The Zap Zap Math App Makes Learning Fun

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

When I was growing up, practicing math was done using flashcards and worksheets. It was boring and something I dreaded doing which led to math becoming my least favorite subject in school. Nowadays, math is more interactive which makes it fun for kids who are learning and practicing math concepts. They also get to play cool apps like Zap Zap Math which turns math into a game. This app is perfect to keep kids learning at home and on-the-go and will help keep your child from experiencing the dreaded “summer slide” we all hear so much about.

Zap Zap Math is a game-based learning ecosystem that makes learning math fun and engaging, with a series of games covering math topics from Kindergarten to 6th grade. Inhabited by Mathlings, the Zap Zap Math ecosystem brings fun into the equation with a whole universe of math games that are designed based on Bloom’s Taxonomy to encourage children’s critical thinking skills.

Zap Zap Math has over 150 Mathematical topics, with a fully developed comprehensive curriculum that has been designed to mirror common core standards. I like that the app is split up by grade level and it’s easy to switch between the grades so it’s a great app that both my boys can use without having to log out and back in to switch between their two grades. While the kids enjoy playing, I love the web dashboard that lets parents and teachers check each child’s progress by topic and see which areas they might need help in.

Zap Zap Math is available for download on both iOS and Android devices. The app is free to download but you can upgrade to the premium version for only $9.99 a year (that’s less than a dollar a month!)

What’s your favorite way to keep your kids from experiencing the “summer slide”?

Teaching Children To Code

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

As a parent, I want my children to have the best chance at success as possible. Nowadays, that means learning tech skills like coding. Though my children are young, I think it’s vital for them to learn how to use technology in as many ways as possible because I see tech jobs only becoming more desirable in the future. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be more than one million unfilled tech jobs within the next three years. I want my children to be qualified for the jobs if they choose to work in the tech industry when they get older.

In my research into places that offer coding, I’ve found a number of introductory classes but not much that helps kids really dive into coding and lets them explore all that can be done with the skill. That’s why I was excited to learn about Codeverse, the world’s first hackable classroom and vertically integrated technology platform designed to teach children ages 6 to 12 the vital skill of coding. Children and Tweens aren’t only learning the basics but using the skills they learn to bring technology to life by coding projects, games and apps. Kids learn code in an immersive environment full of cutting-edge technology and every object in the studio can be controlled by their code, including drones, robots, 3D printers, lasers, and more!

The flagship state-of-the-art coding studio will open in the Chicago area (Lincoln Park) this July. The million-dollar, 3600 square foot interactive and collaborative space has on-site staff, made up of certified K-12 teachers. Kids use their iPads to navigate the space and write with the company’s proprietary kid-friendly coding language, KidScript, which enables them to build games and apps as well as hack hundreds of objects ranging from lasers and 3d printers to robotic arms and fog machines. 

Codeverse is the brainchild of Craig Ulliott and Katy Lynch who, along with friend Dave Arel, are on a mission to teach a billion children to code. They are well on their way to that goal with the Lincoln Park classroom opening in July and three more Codeverse studios planned for Chicago over the next 18 months. Additionally, they will be opening studios in every major metropolitan area within the next five years before expanding internationally.

“Learning to code at a young age is an absolute necessity for all kids,” says Lynch. “Coding today is so much more than computer science; it’s a way of thinking that promotes intellectual curiosity, problem solving and creative expression. These are the real skills kids need for their futures.”

Codeverse membership starts at $125 per month, and gives children recurring use of the studio space as well as access to the coding platform from home. The platform and curriculum is designed for children between the ages of 6 and 12. Parents and guardians can learn more and register students at www.codeverse.com.

 

Is It Time For New Kitchen Appliances?

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The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.

Unless you live in a brand new house, I’m guessing you have a list of things you want to fix or update. Our home was built in the 80s and, though some updates have been done since then, I have a long list of things I’d love to do. The first, and easiest, updates would be to get new appliances. My dishwasher is the original model that was put in the home when it was built in 1988 and leaves a bit of “melted plastic” smell each time if runs. My stove also needs to be replaced since every recipe takes at least three to four times longer to cook than it should. And though my fridge is from the 90′s and works, I long for a shiny stainless steel one. See why I think it’s time for updated appliances?

A month or so ago we were perusing the appliance section at Best Buy and I was giddy seeing the new appliances with all their bells and whistles. If you are looking for new appliances you’ll want to head to Best Buy soon because you’ll be able to save some money during their Appliances Remodeling Sales Event! Best Buy makes it easy for you to stretch your dollars by offering the best deals during the season on LG appliances. You can save up to 30% off major appliance top deals (minimum savings is 5%) through April 12th. Plus, get a free $100 gift card when you buy 2 Major Appliances totaling $1500 or more. (Get the details here.) LG is also offering extra savings! Receive up to $400 back from LG via mail on select Kitchen Packages through 5/3/17. (Get the details here.)

If you are looking for a new refrigerator, this LG – InstaView™ Door-in-Door® fridge is a great choice. The LG Black Stainless Steel Series elevates your kitchen with a satin-smooth, warm and sophisticated finish. You’ll save money and energy with this ENERGY STAR® qualified LG refrigerator that exceeds energy standards.

This large capacity (24 cu ft) fridge lets you store more which is perfect for families. It’s French doors feature InstaView™ Door-in-Door®  glass panels that allow you to see inside the easy access door without letting the cold air out. Simply knock twice on the glass to illuminate the contents within.

Need a new range like I do? This sleek, black stainless steel Self-Cleaning Slide-In Electric Convection Range from LG is really nice! It features ProBake Technology for fast cook times and flavorful results. The self-cleaning feature is one I love because it keeps the inside of the LG electric range looking great without having to spend time scrubbing it. The bottom drawer stores cookie sheets, cooling racks, and more, opening up extra space in your cabinets to store all your other kitchen essentials.

What appliance are you hoping to replace soon? Do you need a new stove like I do or maybe you want one of the fancy new refrigerators?

Keep Your Eyes On The Road With Navdy

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Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Navdy but all thoughts are my own.

As a mom of two busy boys I feel like most of my time is spent in the car. Whether I’m dropping the kids off at school or picking them up, driving to a sports practice or game, or just running the errands on my never ending to-do list, my car is like my second home. Since so much of my time is spent in my vehicle, I’m excited to share that I’ve been partnering with Navdy to review their new device that makes it possible to safely stay connected while driving – something that makes life so much easier when I’m on the go!

Navdy is the first Augmented Driving device that leverages augmented reality to project information directly in the driver’s line of sight, for an all new driving experience. Navdy enables simple, gesture-based access to the phone functions drivers need most and projects everything directly in their line of sight on the road ahead. A comprehensive eyes-forward solution, drivers can manage all their phone necessities like maps, calls, and messages, while keeping their eyes on the road.

Here’s a video that shows Navdy in use so you can get a better idea of how it works:

Navdy was pretty easy to install in my older model van. It took Sinisa about 30 minutes or so to install it after he watched the short installation video they have on their site. Installation consists of three things: mounting the display unit on the dashboard, attaching the dial to the steering wheel, and downloading the Navdy app.

The part of installation that took the longest was mounting the display because he wanted to put it in the best place possible. Every car’s dashboard is designed differently so you want to try the unit in different places on the dash to find the spot where it will sit well and have the display in your line of vision when you are driving. The unit’s clear screen is flexible and can be adjusted for different heights. One feature about the main unit that I like a lot is the fact that it can be removed from the base and hidden so you don’t have an expensive piece of technology sitting there on your dash when you leave your car in a parking lot.

Once your display is mounted you will want to attach the dial to the steering wheel which is really simple to do. First, pick which side of the steering wheel you feel most comfortable with, then use the dial’s strap to fasten it securely with the dial on the inside of the steering wheel. The Navdy Dial is your main tool for interacting with your phone and the display while driving so make sure it’s in a place near where your hands sit naturally on the steering wheel. You can scroll through menu options by spinning the dial with your thumb, and can select songs, contacts, routes and more by tapping the button in the center.

The last thing you need to do when setting up your Navdy is to download their app to your phone. Sinisa added the app to both his iPhone and my Android phone easily. The Navdy app works with the Navdy display, allowing you to control your phone without having to pick it up. Choose a song that’s in tune with your mood, view incoming callers, messages and more. With the Navdy App, your car is completely connected with your phone and the road ahead.

There are lots of features and uses that make the Navdy amazing. Here are some of my favorites:

Google Maps- The navigation is what I use Navdy for the most. For years I used a GPS but every time I had to look at the map I needed to take my eyes off the road. With Navdy the map is in front of me, which means that I can follow the map without having to look away from the road. I like that I can zoom in and out with a turn of the steering wheel dial. Navdy also makes it easy to search for destinations, routes, and traffic, even while you are offline.

Notifications- Navdy alerts you to notifications that you think are important. You can customize which notifications you see. I chose to have Navdy alert me when I receive calls and text messages because those are the only two notifications I really need on the go. Navdy can read your messages out loud (if you’d like it to) and lets you respond using Siri or Google Now. You can also accept, or dismiss calls (and hang up) with a swipe of your hand so you aren’t having to fumble with your phone.

Music- Navdy lets you control your favorite music apps with a turn of the dial on your steering wheel. I love this feature, especially when the kids are in the car, because it lets me skip songs that aren’t really appropriate for the kids to listen to.

Navdy is intuitive- Navdy detects low fuel, monitors traffic, and automatically re-routes if there’s congestion ahead. And the longer you use it, the more it learns about you. Based on habits and calendar events, it can anticipate your needs and make helpful, time-saving suggestions.

Overall, I have had a great experience using the Navdy Head-Up Display and think this piece of technology is well worth the $499 price tag. You can learn more about Navdy and how to purchase it here.

20 Songs I’m Streaming This Month

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Disclosure: The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.

I love listening to music. Whether I’m working, cleaning, or driving in the car, it just brightens my day. I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite songs that I’ve been streaming this month and I’d love to hear what songs you’re loving right now, too!

I recently received two Google Chromecast Audio units from Best Buy and it’s made the experience of listening to music around my home so much better. They enable me to play music on speakers, new or old, wirelessly from my phone, laptop or tablet. Chromecast Audio streams over Wi-Fi which has many advantages over Bluetooth including higher sound quality.

