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On The Go With ZAGG Pocket Bluetooth Keyboard

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. See Giveaway details below.

 

Now that smartphones have features above and beyond making simple voice calls, they have become the top “on the go” device. From productivity, notes, creativity (photo’s, videos), communication, calenders, business documents, music and socializing and more – the smartphone is our own personal assistant that we have with us at all times. While phone touch keyboards are getting more sophisticated, typing is a challenge I could not seem to overcome. I typed short texts easily and quickly, but when it came to typing sentences or longer notes – I could not get my fingers to move fast enough…. Or I made all sorts of typing mistakes.. Or my hand felt cramped and uncomfortable. When ZAGG contacted me to create a video and giveaway about their new Pocket wireless Bluetooth keyboard, I was excited that to find a solution for my on the go typing challenges!

 

The ZAGG Pocket wireless Bluetooth keyboard an “easy, on-the-go solution for smartphone typing.” The keyboard is 85% of the size of a desktop keyboard so typing is more natural and it folds between the lines of keys to preserve comfortable key spacing.

 

Zagg Pocket Keyboard

Photo Credit: ZAGG

 

 

The keyboard folds into a 9” X 2.5” X .5” rectangle, which is a design I have not seen before in mobile keyboards.  Battery life is maintained automatically when you fold the keyboard, activated by magnets when closed. The built in stand holds smartphones and small tablets (around  7″). But I did use it for a regular iPad and it worked fine. The Pocket Keyboard connects via Bluetooth, which means it can connect to Apple, Android or Windows devices.

 

 

ZAGG Pocket Keyboard Side

Photo Credit: ZAGG

 

 

One of the best features is the battery life: the lithium polymer battery lasts up to two years of regular use* (*around one hour per day) between charges. That means I can charge it and then just store it in my purse without needing to recharge it for a long time! The convenience of the ZAGG Pocket keyboard is great for busy professionals – especially busy parents -because it means there is one less thing you need to remember to pack up each day.

 

ZAGG Pocket Keyboard

 

For example, I just recently attended a Women in Growth Marketing event in San Francisco. I barely got dinner on the table, kids situated with homework and the sitter set up for the night when I had to rush out the door to drive to San Francisco (one hour drive from my house). When I arrived and sat down, I panicked at first because I forgot my laptop and wanted to type notes. Then I remembered I had the ZAGG Pocket Keyboard; it was so light I forgot it was in my purse at all. The Pocket Keyboard along with my smartphone was all I needed to take notes during the meeting. Now I have an on the go typing solution that is always with me, so I can take notes whenever I need!

 

Below is a video where I show the ZAGG Pocket keyboard in action:

 

 

Even more exciting is that I have the opportunity to give one ZAGG Pocket Bluetooth keyboard away to one of my lucky readers. Here are the giveaway details (open from April 15 to April 20).  Because the giveaway starts on April 15 – maybe it can even be inspiration to start keeping tax notes on the go for next tax year.
 
*Note: Giveaway is closed. Winner was @SahmReviews
 
 
 
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All my opinions are my own.
 
For more information on the ZAGG Pocket keyboard check out their website, Twitter and Facebook.
 
 

 

Tips: Find Family Friendly Videos For #Kids With YouTube Kids #App

YouTube Kids LogoBecause kids have access to browsers on many devices they can roam the internet which can result in kids seeing inappropriate content. The best defense for parents is to make sure they educate their kids on internet safety and have regular safety talks -so communication between kids and their parents is key. Along with that, introducing family friendly apps can also help kids stay within the boundaries of family friendly content. I am excited to announce that YouTube has created the YouTube kids app as a step to help families provide a safer place for kids to view videos online.  While I could not attend the press event in New York, I will be meeting with YouTube to get a demo soon. Event though the ideal age for this app is only 2-8, this is a great step in the right direction for family friendly apps in general.  National Geographic Kids shared “We are so excited to be a part of the new YouTube Kids app launch with National Geographic Kids original and curated video content,” says Michelle Sullivan, VP Digital. “We want kids of all ages–and their grownups– to enjoy our playlists and spark their curiosity to go out in the world and learn more.

 

For now I wanted to share the information from the YouTube kids press release so parents can test it out for themselves:

 

The YouTube Kids app is available now on iOS and Android:

LINK FOR YOUTUBE KIDS iOS APP on the Apple Store 

LINK FOR YOUTUBE KIDS ANDROID APP on Google Play

 

 

YouTube Kids Screenshot

Photo Credit: YouTube

 

 

 

FAQ’S FROM YOUTUBE KIDS PRESS RELEASE:

Parental Controls: 
Timer: Let the app be the bad guy with a built-in timer that lets you limit kids’ screen time. The app alerts your child when the session is over, so you don’t have to. (You’re welcome. ;)
Sound settings: Sometimes you need a little peace and quiet! You have an option to turn off background music and sound effects, so your kids can keep watching while you catch a breather.
Search settings: If you’d rather limit your children to just the pre-selected videos available on the home screen, you can turn off search.
Product feedback: Our goal is to improve YouTube Kids all the time, so we’ve included a space for you to give us your feedback.
What age group is this app appropriate for?
Right now, YouTube Kids delivers enriching and entertaining, early literacy content, ideal for kids 2-8.

Which devices are supported?
Launching in Google Play and the App Store, YouTube Kids is a fun and interactive place designed for families to explore and enjoy a vast selection of videos on tablet or smartphone.  You can use YouTube Kids on your smartphone or tablet with:

  • iOS 7 or above
  • Android 4.1 or above

Can I log in to the app with my YouTube account?
No, we currently only support a logged out experience.

When will YouTube Kids be available in other countries and languages?
YouTube Kids is currently available to users in the United States, but we’re working to expand to other countries.

What kind of content is available in the app?
The app is a kid-appropriate experience built around the breadth and depth of content that kids love. With a vast selection of videos, across a variety of topics, the choices match a child’s endless curiosity and interests, offering something for every kid; find how-to build a volcano, countless train videos, sing-along versions of favorite songs, crafting projects, match tutorials, answers to questions (what if we lived on the moon?), and much more.  You’ll also find popular programming like National Geographic Kids, Sesame Street, DreamWorks Animation and Thomas & Friends, online hits like Mother Goose Club, Super Simple Songs and TuTiTu, plus kid-friendly content from filmmakers, teachers and creators all around the world.

Are you COPPA compliant?
Yes. YouTube Kids is a signed-out app experience, so it does not collect, use or disclose information connected to a Google account, including the user’s name, address, contact or other personal information.

