in my formative years.

The interesting part is that he believed you can correct course on most decisions when it came to life. And that’s what I was taught. Few decisions in life are fatal and those that are require serious attention. I’m a “serious attention” person for almost all the decisions I make. Although I can make quick decisions, I don’t make them without consulting as much information as I can within the time I have.

There are a few decisions I’ve made that I regret, but there are a few I wish I would have done differently. Fortunately, most are pretty low-level. But still, let’s take a look at a few decisions gone wrong. And don’t say you can’t relate.

SFH 1990Totally 80’s hair – Probably the best decade for hair. Unfortunately, some of us kept it well past its prime.

Shoulder pads – Melanie Griffith in Working Girl I was not. But I loved that “put together ” look. Looking back, I was probably a big ol’ “fashion don’t”.

Blue eye shadow – make that cheap blue eye shadow. Although it’s starting to make a comeback, no one ever really needed opalescent powder blue eye shadow.

Bonfire in the desert – maybe your high school wasn’t near a desert so you don’t know about these, but in parts of Texas they’re pretty popular. And by popular I mean a place for doing things you know you shouldn’t but you’re in high school so you know more than everyone else. Thank goodness there was no social media back then.

SFH 1987Hideous prom dresses – what were we thinking? These were more confections than clothing. No wonder there are websites now that totally mock our 80s clothing choices. Just wait, though, they’ll come back in style. Mark my word!

The Brick Phone – Please don’t make me feel old by saying you don’t know what I mean. First mobile phone, my friend. OK, I didn’t have enough money to afford one so I had the lame cousin of The Brick Phone, The Bag Phone. Yep, mobile phone in a leatherette bag. As if I was some undercover agent or something. I probably still had the 80’s hair and thought I was totally stylin’.

People who don’t understand distance – I’m serious with this one. The first month of college I needed to go to Target. I couldn’t get a ride so I figured I could walk there. I asked a few people who said it was “not far”. So I set out. About an hour later I stopped in a store along the way, and asked where the Target was. “Just up the road a few blocks” is what I was told. Liars! They’re all liars! If I was in a car I’d have been there in 20 minutes. But I was being transported by two size 8s and that darn Target store was like 5 miles away. And so now I rarely ask people for directions (thanks GPS!), because I walked 10-freakin’ miles for a stupid laundry basket and other random junk I likely didn’t need. Could I have turned back at any time? Sure. But the call of Target was strong! Not far, huh?

Volunteer MugHalf the times I’ve said “yes” to volunteering – Ugh! When people ask me if I’ll volunteer for things because I can’t say no. I grew up in a house where service to others and volunteering were part of the fabric of our lives. It’s so ingrained in me, it’s taken me until recently to actually say “no” or ask if I can get back to them. I’ve said yes to standing in sweltering heat handing out water bottles to band kids, of which I had none. I’ve said yes to getting up when it’s still night-time to help set up, and then when other people didn’t show I stayed despite being so tired. And while I always had a positive outlook and did my best, after a while I just started to feel like I was being asked because they knew it was more of a rhetorical question. But then my friend staged an intervention and gave me this mug.  Which I love!

Hitting send – I think we all have a story about hitting send when we shouldn’t have. Whether it’s work-related or personal, there really needs to be an “undo” button on anything we can send. In my younger years, it wasn’t all that much an issue because you had to schlep yourself to the post office and that time gave you an opportunity to think about all that would go wrong. But these days it’s so easy to be “keepin’ it real”. But “keepin’ it real” does go wrong. And while my moment of regret when I hit send wasn’t all that bad, it did require a meeting with one of the firm’s partners and an apology letter to a client. Which I why I never participate in those stupid forward-this-to-5-people-and-Bill-Gates-will-send-you-$5 million schemes. And why Snopes is one of my favorite websites.

I’m sure you have decisions you regret. Hopefully they’re nothing major and you were able to change course pretty easily. Or, at least, learn from them.

If you switched away from Verizon and are regretting it, don’t worry. They’re making it easy for customers to come back. For more information, head over to your local Verizon store and tell them you have #SwitchersRemorse.