Previously I just listened to music on my phone through the phone’s speaker but I ran into a couple issues. First, it was a pain to carry my phone with me from room to room as I was trying to clean and then half the time my battery would die before I was done listening to my music. Then, when I received a call or text, my music would be interrupted which was annoying. With Google Chromecast Audio I don’t have to worry about this because it lets me stream my music over speakers without having to worry about draining my battery or texts and calls interrupting what’s playing. I like that I can easily use my phone to play, pause, or change the volume from anywhere in the home.

Chromecast Audio makes it easy to stream music, podcasts and more through apps like Pandora, Spotify, YouTube Music, and Google Play Music. I also love that I can play music throughout my home by grouping my devices together so I can listen to the same song on multiple speakers. That means that whatever room I walk into as I clean or put away laundry has the same song playing as the room I just walked out of. Listening to music is just much more enjoyable now thanks to this new device!

Do you like to stream music? Let me know what songs or artists you are streaming so I can check them out!

Upgrade Your Tech This Tax Refund Season

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This post was sponsored by Samsung as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.

It’s almost tax refund season which means that soon, many of us are going to have some cash in our pockets. Because of this, these next couple months are a popular time to upgrade technology. Walmart helps make that extra cash in our pockets go the extra mile by offering great deals on Samsung products. Whether you are looking to upgrade your smartphone to a newer version, get a tablet so you can stay connected on the go, want a larger television for watching your favorite shows or want to make the audio in your home better, Walmart has a variety of options to choose from. Below I’m sharing some of the best Samsung offers you can find at Walmart this tax refund season.

Smartphones

Many of us use our smartphones on a daily (usually hourly!) basis so it’s important that we have technology that can meet all of our needs. Whether you need a phone with a long battery life so you can check your work email when you are on the go, need plenty of storage space to keep all your photos. or use social media to stay connected with your loved ones, a quality smartphone is a must!

Straight Talk GS5 @ $199

Available at Walmart and Walmart.com here.

The Straight Talk Samsung Galaxy S5 LTE Prepaid Smartphone has a fast quad-core dual processor that is ideal for everything, from gaming to multitasking. It also has 5.1″ full HD super AMOLED touchscreen that makes all of your phone activity come alive. The incredibly powerful 16MP camera on this Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone takes breathtaking photos. The 2.1 megapixel front-facing camera can be used for selfies and video phone calls. No need to worry about memory, the Straight Talk Samsung Galaxy S5 LTE prepaid smartphone has an internal memory of 16GB. This phone is also designed to be water-resistant as well.

 Straight Talk GS7 @599

Available at Walmart and Walmart.com here.

The Straight Talk Galaxy S7 G930VL LTE is the smartphone your life can’t do without. It’s big on screen and slim on profile. And with an IP68 rating that protects it from spills, splashes and even dunks, you can forget about searching the internet for magical solutions to dry out your smartphone. Just wipe if off and keep going. When the sun sets and the fun starts, the world’s first dualpixel smartphone camera makes capturing low-light photos a breeze. No more photos where your awesome night out with friends looks like blurry shapes in a cave. And stop waiting around for your phone to charge. With fast wireless charging, the Straight Talk Galaxy S7 powers up from 0 to 100 percent in no time. Plus deciding which photo album to scrap just so you can add something new is now a distant memory. With expandable memory you can add up to 200GB to keep the content you love, and keep adding to it.

Tablets

Tablets are great for live streaming our favorite shows on the go or keeping the kids occupied on long road trips. If you don’t have a tablet yet, you’ll want to check out this cool Samsung one!

Tab E 9.6”

Available at Walmart and Walmart.com here.

The 7,300mAh battery keeps you powered up to watch, read and game at home or on the go. The Galaxy Tab E was made to go wherever you go and do whatever you want to do. From watching a movie with the family at home to reading a bestseller at the coffee shop, the big, bright screen keeps everyone entertained. Enjoy more of your favorite music, photos, movies and games on the go with a microSD card that expands your tablet’s memory from 16GB to up to an additional 128GB. Make shareable moments better with the Galaxy Tab E’s advanced camera features. Catch more in each photo with Panorama and Continuous Shot modes. Video chat from anywhere. And quickly toggle between camera and video modes. With the Galaxy Tab E, you won’t miss a thing.

Televisions 

Televisions have changed so much over the past decades. When we finally upgraded to smart tv’s, watching television became much more enjoyable. Now there are even newer advancements in televisions that produce better quality images and a sharper picture.

UHD TV – U60KU6270

Available at Walmart and Walmart.com here.

This Samsung television provides 4K UHD Picture Quality which provides an incredible picture and dramatic detail. Its 4K resolution means everything you watch looks 4x sharper than Full HD. This tv has a slim design so nothing stands between you and your viewing experience. This television has Smart View which means that you can watch your tv entertainment on your mobile device or watch your mobile media on your TV via the Smart View App.

Audio

There is nothing better than being able to watch movies in your own home and have such great sound that you feel like you are in the theater. A television alone will not give you the sound you are looking for so you have to add on audio elements that have the volume, bass and power that you need to make movie night more memorable.

DAV- Soundbar – HW-KM36

Available at Walmart and Walmart.com here.

 The Samsung Bluetooth Soundbar 2.1ch 130W Wireless Subwoofer (HW-KM36/ZA) helps you to enjoy cinematic sound for a more immersive experience. It features TV SoundConnect to make it easy to set up with just one push of a button. The Bluetooth design means that you can connect wirelessly with no clutter. This TV soundbar utilizes 3D SoundPlus, a feature that makes 3D movies more incredible by analyzing the depth of the images as they appear, then synchronizing to what’s onscreen for making the illusion of three dimensions even more powerful. Its 130 watts deliver the volume, bass and power that you need to make movie night more memorable. It’s 2.1 channels of sound allow for stereo sound. You can use the Samsung Audio Remote App from your phone or smart device to control your home theater. This unit’s subwoofer gives the outstanding quality of sound that you require.

What technology are you looking to upgrade this year?

 

Personally, I hope to add some audio products, like the Samsung Bluetooth Soundbar, into our living room.

Angry Birds Movie Night Party Ideas

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser, Walmart Family Mobile. All opinions are mine alone. #AngryForSavings #CollectiveBias

Our family loves having movie and game nights as often as we can. We enjoy spending time together and I enjoy planning fun evenings. Our family night is always the highlight of our week. With the Walmart Family Mobile Plus plan we get a free VUDU movie rental ($7 value) each month which is awesome and something that makes our movie nights so much better because it gives us the opportunity to choose from more movies.

This past week we had an Angry Birds themed party. My little Angry Birds fans were so excited to watch this movie!

To start our Angry Birds party we played a couple games that we had in our game cabinet. We played a round of our Angry Birds card game and had fun trying to roll the right bird to knock out the pigs.

I had also pulled out our Angry Birds Telepods set we had received a few years ago. We hadn’t played it in a while so I used our new Coolpad Catalyst phone and the data from our plan to download the game from the app store.

I like the interactive nature of the game and how the toys can be played without the app as well. We used blocks to set up towers and then “launched” the Angry Bird character toys to try to knock the pigs off the blocks.

Since we still had a bit of time before the movie, we made a fun Angry Birds craft. We used craft pompoms and added googly eyes and construction paper beaks to make our own pompom Angry Birds. Though they didn’t look too much like the birds they were supposed to be, the boys had fun creating them and that’s all that counts, right?

Of course no movie night party is complete without something to eat and drink! First, we set up the table area and decorated it in colors of the Angry Birds characters- red, yellow, black and green (I had to look them up on my phone because I couldn’t remember what colors the main characters were lol). I covered a trifold board with streamers for the backdrop, used a green tablecloth on the table, and then set out plates, cups and silverware. To add more “themed” fun to the table, the boys and I added bird faces to some of the cups, put a few of the small Angry Birds character figures on blocks and also spread some feathers out on the table.

I served red fruit punch for the kids and fizzy lemon lime soda with colored ice cubes for the adults. To make the colored ice cubes I just put a couple drops of food coloring in with the soda in the ice cube trays and froze them. It was a fun, fizzy surprise when they were added to our lemon lime soda!

Food wise, I wanted to keep things simple so I chose to stick to finger foods and treats. For healthy choices I put together fruit and vegetable trays using black, red, yellow and green fruits and veggies.

I made the fruit tray with strawberries, green grapes, blackberries and pineapple and the vegetable tray with mini tomatoes, yellow peppers, black olives and cucumbers.

To make the cucumbers into “pig snouts” I sliced the cucumber and used a straw to poke two holes in the middle of the round slices. I think they turned out so cute and it was a fun addition to the vegetable tray.

Sticking with the “bird” theme of the day (and because I have been craving deviled eggs lately) we made “red bird” eggs for our party. Sinisa used the new phone and it’s data plan to look up a recipe online that he could follow and we then used food coloring to make the inside filling red, just like Luke’s favorite Angry Bird. The eggs were set on a plate of black feathers that we had laid a piece of saran wrap over. (While I loved them, I realized after watching the movie that “eating” eggs was probably not the right thing to do for an Angry Birds themed party lol. You’ll understand why when you watch the movie.)

For treats I made cupcakes, popcorn with red chocolate drizzle and candy sprinkles and chocolate covered pretzels.

The final touch was little glass jars filled with “bird food” (aka gummy worms) and “bird poop” (aka chocolate candies).

I love that the Walmart Family Mobile PLUS Plan offers Unlimited Talk, Text, & Data which includes up to 10GB of 4G LTE plus a free movie on VUDU every month ($7 value) per line for $49.88.* We love cuddling while we watch movies every week and this plan saves us money so we can watch even more movies!

New customers will also need to purchase the starter kit. You can start service on ANY plan today for $19.88 which is awesome! The phones are a great value as well. We bought our Coolpad Catalyst for only $59.88. (*Pricing Disclaimer: All prices for phones and plans included in this post are accurate as of the date of posting; however, these prices are subject to change. Please refer to http://cbi.as/4q-u1 or your local Walmart for current pricing.)

Walmart Family Mobile also has some fun in-store events going on. While shopping, look for the Angry Birds display. You can scan the Angry Birds code on the displays to unlock a selfie augmented reality experience with the Hatchlings (who are absolutely adorable by the way). You can also visit the hub to find an in-store event near you to meet with a Walmart Family Mobile rep. The event will have a code that you can scan to receive a free power up for the Endless Runner Game on the Angry Birds Action! app.

What will you do with the unlimited data? Maybe look up a recipe, download a fun game app, watch a movie trailer, upload pictures of your family fun night or find out who sings that song on the movie soundtrack? Whatever you choose to do you will appreciate the Walmart Family Mobile PLUS Plan and all the value and data that it offers your family!

