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Screen Smart Parenting

Screen-Smart ParentingOne of the top questions I get from readers is how to control their kid’s screen time. Now that kids have access not only to computers but also smartphones, tablets and other devices it is even more challenging to set up a system to help them be safe and limit the time they spend using devices.  I have explained in many of my posts that I believe helping your kids control their screen time and understanding internet safety starts with age appropriate and regular family communication on those topics.

 

 

Jodi Gold MD is a child and adolescent psychiatrist that has a unique perspective, especially when it comes to family communication! When I found out that she just wrote a book called SCREEN-SMART PARENTING: Screen-Smart Parenting: How to Find Balance and Benefit in Your Child’s Use of Social Media, Apps, and Digital Devices (Guilford Press, November 1, 2014, paperback) that had research and practical strategies, I wanted to find out more.

 

 

 

Screen Smart Parenting Jodi Gold MD1.       What motivated you to write SCREEN-SMART PARENTING?

 

Jodi Gold, MD: “I am a child and adolescent psychiatrist.  Every day, I went to work and listened to my patients.  A theme began to emerge.   This one got dumped on text and that one was playing too much World of Warcraft.  Parents were worried that their kids were distracted during homework and increasingly concerned about how their children presented themselves online.  Then I went to pick up my younger children (aged 5, 7, 9) at school and this mom was concerned about too much TV and that one was upset that her 4 year old could navigate an iPhone. I realized that if I listened carefully, I couldn’t make it through the day professionally or personally without confronting the realities of our changing digital landscape.  I wasn’t startled that technology was ubiquitous or that current parents are the last generation of digital immigrants.   I was surprised at the fear and ignorance. Parents, teachers and families were constantly fearful and distrustful.  I went looking for answers on how to embrace technology and use it for good, but found little guidance.

 

At the same time, I had been presenting nationally about treatments for ADHD.  A senior editor from Guilford Publishers approached me about writing a book for parents about ADHD.  I really felt like there were many good books about ADHD already on the market.  I was convinced that the Guilford editors would think that I was scattered and crazy but I told them that I really wanted to write a handbook for raising kids in the changing digital world.  I wanted to reach both physicians and parents.  I had begun to talk about the digital world with my patients and their families within a developmental framework.  We spoke about when children should be reading, making friends and going out alone.  Theses are all normal parts of growing up.  I realized that reading an e-book, getting a phone and creating a social media profile were also part of growing up but we didn’t have any graphs, charts or handbooks.  I wanted to write a book that looked at the existing research and offered concrete recommendations based on an understanding of research and child development.  Guilford didn’t think that I was crazy and they agreed to publish it before I wrote the first page.”

 

 

2.    Tell us about how you brought your background in as a doctor to helping explain these issues?

 

 

Jodi Gold, MD: “Both the Academy of Pediatrics and the Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry have begun to weigh in on parenting in the digital age.  It is critical that physicians make this a priority for research and policy.  I believe that we should be adding “digital milestones” to our list of developmental milestones and challenges.  I hope that Screen Smart Parenting will deepen the dialogue on raising digital citizens in both the medical and parental world.

 

In medicine, we base our decisions and approaches on double blind longitudinal studies.  When they are not available, we do our best find evidence based research.  The goal is to use sound research to support our medical treatments and decisions.  In pediatrics, we view everything on a developmental framework.  Children are not little adults.  We need to understand children and adolescents from a developmental lens.  We misperceive and mistreat children if we apply adult rules to them.  In psychiatry, we use what is called the bio-psycho-social model.   This means that we try to understand children and adults in a multi-faceted way that encompasses genetics, psychology and the realities of family and home life.  In psychology, we understand human behavior so we can develop incentives and plans that help children internalize healthy behaviors.  We need to use this knowledge as we build behavior plans and create consequences around digital devices.    I used these basic principles from research, medicine and psychology to write Screen Smart Parenting.  I believe that it is one of the first books on this topic written within a medical model from the standpoint of a practicing clinician.”

 

3.   What is screen smart parenting and what areas does your book discuss?

 

Jodi Gold, MD: “Screen Smart Parents are parents who are thoughtful and communicative about managing digital technology.  They want to cultivate online resilience which scientists increasingly feel is linked to happiness and success in life.  They want to instill in their children the tenets of digital citizenship.  Eventually, screen smart parents will have the experience of being digital natives and citizens.  Right now, most of us are digital immigrants with newly stamped passports and limited command of the digital language.  Screen Smart parents do not need a Ph.D. in computer science but they need to check their fear and be willing to learn from and with their children.

 

In Screen Smart Parenting, I ask parents to figure out their parenting style, understand the digital landscape and develop a family technology plan.  In order to parent your children through the digital landscape, you need to understand your family culture and your own relationship with technology. It’s important to understand the developmental evolution of the use of digital technology: what happens at what age. It’s also essential to get a feel for how digital technology is actually used today by children and adolescents.  In the book, I write about how technology does affect your child’s development.  I also introduce the hot topics that monopolize our conversations from the iBlankie to the proverbial 5 minutes of Facebook fame.  In the second part of the book, I write about different age groups, each of which explains how digital technology intersects with what your child needs to achieve during those years and how you can promote technology as a tool to support, not hinder, healthy development. In the third section, I take a more sophisticated look at children who need more attention and parental involvement and may exhibit red flags for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and depression. These “orchid” children may need extra care and modified digital parameters.  In the conclusion, I used my experience with behavioral interventions and plans, to give parents the tools to build a realistic and effective family technology plan.  I offer age-appropriate templates and suggestions on how to trouble shoot.  The goal is to build a family plan that includes your children’s voice in finding balance and using technology as a tool.”

 

 

4. What’s the right age for a phone/smartphone/social media access?

 

Jodi Gold, MD: “This is a personal family decision but I can give you some guidelines as a mother, physician and expert in this field.  Your child will eventually own a smartphone so the question is not “if” but when.  You should give your child a phone when he/she truly “needs” one.  Most kids get their phones and smartphones between the ages of 11 and 14 years of age.  Here is a list of reasons for why you might choose to give your child a phone prior to the age of 11.