Here is a YouTube video demo of the new YouTube Kids app:

NEW SHOWS ON YOUTUBE KIDS (from press release):

  • The Furchester Hotel is a series for 3 to 6-year-olds set in an ‘almost’ world-class hotel run by a close-knit family of cheerfully incompetent monsters. The series, which is designed to encourage creative problem-solving, introduces brand new characters and also welcomes the beloved Elmo and Cookie Monster from Sesame Street.*
  • New digital videos for Thomas & Friends features Thomas the Tank Engine™ as fans have never seen him before, having adventures off the Island of Sodor in fascinating destinations like London, Paris, and New York City, and coming to life in children’s playrooms.
  • Explore the amazing technology that surrounds our everyday lives, in this exciting new original series called uTech, presented by Reading Rainbow and YouTube. In the first episode, join host LeVar Burton as he takes a look at some of the places you may have not realized we encounter technology (from the moment we wake up to an alarm clock, until we go to bed at night and brush our teeth).
  • National Geographic Kids playlists are an exciting and educational way to explore the very best of YouTube. Hosted by kids for kids, these curated playlists on awesome animals, cool science, natural phenomenons, and more are perfect for curious kids who want to explore, laugh, and learn.
  • Two new shows from Hank and John Green, the Vlogbrothers:  SciShow Kids will tap into kids’ curiosity and answer their many “why” questions with animated explanations, live-hosted experiments and field trips. And Crash Course Kids will empower both educators and students with customized elementary school lessons, hosted by some of your favorite YouTube stars 
  • WONDER QUEST: Set in the world of Minecraft, one of the most popular kid’s video games today, and starring Joseph Garrett, better known to millions of fans as Stampylonghead, “Wonder Quest” brings audiences family-friendly adventure with an educational twist. Will Stampy accept the quest from a friendly wizard? Will Stampy and his friends save the town of Wonderberg from a fate of really bad jokes? A fun way for kids to explore, Stampy invites friends to build an online world that encourages wonder — all based on Core Curriculum and Next Generation Science Standards. 
  • A new series from Outfit7, Talking Tom and Friends will chronicle the adventures, hijinks, and inventions of Talking Tom and the gang as they shoot their own reality television show.

 

I can’t wait to try out the new YouTube kids app with my kids. How about you?

 

 

 

 

Lenovo #CES2015 Showcase Tour

At CES 2015 this year we were excited to attend a lunch organized by Techlicious.com  and work on a sponsored project to share all of the announcements for Lenovo at CES 2015. I have been following Lenovo’s products with great interest after I saw their first Yoga Laptop come out years ago with multiple form factors ranging folded up as a tablet to a laptop with a keyboard and screen upright.  This flexibility is an important feature I look for in devices so I was excited to hear their new 2015 announcements.

 

The first announcement was that Lenovo is celebrating the milestone of 100 million ThinkPads sold.   The next announcements at the Lenovo CES 2015 showcase included the new Yoga convertibles, tablets, mobile devices and accessories. We had the opportunity for a tour that we captured on video:

To add more details of the products discussed during the Lenovo showcase tour, here are some of the key announcements from the Lenovo CES 2015 press releases:

 

 

YOGA Tablet 2 family announced in Fall 2014:

The YOGA Tablet 2 8-in has four unique modes:  Hold, Tilt, Stand and Hang, Wolfson Master Hi-Fi noise reduction, Dolby audio, long battery life of up to 15 hours and is equipped with two front facing speakers. With Windows 8.1, its 8-in FHD display and Intel® Atom™ processor, users can strike a great balance between work and play. Lenovo AnyPen Technology lets you use any ballpoint pen or graphite pencil—really any thin metal tip.   

 

Lenovo CES 2015

Photo Credit: Lenovo CES 2015

 

Lenovo YOGA 3 “features powerful up to 5th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 processors, stereo speakers, Waves audio and the classic YOGA two-hinge design allowing 360° flexibility with four special modes – Laptop, Stand, Tent and Tablet. Lenovo refined the hinge to now open and close more smoothly and also allow the screen to lay flat at 180°.

 

The Yoga 3 11-in model is just 15.8mm thin and 1.1kg (lightest convertible in the YOGA family). The new Yoga 3 14-in model has a backlit screen, envelope-thin design and measures 18.3mm thin or less. Lenovo includes Harmony intelligent software. Colors are Clementine Orange, Platinum Silver, new Chalk White or Ebony Black. Lenovo includes Harmony intelligent software which helps users discover and customize applications and includes automatic brightness adjustment when reading a book, enables motion control or optimizes audio settings in specific modes and recommends new apps.”

 

 

ThinkPad YOGA for businesses and pro-sumers:

“ThinkPad YOGA 12-in, 14-in and new 15-in convertibles with powerful up to 5th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 processors,  large storage up to 1 TB , Dolby Home Theatre v4 and new ActivePen technology in select models.  Lenovo’s SHAREit app to share files easily between devices. Lenovo’s first 3D camera in a laptop (Built-in Intel® RealSense™ 3D camera) comes optional on the 15-in model.  3D cameras are being used by businesses for more personal video conferencing and scanning small objects for 3D printing applications.

 

The YOGA 12 continues to offer a digitizer/pen option that provides an internal garage for the pen. ThinkPad is creating an innovative hardware and software pen experience, regardless of pen technology Thin and light at just 19mm thin and less than 1.5kg on the 12-in model, these stylish convertibles come in black with an attractive backlit keyboard as well as FHD touch screen display.”

 

Lenovo LaVie Z Ultraportables (Available May 2015):

The LaVie Z HZ750 13-in convertible PC (Available May 2015) is just 2.04-lbs, has powerful up to 5th Generation Intel® Core i7™ processor, Microsoft Windows 8.1, 128 GB SSD storage and 360-degree hinge pioneered by Lenovo in its original YOGA family of convertibles.  It is just 16.9mm thin, uses a specialized magnesium-lithium (Mg-Li) body construction, which is 50% lighter than aluminum (which apple used in earlier Macbook models). New IGZO LCD display (Indium Gallium Zinc oxide) provides additional weight savings.”

 

Lenovo CES 2015

Photo Credit: Lenovo CES 2015

 


The LaVie Z HZ550 13-in laptop PC is just 1.72-lbs.

 

Among the many other innovative products announced, a few more caught my eye:

 

The Lenovo Vibe X2 Pro Mobile Phone was announced with accessories such as the VIBE Band VB10 wearable. What I found interesting about the VIBE Band VB10 was that it not only has up to 7 days’ battery life, phone–finding feature, 1.43” E Ink display, alerts (phone, SMS, and social notifications), measures fitness (steps, calories, distance, and sleep time) but that it also meets IPX7 waterproofing standard.

 

Lenovo CES 2015

Photo Credit: Lenovo CES 2015

 

But one of the most unique was the compact selfie flash listed below.

 

Compact SELFIE FLASH for the VIBE X2 PRO: “Plugs directly into the VIBE X2 Pro’s audio jack, works great in low–light conditions, Delivers natural color tones, 100% shutter sync – never miss that perfect selfie and up to 100 selfies on a single charge.

 

Lenovo CES 2015

Photo Credit: Lenovo CES 2015

 

 

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All of my words are my own.

 

 

 

 

Panasonic Booth Tour #CES2015

My favorite Consumer Electronics Show (CES) activity is roaming the showroom floor and seeing all the new technology. This year I was excited to work on a sponsored project for Panasonic and Techlicious.com that included video coverage of the CES 2015 Panasonic Booth. I have been going to CES for years and always find time to tour the Panasonic Booth.  To get ready for CES this year we (my video Director Ben Blecherman and I) decided that we needed a new travel camera to capture pictures and video. I reviewed a selection of great cameras but was really looking for one that had a good price and was available in a bundle with accessories. We chose to buy the Panasonic LUMIX FZ1000K 4K QFHD/HD  because it was one of the top rated travel cameras that not only shot great pictures but also up to 4K video. We used that camera to shoot our Panasonic CES 2015 Booth tour video. So here it is!