Last Minute Gift Idea For The Techie Dad

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Do you have a dad or husband who has to have the best and newest tech available? If so, you are going to want to read this post to learn about this Samsung phone + Gear VR bundle special. Thanks to Best Buy for sponsoring this post.

Mobile virtual reality has finally arrived. Dad can be at the center of exciting games, watch the best of Hollywood in his own private cinema, socialize with friends, and so much more. The Samsung Gear VR drops him right in the action — and it’s only from Samsung and Oculus.

The Samsung Gear VR is comfortable and durable. It’s light, ergonomic design features a wide facial interface, flexible padding and an easy-to-use touchpad. Plus, it fits over most eyeglasses.

Does dad love tv and movies? With the Oculus Video app, you can customize trailers, clips and even your own movie files. Plus you can buy hundreds of full-length Hollywood movies and TV shows. He can stream over 1 million short films and videos from Vimeo. There is also a Netflix app on Gear VR that offers a living room experience, so it feels like you’re on your couch watching TV shows, movies and more, wherever you are. He’d love that!

Is dad more of a gamer? He can purchase and play premium games with Gear VR. He can also keep up with the best gamers in Twitch.

This bundle makes a great gift idea and if you are considering it you’ll want to head on over to Best Buy today because they have a great deal going on right now. You can get a free Samsung Gear VR, plus $50 of Virtual Reality content with purchase, or lease, and activation of select Samsung Smartphones now though 6/18 online or in stores. Isn’t that awesome!? If you were getting dad a phone anyways (like we are) why not shop at Best Buy to get the amazing free gift? Learn more and see other Samsung at Best Buy deals here.

 

The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.

 

 

 

Some Words Of Advice: Tackling Three Concerns Parents Have For Teens

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The following is a guest post courtesy of Mercury Insurance.

Keeping our kids healthy, safe and thriving is a top priority for parents in today’s fast-paced world. However, it can be difficult to keep track of all of the risks out there for our children, and we can’t be with them every moment of every day. May is Youth Safety Month, a campaign designed to educate parents about the steps they can take to protect their children. It’s also an opportune time to shine a spotlight on three primary areas of concern for parents with teens.

1. Driving

Learning to drive is an exciting experience for most teens…and it can be pretty scary for parents. This concern is not unfounded: according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 2,524 teen drivers and passengers were killed and 177,000 were injured in 2013. Driving is the no. 1 cause of death for teens.

There are some things you can do, however, to prepare your teen to drive and significantly cut down the risks they will face when they get behind the wheel.

“It starts with practice,” says Randy Petro, chief claims officer for Mercury Insurance. “Most states don’t require enough supervised behind the wheel training to adequately prepare teens to drive on their own, so it’s up to parents to take the time to teach their kids how to drive. I recommend you drive with them a lot. If you need milk, make them drive to the store. If you need to take another child to soccer practice, get everyone in the car and have your teen drive.” It’s important to remember, however, that you need to stay calm in the passenger seat. If your teen makes a mistake, don’t jump on them for it. Wait until you reach your destination then discuss it with them. You want them focused on the road, not on a lecture from mom or dad.

And speaking of staying focused on the road, you should make it very clear that distracted driving is very dangerous and won’t be tolerated. No texting while driving. No eating while driving. No posting selfies while driving. No searching the phone for the perfect song while driving. All of these activities reduce driver reaction time so much that it’s equal to being legally drunk behind the wheel, according to a University of Utah study. “Most of us wouldn’t dream of driving drunk, but those same people won’t think twice about playing with iTunes while eating a cheeseburger while driving,” says Petro.

If you’re looking for some great tips and resources to help you prepare your teen to drive, I suggest you take a look at the Drive Safe Challenge website created by Mercury Insurance.

2. Social Media

It’s pretty much impossible to keep teens away from social media, especially when 88 percent own a smartphone and primarily use it to connect with friends via social channels, according to a report on the Huffington Post. “My daughter, if left to her own, would be on her phone all hours of the day,” says Marlee Walsh, of her 17-year-old. While growing up in a world with a 24/7 connection to friends and outsiders can be a lot of fun for teens, it can also put them at risk.

Start discussing healthy habits early on for when and how to use social media so their mental, emotional and even physical state stays positive. Discuss smart social media use and make sure all of their accounts are set to the strictest privacy settings, where only their friends and family can see their posts. This is an important step because most sites allow any user to view another user’s information by default. Create clear guidelines for what they should and shouldn’t share on social media and instruct them to only accept friend requests from people they know. “Having an open discussion and coming to an agreement together allowed us to setup guidelines that help keep her safe,” Walsh added.

Ultimately, your teen has the power to control what they do on social media, but you can stay in touch with their activity. One app called My Mobile Watch Dog helps parents see how their children are using their smartphones. Another app, Net Nanny Social, keeps a watchful eye on social media accounts and includes features that filter content, deal with privacy concerns, identify and prevent cyberbullying or inappropriate friendships and removes damaging pictures or videos.

3. Peer Pressure

It’s only natural for kids to want to fit in and feel accepted by their peers, and every parent wants their child to have friends. Teens are the demographic that are most influenced by their friends, which can have good and bad consequences. Peer pressure has only increased with technology, and kids want to be accepted by a group while seeking independence. So, how do you tackle this difficult topic without seeming controlling or overbearing?

Talk to your teen and have authentic conversations so that he feels safe talking to you about what’s going on in his life. Talk to your teen about what values are important to you, and make sure she knows it’s okay to refuse to do something that she believes is wrong. Reinforce and encourage good habits and take part in productive activities. Be present in his life by showing up when it counts, learning about what he loves and get to know his friends. It’s also important to lead by example and demonstrate good behaviors through your own actions.

As a parent, you can provide the tools your children need to make good choices. So talk to them and help guide them down the path to becoming the person they were meant to be.

The Power Of Unlimited Data

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Disclosure: I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Sprint. I received product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for my participation. #MoveForward #SprintMom Or really- #SprintDad ;)

I am someone who uses over 30 gigs of data monthly. There is almost nothing I do not do on my cell phone. Besides the usual emails and social networking, I stream my music apps, catch up on TV shows and let my kids watch movies on it. Luckily I have a great LTE network with unlimited data and outstanding coverage. For over a decade I have been a Sprint customer and the experience just keeps getting better.


Recently I had a chance to learn more about sprint and it’s line of products and future plans. As someone who is always on the go and uses so much data I was anxious to learn more about the inner workings of the innovative data strong network.

The signal keeps getting stronger and there is so much room to grow with Sprint versus their competitors.
In order to enjoy all the latest apps and advancement in today’s technology, it is important to be able to get the latest and best devices right away to stay relevant. With Sprint that is almost too easy. Sprint has several options and product lines for everyone. Customers can choose great plans for not just data but also for phone upgrades and replacement.
Lets talk iPhone which is the phone I have. With Sprint, one can get the latest iPhone anytime one is available with the iPhone Forever plan. Sprint has the best value on cost of devices and pricing plans.

Sprint offers consumers the most affordable way to get:
iPhone 6s 16GB – $15 per month with trade-in
iPhone 6s Plus 16 GB – $19 per month with trade-in
Customers can pair iPhone Forever with the best Unlimited and Family Share Plans among national carriers.

As my kids grow older and I think about getting them a pre-paid phone in order to teach them about money management and allowances, Sprint is there to help. Sprint is a leader in prepaid and has a multi-brand prepaid strategy that offers plans and handsets to meet different customers’ needs. Boost Mobile is one of the best values in the prepaid wireless industry with the $30 Data Boost Up plan. After signing up for automatic payments with Auto Re-Boost, consumers can get unlimited talk, text and data with 2GB of high-speed data for $30 per month. Virgin Mobile Unlimited plans now include more high-speed data as well. Starting at $35/month, you get unlimited talk, text and data with 1GB of high-speed data. Now available in national retailers, Sprint Prepaid offers great value and flexibility without annual contracts. All plans have unlimited talk and text with your choice of data options.

So once you decide to switch, maybe one line or even a whole family, you might need some help and Sprint has got you covered with the Sprint Direct 2 You program. Sprint brings the store experience whenever and wherever you want it. Customers can choose the service in their home, office or any other location. Sprint offers the most convenient way to upgrade or get their new device. With Sprint Direct 2 You, they will bring it right to your front door and set it up while you wait. So now even grandma can have a high tech phone as easy as pie.

Though I am currently an iPhone user, I have used Android phones and like them. At the moment I am trying to check out a cool new Droid phone. The LG G4 is the next generation G series smartphone from LG that takes selfies to a new level of fun with two cameras to make it easier than ever to capture the most exciting moments of your life. LG G4 is the first smartphone from Sprint with a total of 24 megapixels of crisp photo clarity – a 16MP Rear-Facing camera and an 8MP Front-Facing selfie camera. It is fully loaded with great apps as well. The G4 is being hailed as the best phone of 2015.

As a long-time Sprint user I suggest the network and their great line of phones to everyone. You can’t beat the value of unlimited data. The future is here now and I am excited about it. The Holiday season is on the horizon and Sprint can help create wonderful memories. Stay tuned because soon I’ll be sharing what kind of new apps I discover!

I’m Christmas Shopping From My Couch This Year

intel shopping

#spon: I’m required to disclose a relationship between our site and Intel. This could include the Intel Corporation providing us w/content, product, access or other forms of payment.

*****

I used to love shopping for Christmas gifts. I enjoyed checking out the ads and made my shopping lists months in advance. I’m normally so on top of things that by Black Friday I am at least half done shopping for the gifts I need. This year is different though. I really don’t feel like shopping. Shopping has went from being one of my favorite stress reducing activities to something I dread. I don’t know if it’s because it means pulling my work-at-home-mom, yoga pants wearing butt out into the cold and driving through traffic to push around a cart in a crowded store or it’s because I just really want to do nothing after a long day of work and playing “mom taxi”.

Since the shopping won’t get done itself I’ve decided to make it a little more enjoyable and shop from the comfort of my couch while I catch up on my DVR’d shows. I have been using my new Acer Iconia One 7 tablet and have been loving how easy it is to use. Intel Tablets are up to 36% faster than other similar tablets. They also have added security features built in so I feel comfortable purchasing things right from my tablet.