  • Parents are divorced and the child would like to have more control over his or her communication with the non-custodial parent, and/or there is shuttling back and forth.  A phone may help with the transition between two households
  • A child is taking long bus rides and needs to communicate with parents for some reason
  • The child has a chronic medical condition and needs a phone in case there is an urgent need to reach parents and caregivers
  • The child has a psychiatric or medical condition that causes her to miss a lot of school.  A phone may help to keep in touch with friends and teachers

It is likely that this decision will be somewhat driven by community/peer pressure.  It is important for parents to be thoughtful about when and how they introduce a phone.  A phone should be introduced in a developmental way (especially if you are giving a child a phone at a younger age).

*I can talk more about social media but similar rules apply.  However, there is some social media that is targeted for young children.  I encourage interested children to start with child-friendly sites before they move onto Twitter and Instagram.”

 

 

For more information, check out her website Screen Smart Parenting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women Rock The Vote! Websites To Help Find Polling Places

VotingToday is voting day for 2014 Mid Term elections.  I usually don’t talk about politics, but I do want to talk about how important it is for everyone to vote. It is especially important for women to vote to make sure their voices are heard. I remember my mom taking my brother and I to vote after work because she worked full time. I kept that tradition and have taken my boys with me for years to vote. Today I cleared some time during lunch and will take a run to my local poll location (exercise and voting at the same time)!

 

To do my part, I also wanted to share the online websites that can you help you find your local poll locations.

 

1. Vote411.org  is a website created by the League of Women Voters and asks users to “enter their addresses to find their polling place, build their ballot with an online voters’ guide and much more!”

 

2. Get To The Polls (Voter Information Project): Get to the polls is a great website just to find out where you can vote. This website worked the best for me quickly finding my local polling location.

 

3. Can I Vote Website: The Can I vote website has information on polling places by state.

 

4. Make a pledge to vote #WhyIVote at MomsRising The website Moms Rising posted with a request to make a pledge to vote:  “Why pledge to vote? Elections, particularly local elections, are sometimes won or lost by fewer than 20 votes.  So when you pledge to vote you’re also part of activating moms and dads across the nation to show up on Election Day to make a critical difference. Women are 53% of the electorateand if we all show up to vote, we can determine the outcomes of elections.” The Moms Rising Facebook Page has great stories that women shared on why they voted. Here is one from Ariana Huffington:

 

Moms Rising #WhyIVote

Photo Credit: Moms Rising

 

 

Please share “Why You Vote” and make sure you head to the polls today!

 

 

 

5 Tips To Reduce Stress

Disclosure: I am a member of the Invisalign Teen Mom Advisory Board

 

How To Deal With StressWhether as a  busy parent working through the challenges of work or home, or a as kid managing school and social pressure, managing stress is a very important skill. There are so many theories, books, articles and blog posts discussing stress reduction that just reading through all of the information can be stressful. I decided to take a step back and examine each of the “stressful” areas in my life one by one. Here are some of the strategies I used to reduce stress each day. Please share what you do to deal with the things that cause you stress.

 

1. Get Sleep: Arianna Huffington’s book (Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder) was the original inspiration for my own journey to get more sleep each night. I realized that part of my stress each day was because I was tired. With work, kids and so many other daily responsibilities keeping me active, I decided to use sleep as my main secret weapons to manage it all. With a good night’s sleep, I feel less stress and more energy to handle the daily juggle. I started to work backwards from the latest I can go to sleep (11pm) and determine what time I need to complete household tasks, say good night to the kids, and shut off all electronics. This calculation revealed that I need one hour of quiet, reading or relaxing time before bed.  That means that I *try* to get in bed at 10pm and start my process of relaxation. While this does not always work, it provices a schedule framework each night. Sometimes I just quietly meditate for 10 minutes before bed, closing my eyes and thinking of the beach, smelling the ocean air and hearing the waves. Another way I like to relax before bed is doing yoga or stretching exercises while listening to calming music.

 

2. Daily Exercise: Another thing causing me stress each day was trying to squeeze in exercise time. With my schedule, I could not fit in long runs, trips to the health club or attending exercise classes on a regular basis. So I decided to simplify my schedule by counting things such as walks outside, exercises at home (planks, sit-ups, squats and using inexpensive exercise equipment) or just a quick basketball game with my boys as exercise. Suddenly the word “exercise” did not cause my stress because I had so many options. I even limited lunch invitations to those that included some sort of walking, including parking far away and walking to the lunch meeting.

 

3. Spend Time with Friends: My family and I enjoy socializing and seeing friends whenever we can, but our schedules and our friends’ schedules became so busy as our kids got older. We needed to plan family get togethers months in advance. We did not want our whole social life to revolve around the people we saw at our kid’s activities so we contacted groups of friends who knew each other and make plans. The kids really appreciated our offer that they invite friends over for a movie night.

 

4. Time Management:  Managing the family schedule, together with work schedules, was another contributor to daily stress. I decided to initiate this school year by putting all known school events in an online calendar that I shared within the family. This included creating  different calendars for each of my kids. One of our goals included having my teen son check his smartphone, which has access to his online calendar, to help manage his schedule. Having all of our events in an online calendar helped release some of the stress for managing time because I had home and mobile access to daily schedules.

 

5. Set Up Health Appointments:  After I set up our family schedule online, I decided to then go ahead and schedule health and dental appointments. Time went by quickly and before I knew it I was behind in my own appointments, including the scheduling of my mammogram and dental checkups. This included dealing with issues that I had been postponing. My dentist had told me that my daily stress was causing me to grind my teeth at night, and I needed to do something about it. After seeing my son easily fit his Invisalign Teen treatment into his daily routine, I realized that it may just be time to look into fixing my own dental issues. My teeth crowding has been sending me to the dentist on a regular basis (causing stress) and also I realized I was not smiling as much because I was self conscious (causing more stress!).  I have seen my friends fix their smile with Invisalign, so it is time for me to consider fixing my own smile by making an appointment with an orthodontist for myself!

 

 

 

 

Disclosure: I am a member of the Invisalign Teen Mom Advisory Board. My son has received complimentary treatment from Align, but all opinions expressed are my own. Here is information on the Invisalign smile assessment, treatment process and how to find a Doc.

 

 

 

Dolby Atmos Audio Tech

10am Oct 6 update: Giveaway is closed.