One of the key technology trends at CES was 4K, which is a resolution level of 3840 x 2160. Having a high resolution means more “pixels” in the display which in turn makes the image appear more clear and crisp then lower resolution displays. Panasonic had many announcements including cameras, home monitoring, kitchen technology, personal grooming, TVs, and stadium screens. But one of the most exciting was the 4K infrastructure they announced at CES this year:

 

 

 

Panasonic 4K Ecosystem CES 2015

Photo Credit: Panasonic

 

 

Other Panasonic CES 2015 announcements included new cameras, home monitoring, kitchen technology, personal grooming, TVs, and stadium screens. Listed below are more details from the Panasonic CES 2015 press releases.

 

4K TV

 

The CX850 series of VIERA Smart TVs offers high quality 4K Ultra HD images with color expressions enriched by a new phosphor technology that expands the range of colors. Incorporating Firefox OS, the TVs also make it easier for users to access quickly the content they want. The CX 850 series features the Xumo Discovery Home Screen for seamless enjoyment of various VOD services.”

 

Panasonic also showed an 8K TV at CES!

 

Panasonic has developed the world’s first* 55-Inch, 8K (7680×4320 pixels) liquid crystal display, realizing the superior reality of 8K in a 55-inch screen, the size versatile for many B2B applications. The display features high contrast ratio of 1500:1, wide viewing-angle of 178 degrees, and high frame rate of 120 Hz, using Panasonic’s unique IPS-Pro technology. The 55-inch display can show four pages of full-sized broadsheet-size newspaper in one screen, convenient for CAD work. The 8K displays are shown in two formats, wall-mounted and table-top.    * As of January 6, 2015

 

 

Blu-ray 

 

Panasonic has developed Blu-ray Disc playback technology that supports the latest technologies such as 4K and High Dynamic Range that are expected to be included in the next-generation Blu-ray Disc standard.”

 

Kitchen Tech  

 

Panasonic announced the debut of its Cyclonic Wave Microwave Oven line at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES).   Panasonic’s Cyclonic-Wave technology evenly distributes microwave energy to ensure that foods are perfectly thawed and evenly heated and cooked. Panasonic Cyclonic-Wave Microwave Ovens can be installed as countertop or built-in units and features electrostatic glass touch control panels, 1250 watts of cooking power, multi-stage cooking, 20 programmable sensor cook and reheat options, and a turbo defrost mode.  The SE985S features a 16.5-inch turntable diameter and the SE785S offers a 15-inch diameter.”

 

Panasonic unveiled its 2015 Bread Maker featuring a gluten-free baking mode at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES).  The Panasonic Bread Maker is part of Panasonic’s expanded line-up of healthy-lifestyle small home appliances.  Unlike standard bread maker models which offer only one rise mode, the Panasonic Bread Maker offers a short-rise feature which enables users to also bake gluten-free foods using a wide range of recipes.  The bread maker (SD-YR2500) will be available in September via panasonic.com and other retailers.  Pricing and additional availability details will be announced at a later date.

 

Adventure

 

Panasonic introduces adventure products for outdoor activities including 4K wearable cameras and ruggedized compact digital still cameras.  (One Example is) The Panasonic TS6, a rugged water-, dust- and shock-proof compact digital still camera, and water and dust resistant 4K wearable cameras that allow for hands-free shooting of 4K30p video on active scenes.

 

Imaging

 

“Panasonic introduced new styles of photography and video expressions such as the “4K photos” function that enables the user to capture a still photo from a frame of 4K video and “hybrid photography” that combines still images and moving images. LUMIX cameras including the CM1 communication camera, which is a full-fledged digital camera with high-speed mobile communication capability (LTE), as well as new mirrorless single-lens system cameras and compact cameras. Panasonic also announced that it has been named a 2015 CES Innovation Awards Honoree for the LUMIX LX100 Digital Camera. The LX100 is also capable of smooth, high quality video recording not only in Full-HD 1,920 x 1,080 60p but also in 4K (QFHD 4K: 3840×2160, at 30 fps(NTSC) in MP4).  The LX100 is available at www.shop.panasonic.com and valued channel partners. ”

 

Panasonic CES 2015

 

 

Connected Home

 

Panasonic announced a new Home Monitoring System that offers the latest in wireless communication technology and is extremely easy to install. The kits allow you to remotely activate appliances, lights and devices in your home, perform surveillance and monitor your baby or pet. Powerful and compact, the DECT-enabled hub unit connects enabled devices to a secure long range (up to 1000ft.) platform which can be placed in any room or space.  It connects in seconds to your Wi-Fi router with the push of a button enabling you to control the system from your smartphone, tablet and system handset. There is no Ethernet cable necessary; as the hub operates completely on Wi-Fi. There is also no need for a PC to set-up the Wi-Fi connection as you only need a smartphone or the system handset. Unlike other systems, there is no monthly fee as remote monitoring and control is free of charge.  Including The Baby Monitoring Kit (KX-HN6001), DIY Home Surveillance Kit (KX-HN6002) and Home Monitoring and Control Kit (KX-HN6003) The Home Monitoring System is available immediately at Panasonic.com.
Automotive Solutions

 

Panasonic’s latest in-vehicle solutions, included infotainment system SYNC 3 to be delivered to Ford Motor Company and an Internet radio service, AUPEO!.”

 

Green Mobility

 

Panasonic’s green mobility solutions using its 18650 size, cylindrical lithium-ion batteries are showcased here, with vehicles powered by them. (1) Electric vehicle – Tesla Motors’ Model X, an SUV with benefits of a minivan, is on display as an example of the partnership between the two companies.  (2)  Electric scooter – Gogoro’s SmartscooterTM makes a world debut here. The company aims to achieve a smart city transformation with its electric scooters and battery-swapping infrastructure. More information can be found in Gogoro’s press release: http://www.gogoro.com/press/2015-01-05-gogoro-smartscooter-launch/. (3) Electric assist bicycles – Panasonic’s premium electric assist bicycle “Titanium Flat Road EB is on display.”

 

Salon

 

Panasonic also showcased an interactive mirror (prototype) that can check skin conditions, virtual makeup, make-up navigation and provide skin care advice when you simply sit in front of it. Men can try on virtual beards and mustaches that suit on the facial contour. Panasonic’s shaver featured “close-fit tracing head” that gives a smooth feel after shaving; five Japan-made blades that enable fast and deep shaving; and a “skin and beard sensor” that reduces burden on the skin. Panasonic introduced hair dryers equipped with its nano-e technology that allows for smooth passing of fingers through hair by balancing the moisture of the hair. Combined with optimized grip and operability and a quick drying nozzle, the nano-e dryers make it easy and quick to dry hair by untangling wet and clustered hair without the need for the user to shake the dryer.”

 

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All of my words are my own.

 

 

 

 

CES2015: LG Electronics Home Technology Announcements

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by LG Electronics.
LG Electronics #LGMomCES

 

One of the key technology areas relative to families is home technology. LG Electronics invited a group of journalists covering family tech to a breakfast at CES 2015 Family Tech Summit to discuss their new product announcements.  When it comes to being a parent I appreciate technology that helps me manage my busy household. LG Electronics introduced updated and advanced versions of appliances that have unique features which offer great value to families.

 

The first announcement is an update which would help save energy, maximize cold air conservation and make it very convenient for my three boys to reach food when they raid the fridge multiple times each day.