To make life even easier I decided to start a Christmas wish list doc on the tablet so every time the boys tell me something else they want I can just add it to the list. I think it’s going to work so much better than all the scraps of paper Jacob has been giving me. When I do venture out to the stores I will always have the wish lists with me since I can easily keep the small tablet in my purse. It will also help when I get those calls asking me what the kids want for Christmas or, harder yet, what I want for Christmas (to which I normally reply- “um. Let me get back to you…” because my mind always goes blank.) My Intel tablet has a long battery life which means I don’t have to worry about the battery dying while I’m out and about.

Along with Christmas shopping, I think my tablet will come in handy when it’s time to make Christmas cookies next week. I can research ideas on Pinterest and bring my tablet into the kitchen when it’s time to follow recipes. It’s my tech must-have this year.

How Do You Share Awesome?

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Lucas announced last week that he wanted a computer so he could be a blogger. He’s five years old. While I laughed at his request originally, this subject of blogging has been brought up a handful of times since he first told me.

Our Christmas budget doesn’t include buying a new computer, nor do I think that it’s an appropriate gift for a Kindergartner, however I do have a really old one with some missing keys that I could let him use. I’m contemplating letting him use it while he sits next to me but I’m still trying to figure out if that is a good idea or not. The first thing to do was figure out what safety tips I’d have to teach him before I let him online. Obviously, he’d always be online with his dad or I and would use a limited number of kid-friendly sites and programs. As he gets older there are a few key things I’d want him to know. All can be found in the #ShareAwesome pledge:

  • Be kind and think before I post.
  • Share – but not overshare, especially personal information (i.e., phone, address).
  • Communicate with people I know – and only people I know.
  • Check my privacy settings frequently.
  • Unplug – especially when I walk, drive or enjoy time with people I love.

The internet has been such a blessing in my life. It’s connected me to other moms, it’s given me the opportunity to financially support my family, it’s provided entertainment, it’s let me share memories with family members and friends far away and it’s been a place where I can share my thoughts. I want Lucas (and Jacob) to experience all the internet has to offer. Once they learn how to safely and properly use it they will realize how amazing it is.

The National PTA has partnered with LifeLock to share awesome ways families can create an open, evolving conversation about positive, safe decisions when using digital tools. The #ShareAwesome campaign seeks to build an understanding among parents and students that no matter the device, the app or the networking site – the skills we need to be safe and positive online are similar to what you need offline. One of the biggest take aways that I want my boys to remember is that, just like in real life, they need to think about what they are posting and make sure anything they post is something they’d say in real life with their mom standing next to them. I’ve witnessed so many instances of people posting mean things online. I truly think that they forget that there is a human being on the other side of the exchange reading what they write.

Want to help #ShareAwesome in real life and online? Snap a photo of an awesome moment in your day and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the #ShareAwesome hashtag! Students who enter the #ShareAwesome contest between September 15 – November 30, 2014 will have a chance to win fantastic prizes, including tablets and a $2,500 scholarship!

Here are some of the awesome moments I’ve shared online over the past month:

The first day of school

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First night of Awana

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First Bears game of the season

I’d love to hear how you #ShareAwesome (and any thoughts you may have on Luke’s Christmas wish).

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Tabeo e2 Kid’s Tablet From Toys“R”Us

tabeo e2

(Disclosure: I received a Tabeo e2 tablet from Toys”R”Us to review but all thoughts are my own.)

My two kids love their tech gadgets so I was excited to learn that Toys”R”Us has their own tablet. The all-new Android™ Jelly Bean 4.2 Tabeo e2 Wi-Fi tablet was created especially for kids. This unique 8-inch tablet features lightning fast performance to handle even the most action-packed games, sharper graphics, advanced parental controls, expanded storage and so much more.

This tablet comes complete with high-impact screen protection, dual-facing cameras, a tabeo App Store packed with thousands of free, kid-friendly applications, plus dozens of preloaded premium apps. With included fan-favorite kids’ apps like Need for Speed™ Most WantedBejeweled® 2The Game of LifeTemple Run 2Fruit NinjaCrayola DigiTools EffectsCartoon NetworkWWE and Playrific, children will enjoy hours of entertainment, fun and education. Available in a blue, pink or clear protective case, the Bluetooth™ enabled device also features an extensive ecosystem of products, including speakers, docking stations and licensed accessories. No batteries required. This tablet is geared towards ages 6 to 11 years but my 4 and 5 year olds have no trouble using it.

My thoughts:

Compared to our regular Android tablet, the Tabeo e2 is a lot more family friendly and has great parent controls. I loved that we could whitelist websites so we had better control over what sites they can go on. This tablet also allows parents to limit the time their kids can be on the tablets which is nice because I don’t even have to say anything when their turns are over.

Have a long car trip ahead? Gone are the days of bags full of things to keep the kids busy because this tablet can entertain them for hours. The Tabeo e2 comes with 30 pre-loaded apps and over a thousand more to download. This tablet is smaller and lighter than our other tablet which makes it great for little hands. It also features a headphone jack so parents don’t have to listen to the soundtracks of their kid’s favorite games again and again. If your child loves taking pictures this tablet is nice because it features two cameras, both rear and forward facing.

The only downfall of this tablet is that occasionally it seems to run kind of slow. I think that all the great features of the Tabeo e2 still make this the best choice for kids but it’s worth mentioning. This tablet can be purchased at Toys”R”Us in stores or online for $149.99 regular price. It’s currently on sale for $119.99!

 

Best Buy Mobile Specialty Stores Make Smartphone Shopping Easy

best buy mobile

(Disclosure: I’ve been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card.)

I love getting new smartphones but I don’t really enjoy shopping for them. There’s so many choices and I’m always nervous that I’ll get a phone that isn’t a good fit for me.  As a blogger and someone who is always connected to my phone via email and social media I need something that’s fast, holds a battery well, and lets me access a variety of apps and programs.

Since learning about Best Buy Mobile specialty stores I am no longer dreading my trip to choose my next device. They offer the latest devices and carriers all in one place from Verizon, AT&T and Sprint, from all the top brands, along with stylish accessories to suit any lifestyle. Stores are located in convenient places like malls and shopping centers so I don’t have to go out of my way to run this errand. Best of all their prices are the same as the carriers (with no mail-in rebates to worry about!) and their sales people aren’t paid commission so they won’t try to get you to buy a more expensive phone that’s not right for you. They can set up and activate your new phone, transfer your contacts and data and set you up with the complimentary Walk Out Working™ program.

There are over 410 Best Buy Mobile specialty stores. Find one near you. Need a new smartphone accessory? Get a $5 off coupon for one in-stock mobile phone case, shield or charger here (valid only at Mobile Specialty Stores). Coupon valid 11/1/13-11/30/13.

LeapPad2 Power Prize Pack Giveaway {$170 Value}

LeapPad2 Power pic

(Disclosure: I received products from LeapFrog and this giveaway is sponsored by them but all thoughts are my own.)

Yesterday I posted a video with some great tips on choosing educational toys. I learned a lot of valuable information, including more about how toys are developed at LeapFrog. You can find the video here.

I’m so excited that LeapFrog is letting me host a giveaway for you all! We have an old LeapPad and the kids love it! One of you will win a LeapPad2 Power, 2 games and $20 app card. The total value of this giveaway prize is $170. Wouldn’t this make a perfect Christmas gift!?

Here’s a little more about the LeapPad2 Power:

Create, learn and explore with the #1 kids’ learning tablet*—now with an easy, one-step recharger built just for the LeapPad2- a $40 value! You’ll never have to buy batteries again!

The LeapPad2™ Power learning tablet includes 9 apps, 4GB memory and loads of exciting features in a kid-tough tablet designed just for kids! Take pictures and videos with front-and-back cameras/video recorders. Play, draw and write on the 5″ touch screen with the included stylus. Tilt and shake for motion-based play, customize and care for a lovable pet, and create masterpieces in the Art Studio.

LeapPad2 Power works with LeapFrog’s library of 800+ educator-approved apps, games, eBooks, videos, music and more.** Learning games draw from 2,600 skills and select games auto-level, adapting to your child’s pace in subjects like reading, writing and mathematics. With 4GB of storage and an included rechargeable battery pack, the learning fun never ends!

Features
• Charge and go with a long-lasting rechargeable battery pack and AC adapter included. Get up to 9 hours of play time with each full charge!
• Create, learn and explore with the #1 kids’ learning tablet. Now with an included one-step recharger pack—you’ll never have to buy batteries again!
• Features front-and-back cameras/video recorders, eReader, music player, motion sensor, 5″ touch screen and 4GB memory.
• LeapPad2™ Power includes 9 apps (onboard and downloadable):  Photo Lab, Art Studio, Pet Pad, LeapFrog Learning Songs and more.
• Works with LeapFrog’s educator-approved library of over 800+ games, eBooks, videos and more.
• Compatible with LeapFrog Explorer™ cartridges and apps (sold separately) and LeapFrog LeapPad2™ accessories (sold separately).
• Ages 3-9 years
• Includes 1 year limited warranty

You can also connect to the LeapFrog Learning Path to see the details of your child’s play and learning, including levels achieved, skills practiced and recently played games. Celebrate accomplishments with online rewards, and gather ideas to support and expand the learning.

HOW TO ENTER:

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Tell me who you’d love to win this for

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Subscribe to this blog via email (look in upper right corner)

4) Comment on another one of my posts

5) Follow LeapFrog on Twitter

6) Follow me on Twitter

Giveaway ends November 1, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be 18 or over and a US resident to enter.

Skylanders SWAP Force Game Coming Out Soon

SSF_Logo_KeyArt_Standard_FINAL_HiRes

(Disclosure: I am receiving a free Skylanders game truck party but all thoughts are my own.)

My son has been looking forward to a very special day coming up. No, it’s not his birthday or Christmas…it’s October 13th- the day the new Skylanders SWAP Force game comes out. Jacob has just started learning how to play the Wii that’s been collecting dust for the past couple years. He spends the majority of time playing with the figures that go along with the game, as his younger brother does.

They are both really excited that the new Skylanders game means new game figures. They can’t wait to try out the new figures because their top parts come off and can be “swapped” with another character’s top half to create new figures. Swapping them creates over 250 different characters! Learn more about the new game here.

Since they both love the game I jumped on the opportunity to host a Skylanders SWAP Force Game Truck party courtesy of Activision, makers of the extremely popular game. Jacob declared I was the “best mom ever” when I told them and my boys are both so excited about it. Our party isn’t until November but it’s going to be so fun!