 

Dolby Atmos There are so many different technologies that need to come together for a movie to be immersive. While many of us first think of the visual aspects (3D for example) the sound plays a very big role in a movie experience. I first realized this when I went to a Dolby press event in San Francisco last year. Dolby creates audio, visual, and voice technologies for cinemas, home theaters, PCs, mobile devices, and games. The press were given the opportunity to sit in the Dolby Theatre and watch one of the 2013 Dolby Atmos Movie Releases: Monster’s University.  When the movie started I wondered if I would really experience the sounds in the movie as if they were above, next and behind me. Well I can tell you that it was an audio delight to experience Monster’s University with Dolby Atmos because the sound was completely immersive adding another dimension to the movie experience.

 

 

 

When Dolby contacted me about one of the new movies out with Dolby Atmos, I could not resist taking some extra time to also learn more about how Dolby Atmos works. But first I got the opportunity to give away 3 copies of Transformers: Age of Extinction (one of the 2013 Dolby Atmos Movie Releases).

 

 

Transformers: Age of Extinction with Dolby Atmos

 

TO ENTER:

Leave a comment on this post talking about how you like to experience movies at home to an “immersive” experience. For example, we have a sound bar but I never thought about installing speakers at home to make our movie night more immersive!

PRIZE:

3 commenters will each win one Transformers: Age of Extinction DVD.

TIMING:

Contest starts Oct 2 and ends Oct 6 2014 -10am pst. Winner will be announced by Oct 7 2014

RULES:

1. One Blog Post comment per person. One Blog Post comment is equal to one entry (so only one entry per person)  2. Winners are limited to US residents only 21 years of age or older. 3. If a valid email address is not provided in the entry, another winner will be chosen. 4. The prize is not redeemable in cash and must be accepted as awarded. 5. Approximate value of prizes may vary. 6. All decisions are final 7. By entering any giveaway on this website you release Techmamas.com from any liability whatsoever, and waive any and all causes of action. 7. Contest starts Oct 2 and ends Oct 6 2014 -10am pst. Winner will be announced by Oct 7 2014.

 

Dolby also provided me some fun facts in their press release about Transformers: Age of Extinction:

●     “Besides the fact that it’s a Transformers movie, what makes this release so great? It’s the first Blu-ray released with Dolby Atmos technology.

●     Transformers: Age of Extinction, released Sept. 30, is the first movie mixed in Dolby Atmos for home theaters. This fall will see more Dolby Atmos titles for home theater on both Blu-ray Disc and from streaming video providers like Vudu.

●     Dolby Atmos makes it easy for filmmakers to place or move specific sounds anywhere in the movie theatre, including overhead. As a result of this multi-dimensional sound, audiences feel as if they are inside the film, not merely watching it. Major Hollywood studios are partnering with Dolby to create Dolby Atmos home video versions of current box office releases and previously released favorites. Dolby Atmos debuted in 2012 in the hit film Brave. Since then, it’s been used for more than 180 theatrical releases, including hits like Godzilla, Guardians of the Galaxy, Gravity, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. In addition to global studio partnerships, Dolby is partnering with game, music, and broadcast content creators to take advantage of Dolby Atmos technology for future home theater use.

●     Even if you don’t have a Dolby Atmos home theater, content mixed in Dolby Atmos sounds better. This format gives filmmakers the tools and freedom to bring more sound off the screen and into your living room creating a more enveloping experience – it’s as if you’re actually in the movie.”

 

I also received a press document that covered more details about the Dolby Atmos technology.  I was happy to know that even in my house I could create an immersive experience with Dolby Atmos enabled speakers in our own living room.

“Dolby Atmos enabled speakers can produce an incredibly accurate Dolby Atmos experience in many types of rooms. You’ll get the best sound if your ceiling is flat (not vaulted or angled) and made of an acoustically reflective material, such as drywall, plaster, concrete, or wood. Dolby designed the technology for rooms with ceiling heights of 8 to 9 feet (2.4 to 2.7 meters ), but testing indicates that you can still hear incredible Dolby Atmos sound in rooms with ceilings as high as 14 feet (4.3 meters), though the effect may become more diffuse in rooms with higher ceilings. There are some rooms in which we don’t recommend using ceiling speakers…”

 

 

 

Dolby Atmos Speaker Placement

 

 

The press document also had information about how the Dolby Atmos technology works:

“Dolby Atmos is based on the concept of sound objects. In the cinema, Dolby Atmos relies on a combination of 9.1 “bed” channels and up to 118 simultaneous sound objects to deliver an enveloping sound scene. Every sound in a scene—a child yelling, a helicopter taking off, a car horn blaring—can be a separate sound object. Each of those sounds comes from a specific location in the scene, and in some cases, they move. The car careens from left to right, while the yelling child runs up a set of stairs. Using sophisticated content creation tools that represent the sound objects in a three- dimensional space, filmmakers can isolate each of the sound objects in a scene and decide exactly where they want them to be and how they want them to move. In the final sound mix, the sound objects are combined with metadata—additional data that describes a number of parameters about the sound object, including its location and movement, if any.”…

 

 

Dolby Atmos Speaker Placement

 

 

The Dolby website also has speaker recommendations and information on how to set them up. The press release explained some of that information and I learned that one of the main things you need to start is an AVR – which is an “AV receiver – which magnifies sound from multiple sources” and if I already have have conventional speakers you like, you can simply buy Dolby Atmos enabled add-on speaker modules:

“Although Dolby Atmos is a revolutionary new home theater format, it doesn’t require that you start from scratch. Although you will need a new AVR, in most cases, you’ll be able to keep most, if not all, of your existing speakers. But if you already have conventional speakers you like, you can simply buy Dolby Atmos enabled add-on speaker modules. These include only the upward-firing speakers. You can place these add-on modules on top of your current speakers or on another nearby surface.