 

 

LG DoubleDoor-in-Door Refridgerator

Photo Credit: LG Electronics

 

 

From the press release: “LG MEGA-CAPACITY DOUBLE DOOR-IN-DOOR REFRIGERATOR: LG is taking its award-winning “door-in-door” concept to the next level with the introduction of its new double Door-in-Door® mega-capacity refrigerator. With two independent Door-in-Door® compartments, this model offers the ultimate in convenience – better organization and easy access – while maximizing cold air conservation. The right Door-in-Door® is accessible from both the outside (with the push of a button) and from the inside, making it easy to load with often-used items like snacks, drinks, lunches and more. The left Door-in-Door® provides additional easy access storage space via a trigger on the bottom of the door. By using the Door-in-Door® feature on the new model, which is expected to be ENERGY STAR® certified.

 

My husband and I do lots of loads of laundry each day. This new advancement would really help save time by enabling two loads of laundry to run simultaneously!

 

 

LG Mini Washer

Photo Credit: LG Electronics

 

 

From the press release: “LG TWIN WASH™ SYSTEM + MINI WASHER:  LG introduces an entirely new category of washing machine with its revolutionary TWIN Wash™ System, which enables two separate loads of laundry to run simultaneously. With a new, separate mini washer in the pedestal, cycle times are reduced, fewer loads are needed and energy efficiency is increased.  TWIN Wash™ System: LG’s mega-capacity 30-, 29- and 27-inch washer-dryer pairs are the first to offer the game-changing TWIN Wash™ System. These new models feature 5.6, 5.2 or 4.5 cubic feet of capacity in the front-load washer. Placed under an LG front-load washer as a pedestal, the separate Mini Washer is designed to provide additional, simultaneous cleaning to smaller, more delicate loads of laundry like lingerie, delicates or active wear. By combining the Spin and Rinse cycles, LG’s new and improved Turbo Wash™ technology makes for a substantial time saver.

 

The next announcement is home technology that would not only save time from my many trips to the dry cleaners, it would help freshen up clothes quicker then waiting to make it to the dry cleaner!

 

LG Styler

Photo Credit: LG Electronics

 

 

From the press release: “Equipped with a range of features not found on any washing machine, the latest LG Styler freshens up clothes and fabrics both quickly and conveniently. The LG Styler’s Odor Removal feature uses steam to help remove unpleasant odors left behind by smoke, food and sweat, and, depending on individual tastes, users can choose between two different aroma sheets that provide refreshing, subtle scents. The Quick Refresh function keeps clothes looking, feeling and smelling fresh, while Moving Hanger Action gently shakes steamed items to remove everyday wrinkles. The new LG Styler also  features a built-in heat pump, which generates and maintains warm air at a low temperature to keep clothing from shrinking or being damaged while drying.

The LG Styler also provides effective sterilization with TrueSteam™, LG’s hot steam spray technology, which LG pioneered in washers and dryers. With a simple touch of a button, hot steam is released to eliminate 99.9 percent of the germs and bacteria that can live deep inside clothes and soft toys. The LG Styler features Smart Diagnosis™ and NFC tagging. Smart Diagnosis alerts the user via their smartphone when the unit needs maintenance or repair, and NFC allows users to down- load specialized cycles to their smartphones, which can then be uploaded to their LG Styler with a single tap of the smartphone to the appliance.

 

What home technology are you excited about?

 

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by LG Electronics.

 

 

 

 

Holiday #Gift Ideas At @MicrosoftStore #Sponsored

Microsoft Store Holiday Gift GuideAfter countless experiences of giving my kids gifts they were asking for (even begging for), that they then abandoned after a short time – I pledged to try to buy gifts that last. During the holidays some of my favorite gift ideas (that last throughout the year) are technology devices and accessories. I was excited when SocialMoms and Microsoft asked me to participate in a sponsored blogging program to discuss holiday gift ideas at the Microsoft Store because they have such a wide range of technology devices and accessories gift ideas under one roof!

Here is a video that shows my fun adventure at the Microsoft Store checking out gifts that satisfies everyone from tech beginners to tech savvy, gamers, fashionistas, busy professionals, students and technology for the whole family.

Some of the great gifts I checked out at the store you can also check out online first, then head to the Microsoft Store to have your gift in hand for the holidays. If you don’t know exactly what they want, you can get gift cards for the Microsoft Store, XBox  or Skype. But there are also a range of phones, unique family touch enabled All-in-One desktops like the Sprout by HP, laptops like the Lenovo Yoga 2 in 1, tablets like the Surface Pro 3 Bundle or HP Stream 7 tablet (currently only $99!).
Microsoft Surface 3 Pro Bundle

 

 

All types of cases like  Brenthaven Collins Vertical Messenger Bag , Greene & Gray Device Purse  or the Knomo Foley Device Cross Body Sleeve.

 

Knomo Foley  Cross Body Device Sleeve

 

 

Wearables are another hot gift idea such as FitBit and stylish Misfit Shine that monitor activity, calories and sleep. But there are also many other app-enabled accessories to choose from!

 

Misfit Shine and Sport Band

 

Entertainment gifts such as the Jawbone Mini wireless speaker, XBox One Plus Kinect  and maybe a stocking stuffer of a new XBox Wireless controller.  “Makers” may want the gift of MakerBot-Replicator Mini Compact 3D Printer that can inspire all types of creative projects or the Go Pro HERO3 to unleash video creativity on the go.  I know that my kids are asking for some new video games but I also have some on my list including the Nike + Kinect Training and Just Dance 2014!

 

Xbox 360 Chrome Series Wireless Controller

 

Don’t forget tech toys such as the remote controlled aircraft like the Parrot AR Drone2.0 that performs smartphone-controlled acrobatic tricks.

 

Parrot MiniDrones Rolling Spide

 

 

 

What are you shopping for this holiday?

 

 

Disclosure: This blog post is part of a paid SocialMoms and Microsoft blogging program #MSFTHoliday . The opinions and ideas expressed here are my own.

 

 

 

Pepcom Holiday Tech Showcase 2014

Pepcom Holiday SpectacularAt CES and holidays I am always excited to head to Pepcom events to check out the new technology related products out. On the night of the World Series I braved the traffic to head to San Francisco for the Pepcom Holiday Spectacular. Because the holiday season is so busy I have not had a chance to review any of the products but here are some of the interesting ones in the family technology area.

 

 

 

 

 

2014 Pepcom Holiday Spectacular! Exhibitors:

24/7
24/7 is a medical grade sleep and activity tracking application, their new new features include giving users more insight into their sleep than ever before.

 

 

ArcSoft
ArcSoft will be showing Simplicam powered by Closeli, a home monitoring solution with facial detection. They also had information on Perfect365 – which uses Face Detection technology to scan a photo and automatically map a person’s eyes, nose, cheeks, mouth and hairline. Then photos are treated with touch-ups, using nearly 20 tweaking tools that whiten teeth, brighten eyes, remove blemishes and other editing. They can also choose from dozens of pre-set makeup templates.

 

 

Belkin
Belkin International showcased a great selection of holiday tech products from its three brands, Belkin, Linksys and WeMo.  I was especially interested in their WeMo family of products that offers home automation, such as in a remote controlled Crock Pot!