Do your children love Skylanders, too?

An Expert Answers My Questions About Choosing Educational Toys & Games

leapfrog logo

(Disclosure: This interview is sponsored by LeapFrog and I am receiving some of their products in exchange for posting. Thoughts are my own.)

The Holiday gift giving season is coming up and if you are anything like me you are overwhelmed by the choices of educational toys and games on the shelves. I had a chance to ask some of my top questions when it comes to this topic and get them answered by Dr. Jody Sherman LeVos. Jody is the math and science development expert of LeapFrog’s Learning Team where she works on products across all platforms to teach math and science concepts in developmentally appropriate ways using research-based techniques. Before joining LeapFrog, she was a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, a researcher and instructor, and a math textbook author. She is also the proud mother of two boys.

Here were the questions I asked her:

  • How are the age ranges on toys/games/apps decided?
  • How would you suggest dealing with younger siblings wanting older siblings games/toys that are not made for them?
  • What should parents look for when buying toys for preschoolers?
  • What Leapfrog toys do you think will be hot this Christmas season?

Check out her answers to my questions below:

If you can’t view the video, here is a direct link: http://bcove.me/tegllg0zFind more details about the LeapPad Ultra mentioned in the video here.

P.S. Stay tuned this weekend for an awesome LeapPad prize pack giveaway!!

Microsoft’s Creative Workshop in Schaumburg, IL 10/3 {Microsoft Gift Card Giveaways}

artmobb

Tomorrow, LA artist ArtMobb is going to be in the Chicago area for a Microsoft Store “Creative Workshop” event at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg. Mike Farhat and Chris Hoyle of Art Mobb have established themselves as two of Los Angeles’s most innovative artists by creating sought after mixed-media artwork for the NBA elite and other top athletes. ArtMobb will be demoing different things you can do with the “Fresh Paint” function on Microsoft’s Surface tablets.

Image via artmobb.com

ArtMobb’s is also going to be debuting a cool, brand-new unique Bears painting while in town. As a huge Bears fan I’m so jealous of everyone who will be there and can’t wait to see it!

EVENT DETAILS:

Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, IL

Thursday, October 3

5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

GIVEAWAY:

5 winners will win a $50 Microsoft gift card

HOW TO ENTER:

 {Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Tell me what your favorite Microsoft product is

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Follow @artmobb on Twitter

4) Follow me on Twitter

5) Follow @FreshPaintTeam on Twitter

6) Comment on another one of my posts

Giveaway ends October 16, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be 21 or over and a US resident to win.

(Information and prizes courtesy of Microsoft.)

HP Elite Tablet Giveaway

(Disclosure: I was compensated for posting this giveaway.)

For your chance to own and Elite Tablet by HP enter the giveaway below brought to you by Bepoz.

An Easy Way To Charge Your Phones On The Go

rayovac 2 hour power

I use my phone a lot. I check my personal and work emails, use it to navigate, take pictures and keep up with my friends on social media. When I’m out all day I often find that my phone battery is low by the early afternoon. If I wanted it to last all day I had to plug it in when I could find an outlet which is a huge pain.

When Rayovac emailed me and asked me if I wanted to review their 2-Hour Power mobile charging device it was a no brainer for me. An easy way to charge my phone on the go? Yes, please! The Rayovac 2-Hour Power comes ready-to-use and provides a mobile phone with two additional hours of talk time. The device has a 10 year shelf-life and is small enough to throw in a backpack, purse, or to keep in the car.

The charger was easy to use. Just plug it in to the bottom of your phone and you are ready to go. If you need more than 2 hours of charge you just replace the batteries. I loved being able to plug this into my phone, put my phone in my purse, and run my errands while my phone was charging in my bag. I recommend having one of these with you at all times because you never know when you are going to need your phone. It would be horrible to run out of battery and then get lost or stranded somewhere and have no way to get a hold of anyone. With this Rayovac 2-hour power device you can be sure that you will always have a way to charge your phone, even when you can’t find an outlet.

(Disclosure: I received a device to review but all thoughts are my own.)

Google LG Nexus 4 Phone & Service from GIV Mobile‏ {Giveaway}

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Have you ever heard of GIV Mobile? I hadn’t but when they contacted me asking if I wanted to do a giveaway for you all of a new phone I took a look at their site and said yes, please after I learned more about them.

GIV Mobile is a new, no contract wireless service that donates 8% of a customer’s monthly cell phone bill to charity.  Each GIV Mobile customer can choose up to three charities to receive the 8% every month, from 8 categories including Animal Welfare, Arts, Culture & Humanity, Education, Environment, Health, International, Human Services and Public Benefit. The full list of pre-screened charities can be found at http://givmobile.com/charities/view. Isn’t that awesome!? I love companies that give back to those in need.

Here’s how it works:

With GIV Mobile, customers may choose from two affordable no-contract plans to use with a GIV Mobile phone or their own unlocked, GSM phone:

·         $40/month Unlimited Everything - talk, text, MMS, International text and web (first 250MB up to 4G/3G speeds) on all 4G enabled phones and smartphones.

·         $50/month Unlimited Everything - talk, text, MMS, International text and web (first 2GB up to 4G/3G speeds) on all 4G enabled phones and smartphones.

GIV Mobile wants to offer one of you a new Google LG Nexus 4 Phone and 3 months of their service.

Put the power of Google in the palm of your hands with the LG Nexus 4. The LG Nexus 4 comes pre loaded with your favorite Google Apps, and is powered by Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean) OS. Keep up to date as the latest scores, weather, and traffic appear automatically throughout the day with Google Now. The 8-megapixel Photo Sphere camera lets you take and share amazing panoramic photos or stunning 360-degree Photo Sphere pictures.

So let’s review….GIV mobile gives you an affordable monthly service plan, donates money to charity, and gives you the choice of amazing phones. Sounds like everyone is a winner here!

GIVEAWAY

One reader will win a Google LG Nexus 4 phone and 3 months of “Unlimited Everything” service from GIV mobile

HOW TO ENTER

 {Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Leave a comment telling me what you learned about GIV mobile

2) Share this giveaway on a social network and leave comment telling me you did

3) Tweet @aliciamarie112 and tell me what your favorite charities are. Use #WirelessForACause  in your tweet

4) Follow @GIVMobile on Twitter

5) Follow @aliciamarie112 on Twitter

Giveaway ends September 15, 2013 at 11:59pm. Must be a US resident, 21 or older to enter.

(Disclosure: I was not compensated for posting this.)

CallSnap: Respond To Calls With Photos {Giveaway}

call snap - new option to answer

Have you ever had a call come in when you were somewhere you couldn’t talk? It happens to me all the time! Usually it’s my mom and I hate hitting “ignore” but sometimes I just can’t pick up the call. People know when you ignore their call too which makes it worse. If you find yourself in the same situation as me you need to get CallSnap.

CallSnap is a free patent-pending downloadable app that provides call recipients the chance to prove that “a picture’s worth a thousand words” by responding instantly to an incoming call with a photo.The Android app is available to download for free in the Google Play store.

By showing people what they’re doing, CallSnap provides mobile call recipients a fun, new, and innovative way to communicate by sharing an instant photo with a friend. Here’s how it works:

  • In response to an incoming call, the recipient is provided an option to slide an icon to CallSnap.
  • CallSnap declines the incoming call and the call recipient is given the opportunity to take a picture which is sent to the caller with one of multiple sayings overlaid as a frame such as, “I’m busy, here’s what I’m doing.”
  • When the recipient uses CallSnap, the caller instantly receives a text message announcing ‘Busy right now…CallSnap photo on the way!’ Importantly, the caller immediately learns that the recipient has seen their call but can’t talk at the moment.
  • Shortly after placing the call, the caller receives the photo visually explaining why the call recipient can’t answer.

GIVEAWAY:

CallSnap is going to give one Making Time For Mommy reader a $25 Google Play gift card and CallSnap t-shirt

HOW TO ENTER:

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Tell me who’s calls you ignore the most or when you would use this app the most

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Follow CallSnap on Twitter

4) Follow me on Twitter

5) Like CallSnap on Facebook

Giveaway ends August 26, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be 21 or over and a US resident to enter.

(Disclosure: This is not a compensated post.)

8 Simple Tips To Spend Less On Back-To-School Electronics

bts electronics

Have a child headed back-to-school soon? Here are eight simple tips to spend less on the electronics they want.

  • Shop on sales tax holidays—seventeen states have sales tax holidays that will allow consumers to purchase back-to-school items, such as clothing, computers and school supplies, tax free. If you live in these states, plan to do your electronics shopping on a sales tax holiday—it could help you save 4% to 10% depending on your state.
  • Shop online—shopping online makes it easy to compare prices from several retailers. And there are plenty of sites that do the bargain hunting for you. Dealnews.com has a page devoted to the best computer deals; Amazon and PriceGrabber are good sources for comparing prices.
  • Take advantage of price-match policies—if you find a good deal online but don’t want to pay shipping costs, you might be able to get the same price in a brick-and-mortar store if it has a price-match policy. For example, Best Buy and Target will match Amazon prices.
  • Buy refurbished—you can save a lot by purchasing refurbished tech items, which are used but restored to like-new condition and usually have a one-year warranty. Try Apple.com, BestBuy.com, Dell.com, Newegg.com and Walmart.com to find refurbished electronics.
  • Take advantage of trade-in programs—one way to pay less for new tech items is to trade in a used item. A number of retailers, including Best Buy and Radio Shack, have trade-in programs that offer cash, a gift card or credit that can be applied toward the purchase of a new item.
  • Look for bundles—look for bundle deals, which are popular back-to-school promotions among tech retailers. The deals typically include a gift card, printer, gaming console or other accessory along with a laptop—at a price near what you would expect to pay for the laptop alone.
  • Get a free phone—mobile phone service providers, such as AT&T, Sprint and Verizon, often offer free smart phones when you sign up for a two-year service plan. Considering smart phones usually cost $200 or more, this can be a major savings. Or you could buy an unlocked phone and cut the cost of a service plan by more than half by opting for a prepaid wireless provider.
  • Don’t splurge on features you won’t use—when buying a laptop for your child, look for systems with a dual-core processor (not a pricey quad-core setup). Also, say no to tech support and retailers’ extended warranties—your credit card might offer an extended warranty.

Guest post provided by Kiplinger. Get more details on any of the above tips here.