 

Dolby recommends that you use four Dolby Atmos enabled speakers when possible. Use of four speakers will make the placement of overhead sounds more accurate, and you’ll get more precise, realistic sounds as an object—such as a helicopter—passes overhead in a video..  Two of the speakers (whether they are integrated speakers or add-on modules) should be in the front left and front right speaker locations of your system. The other two should be positioned in the surround sound speaker locations, ideally the rear surround speakers, if you have them…. Some home theater enthusiasts will also be able to install speakers in or on their ceilings, but you don’t have to. If you use ceiling speakers, Dolby recommends that you use four or more speakers when possible, though two speakers will still provide a great experience. If you use four ceiling speakers, you should place the front pair of ceiling speakers in front of the position where you’ll be listening and the second pair of ceiling speakers behind you when you’re seated. If you use two ceiling speakers, mount them slightly in front of where you’ll be listening.

 

 

There is one important consideration in expanding your system: new speakers must be added to your Dolby Atmos system in pairs. A new speaker on the right side of the room must be matched by a similar speaker on the left side of the room. This is true for speakers located on the floor as well as in the ceiling. This pairing ensures a balanced soundstage. The exceptions to this rule are when you add speakers in the center or center surround locations.”

 

 

Home theater manufacturers started announcing Dolby Atmos enabled equipment in June. The first Dolby Atmos receivers and speakers are starting to appear in stores now. More information about Dolby Atmos can be found on the You can get more information about Dolby Atmos on the Dolby website and Dolby blog or follow updates on Facebook and Twitter. on our website and on our blog.

 

 

Disclosure:  This is a press post. One copy of Transformers: Age of Extinction was given to me for review purposes. The giveaway is being offered as value to my readers – this is NOT a paid post.  All of my opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

Facebook Family Tech Chalkboard: Tips and New Features

Facebook Family Tech ChalkboardWhen Facebook reached out to me and other parenting journalists to attend a “Facebook Family Tech Chalkboard” meeting at their campus, I was excited attend a press briefing on their new features.  As parents we have the dual role of using Facebook to communicate with our own friends (and family) as well as advising our teens on topics such as privacy and social media etiquette. Those of us with businesses or websites also use Facebook Pages to engage with our customers or readers.   Listed below is a summary of the topics discussed.

 

 

  • Facebook Groups Updates:
    • Facebook groups is a great way to have separate discussions with different “groups” of friends. I wrote a post (Tips For Moms on Using Facebook Groups) that discussed the different types of groups and details for setting up Facebook Groups. At the meeting we shared stories on how we use Facebook groups.
    • Facebook Groups for Schools: We learned about Facebook feature called “Groups for Schools” which allows people with an active school email address to join groups at their college or university. I am happy that Facebook still has this feature to allow only people in the college (that have the college “email” address) to join the college Facebook group.

     

    Facebook groups for schools

    Facebook groups for schools Photo credit: Facebook

     

  • New Facebook Feature “Save for later” The new Facebook “Save” feature enables you to save items (links, places, movies, TV and music) you find on Facebook for later. From a privacy standpoint we learned that only you can see the items you save unless you choose to share them with friends. This is a feature that is especially important to me  lately because while I find the most interesting articles on my timeline, I rarely have time to read the full article. Now I can “save” it and come back to it! Sometimes I flip back and forth in my Facebook timeline between top stories and most recent to see what articles people are sharing. But I always seem to go back to “top stories” because that is where some of the most talked about articles seem to show up.  My next step will be to create my own Facebook “friends lists” of my tech friends, parenting friends and more to help curate updates on my timeline (which I can now share!).

 

Facebook Save

New Facebook Save Feature. Photo credit: Facebook

 

 

 

  • Facebook Privacy Checkup:  The new Facebook feature called “Privacy Checkup“  offers a guided approach to setting up privacy controls. It will take users through steps to “review things like who they’re posting to, which apps they use, and the privacy of key pieces of information on their profile“. While I already went through the Facebook privacy settings with my teen when he first set up Facebook (and for myself), the privacy checkup is also a good way to have a guided review of settings.

 

 

 

 

 

  • Facebook Login & Anonymous Login: New Facebook login features, announced at the last Facebook Developer’s conference, offers “a brand new way to log into apps without sharing any personal information from Facebook, along with a new version of Facebook Login with even better privacy controls.” The  announcement explained the three new features as:

1. Anonymous Login:An easy way for people to try an app without sharing any of their personal information from Facebook.”

2. Facebook Login:A new version that gives people the option to pick and choose what information apps get.
3. Redesigned App Control Panel:A central place for people to see and manage the apps they use.

 

Facebook Anonymous Login

Facebook Anonymous Login. Photo credit: Facebook

 

 

The ability to signup for new apps without having to share all of my personal information is an option I have been looking for some time. App developers have a year to utilize this new feature so we will see this rolling out soon.

 

 

The last topic we discussed was Facebook Pages. I not only have a Facebook page for TechMamas but also manage some Facebook pages (and ad campaigns)  for clients so this is an area of great interest to me. At the same time, there is so much information to cover on this topic that I decided to split it up to be covered in my next post on Facebook Pages (so keep an eye out for that post coming out soon!).

 

At the end of the event we had a tour of the Facebook Campus and could not help but have some fun in the Facebook store with fellow parenting journalists – including Jessica Rosenberg who helped me model some fun tee shirts!

 

Facebook Family Tech Chalkboard Tour

 

 

Disclosure: The Facebook Family Tech Chalkboard was a press event. This post is a press update.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips For Moms on Using Facebook Groups

Tips For Moms: How To Use Facebook GroupsHow people communicate has changed significantly thanks to social media networks, especially Facebook which covers family, friends, business networks and more. I have written before about Tips for Parents: Facebook Privacy Settings for Teens but this time I wanted to cover Facebook Groups. It is important that parents understand online security and privacy settings in social networks, then help educate their kids and set up regular communication to help guide them when needed. In addition, moms can use Facebook Groups in several ways to assist in their own communication. I even showed my teen (and did it for myself) how to create a Facebook “close friends” list to see more of their updates on his timeline.

 

 

Lately it seems that every conference I attend, social media groups I am involved with and “In Real life” groups I join use Facebook Groups as communication central. I even have a Facebook Group for a business group I joined in college (made up of business majors from my alma mater). They use a Facebook Group to keep in touch and coordinate events. I recently attended their annual reunion and it was magical to sit with them in real life and catch up on information beyond their frequent online updates.