Crock-Pot® Smart Slow Cooker with WeMo  Belkin

 

I also learned about their Linksys Dual Band WiFi router and how I could possibly swap that out for the default router my home WiFi provider gave us to help power up our wireless reception (and maybe also using a WiFi extender to help rooms far away from the router).

 

Belkin Linksys

 

Belkin also had some gift guide suggestions:

 

GIFTS UNDER $50
Metallic Lightning Cables
$24.99 – $29.99
Vent Mount $24.99
Phone Accessories
$24.99 – $34.99

 

GIFTS UNDER $300
Thunderbolt™ 2 Express Dock HD
with Cable $299.99
Linksys WRT1900AC $249.99
Linksys EA9200 AC3200 Tri-Band Smart Wi-Fi Router $299.99

 

GIFTS UNDER $150
Crock-Pot® Smart Slow Cooker with WeMo® $129.99
QODE™ Ultimate Pro Keyboard Case for iPad Air $149.99
WeMo® LED Lighting Starter Set $99.99
Mr. Coffee® 10-Cup Smart Optimal Brew™ Coffeemaker with WeMo® $149.99
Linksys Dual Band Wireless AC Range Extender RE6500 $99.99

 

 

Chamberlain Group – MyQ Garage
Chamberlain Group showed MyQ Garage, the connected home device for controlling home entry. “A smart home with MyQ ensures people never forget to close the garage door and can open, close and monitor it from anywhere in the world from a smartphone. MyQ is integrated with Google’s Nest Learning Thermostat, multiple home devices through the WinkApp, and other popular connected home apps.”

 

 

Channel Master
Channel Master debuted new features and services for the DVR+ platform, as well as a new ultra-low-cost outdoor television antenna. They were also the most popular table because they had the World Series on! Channel Masters new features for its subscription-free DVR+ include YouTube access and an enhanced DVR feature to record only new episodes of a series. The company also added the new low-cost STEALTHtenna to its metro/suburban-centric Everyday Series antenna line along with a consumer-friendly Antenna Selection Guide.  Coming in November, the YouTube streaming feature will appear in the DVR+ program guide.

 

 

 

Cobra
Cobra Electronics showcased “the addition to the company’s Drive HD Dash Cams series, Cobra CDR 825, utilizing a 2.7 inch screen, the largest in the dash cam family, along with the ultra-compact Cobra JumPack, a pocket-sized, portable charger for mobile devices and vehicle jump-starter.” Cobra also displayed some Walkie Talkies that I know my boys would have loved to try.

 

 

Creative Labs
Creative Labs has home, mobile, and gaming audio products. I was especially interested to hear about their E5 product that can be used an microphone to capture audio for me when I do video. Here is more information from their press release:

Their Professional-Grade Sound Blaster® E5  is a “24-bit/192kHz 120dB High Resolution USB DAC and Portable Headphone Amplifier for Smartphones, Tablets, PCs & Macs:

 

  • Digital High-Speed USB 2.0 connectivity to PC/Mac as a powerful external Sound Blaster
  • Digital USB Host connectivity to select iOS/Android models for direct high quality, lossless audio streaming*
  • Built-in rechargeable 3200mAh lithium polymer battery provides users up to 8 hours^ of playtime while on the go
  • Features wireless Bluetooth 4.1 Low Energy connectivity and Near Field Communication (NFC) technology for one-touch Bluetooth pairing and control
  • Supports HD audio codecs such as aptX® Low Latency and AAC for a wireless connection as good as a wired connection
  • Connects to entertainment devices such as televisions and game consoles via the optical input jack
  • Features a line-in option for analog connectivity to other various audio sources
  • Dual headphone jacks allow for simultaneous audio listening

Compatible with:      

- iOS devices using Lightning connector (iPhone 5, 5S, 5C, iPad Air, iPad Mini)

- Android devices (Samsung Galaxy S4, S5, Note 2, Note 3; Google Nexus 5, Nexus 7; Sony Xperia Z Ultra; Xiaomi Redmi, Redmi Note, Mi 3; LG G2)

**Actual battery life will vary with usage scenarios, settings and environmental conditions

 

The new flagship product is an extension of Sound Blaster’s E-Series line of compact portable USB audio solutions.  Launched in May 2014, the Sound Blaster E-Series includes the Sound Blaster E1 and Sound Blaster E3.”

 

 

ecoATM
ecoATM showed their “automated e-waste recycling kiosk that accepts cell phones, tablets and MP3 players from consumers in exchange for instant cash.” Listed below is an image they shared on what you could buy for holiday gifts from what you get back from trading in specific devices. I have not tried the service but I think trading in old devices are a great way to earn money to buy new devices instead of them sitting in a cabinet collecting dust! ecoATM, the nationwide network of 1,510 automated recycling kiosks, give’s users instant cash for their phones, tablets and MP3 players.

 

ecoATM

 

 

 

Fitbug
Fitbug Orb is a fitness, sleep and activity tracker.  They unveiled Kiqplan, a library of interactive coaching programs that use activity data from almost ANY activity tracker, smartphone or watch to build actionable 12 week plans around specific wellness goals.

 

 

Fujitsu
Fujitsu showcased their ScanSnap product lineup, including the new mobile and completely wireless scanner, the ScanSnap iX100. Included in the ScanSnap family line is the ScanSnap iX500 desktop scanner.

 

 

Kensington
Kensington has USB Hubs, Adapters, USB Chargers and Universal Soft Sleeves as well as new iPad Air™ 2 Keyboard Cases. Their PresentAir Pro Bluetooth® 4.0 LE Presenter “offers three different function modes to support different types of activity presenting, controlling media, or editing and offers one of the slimmest presenter designs on the market. The free downloadable companion app, PresenterWorks, allows users to set buttons to the functions of their choice for greater flexibility and efficiency.”

 

 

Kingston
Kingston Technology showcased holiday gifts ideas including the MobileLite G2 wireless media reader, SD and Micro SD cards and a HyperX Cloud gaming headset that offers extended hours of game play.

 

 

KODAK PIXPRO
KODAK PIXPRO featured cameras and wireless devices including the new SP360 Action Cam, an HD action cam designed to capture 360-degrees of video without the need for multiple cameras.

 

 

Lenovo
Lenovo had a few tables filled with their newest devices.

 

Lenovo at Pepcom

 

 

Some of the devices I spent time looking at where the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 and Tablet 2 Pro, B40 All in One, Y50 Touch mobile gaming and multimedia notebook. But the one I drooled over was the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro because it has powerful features but is thin, light and so fancy!

 

Lenovo Yoga 3

 

 

LifeTrak
LifeTrak showcased their line of wearables, including the new LifeTrak BRITE R450, that features light exposure monitoring, smartphone notifications, advanced sleep monitoring and fitness tracking, is waterproof and requires no recharging. The battery used for the device is a watch battery!

 

LifeTrak

 

Logitech
Logitech will be showcasing its latest in gaming, music, tablet, Harmony and PC accessories.

 

 

muvee
The new iOS app TWINE “makes short split-screen videos. Capture opposite or parallel moments in time and TWINE automatically stitches them together“.

 

 

Otterbox
OtterBox will be showcasing protective cases for the recently released iPhone 6, GALAXY Note 4 and more.