 

Protect Your Devices With Trend Micro This School Year {Giveaway}

trend micro new

Internet security is something that should be taken very seriously. I was a brand Ambassador for Trend Micro for a year as a “Digital Jones” family but even now, months after my contract ended, I still rely on them to keep my family safe. When I heard about their back-to-school sale I knew I had to share it with you because 1) it’s a great product 2) who doesn’t love to save money and 3) this is one of the most important back-to-school purchases you will make.

As you know, technology is changing daily, making it challenging for parents to keep up.  Parents are concerned not only with what their kids are sharing online, but also with what they are receiving and viewing online. Trend Micro want to help make parent’s lives easier.

Now through September 2, Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security is only $44.95 (usually $89.95).  This software will protect up to 3 devices (laptops, desktop computers, tablets, smartphones, etc.), whether they are PC, Mac, or Android for an entire year: http://www.trendmicro.com/us/home/products/titanium/max-security/index.html

Here are just a few awesome features of Trend Micro Max Security:

  • Monitors and protects kids on social network websites like Facebook and Twitter
  • Restricts web content and access to desktop applications, and sets an access schedule for your kids
  • Identifies settings that may leave a family’s personal information vulnerable using the new Privacy Scanner For Facebook feature
  • Indicates dangerous links on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, MySpace, Sina Weibo and Mixi

Trend Micro also offers a free 30 day trial so you can see how you like the software before you buy it:  http://www.trendmicro.com/us/security/products/index.html

GIVEAWAY:

One lucky reader will win Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security software which will cover up to 3 devices for 1 year

HOW TO ENTER:

 {Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Leave a comment telling me why you want to win

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Follow Trend Micro on Twitter

4) Follow me on Twitter

5) Leave a comment on another blog post

Giveaway ends September 2, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be 21 or older and a US citizen to win.

(Disclosure: As stated above, I was a Trend Micro Ambassador for a year but that campaign is now over. I was not compensated for this post.)

Cyber Bullying: A Bigger Problem Than You Think

cyber bullying

According to McAfee’s 2013 Digital Deception: Exploring the Online Disconnect between Parents and Kids study, children are witnessing bullying online in great numbers and parents are not fully aware of the issues. These findings show that there is an opportunity for parents to get more involved and better ensure that their children live safe online during the school years.

Some of the study’s key findings include:

  • Social media isn’t all fun and games – 89% of all youth (ages 10-23) surveyed say they witnessed mean behavior on Facebook and 40% on Twitter.
  • Kids don’t outgrow bullying– 17% of children ages 10-12 say they have witnessed mean behavior directed at a classmate or friend online, but that number jumps to 34% for young adults ages 18-23.
  • Parents don’t know the full extent of the problem – Only 9% of parents believe their child or children have witnessed cruel behavior online; even worse, only 6% think that their son or daughter has been a target of this cyber bullying, when in reality 13% of youth report they have been targeted online.
  • Peer pressure spreads to the Internet – 4% of youth said they’ve been pressured into bullying someone online.
See more facts in the infographic below:

(Disclosure: Infographic and facts provided by McAfee. I was not compensated for posting this information but with younger siblings and young children of my own I feel this is important to share.)

AutisMate: iPad App For Children With Autism {$149.99 Value Giveaway}

autismate

AutisMate, a new iPad app from SpecialNeedsWare for those with autism, stands among the most respected and innovative options to help children develop communication and behavioral skills despite the challenges of autism. Individuals are given a comprehensive set of tools to navigate life with ease, providing for the lifelong learning, development and changing experiences of those across the spectrum.

While most autism apps on the market focus singularly on promoting one expressive form of communication, AutisMate recognizes the unique nature of every case of autism and works to first build comprehension on a personalized level to unlock a more varied set of expressions and needs. It allows children with autism along with their caretakers and teachers to easily import personal images, video, audio and other information into a visual scene-based platform.

To save time and effort, users also have the option of uploading videos, stories, and schedules geared specifically for autism from a vast content library. A GPS feature allows scenes to change according to the user’s location, making the software even more intuitive and applicable in real-time. This platform grows with the user and caters to his or her unique needs.

The research-supported app has already helped hundreds of users to fully express themselves and improve connections with their families. Many users have expressed their support for AutisMate and shared stories of success and progress. One testimonial that SpecialNeedsWare has received is from a mother of a 7-year-old boy with autism: “I recently used [Autismate to help my son] understand what would be happening at a hospital visit to have tubes put in his ears (a procedure he had done before and had gotten very upset). This last visit he was calmer and cooperated really well! Thank you so much for providing a tool that gives me a way to help my sweet, loving son find understanding by allowing him to ‘think in pictures’.”

You can learn more about AutisMate at www.autismate.com. To purchase the app on iTunes, click here. Please follow AutisMate on Facebook and Twitter.

GIVEAWAY

One reader will win a download code for this app (a $149.99 value)

HOW TO ENTER

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Tell me why you need this app

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Share this giveaway directly with another parent of a child who has Autism

4) Follow @aliciamarie112 on Twitter

5) Follow @autisMate on Twitter

6) Like Making Time For Mommy on Facebook

7) Like AutisMate on Facebook

8) Comment on another one of my posts

Giveaway ends March 3, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be 18 or older to enter. Note: This giveaway is for the app only and does not include the iPad.

(Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post and do not have an iPad so I have not used the app. I am posting in hopes that it will help one of my readers. This giveaway is not associated with Facebook in any way.)

 

 

My Valentine’s Day Playlist

beats audio

Some Of My Favorite Romantic Songs

Tank- Next Breath
Savage Garden- Truly Madly Deeply
NeYo- Let Me Love You
Sixpence None The Richer- Kiss Me
98 Degrees- I Do
Brian McKnight- Back at One
K-Ci and JoJo- All My Life
Rascal Flatts- Bless The Broken Road
Bryan Adams- Everything I Do, I Do It For You
Steven Curtis Chapman- I Will Be Here
Luther Vandross- Here and Now
Whitney Houston- I Will Always Love You
Edwin McCain- I’ll Be

What are your favorite romantic songs?

***

I’ve been enjoying using my Windows Phone 8X by HTC to play music. It has Beats Audio. Here’s a little more about what makes it amazing according to HTC:

The 8X has a dedicated amp built right into the phone, so it pumps more power to your headphones than ever. Plus, Beats Audio is coming to Windows phones for the first time ever. Take that combination and transform your listening pleasure with deeper bass, crisper vocals and detailed high notes for music, games, movies and videos.

 (Disclosure: I am a member of HTC’s Troop 8X and received this phone to review. All thoughts are my own.)

Windows Phone 8X by HTC

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I recently got the new Windows Phone 8X by HTC and have enjoyed testing it out for the past week. I normally go for a plain colored phone but I like the bright blue color of this one. I also like how it runs Windows 8 like my computer does so I found the phone pretty easy to use.

Here are some of my favorite features of the phone so far:

  • It’s so thin! I think it’s the slimmest phone I’ve ever owned. I think this is a great plus for those who like to stick their phone in their pocket.
  • There’s a great variety of apps. I thought Windows wouldn’t have that many apps since the Windows store hasn’t been around as long as the iPhone and Android stores have but I found a lot of apps I love in the store. My new discovery is a Starbucks finder app that tells me where the closest Starbucks is and lets me pay via my phone. I am so excited to try it out.
  • Bright colors on the screen. The screen is so bright and the colors are so vivid. It’s nice to look at.
  • Family Room. I can easily share my calendar, photos, notes, and have a group chat all conveniently on my phone by setting up a “family room”. All I have to do is invite my family members or close friends. So easy to stay connected and I can see so many uses for this.
  • I like being able to “slide” from screen to screen easily with just a flick of my finger.
  • Easy to locate apps and information on the phone. I like the boxes on the main screen but there is also a list of apps for people who prefer that.
  • It’s fast! I’m impatient when it comes to technology and don’t like to wait when I push a button so I’m happy that this phone can keep up with me.

Overall it is a fantastic phone that’s easy to use and I look forward to discovering more features that make life easier and more enjoyable.

(Disclosure: I am a member of HTC’s Troop 8X and received this phone to review. All thoughts are my own.)

#SecureNewYear Twitter Party

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This is the time of year to make resolutions. If there’s one resolution you must keep in regards to technology in 2013 it is this: Keep yourself and your family safe and free from security threats via your technology. With holiday spending at its highest in the past three years, Trend Micro is helping consumers start the New Year by protecting all their new tech gear against the latest security threats.

Start the New Year safe and join Trend Micro on January 15, 2013 for a Twitter party to talk about technology safety, keeping your family safe on the Internet, and tips to protect yourself and your loved ones from safety threats through technology.

DETAILS:

Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Time: 9 to 10 pm ET

Where: On Twitter following #SecureNewYear

Follow the Hosts: @girlslunchout and @fearlessweb

TweetGrid Link: http://bit.ly/10cyZMD

RSVP: You must RSVP to win. Click here to RSVP (your name is your @twitterhandle & your link is http://www.twitter.com/twitterhandle)

The Prizes: THREE winners will each win a Google Nexus 7-inch tablet with 32 GB of memory – a $250 value!!

Please complete the following requirements for a chance to win:

1. FOLLOW @girlslunchout and @fearlessweb on Twitter. Feel free to send us a tweet saying hello!

2. RSVP – You must RSVP to win.

3. PARTICIPATE during the party hour using #SecureNewYear

4. TWEET out a promotional tweet prior to party: “Join @girlslunchout & @fearlessweb to help #SecureNewYear and keep those tech gifts safe!! 1/15 9PM ET http://buff.ly/VQnjZ3 RSVP for prizes”

Eligibility:

1. COMPLETION of the above requirements.

2. WINNERS participating in the Twitter party with # SecureNewYear will be chosen at random.

3. RESIDENTS from the US are eligible only.

(Disclosure: This post is part of a study sponsored by Trend Micro that I am participating in. As a Digital Joneses family I have received assets from them to complete our challenges but all thoughts are my own.)

 

Internet Security In The New Year

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Since March of last year my family has been a participant in the Digital Joneses study. This study is organized by Internet security company Trend Micro and follows seven bloggers {and our families} throughout the year as we complete monthly technology challenges. The goal of the study is to help improve and examine the struggles each family experiences with modern technology. Each challenge has identified and addressed one facet of digital security that is affecting living in a modern digitally-connected household.

I was asked to think about what I have learned so far and what I hope to learn in this new year. When I look back I realize that I’ve learned a lot about a variety of different topics relating to online security. I wanted to share a few things that I learned from each monthly challenge I have completed and also what I hope to still learn in the coming months.