 

Coincidentally, I was able to join this local reunion because I was in town speaking at a social media conference which used Facebook groups to organize attendee communication.

 

As a mom, Facebook groups are a powerful tool to help organize school, meetup, sports and even fitness group meetups. I just joined a Facebook fitness group with other moms to help inspire us to exercise. My experience as a Facebook Admin for many groups helped me gain information that I have shared with other moms to help them set up their groups. For example, the Facebook Group Admin Help section has basic information on privacy and settings.

 

The most important decision for setting up a Facebook Group is whether your group will be open (anyone can join or be added or invited by a member), private (anyone can join, but they have to be added or invited by a member) or closed (anyone can ask to join or be added or invited by a member). I view Facebook Groups as set up for group communication. Some of my friends have businesses and they want to communicate with customers. I suggested Facebook “Pages” to them as a great tool for customer and community interaction. My next post will cover setting up Facebook Pages.

 

One of Facebook Group’s features is the ability to store files (including DropBox files). For social media conferences, we create group files that contain everyone’s website URL and social media profiles so we can follow and connect with each other online. You can also load photo’s and video to Facebook Groups. I recently just started using this tool called Canva to create not only Facebook graphics but also Facebook banners for Groups and Pages.

 

I also stress the importance of establishing Facebook Group community guidelines with admins such as banning people who say inappropriate things. Communication can flourish in a Facebook Group that is focused on a theme (i.e. fitness, networking group, conference, mother’s group) and, in the same light, shut down if members don’t speak to each other in a respectful way, keeping inappropriate topics and language off the group’s timeline.

 

Managing any group of people can be challenging, especially one that is online. But with the right guidelines and members, it can be a vital source of connection and information exchange.

 

Facebook did some research related to moms and Facebook Groups and shared it to press. The information below is from that Facebook press release.

 

Facebook Press Release: Insight from Moms Group

 

Access/Usage:

  • Check the Group daily, as often as News Feed
  • Access via both mobile and web; also utilize email notifications to see new items in email and flag for follow-up

 

Why they use Groups

Top Reasons:

  • A robust resource – Group members are from all over the US and the world, so you feel that you can ask a question and get a variety of responses and perspectives.
  • They can relate – Moms can ask any question to see if someone else has gone through the same thing, what the outcome was, any first-hand advice.  Your friends or family may not have children, or children at the same age, whereas in the Group, you can connect with other moms in the same situation that you’re in.
  • It’s separate – The Group is separate from other friends/family/co-workers on Facebook so you feel comfortable posting in a secure, like-minded forum.
  • It’s fast – “It’s so easy to post a question and get several responses within minutes”

 

How they connect w/ other moms

 

Moms use Facebook Groups mostly to connect with other moms outside of their friends/people they already know, in some cases developing deeper connections –

  • “I have friended many of the women in this group, even though I have never met them. I started to recognize certain names and stories. I felt like I knew these women personally. So I would reach out and say hi and then our friendships began.”
  • “There are a few groups that have been spun off from this group. In some ways, there are moms that I see in multiple groups and stay in contact with them more than I see my husband’s posts!”
  • Some noted that the Facebook Group is even more supportive than local meet-ups in-person.
  • “I use a local meet-up group as another source of information and way to meet people, but this group is by far more supportive. Interestingly, my local group has since moved onto Facebook.”

 

How-To

Facebook Groups is an easy way to connect and share things with family or specific sets of people like teammates, coworkers, or anyone with a shared interest. Over 500 million people use Groups each month and hundreds of thousands of Groups are created each day with the goal of connecting with others on common ground.

 

Below are some tips from Facebook on how to create a Group as well as how to continue to maintain a successful and active Group:

 

How To Create a Group:

  • On web: From your homepage, go to the Groups section on your sidebar and click on Add Group. Click Create New Group, from there a window will appear where you’ll be able to add a group name, add members and select the privacy setting for your group. Click the Create button when you’re finished.
  • On iPhone: Tap More, then under Groups, tap Create Group and enter Group name, description, privacy setting, and an icon.  Tap Create in the top-right corner to confirm.
  • On Android:  In the menu, scroll down to Groups, tap Add Group, enter the group’s name and select the privacy setting.  Tap Continue to confirm.

 

How to Join a Group:

Go to the group you want to be part of and then click Join Group in the top-right corner. You can also join any Open group that you see on the About page of someone’s Timeline by clicking Join.

  • You may have to wait for a group admin to approve your request. In some groups, you can also be added by a friend who’s already a member.
  • Customize Your Groups Privacy Setting: You can select one of three privacy options for each group you create: Open, Closed or Private.
  • Open: Anyone can join or be added or invited by a member
  • Closed: Anyone can ask to join or be added or invited by a member
  • Private: Anyone can join, but they have to be added or invited by a member.

 

Tips for Creating and Maintaining a Successful Group:

  •  Post Early & Often: Groups are more successful when the Group founders visit the Group early in its existence and post more often – get your Group started with posting on topics that encourage members to engage, share from the get-go and Like posts from other members.
  • Spread The Word: Groups thrive when more than just the original Group founders invite people to join – add additional people as administrators for the Group and encourage other Group members to invite their friends or networks. For Open groups, add tags like life, sports, food, and more so that other people can find your Group and join.
  • Make it Visual: Facebook found that flourishing Groups include logos, pictures, descriptions, or other visuals.  Consider adding a link or visual to every post on the Group page. You can also add files to your Group – here’s more info on sharing stuff from your Dropbox with your Facebook Group.
  1. On your group’s page, start a new post and click Add File. You’ll see a “From Your Dropbox” section next to Facebook’s regular file uploader.
  2. Click Choose File. If you haven’t already, sign in or create a Dropbox account. If this is your first time, you’ll also be asked for permission to link your Dropbox account to Facebook.
  3. Select the file from your Dropbox, and a link to the file will be added to your post. You can also include a message with your post.

You can curate your News Feed for content posted to your Groups.  If you’d like to modify what you see from your Groups in your News Feed, click on the drop-down in the upper right hand corner of a post on News Feed, and select one of the following options:

  • I don’t want to see this
  • Unfollow your Friend
  • Unfollow the Group

 

You can also control the Notifications you receive from your Groups.  On the Groups page, click on “Notifications” in the upper right hand corner and select one of the following options:

  •  All Posts
  • Friends’ Posts
  • Off

 

 

How do you use Facebook Groups?