 

 

Parallels
Parallels Access app (for iPad, iPhone, Android tablets and phones plus Kindle Fire) “lets you access everything on your PC or Mac just like it was made for your touch-based device (a way to run Windows on your Mac without rebooting).

 

 

Plantronics
Plantronics will be showcasing its new line of consumer, stereo and Bluetooth products including the new BackBeat PRO – wireless, active noise canceling stereo headphones with mic.

 

 

Plantronics Backbeat Pro

 

 

RadioShack
RadioShack has the latest in sound, toys, power and smart tech for gifting or for upgrading your own tech this holiday season.  I went to the press event to celebrate the interactive remodel of San Francisco Bay Area (and other locations) Radio Shack stores.  I was really impressed with the selection of tech in the new design. Especially their DIY section that had so many DIY tech projects that my boys could keep busy for a long time!

 

Here is information about the Radio Shack store redesign:

  • Innovative products from startups and inventors, such as mobile device-controlled robot ball Sphero, educational magnetic circuit boards from littleBits and Lively’s activity sensors that create a smart home for older adults to log daily routines
  • An interactive speaker wall where customers can shop and compare different speakers using music installed on in-store tablets
  • Experiential displays that enable shoppers to find and compare products, including headphone demo stations where they can listen to leading brands like SOL REPUBLIC, Skullcandy and Beats by Dr. Dre; in-demand devices from Apple, Samsung and HTC; a remote control (RC) toy exploration center; and a GoPro camera display demonstrating the capabilities of several models of GoPro cameras
  • Technology that makes shopping interesting and playful, like touchscreens and apps that help shoppers understand the benefits of products
  • Full mobility offerings from top mobile carriers such as AT&T, Sprint and Verizon with flexible financing plans available all under one roof
  • Helpful, informative RadioShack staff who can answer shoppers’ questions about hundreds of products and services and direct customers to the items that meet their specific needs.

 

 

ResMed
S+ by ResMed: a non-contact sleep system that monitors, analyzes and provides personalized feedback to help improve your sleep from the first night.

 

 

Ring
Ring Video Doorbell “lets you answer the door from anywhere using your smartphone. It features an HD camera with night vision, providing a clear view from your front door, day and night.”

 

 

simplehuman
simplehuman builds smart home-tech that is “simple, functional, and built to last“. I tested the sensor trashcan they had on display and it really was able to tell the different between me waving my hand to open the trashcan versus just walking by. The other brand sensor trashcan I tried kept opening up when I would just walk by it.. Next time I will try simplehuman!

 

Simple Human

 

 

Speck
As a leader in slim protective cases for mobile devices, Speck will be showing its latest bulk-free cases in smashing good looks. Their candy shell smartphone cases have been great protection in the past when I dropped my phones (just a few times…).

 

Speck

 

 

TiVo
TiVo showcased the TiVo Roamio OTA, the over-the-air DVR and TiVo Mega.

 

 

Totspot
Totspot is a mobile shopping app for moms to buy and sell gently used kids’ clothes.  I think this is a great tool for families to control clothing budgets for their kids – who grow out of clothes so quickly. And also to find great clothes for their kids!  “Totspot solves the age-old challenge every parent faces when outfitting their growing soccer stars and fashionistas – kids grow, clothes don’t. The free app has an intuitive interface designed to be simple and fast, and supports easy mom-to-mom mobile retailing, giving families a simple way to cash in their kids’ closets and keep little ones toddler-trendy and fashion-forward. Totspot (http://www.totspot.me) is currently available as a free app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch and Android.

 

Totspot

 

Totspot

 

 

TripIt
TripIt booth is a trip planner keeps travel plans in one spot with features such as custom itineraries, sharing features, travel alerts, alternative flight info,  flight refunds and a travel dashboard.

 

 

Velvetwire
Velvetwire showcased the Powerslayer Blu – an Bluetooth-connected charger with built-in software that “reduces energy waste and promotes battery health”.

 

Velvetwire

 

 

ZAGG
ZAGG Inc highlighted their newest accessories for protecting and enhancing handheld electronics.

InvisibleSHIELD GLASS and HDX: Features HD clarity and 3X greater shatter protection for even industry-leading smartphone glass.

  • GoLite power series: A family of portable batteries will charge any device that utilizes a USB, including smartphones and tablets.
  • iFrogz InTone earbuds: Feature a smooth surface which rests comfortably on the ear while their 14mm driver delivers vibrant sound.”

 

 

Disclosure: This is coverage of a tech press event.

 

 

 

 

How To Enforce Screen Time Rules For Kids

How To Enforce Tablet Screentime Rules For Kids

 

With an overwhelming number of mobile devices available today, parents can struggle to keep their kids safe online and set rules for screen time. Even if parents don’t make mobile devices or home computer accessible to their kids, these pesky young ones will find other ways to go online, either from a friend, at school or even the library. From a cultural standpoint, technology in the hands of kids has become an essential part of modern social communication (i.e. texting to make social plans) and education, including school work and online learning. This makes it even more important to set up screen time rules and ensure kids know how to unplug.  Because devices are so enticing, even adults have trouble unplugging (speaking from personal experience) and logical consequences may be needed at times to enforce rules.

 

Like many parents, my husband and I struggle to discover what boundaries and logical consequences work best with screen time rules. If parents use a logical consequence that in the end can’t be implemented, kids won’t respect the rules. In our house, we frame tablet use as a positive reward for homework completion and we establish time limits. Our logical consequence when rules were not followed was taking away the tablets. The kids can always do homework on the family computers in public spaces such as the family room. But on the down side, when we took away their tablets our kids could not read their e-books or listen to their audio books.

 

A few days ago all the moons aligned and I finally found something that works for one of my most tech addicted sons. I have 11 year-old twin sons and one of my twins, J, just started following our family screen time rules including no screen time at bed – reading only. I even purchased both of my twins Amazon Kindle Paperwhites to do their nightly reading. The Amazon Kindle HD Fire’s parental controls are very robust. We choose the Kindle Paperwhites because they are so light, have a great screen for reading in all conditions and the charge lasts for a few weeks.

 

My tween son J was able to actually put down his tablet before bedtime when asked and read books on his Kindle Paperwhite. The ability to manage his own screen time is the goal we have worked toward since they were little. His twin brother, D, had trouble putting his tablet down to read and we tried many other strategies. We had him listen to audio books from Audible at night for bedtime reading, and he went through tons of different chapter books until he said he wanted to go back to reading the books.

 

But D could not resist the temptation to watch YouTube videos at night instead of reading (mostly STEM, minecraft, harmless cartoons and other age appropriate videos). So last night I did what years of learning emotion coaching from the fabulous TheGoToMom Kimberley Clayton Blaine inspired me to do: without emotion, I told my son D at bedtime that he has not shown me he can comply with screen time rules and I am taking his tablet away at night. I also told him that I am only returning it temporarily for his daily hour of screen time. TheGoToMom’s emotion coaching really helped me understand the next thing I did: walking  away! Before my son could resist, yell, debate or plead for his tablet back I just walked out of the room and put the tablet where he could not find it. It was the logical consequence that felt right and I decided to go with it.