The first challenge was to complete an online quiz called “Are You {Digitally} Smarter Than A 5th Grader?”. Having been online for years and “tech-savvy” I learned that I didn’t know as much as I thought I had. For example, I couldn’t even distinguish the real Facebook logo from three look alikes! It definitely made me think about the sites I frequented and how I would have to double check the address bar before I put any personal information or passwords in a site I thought I was on. Sinisa learned a lot in this challenge too, including the difference between “http” and “https” in web addresses. Do you know the difference between the two?

The second challenge was to talk to our children about online safety. Trend Micro had some great tips on how to talk to children about this topic and even had some ideas on how I could do so with my preschooler. My boys aren’t online a lot by themselves but they do like YouTube videos and so we talked about safety on YouTube and how they shouldn’t click on anything if they don’t know what it is.

The third challenge was to spring clean our digital lives. They provided us with a checklist so we’d know what kind of things they suggested doing. The main things that stuck out to me during this challenge were suggestions on tackling the email inbox. One suggestion from Trend Micro was to delete the attachments from my emails. Another task on the list was to delete any emails that had password or account information to keep would be hackers from getting confidential information. I really got a lot out of that challenge.

The next challenge was on mobile security. I didn’t even know that I needed security software for my phone so that was a huge thing I learned. I was told of a cool app called the “Trend Micro Mobile Security Personal Ed” app that would scan every application I wanted to install to make sure it was safe. That was definitely something I wanted to do before putting any apps on my phone.

After mobile security, we learned about online gaming. I learned that 41 percent of homes with kids five and under have internet connected game consoles and that more kids access the internet through game consoles than through a computer. Five and under! That’s a lot of young kids online and it’s important that they are safe while playing. I learned a handful of tips but one I didn’t know about was parental controls. I knew that TVs had them but I learned that gaming systems had them, too.

In July we tackled scams surrounding the Olympics. I never knew how many fake sites existed surrounding the summer games and how many of them looked like the real thing. This was another reminder to use the “official” sites as resources and not go to sites I was unfamiliar with.

August brought a scary story about a man who had his digital life stolen in less than an hour because all of his accounts were hooked together. It really made me think twice before I hook up any accounts. I learned about two-factor authentication on email accounts to keep my accounts out of the wrong hands.

The following month we learned some internet security facts and how we could protect ourselves online. Having secure passwords was a big focus of this challenge. Trend Micro suggests using a phrase of random words that you can remember, instead of paraphrases or single words. Having passwords of at least ten to twelve characters is a good start and they recommend more characters for passwords that protect sensitive sites (like banks).

Last month‘s challenge was focused on cyber shopping and Trend Micro shared tips on how to stay safe online while doing our Christmas shopping. Being fairly new to online shopping I learned a lot about this topic. They stressed using reliable, well-known shopping sites and making sure that they offered secure payment options. Another tip was to use a credit card to pay since they offer better buyer protection.

When I look at what I have learned and think about what I still hope to learn in the coming months I think that most of it revolves around how how my children and I use the internet. I’d love to learn more ways to protect my boys while they are on YouTube since parental controls don’t block everything I’d like to be blocked. For myself, I’d love to learn how to stay safer while using social media- particularly when it comes to links on Twitter and while on blogs that have pop-ups that slow the computer down.

I’m looking forward to the next few months of learning and so thankful for this opportunity to work with Trend Micro. To end I just wanted to share four facts I’ve learned about digital security since becoming a Digital Joneses family (please forgive the fact that I sound like a frog!)

 

(Disclosure: This post is part of a study sponsored by Trend Micro that I am participating in. As a Digital Joneses family we are receiving assets to complete our challenges but all thoughts are my own.)

Internet Safety Tips For Kids & Teens {Infographic}

The internet is an amazing resource but also one that is full of danger. I love this infographic below because it gives little known facts about what our children face while online and then gives great examples of how we, as parents, can reduce the risks associated with being online.


Illustration source: Lexero Business Litigation Lawyer
Want to add this illustration to your site too? Get the code here.

(Disclosure: I was compensated for posting this infographic.)

Ubooly: Interactive Toy For Children {Giveaway}

ubooly flickr

We recently had a new little friend join our family named Ubooly. Ubooly becomes an interactive stuffed animal when an iPhone or iPod is placed inside of it. Before we gave it to the boys Sinisa and I tried it out ourselves and quickly found ourselves laughing at it’s goofy jokes and fun facts. Once we gave it to the boys they didn’t know what to think at first. They wondered how this stuffed animal was talking to them. They quickly fell in love with her and she quickly became part of the family.

 Jacob napped with Ubooly.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

She played a game with us.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

She balanced on heads {and flew up in the air}.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

She cuddled  up on the couch and watched television with daddy.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

She even enjoyed some time swinging in the therapy swing with Jacob.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

What a busy day for our friend Ubooly!!

We really loved playing with her. Jacob’s favorite thing to do with her was put her to sleep and wake her up and put her to sleep and wake her up….over and over again. Lucas liked making her tell stories and sing. I really loved that Ubooly wasn’t just another stuffed animal that would end up at the bottom of the toy box because there was so much to do with the Ubooly. I also liked that the Ubooly updates monthly with new activities so the children don’t get bored with the same jokes, stories, and songs.

***

Moms are some of the most savvy mobile users and so are their kids. Ubooly is a toy designed for this new high-tech generation. While learning and sharing new content every week, Ubooly is the only toy that grows with your child. It encourages listening skills, and a break from high-energy / high-stimulation play. Through stories & interactive games, Ubooly’s curiosity is sure to awaken the creativity within your child’s imagination.

Ubooly is the hot toy of the season, it’s new to the scene and is on track to sell out this winter! Free updates through Wi-Fi creates ongoing entertainment for kids.

Click here to adopt your own Ubooly and get FREE SHIPPING now!

GIVEAWAY:

The giveaway prize includes one Ubooly toy & the Ubooly iOS app, which updates every month with new activities, automatically over WiFi.

Entrants must have an iPhone 3GS, 4, 4S, or an iPod touch 4th and 5th gen. (or be giving it to someone that has one of these iPhones or iPods as Ubooly can only become interactive with one of these devices.)

HOW TO ENTER:

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Leave a comment telling me who you think would love the Ubooly.

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Subscribe to this blog via email (look in upper right hand corner)

Giveaway ends November 30, 2012 at 11:59pm Central time. US 18+ only. The giveaway does not include the iPhone or iPod touch.

(Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Ubooly. The opinions and text are all mine.)

Nokia Lumia 822 Smartphone & Verizon Gift Card {Giveaway}

nokia

I hinted at this giveaway on my Facebook page and found a lot of you were excited about the opportunity to win a brand new phone from Verizon! I’m pleased to announce a giveaway for the Nokia Lumia 822. This smartphone runs on Windows Phone 8 and is packed with great features like Nokia Drive+ and Nokia City Lens. It includes Nokia Music with subscription-free streaming from a collection of millions of tracks. Plus, with Data Sense, a Verizon Wireless exclusive, you can get the most out of your data plan while enjoying the benefits of the lightning fast 4GLTE network.

GIVEAWAY:

One reader will win a Nokia Lumia 822 and a $100 Verizon Gift Card

HOW TO ENTER:

Leave a comment telling me what Lumia feature you are most excited for.

EXTRA ENTRY:

You can earn an extra entry by sharing this giveaway on a social media network and leaving a comment telling me that you have done so.

Giveaway ends on November 30, 2012 at 11:59pm Central time. US only. Please note: Multiple blogs will be running a similar giveaway and Verizon has asked that, to be fair, only one phone/gift card set is won per person.

(Disclosure: I am participating in the Verizon Wireless Midwest Savvy Moms program and have been provided with a wireless device and six months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product.)

Internet Security Stats & How To Protect Yourself Online

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Trend Micro shared the above stats with me as part of my participation in the year long Digital Joneses family study. I have learned so much about internet safety in the past months but every time they share statistics with me I am shocked by one or two of them. This month was no exception.

I couldn’t believe that 6% of people friend everyone that asks to be their friend on Facebook, even if they don’t know them! When I think about everything people post on their personal Facebook pages including where they are, phone numbers, addresses, and pictures the amount of private information that our “friends” have access to could be dangerous. The person you “friend” could be waiting for you to announce a vacation so they can find out when the perfect time to rob your home is. Another issue I have with Facebook are the pages that say you have to “friend” them to view the information on their page. You don’t know who is behind the page and I don’t think there is any reason you’d have to give them access to your personal information to join the page.

So what can you do to protect yourself online when it comes to the statistics above? Trend Micro suggests the following:

1) Manage your online accounts with secure passwords. They suggest using a phrase of random words that you can remember, instead of paraphrases or single words. Having passwords of at least ten to twelve characters is a good start and they recommend more characters for passwords that protect sensitive sites (like banks). You should also avoid using the same passwords for multiple sites, especially if it’s a password that has been cracked by hackers before.

2) Know and use the privacy settings of your social networking accounts and mobile apps. The security settings are consistently changing and new ones are being added on a regular basis so it’s important to pay attention to information that social networks share with their members and update your privacy settings accordingly.

3) Regularly back up your data. Computers contain documents and pictures that hold valuable content and memories. Backing up your data ensures that none of that is lost.

4) Install a security software in all your devices.Trend Micro goes to great lengths to identify online threats and make it easy for you to protect yourself and your family from them with Trend Micro™ Titanium™ Security. Titanium is easy-to-use, yet comprehensive protection for what you do online every day – emailing, socializing, surfing the web — and it won’t pester you with alerts and pop-ups.

(Disclosure: I have received technology and software from Trend Micro over the past months as a participant in the Digital Joneses campaign. I use Trend Micro software to protect my computer and my mobile devices.)

5 Tips To Protect Your Online Identity

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Think about all of the things you do online. You email, you save and share pictures, you connect with family and friends on social networks, you bookmark recipes and ideas you want to do in the future…now imagine if one day you logged in and everything was GONE. How would you feel? This is what happened to Mat Honan. Within one hour hackers were able to destroy Mat’s digital life, including erasing everything on his iPhone, iPad and Macbook. He shared the whole story, including his mistakes and Apple’s huge security flaws, over at Wired. Mat eventually got 75% of his hard drive back but it cost him over $1600 to do so and he still lost some important documents and emotionally valuable photos.