 

 

Disclosure: This is a press post.

 

 

 

Back To School Organization Tips – Family Online Calender

Back-To-School-OrganizationAs kids head back to school many families start the process of organizing their schedules and lives.  I will be covering the tools, apps, tech and processes that I have found helpful for back to school organization over the next few weeks , and hope to hear from my readers what works for them. Because organizing for the new school year can be overwhelming, I suggest starting with setting up the school year and after school activity schedule.  While there are many paper based organization systems, my family prefers to use online calenders.  Here are the steps we took to set up our family schedule online:

 

STEP 1: Pick an online calender.

 

There are individual sites such as Cozi.com that have web and apps to capture family schedules, but there are also online calenders such as Microsoft Outlook, Apple iCal, Yahoo and Google Calenders. To help choose, look at the email accounts and operating systems that most family member’s use. At the same time consider that because online calenders can be accessed over the internet, they do work across operating systems and devices as long as you have either WiFi or a data plan for phones.

 

STEP 2: Gather School, Sports and After school Activity dates:

 

Gathering a list of school, sports and after school activity dates make seem time consuming, but it is worthwhile investment. Setting up an online calender in the beginning of the year (and updated seasonally) will help organize the family schedule and family life in general. Some schools and sports leagues have online calenders you can load to directly to personal online calenders (look for the “+” calender or “add calender” option).  If you only have paper printouts our online lists, I suggest putting those in a folder then pick a time that I call “input day” where I just input everything into the calender. It may seem like a big task, but it actually does not take as long as it would seem it I just start it at the beginning of each school year then just update as needed.

 

 

STEP 3:  Input school, sports and after school dates into the online calender.

 

Next pick a time (or a few times) to input the school year calender dates into the online calender. Check out the features of the online calender system so you know in advance the ones you want to use. For example, I use special features like “repeat” for the timing of each school day (8:15am-3pm) so it just repeats each weekday for a whole semester at at time. Then I delete or change the timing for vacations. I “invite” family members to events so they get it on their online calenders (such as school concerts).

 

 

But my favorite feature is the option to color code different calenders to represent different kids in my family of three boys. I then “invite” my kids via their email address to access their calender so they can not only see their schedule but also learn the process of managing their schedule. The goal is as they get older they will become independent by setting up their own online calenders. Color coding has also taken care of any “you did not tell me about that appointment” complaints because I can always say “it was on your schedule – so please check it”.  My teen has a smartphone with access to a data plan so I have higher expectations for him to regularly check his schedule versus my twins who have talk and text phones with no internet access.  I also try to print out my kids “color coded” online schedules and have them up in the kitchen as a reminder.

 

How do you set up your family school year schedule?

 

 

 

Black Friday Roundup: Tips and Tricks!

Today is BlackFriday and many people are probably not reading posts but working like crazy to check off their shopping lists. I wanted to provide a roundup to save time of some of my favorite BlackFriday posts. Please share your tips!!

 

1. SHOP SMART – USE PRICE TRACKERS & AVOID SCAMS: Save money by understanding the true pricing across stores by using a price tracker. Also, take time to learn about the scams.  Here are some recommendations from Techlicious:  Price Trackers that Can Save You a Fortune  and 3 Holiday Online Shopping Scams To Watch Out.

 

 

2. MAKE A HOLIDAY SHOPPING PLAN: I shared my Holiday and social time shopping tips to recommend taking time to make a shopping plan but also a plan for spending time with family and friends. For example, instead of just shopping for gifts at stores, check out gifts for your loved ones or yourself that invest in your health or provide fun throughout the year: Health Club or Sports Club Memberships (like in San Franciso area memberships to YMCA or JCC’s, Western Athletic Clubs, Indoor Rock Climbing or more), Memberships at Art or Family museums (such as Exploratorium), Season tickets for your favorite local professional, minor league, college or sports teams (like the SF Giants or Stanford Sports – GoStanford in my area!).

 

Also look for opportunities to invest in education for yourself, kids or the whole family (cooking classes?) by purchasing online or local classes/instruction. I purchased indoor rock climbing lessons for our family as a holiday gift and will be purchasing tickets for the SF Giants and Stanford Sports.  We also want to learn how to program ( i.e Code Academy, Tynker, Girls Who Code and TED 10 places to learn to code) and to speak Spanish, so we are looking for education classes in those areas to invest in. Use the holidays to invest in a success plan for yourself and your loved ones!

 

 

 

3. SHOPPING ONLINE IS A GREAT OPTION:  Develop a shopping plan that is less stressful by doing some shopping online! First make a list of your favorite stores and check online. Then check the holiday gift guides online such as for Cool Mom Tech, Cool Mom Picks, Techlicious, Mom Trends, The Shopping Mama and more. When shopping online, check the coupon sites for coupon codes (such as Coupon.com and RetailMeNot.com). I found a 30% off code for pants for my teen from RetailMeNot!

 

4. Mind Your Budget, Walk away if needed:

 

 

What are your favorite Black Friday Shopping Tips?

 

Tips For Planning Your Holiday Social And Shopping Time

In my book “My Parent Plan” I discuss that making a plan before doing an activity will help gather your thoughts, consider options and make a strategy for best use of your time. Of course, holiday social and shopping time are one of the top activities that benefit from a plan. Here are some of my tips:

 

1. Time for Charity: Holiday time can be hard for everyone, but especially those in need. We decided early on to get our kids involved in volunteering with charities during the holidays. Whether it be collecting food for a food bank, cooking food for shelters or assisting with charity drives, there are many options to give to charity. We are excited this year to buy the food donation bags at our local grocery store for Thanksgiving and cook along with my fellow local community members for a homeless shelter on Christmas.


2. Time to Pay It Forward: Along with giving to charity, the holidays (and all year round) is a great time to pay it forward by helping family, friends and others that need assistance.  I decided this holiday would be a good time to help some of my friends that are returning back to work learn computer skills.  A few of my friends specifically asked me to teach them to use Microsoft Office because it is listed as a skill needed for the job they are interviewing for.