 

This technique was extra difficult because my son has a hip injury and is on crutches. He actually got out of bed, grabbed his crutches and followed me from room to room begging to return his tablet. I felt so guilty inside, but TheGoToMom helped me learn that I need to not engage, just calmly say “you will get your tablet back tomorrow, now it is reading time”.. The image of him using his crutches to follow me around while I was cleaning a few different rooms made me want to give in, but I had to keep a straight face and stick to my logical consequence or else I knew it would never work.

 

What happened the next morning can only be described as magical. The night before he finally got tired of chasing me around in his crutches and went to bed – AND READ… Then he told me he work up early and READ MORE before going back to sleep.  When he got up he READ AGAIN. I gave him a big hug when he told me and I said “for now on, I will hold your tablet a night and you can get it back during the day”. D said “OK” and I felt that exhilarating feeling you get as a parent when you see your child taking responsibility and embracing something he needed to do for his own good. I know that we will go through more screen time challenges in the future, but for now – all is good.

 

HOW TO ENFORCE SCREEN TIME RULES FOR KIDS (including tablets!):

 

Step 1: Create family screen time rules. For reference check out Common Sense Media’s section on screen time.  In my experience, it is important to create rules that the whole family can follow (and parents can enforce) – so try to be realistic. For example, because we have all of the family desktops in public family areas, my kids use their personal tablets to check homework websites for school when doing homework in their bedrooms. So a regular rule that includes not tablet use at night would not work. But we do have a rule that tablets can only be used for reading or homework after 8pm in their bedrooms.  We also have a rule that our kids can have one 30 minutes of screen time after school, then they need to finish their homework to earn more recreational screen time (if time permits).

 

Another important point is to define what websites are “appropriate” for screen time. My tween sons can only play Minecraft, STEM websites such as Scratch, sports and other video games rated for their age while my 16 year old can play teen rated video games for his screen time (in a room away from his brothers!). We also have a family rule that states that exercise or sports before screen time! If my boys don’t have organized sports that day, they can play any sport such as a quick game of pickup basketball. But for one weekend morning, they can watch cartoons above and beyond the regular screen time rules.  I find it helpful to print out the family screen time rules and put them next to family desktops and in my kid’s bedrooms.

 

Step 2:  Decide on how to enforce the screen time limits/rules. Create appropriate logical consequences and positive rewards. I have found positive rewards always works better than consequences, but at times logical consequences are needed. For example, my kids “earn” their screen time for doing their homework and doing outside play/sports times each day. At the same time, they may have trouble sticking to the screen time limits so that is when we have logical consequences (like taking away their tablets for a day).

 

When my kids were younger I set up web filters to limit their access to websites. But now that our kids have access to computers at school and friends with smartphones, we have more open access at home and regular discussions about internet safety including the consequences of visiting inappropriate websites. Along with the logical consequences of losing screen time, we have regular talks with our kids about the serious dangers that exist online. Some families I know needed to put more serious logical consequences such as closing down home WiFi access only on an as needed basis. Home WiFi access can be controlled with parental control software or on the home router controls. There is also a great selection of parent control software that can be used across home devices and computers (which I will post on another time).

 

Step 3: Make a promise (to yourself) to always keep emotions in check and set up system to support that. For example, when I enforce the consequence of taking my kids tablet away I either do it when they are asleep or now that they are older I calmly explain that they have not complied with the screen time rules so I am taking their tablet away for (“x” nights or days etc).  I feel it is important now that they are older (11) they see me taking their tablet away as a logical consequence. When they were younger their reasoning was not as strong so I just took it away when they were asleep. To keep my emotions in check after I take the tablet away and to not engage in emotional debates or pleas, I always walk out of the room and then decide on a household chore to start doing. That way, if they want to follow me around I will just focus on my household chore to remain calm. Sometimes I left the house to go for a jog, giving myself a necessary exercise break.

 

 

For more information, check out Common Sense Media Screen Time section.

 

For information on choosing your kid’s first phone (which if it is a smartphone – will have access to a web browser), check out my post titled “Top Tips: Choosing First Phone for Kids“.

 

I am excited to be a volunteer as one of the Common Sense Media Learn On Ambassadors.

Common Sense Media LearnON Ambassador 2014

 

 

TechMamas.com Road Trip: Nissan Leaf Electric Car #EcoTech

Using technology that is resource and environmentally friendly (#ecotech) is important to me and one of the most prominent ecotech products is the electric car. These automobiles are run by a rechargeable battery with no gasoline engine or carbon emission pollution like their gas-powered brothers and sisters.  To learn how these cars work and how I could fit them into my busy life as a mom, I have started to review electric as well as hybrid cars for TechMamas.com.

 

TechMamas.com road trip: Nissan Leaf

 

The first car in my series is the Nissan Leaf.  I was happy to receive a press email offering a Nissan Leaf to evaluate for one week (disclosure). All I can say, is that it was very hard to return the car when the week ended. My minivan was still handy when driving my 3 boys and their friends around, while I enjoyed using the Nissan Leaf for two mini-vacations and trips around town. I most enjoyed going a whole week without filling up a gas tank.  I also learned all about the way the Nissan Leaf works.

 

TECHMAMAS.COM NISSAN LEAF ROAD TRIP VIDEO: Here is a video showing our road trips with the Nissan Leaf. My oldest son and cameraman filmed the footage using two GoPros synced up with the GoPro iphone app to recorded the audio. Here it is:
 


 
DETAILS:
 
2015 NISSAN LEAF®S features and specifications:

 

  • 107 Horsepower
  • 126/101 city/hwy MPGe*
  • 5 Seats / 4 Doors
  • 80 kW AC synchronous electric motor
  • Zero tailpipe emissions
  • Nissan Intelligent Key® with Push Button Start
  • Bluetooth® Hands-free Phone System
  • Heated front and rear seats
  • RearView Monitor

 

My Observations:

 

1. Ride: The ride felt comfortable and sturdy, not like smaller cars that feel as though they are going to blow over! We cozily fit all 5 of us (Mom, Dad, Teen and twin 11 year olds) for a one hour road trip to Santa Cruz.

 

Even room for three in the back seat!

 

Nissan Leaf TechMamas.com Road Trip

 

Plus a trunk area that can hold enough for a road trip.

 

Nissan Leaf TechMamas.com Road Trip

 

 

2. Controls: Getting used to the charging controls and routine was the biggest adjustment. All the basic car controls are similar to other cars so there really was not a learning curve. I was able to find the dashboard, steering and general controls I needed and using them was intuitive.

 

Nissan Leaf TechMamas.com Road Trip

 

 

3. Charging: The car’s screen displayed the amount of charge and indicated the remaining miles on the battery, which was very helpful. I was able to drive two long road trips, both around 40-45 miles, on one full charge with a little left over.

 

 

Nissan Leaf TechMamas.com Road Trip

 

 

I did notice that the calculations on mountains adjusted the amount of miles I had left down because the miles are calculated on conditions (i.e. uphill). Once I hit the top of the mountain and was coasting downhill, the vehicle recalculated the remaining mileage upward. Using the regenerative brakes also recharges the battery and increases total miles remaining. In my experience, just plugging the Leaf into a regular house charger for around 4-6 hours charged it up from 75-80%, which was fine for regular use. If I were going on a long trip, I would probably stop by one of the charging stations to make sure the car is either at 100% (the car conveniently lists the closest charging stations on the screen) or I would buy one of the Do-It-Yourself charging stations (AreoVironment is an example of one) to charge the battery more quickly. Along with not needing to buy or use gas, knowing that the Nissan Leaf is zero emissions made me feel I was also doing my part to support the environment.