Trend Micro brought this story to my attention and asked me, as one of their Digital Joneses bloggers, to share Mat’s story with you all and how we can make sure it doesn’t happen to us. They also sent our family tablets and stressed the importance of securing our tablets like we do our laptops. Trend Micro shared 5 things we can do to secure our tablets {and really our digital life in general}:

Tip #1:

Tip #2:

Tip #3:

Tip #4:

Tip #5:

I thought these were great tips. Some I use already, like receiving emails when someone signs into my Facebook account from a location I never have used before and not saving my credit card info on sites. Some were things I had never considered before, like leaving my social media pages open on my computer and linking sites together. Those things that make it easy for me to quickly get things done online also make it easy for hackers to access personal details.

Do you follow all of the tips above? If not, which ones do you struggle with following?

Past Challenges:

Are you {Digitally} Smarter Than a 5th Grader

Talking About Online Safety With My Preschooler

Spring Clean Your Digital Life

Mobile Security

Online Gaming Safety Tips For Children & Teens

The Olympics, Scams & You

(Disclosure: This post is part of a study sponsored by Trend Micro that I am participating in. As a Digital Joneses family we are receiving assets to complete our challenges but all thoughts are my own.)

Online Gaming Safety Tips For Children & Teens

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A recent Trend Micro Digital Joneses survey found that 41 percent of homes with kids five and under have internet connected game consoles and that more kids access the internet through game consoles than through a computer, so keeping kids safe while gaming is more important than ever. 

Wow! I couldn’t believe that statistic. I even emailed to verify that it was really five and under and wasn’t supposed to say five and over. When it comes to online gaming it is very important to start the safety education at a young age. Trend Micro has provided me with some great tips on how to keep children safe while gaming and I wanted to share a few of them with you all.

Stay Involved – When I was growing up my parents kept the family computer in the tv room like the “experts” suggested. As children, we were always mindful that our parents were there and we could ask them questions or talk to them about concerns we had while we were online. I think any gaming console that has the capability to be connected to the internet should follow this same rule. Keeping your gaming console in a common area of your home gives parents an idea of how much time their kids are spending using it and what types of games they are playing without having to be invasive. Games are also a fun way for families to spend time together.
Rely on Ratings – Just like movies have ratings, so do video games. The entertainment Software Rating Board rates games and the ratings can give both children and parents an idea as to the content of the games. Each family can then decide which ratings are age appropriate for their children. It’s also important for parents to preview each game so they know what their children are playing. Some parents may be okay with violence but not language, or car chases but not violence, so it’s always important to see why games are rated how they are. {Common Sense Media is a great website to get ratings for games along with movies, tv shows, websites, music, and more.}
Use Parental Controls – Gaming consoles have parental controls so that you can block kids from accessing games that aren’t age-appropriate.  You can also set limits on how much time they spend gaming and who they play with. Parents can also disable internet access on some gaming devices so they can ensure that their children aren’t interacting with people that they do not know.

Want to learn more about online gaming safety? Trend Micro has created a great ebook called “Level Up and Secure Your Online Gaming Experience”. You can view the ebook here.

What do you do to keep your children safe while they are gaming online?

(Disclosure: As part of the Digital Joneses campaign I have received software and technology products from Trend Micro. All thoughts are my own.)

Mobile Security With Trend Micro

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As a family in the Digital Joneses campaign for Trend Micro we have a challenge to complete every month. This month’s challenge was focused on mobile security and staying safe while on the go. To complete the challenge we received smartphones and were told that we should try doing everything we need to do online using only a phone. Working from home I am online 70-80 hours a week so I knew that doing all my work from a phone was not realistic but I aimed to do as much as possible on it as I could.

The first thing I did after I set up my phone was to install some of Trend Micro’s android applications. The first was their free Android security app called “Trend Micro Mobile Security Personal Ed”. This application will protect my phone from loss, malicious apps, and dangerous website. It includes an app scanner that will scan every application that I install to make sure it’s safe. It also includes a trial of some of their premium features including safe surfing, parental controls, call and text blocking, a way to find your loss phone using google maps, an alarm if your phone is lost and you are looking for it, and a way to lock and wipe the device if you lose it and you can’t find it. All of these extra features sounded great. I especially loved all of the features it offered for lost phones since that is one of the worst things that could happen to my phone.

The next app that I added was their Longetivity app to extend my phone’s battery life. It never fails that my phone dies within a few hours of me leaving my house, especially if I use it as a GPS to get to my location. I liked that this app was easy to use. The “Just-a-phone” mode can be used when the battery is low so that the phone can still be used for calls and texts. You can also see which apps are taking the most battery power which is helpful when you want to preserve your battery life.

The final application I added was their Backup and Restore app. This free app makes a secure copy of my contacts, messages, photos and videos and lets me restore them to any Android device I’d like to. We could have really used this feature in the past when one of Sinisa’s phones got broken. All the pictures that were on it from when our children were little were lost. Those images are something we can never get back.

Once I got the applications loaded I got started on my challenge. The first thing I did was check the longetivity application to see how much battery power my phone had. It showed 13 hours and if I used the “just-a-phone” mode I would have 15 hours of battery time. I kept this in mind so I could use this feature when I wasn’t using the internet or applications.

Trend Micro had challenged us to use our smartphones and try doing at least four items on a list of tasks. The first task of the challenge I wanted to complete was downloading a Pinterest app and creating a Pinterest board but when I went to the Android store on my phone and searched “Pinterest” there were 318 apps that came up. Looking through the list I didn’t see one that looked like it was from Pinterest so I moved on to another task. I figured I should probably check my emails so I setup my email account and was happy to find that I had no problem doing so. My last Android phone never let me setup the email feature with my hotmail address. Once I started checking the emails I found that I had to click on the message header and then wait for the message to download. After a few minutes of the message trying to download I gave up and moved onto a different task. The next task I tried was streaming videos on YouTube. I searched for videos on blogging and watched a few videos, including one by Darren Rowse on family/blogging balance. I loved how clear the picture was on this new phone. I then watched a live lip dub marriage proposal which had me cracking up. The last task that I did was downloaded a picture to Facebook.

This month’s challenge was fun. The majority of what I do on my phone is check my emails and Facebook so it was nice to do some other things that I normally don’t take time to do, like watch videos on YouTube. I am happy that I have some great Trend Micro applications to help me stay safe while I use my phone for work and entertainment. We received two phones so we decided we would give Jacob {our 3, soon to be 4 year old} one for his birthday so that he can watch videos, play games and take pictures instead of using mommy or daddy’s phones. With the ability to setup parental controls on his phone in addition to us sitting with him we feel that he will be safe while exploring the internet using this new technology.

Here are some additional safety tips from Trend Micro to keep in mind:

1) Enable your password on your mobile device. Make sure it is not an easy password that others can guess.

2) If you ever experience your mobile device turning off and on unexpectedly, or sending unauthorized messages to your contacts, you should know it is infected with a virus.

3) Trust the source, not the application. Make it a habit to download applications only from trusted sources.

4) Update your phone as soon as your phone alerts you that there is a new update.

4) Pay attention when installing applications. If an app asks for access to irrelevant data (like a game asks for access to your phone book) immediately stop installation and recheck the source.

5) Beware when using public wi-fi. Avoid accessing sensitive personal data while using it.

(Disclosure: As part of the Digital Joneses campaign I have received software and technology products from Trend Micro. All thoughts are my own.)

Digital Moms {Infographic}

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Not Yo Mama’s Mama – a Digital Mom Infographic by Internet Exposure

iPod Shuffle Giveaway

iPod Shuffle
We have teamed up with So Lo La Deals to bring you this Awesome iPod Shuffle Giveaway.
So Lo La Deals is a Brand new Daily Deal site which is launching in June.
We are super excited to see what fantastic deals they will have.
One Lucky Winner will receive an iPod Shuffle.
Starts 4/26 at 8pm EST and ends 5/3/12 at 8pm EST
A big Thank you to our hosts, Saving and More & Debt Free Spending
*****
HEAD OVER TO CONFESSIONS OF AN OVER-WORKED MOM TO ENTER VIA RAFFLECOPTER!

Talking About Online Safety With My Preschooler

Basic CMYK

I shared previously that my family is part of a year long study with Trend Micro called The Digital Joneses. Each month we are given internet security related challenges. Last month Sinisa and I had to take a quiz to see how technologically savvy we were and this month we have to have “the talk” with our kids {no, not the one about the birds and the bees… the other important talk- the one about internet safety}.

Out of the seven bloggers in the study, I have the youngest children so I wasn’t sure how to approach the subject of online safety since Jacob is not on social networks and he doesn’t go online without my supervision. One thing he does do though is go on YouTube to watch videos. He is three so he is watching video clips from kid shows but occasionally a video will come up that was made by an adult. A lot of times it’s just the same clip of the cartoon with inappropriate music playing in the background but it’s still something I don’t want him watching. And if something like that can show up in search results for his favorite shows, it makes me wonder what other things can pop up.

In preparing for “the talk” I checked out the Trend Micro website and looked over the questions they had put together for parents to use as conversation starters. {You can find the questionnaire with questions for children of all ages here.} I knew that I would have to keep the questions really basic but they gave me good ideas on what to talk about.

The first question that I asked my preschooler was what he liked to do on daddy’s phone. {We don’t call it the internet and he usually uses his dad’s phone to go on the internet so that’s why I worded it the way I did.}

Jacob’s reply- “Watch Videos. Thomas game. Cars game.”

The next question I asked him was what he would do if something came up on the screen that wasn’t Cars or Thomas?

His reply- “Click it.”

Umm. That’s a problem. I explained to him that if something came up on the screen that wasn’t Cars or Thomas or anything he watches on television it was important that he show it to mommy or daddy right away. I also told him he should not click on anything but one of his shows.

The last question I asked him was why he thought that mommy and daddy needed to watch him while he watched his movies and played his games on daddy’s phone.

His reply- “Cause I want dad be happy.”

Well that was a good answer. I also added that there could be bad things on there so mommy and daddy needed to watch him so he didn’t see bad things.

He said- “bad things?”,  paused for a second, and then said “I go upstairs now?” I breathed a sigh of relief that further explanation of all the bad things he could find online was a conversation that could wait till he was older. And honestly? It’s one that I wish I never had to have in the first place!

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Keep up with the Digital Joneses here.

(Disclosure: I am receiving technology and software as a member of the Digital Joneses blogger study but all thoughts are my own.)