 

3. Time To Show Teachers and Family Service Providers Your Thanks: Holiday time is the time I like show the people that contribute to making my families life more special – special as well. Gift cards seem to be the most popular gift, but I suggest putting the receipt with the card in the envelope just in case the card has an error. I bought a gift card for a teacher one year and she returned it to me (thanking me and apologizing) because it did not work. I had to take it back to the store and to re-issue the card because I had the receipt. I felt bad, so now I make sure to get individual receipts for each gift card and include it in the gift. Another option is sending online gift cards.

 

4. Make A Social Plan: Holiday time is the best time to turn off spending time on your online networks and turn on spending time in real life social events. When you are with family and friends, try to do activities where everyone can join in. There are also many other options for holiday social events. One example is finding other people with similar hobbies. Our family is taking up indoor rock climbing and ice skating over the holidays and finding other families to come with us. There are local email groups and general sites like Meetup.org that provide groups and activities for every type of interest.

 

5. Make A Purchase Plan: In my book “My Parent Plan” I have a chapter on creating a Purchase Plan to identify the purchases you need to make over the year to figure out the best timing and family budget.  For example, because we identified that an electronic drum set was on our family purchase plan for this year and realized it was expensive,  we decided to give it to our boys to share as a holiday present. Our boys had to wait awhile to get it – but it is something they will really value at holiday time as a gift! Or my husband made a request months ago to have a work area in the garage to do building projects with our kids. So I looked at converting our broken down utility cart in the garage into a workspace by purchasing a garage system from an organizational store. That space will not only be a special present, but give year around joy.  A post on Square mentioned gifts for the Junior Chef, which is a great idea because gifts that also support kids spending time cooking with family members is something kids will never get tired of.

 

 

 

Setting a family budget may also help balance the need to over-shop with what is really in the budget. Family and friends always appreciate a gift, but not if it is at the expense of a friend overspending past their budget. There are also ways to offer your time that in the end is most valuable thing, such as “drop your kids off at our house for movie night”  or a “one hour how to play guitar” teaching certificate. Or instead of impulse buying items just to check off the list, research budget friendly alternatives instead.

 

6. Make A Shopping Plan: No matter what your holiday plans are, most people need to do some sort of shopping.  If you don’t want to shop during the Black Friday weekend then don’t feel the pressure to do it. Shopping with the crowds can be stressful and you may not get the best deals. A post on CBS gave the following reasons not to shop on Black Friday (which I agree): ” Door-busters are mainly second-tier products , you can find some of the same deals online, you’re more likely to overspend, layaway may not be available and return policies may be stricter.”   But if you do enjoy shopping over Black Friday weekend, join in the fun but try to still create a shopping plan to check as much off your list as possible. And make sure to wear comfortable shoes..

 

If you, like many this Thanksgiving weekend, are to busy to shop – don’t worry because next Monday is CyberMonday – the day that online deals are posted for cyber shoppers. Mashable posted about tips to shop discreetly at work for Cyber Monday. But really shopping at night during your free time will be just as effective – and not have the danger of losing a job that is needed to pay for the things you are buying!  Deals are even online now so you can start by visiting your favorite online sites and general deals sites to look for their Cyber Monday (or Cyber week!) sections.

 

7. Make A Technology Shopping Plan: If technology is on your holiday shopping list, it is important to make a technology shopping plan. Because there are so many types of technology, the first step in holiday technology gift giving should be to understand the workflow of the people you are giving the gifts to. What technology do they already have? How old is their technology? What types of things do they want to start doing (such as getting in shape, getting into photography, listening to more music, making videos). When do they use technology, is it on the go or mostly at home? What’s not working for the technology they are using now?

 

Then once you understand their interests and workflow, the next step is to understand what technology the recipient of your holiday gift already has.  Do they need more features and functionality? Would they benefit from an upgrade or a new device? Are there new accessories for the devices?  Are their new colors or styles out for accessories they already have? Do they have specific activities that could benefit from a specific accessory (such as a waterproof sports earphones good for jogging)? Are there ways to personalize technology accessories to give it a personal touch (like a smartphone case that has a family picture or kid’s art)? Can a new device take the place of multiple old devices? For example, can an updated tablet, computer or smartphone offer more productivity and entertainment options then the multiple devices they currently use?

 

Best yet, for families it can be a great time to “pool” gifts to invest in technology that can benefit everyone. For example, replace an older TV with a new internet enabled TV to allow entertainment streaming. Replace an older family computer with a new computer that has a big enough screen to also watch movies online. Is there a specific teen in the family that may benefit from a smartphone to help manage their “own” schedule with an online calendar and using dictation apps to help write their papers? Then that would also help their “parents” by enabling their teen to be more independent. We did this with our teen by  updating his phone from a regular phone to a smartphone (with a data plan) so he could use productivity apps for school and an online calendar to help manage his schedule. We had to make sure he followed appropriate smartphone online safety etiquette and family technology rules, but after we set that up it was a huge benefit not only to our son but also our family schedule.

 

8. Make A Plan to Live In The Moment:  Most of all, take time during the holiday to live in the moment, take a walk, connect with your loved ones or meet new people. Kimberley Clayton Blaine has a great quote on the Simple Reminder’s website that I remind myself of on a regular basis -especially now with one relative that just passed away from Ovarian Cancer and another that is still fighting bravely.  When I feel frustrated or get wrapped up in things that are not important in the “long term”, I remind myself that when waking up each morning it is a gift. I remind myself to treasure the moments with family and friends. I remind myself:

 

 

9. Make A Plan To Exercise: On the prior note of keeping perspective in life, I try every day to do some sort of exercise – even if that “exercise” is taking a quick walk, doing situps and pushups on the floor for 10 minutes, stretching or jogging. Even better are those special days when the stars align and I have time to take a hike with family or friends, go  to a group class or working out at my gym. Days when I am with family, I try to find activities that the whole family will enjoy that is also exercise.  But the reality of the holidays is that time is tight, so just fitting in some sort of exercise when I can is my mantra. Even if it means parking really far from the store to fit in a power walk in the parking lot!