 

 

Nissan Leaf TechMamas.com Road Trip

 

 

When I was just driving The Nissan Leaf on quick rides around town, the regenerative braking recharged the battery enough to avoid the need to plug in.It was a real treat to know that I did not need to visit a gas station and was not releasing any emissions.

 

I enjoyed driving the Nissan Leaf for a week and it especially made me realize (after NO visits to the gas station) how much gas I use while driving my minivan. Every visit to the gas station makes me want to buy an Electric car even more!

 
Click over to the Nissan Leaf website to find out more information, Facebook: www.facebook.com/thebetterride, @thebetterride and Instagram @thebetterride.

 

 

 

Disclosure: A Nissan Leaf was provided for a one week review. This is a review post.

 

 

 

 

 

Top Tips: Choosing First Phone For Kids

Top Tips to Help Kids Choose First PhoneOne of the most frequent requests I receive from parents is to discuss the right age to buy a child their first phone, what type of phone to buy and how to establish and enforce phone usage rules. Back to school is the perfect time for families to create family rules for existing kid phones and establish new rules for kids just starting to use cell phones.

 

Our older son received a call and text only phone for middle school and then a smartphone for high school after he proved he could not only follow our family phone use rules but also engage with us in regular “phone safety” discussions. Now that our twin boys are heading off the middle school, we decided it was time to buy them their first phone and set up new family phone use rules. Here are some of the tips from our experience of setting up our kids with their first phone. Please share your tips!

 

Tips To Buying First Kid’s Phone

 

TIP 1Buy your phone on as as needed basis:

Buy your kids their first phone on an “as needed basis”: I tell parents that the age when their kids should have a phone is dependent on when they “need” a phone.  Just because a third grader may say to their parents, “my best friend has a phone, I should get one too”, does not mean a new phone is one the way. Peer pressure is not a valid reason to get a child their first phone.  One appropriate reason is to keep in touch with your kids when they start transporting themselves to school (via bus or bike for example). But each child has different needs and different timing.

 

TIP 2 - Decide what type of plan (i.e. “emergency only”, voice, voice & text or voice, text and data phone):

 

When my kids started riding their bikes to school in 4th grade we decided to buy them inexpensive “pay by the month” phones that only had minutes for emergencies and were not for regular use. But when my twins went off to middle school this year, we agreed to get them a phone with a voice and text plan so we could communicate with them and they could communicate with their friends. A few of our friends purchased phones with a voice and text plan for their kids because they had multiple after school activities and sometimes needed a way to reach the parents where were driving.

 

Although our family phone plan has shared data, we do not allow them to use the data and can easily track this on the monthly bill.  We can also disable data from their phones if their discipline weakens or they don’t comply. The AT&T website (our phone service) has details on disabling data on phones.

 

TIP 3 – Develop family phone use rules and phone etiquette standards:

 

The most important thing to teach your kid when you give them their first phone is phone etiquette.  A cell phone can be a great communication tool or a tool that can get your kids in serious trouble (even danger). Parents should take the time to first educate themselves then create family phone rules. We started talking to our kids about cell phone etiquette a year before they had their first phone. Now we are creating rules as well as a phone “safe use” contract that they “sign” to confirm they understand. Breaking the rules means they lose use of the phone.

 

We checked online resources including the Common Sense Media Parents Guide to Kids and Cell Phones, Emily Post Top Ten Cell Phone Manners, Parents.com Teaching Kids Cell Phone Etiquette and more. We focused on different types of etiquette including appropriate cell phone voice and texting, cell phone etiquette do’s and don’ts (Common Sense Media),  email etiquette, school rules for phones (don’t use during school!) and overall phone safety rules such as not sharing personal information or location information with anyone but family and friends (and never accept “online friends” you don’t know if real life!).

 

My friend Sarah Granger just wrote a book called “Digital Mystique – How the Culture of Connectivity Can Empower Your Life – Online and Off”.  I recommend this book as a great starting point for parents to educate themselves on the online world. She interviewed me for the book and included something I always tell parents: “Internet Safety is the New Sex Talk”.  This includes cell phone etiquette because it opens kids up to a world of communication between other kids, even if it is just calling, texting, and sharing photos.

 

Most of all, I have written for years that the most important tool for proper cell phone use is active communication between parents and kids. We manage this communication by rewarding our kids for sharing their personal experiences and rewarding this open communication with freedom to use their phones. It has been hard at times, but we have a “discuss anything” policy and try not to be upset when they come to us – even with upsetting news. We want them to feel comfortable talking about their phone use and work with us to navigate the scary waters of cell phone use. When my oldest made a mistake or two in the past we discussed why it was wrong and how he can make sure it never happens again. We do not use apps such as “Ignore No More app” that limit cell phone use when kids ignore their parents calls because they do not treat the underlying issue: trust. Of course, each family needs to choose what works for them.

 

For example, the day oldest son received his first phone he attended a pool party that afternoon where he took pictures of his friends, several of whom were wearing bikinis. Some of the girls were posing in ways that could be seen as provocative and the photos were inappropriate. Luckily, our son showed us the pictures in an effort to comply with the “open communication qualification” for phone use. This gave us the chance to explain why the pictures were inappropriate and he deleted them from his phone. It was an innocent situation, which happens so often, but those are also the most dangerous because the kids don’t know that what they are doing is wrong.

 

We also explained that even if someone else takes a picture that could be perceived as inappropriate and sends it to him – he needs to delete it from his phone right away. If he shares a picture even that he did not take, he will still be held responsible and could even include being arrested.

 

TIP 4 – Choose a Phone:

 

I received an email about the Pantech Vybe phone around the same time I had just been to the AT&T store (my carrier) to look at possible first phone options for my twin 11 year olds.  Because I had already included the Pantech Vybe on my list of phones to investigate, I decided to do a review of the phone with my twins. Here is a link to the review “First Phone For Kids: Pantech Vybe Review”.

 

For my kids, we did not want to get them a “smartphone” until they were older. Because they are just 11, we decided that making calls and texting was appropriate for their age (in our family). We also felt that having access to an app store was something we wanted our tweens to do at home using our WiFi only devices.  For example, we set up home tablets to request a password sign-on before any app can be purchased. This allows us to review the app as a family before they download it.  But even then, having access to a device with an app store can have it’s challenges. Both Google and Apple faced lawsuits over in-app purchases by kids. Beyond the cost consequences of using apps, apps that “seem” family friendly can at times lead to inappropriate features. So I always recommend parents use “family friendly” rated apps together at first.

 

TIP 5 – Privacy Settings and Digital Safety Toolbox:

 

To prepare for my kids for getting their phone, I created a list of digital safety tools and phone settings which they later helped me set on their phones. This includes location, which can be a safety issue for young kids.  The tools we implemented include  LoJack for Android, and Find my iPhone to track the device plus apps to track your kids (some of which are covered in this post on Tom’s Hardware “8 Apps for Tracking Your Teens”) including Life360 (family locator, messaging tool and communication app all in one).

 

What was the first phone you chose for your kids and what apps, settings and rules did you set up that worked or did not work?

 

 

Disclosure: This is a press post. Some items were provided to me for review purposes.