Sara

Must Have Tech For 2015

Must Have Tech Gadgets

VZW Disclosure

As 2014 comes to an end and the gift giving events make way for talk about the big game or getting fit for summer, there’s still gift cards to spend and deals to be made. Regardless of whether you unwrapped one or a pile, chance are you may not have received some things you really wanted. Or maybe you got gift cards because you’re “hard to buy for” or “it’s easier to send you money”. So now you’re faced with how to spend that loot and what better way than to make sure you have the must have tech gear to make the most of your smartphone or tablet. You may have some ideas of what you want but I thought I’d share a few of my favorite tech gadgets to jump start 2015.

bluetooth headphones1. A good pair of headphones. Whether you like the over-ear, in-ear, or on-ear models, there are so many options. Quality headphones are a must these days, but which one you choose will depend a lot on your lifestyle and how you use them. For active lifestyles you might like the Plantronics Backbeat Fit bluetooth in-ear headphones. The Jawbone ERA is a great low-profile bluetooth headset, especially if you want something a little more discreet and professional-looking. The ERA is the one CycleGuy uses mostly for business. For gaming or watching movies, there are great options from Beats by Dre and Sol Republic. I have different headphones for different uses, so it’s not uncommon to have several pairs of headphones.

portable mini speaker2. A wireless portable speaker. As a child of the 80s, portable speakers have been a very important part of my life. Now, though, they’re not the size of a small TV. Gone are the “boombox” days of lugging around 20-pound stereo systems. We’ve got an entire music library in our purse or pocket. The problem is that sometimes you want to share it and your only options are putting your device in a bowl and cranking up the volume with the hopes it will broadcast. With tiny portable speakers that easily fit in a purse, backpack, carry-on luggage, or in the glove box of a car the mobile DJ in you can come out wherever you are. The Mini Jambox from Jawbone (I really do love their products!) comes in a variety of fun colors and can be used in both casual and professional settings. I’ve heard of them being used at business events and parties when people need big sound in a compact space.

3. Apps to improve your productivity. And by productivity I don’t mean just business-type stuff. With apps to help stimulate your brain and wellness apps, or even must-have apps that aren’t on every “top apps” list you have the ability to customize each device so that you’re getting the most out of it when you’re on it. Sometimes the best productivity app is Spotify or Pandora because you just need some good music to help you get motivated. Other times, maybe you need a great list app or top news and media apps. There are tens of thousands of apps out there in iOS, Android, and Windows that you’re likely to find just the right apps to help you get more out of your smartphone or tablet so you can be more productive.

4. A fitness tracker. I was able to check out the Microsoft Band the day it came out and it was quite impressive with its many features that integrated into smartphones. CycleGuy has the JawboneUP 24 and likes how it integrates with his cycling and food-tracking apps. I have a JawboneUP and even though it’s very basic it gives me a lot of helpful information. Even though it would be cool to have one of the high-end models, there are quality fitness trackers for every budget.

Mophie portable charger5. A portable charger. This should probably be #1 on the list of must have tech gear. I carry the Mophie Powerstation with me. It’s compact and lightweight so it doesn’t add bulk to my purse. And since I have both iOS and Android devices I usually keep cables for several different devices in the car so if I’m out and a friend is running low on power I can lend them my charger. When my daughter went on an out-of-town school field trip, I sent my New Trent Power Pack and iSound Power Max so the chaperones would have power on the 10+ hour drive should there be an emergency. We’re on our phones so much, especially on long trips where you don’t always have access to a plug, that draining our devices is not just a possibility. We’ve all be out and had our phone die with no real options to power it up. Now, you carry the power with you! And for under $100 it’s a great way to be prepared when the power goes out.

If you have these, then you’re good to go! If you have friend or family that don’t have these, then consider them as gifts because they’d probably be happy to get these. I know that many of the apps are free, but consider buying the paid version of an app you love and if you need to give someone a gift they’d probably love the “pro” version too.

What are your “go to” or “must have” tech items that you can’t live without?

Disclosure: I am a member of the Verizon Lifestyle Influencer team and share information about technology. This post was not required or edited by a third-party. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sara