 

10. Make A Plan To Just Breath:  If you do every feel stressed, remember to just breath..

 

 

 

Curious.com Launches Video Seminars With Sunset Magazine

After years of school it was not until college that I realized I was a visual learner. Now as a mom with three kids, I found out that my kids are also visual learners. I have also come to the conclusion that many people are also visual learners. Just ask someone how they learned to make their favorite meal. For me it was watching my Grandmom make chicken soup which now I make the same way.  Or watching my Pilates teacher demonstrate what using “core” stomach muscles really means (i.e. – not the cheater’s sit ups I have been doing for years using my back instead of my stomach).

 

 

That is why I have been so excited to see all the new learning options online using visual platforms such as video. Curious.com is one of those exciting websites with video lessons that inspires their online community to learn, teach and share a wide range of topics. They also believe that learning should happen beyond the classroom: “At Curious we believe in lifelong learning. Learning for its own sake. Learning that happens beyond classrooms, and not only in academic subjects (unless you count beer brewing, pipe soldering, and organic gardening as academic). Learning as a necessity of living “.

 

The new announcement out today is just in time for the holidays, especially those “Turkey cooking challenged but have lots of family coming over” like myself. Curious is collaborating with Sunset Magazine to create Sunset Seminars: “Sunset Seminars” will initially contain lessons in three courses: Sunset’s Perfect Holiday Meal, Sunset’s Essentials of Wine, and Sunset’s Guide to Container Gardening.  See the press release below. Looks like there will be Turkey (and lots of other holiday) cooking and entertaining video lessons in my near future!

 

What are you Curious to learn?

 

 


 

PRESS RELEASE:

IN TIME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, CURIOUS.COM LAUNCHES “SUNSET SEMINARS” IN COLLABORATION WITH SUNSET MAGAZINE
Sunset and Curious.com Share Food, Wine and Garden Inspiration through Interactive and Entertaining Video-based Lessons

 

Menlo Park, CA, November 21 – Curious.com, Inc., the marketplace for lifelong learning, today announced the launch of  “Sunset Seminars” on Curious.com. Created in collaboration with Sunset magazine, the premier guide to living in the West, “Sunset Seminars” will initially contain lessons in three courses: Sunset’s Perfect Holiday Meal, Sunset’s Essentials of Wine, and Sunset’s Guide to Container Gardening. Available now, Sunset Seminars can be accessed by going to www.curious.com/sunsetmagazine.

 

Each course, which is taught by one of Sunset’s expert editors, consists of 6-8 video-based lessons. In time for the holidays, Sunset’s Perfect Holiday Meal features Sunset food editor Margo True sharing invaluable insights on everything from a 1966 recipe for Thanksgiving stuffing that’s withstood the test of time, to how to prepare the perfect bird on the grill. In Sunset’s Essentials of Wine, a comprehensive primer on wine appreciation, wine editor Sara Schneider takes wine lovers on a journey of “Old World” and “New World” red, white and sparkling wines, plus takes a trip to the supermarket wine aisle. In Sunset’s Guide to Container Gardening, garden guru Johanna Silver teaches everything needed to cultivate a vibrant container garden from choosing the right containers and, selecting the best plants to maintaining a beautiful garden.

 

As with all lessons on the Curious platform, Sunset Seminar learners will have the means to ask their instructors questions and receive input on their own creations, providing a rare and intimate level of access to some of the world’s leading food, wine, and home and garden experts.

 

Sunset Seminars represent Curious’ first co-branded lesson collection giving Sunset a new platform through which to share their expert editorial content, while also infusing Curious with more lessons from the world’s best teachers. Curious already allows learners to browse over 3,000 lessons by theme through other collections, including such favorites as Languages, Art & Photo, Tasty Treats, Green Thumb and Learn to Code. Adding quality co-branded content is the next logical step.

 

“Sunset’s readers don’t want to just read our content. They want to live it,” said Peggy Northrop, Sunset Editor-in-Chief. “This collaboration with Curious.com allows us to give our fans–plus millions of passionate consumers who are actively seeking quality DIY instruction on the Web–what they want: new ways to access and learn from Sunset’s trusted experts anytime, anywhere.”

 

“Sunset is an iconic brand, known for covering the West’s best flavors, destinations, design trends, and innovations. Sunset’s content and amazing editors are ideally suited for the Curious flavor of video-based lessons,” said Justin Kitch, founder and CEO of Curious.com. “But even more importantly, the Sunset team shares our vision and passion at Curious for helping people achieve, grow, and learn.”

 

How it works:

 

Beginning today, anyone can go to Curious.com to access Sunset Seminars. The Sunset Seminars will initially feature 19 lessons on food, wine, and gardening. Designed specifically for learners, all lessons on Curious are comprised of interactive videos broken into “bite-size” conceptual sections. They also include exercises and additional resources, such as recipes, product and book recommendations, and a special Sunset magazine subscription offer. The Sunset Seminars can be accessed 24×7 via computer or iPad so that people can tap into Sunset’s expertise anytime.
To access Sunset Seminars at Curious.com go to www.curious.com/sunsetmagazine, or view other lesson collections at www.curious.com/learn.

 

About Sunset
Sunset (www.sunset.com) is the leading lifestyle brand in the West. Through magazines and books, events and experiences, and digital and social media, Sunset covers the West’s best flavors, destinations, design trends, and innovations. Sunset engages and inspires an audience of over five million educated, active and affluent consumers every month through its five regional print editions—Pacific Northwest, Northern California, Southern California, Southwest and Mountain—as well as via all tablet devices and its website. In addition to its print and digital publication, Sunset showcases the region’s unique lifestyle and noteworthy destinations through its flagship events, established home programs, licensing partners, books and International Wine Competition. Sunset is part of the Time Inc. Lifestyle Group.

 

About Curious

Founded in 2012, Curious.com, Inc. offers an innovative and engaging marketplace that connects lifelong learners with exceptional teachers around the world. Curious is home to short-format video-based interactive lessons that help anyone learn about anything on their own time. It also provides a range of free, easy-to-use tools for teachers that enable them to market, share, and monetize their lessons to millions of learners. Curious is a private company funded by Redpoint Ventures, Bill Campbell, Jesse Rogers and Justin Kitch based in Menlo Park, CA. For more information visit www.curious.com.

 

Disclosure: This is a press release.