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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Boys Wear- Sports and Smiles

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

 

What Boys WearWhen it comes to fashion for tween and teen boys, it seems to be a carefully crafted mix of the styles trends based on what heir friends and online role models are wearing. Here are the top trends, in my experience, that have influenced my boys when it comes to what they wear. Because I have three boys, I can only comment on what they wear. What trends do you see with your kids? I would especially enjoy hearing from parents of girls on trends that influence their fashion choices.

 

 

Trend 1: Sports

Sports are one of the top trends I see when it comes to tween and teen fashion. Because many boys (and girls!)  go right to sports activities after school, some wear clothes to school that can be used for both.  For example, I see many middle school boys wear sports shirts and shorts. At least the trend of slipping on sport shirts and shorts makes it easy for my boys to get dressed in the morning. I live in California so the weather is somewhat mild during the year, meaning that some boys I know wear shorts all year long! The only pants my boys will swap out their shorts for in Winter is jeans. Even my son’s friends who wear uniforms to private school during the day slip into sports active wear after school and on weekends.

 

Trend 2: What Other Kids Wear

After the first few weeks of Middle School my twin boys started asking for bright colored socks. I did not know what they were talking about until I noticed that the other boys at school were wearing brightly colored sport socks in all different types of colors. While some school fashion trends are not “appropriate” for school, brightly colored sports socks seem to be upbeat. When I asked some of my fashion forward adult male friends about sock “trends”, they said that brightly colors are always a hot trend.

 

Trend 3: The Online World

While I follow online fashion websites, I have noticed that my teen is influenced by some of the fashions he sees on his favorite YouTube shows. Luckily, they all dress low key with jeans and sometimes they even wear shirts with collars!

 

baseball  smileAs a parent I want my boys to feel good about themselves not matter what they wear, but I have explained that beyond clothes one of the most important things to wear is a “big smile” on their face. Smiling is a great way to not only connect with current friends but also meet new ones. I tell my younger twin boys that smiles are not only for posing for your sports photo’s, they are to be shared with your friends and family in real life as well!

 

 

 

Luckily my oldest teen son is working on his smile with proper dental health and Invisalign.  Fellow blogger Beccarama just posted her thoughts on “Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” and information about the Invisalign Countdown to Confidence Sweepstakes ending November 13.

 

 

 

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 Doctor.

 

 

 

 

How To Choose Apps For Kids: Mom With Apps

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Moms With Apps and The Motherhood.

 

Mom With AppsAs a mom of three boys I know how much kids love apps. As a parent, the process of finding the information I need about the apps was not only confusing but also incomplete because the current app stores don’t provide everything I am looking for. I have seen different figures on the number of apps out (and they change by the minute), but current numbers are around ONE MILLION APPS!  Most of all, getting the complete information I needed to make sure the app was safe for my kids has been challenging.

 

Enter Moms With Appsa first-of-its-kind destination that gives parents the power to choose the best apps for their kids“. I was more then thrilled to receive a press outreach email about getting more involved with Moms with Apps. Their website has been one of the sources that did provide the information needed to make decisions about kid’s apps. Now they are expanding the features on their website, and it could not have come at a better time (maybe they heard my S.O.S. pleas every time I search for apps online)!

 

Moms with Apps currently has 285 developers in its community and 885 apps in the discovery center. The website is also founded by parents who “who love using technology with their own kids, Moms With Apps only features developers who have committed to high standards for protecting kids’ privacy and building great family-friendly apps”.  The new Moms With Apps features will enable me to quickly find out what is inside each app which will make the decision process so much easier. Most of the apps they cover are from independent developers and you can edit your search terms for iPhone, iPad, iPod, Kindle Fire, Android Phone or Tablet or Windows Phone.  Moms With Apps is even looking into adding more features like the ability to rate apps.

 

Here is more information from the press release that explains the three things the Mom With Apps website offers:

 

 

1. Helps you find the rights apps for your children. All of these apps are meet a set of design and development guidelines, including the following:

 

Mom With Apps checklist

 

 

2. Know what’s inside the app before downloading!

 

Mom With Apps whats in app

 

Mom With Apps whats in app

 

 

 

Search for apps based on these specific requirements: 

 

Mom With Apps - app requirements

Mom With Apps - app requirements

 

 

3. Meet the developers behind the app. Find out what inspires them and share your feedback about their app with them! If you love a developer’s app, you can search for more by them under the developer’s page:

 

Mom With Apps - meet the developer

 

 

 

How are you been choosing kid’s apps? What information are you looking for about the kid’s app that help your decision process?

 

For more information, please visit momswithapps.com, Twitter @momswithapps and on Facebook at Facebook.com/momswithapps. Here is the Moms With Apps press release.

 

 

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Moms With Apps and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

High Tech Inspiration For Families: Chore-inator

Chore apps for kids: Chore-inatorBack to School is a time our family sets up school year routines and strategies. One of the routines that has been hardest for our family is a chore schedule for our kids. I set up our family schedule online and we are starting to set up a study routine. With a busy school day and after school activities there “seems” to be no time for our kids to do chores. But in reality, there is time but we have no way to organize when and how we fit in chores to our schedule.

 

When I received a press email about a new app called “Chore-inator” (Chore-inator.com), I was interested to check it out to help put structure into our family chore process. The Founders of Chore-inator, Diane and Kevin Hamilton of Binaryformations.com, have their own personal story on why they created the app. So I thought I would start by finding out about why they created Chore-inator, then trying for myself.

 

Chore-inator app

 

When I read the press release about the Chore-inator, I was happy to see that the app not only lists out chores but also a payout which I think is important for my boys.  In our family, earning screen time seems to always be a good inspiration to get things done.  For example, our current “payout” is our boys earn their screen time. We also offer our kids special family events when they do extra work. But we have never been able to organize or “automate” the chores to make sure it gets in our weekly schedule.

 

We asked the Founders of Chore-inator, Diane and Kevin Hamilton of Binaryformations, to share their story on why they created the app and more details about the app. Diane Hamilton responded with the information below.

 

The Chore-inator Story:
Our immediate family consists of Kevin, myself, and our six-year-old son Adam.

 

Chore-inator Founders

Chore-inator Founders

 

We are what the software industry calls indies. We are independent app developers. Our company, Binary Formations, is a small company building apps from ideas that come from challenges within our own family. Home Inventory, a Mac App for cataloging your household for insurance purposes or just to get organized and get rid of clutter, is our most popular thus far, plus we have handful of not so popular apps. This keeps us pretty darn busy and we are grateful to be doing something that we love and can share with others who may be facing similar challenges.

 

It may be surprising that we in no way started off with the intention of creating Chore-inator. Why add yet one more chore tracking app to the pile that already exist? Seriously, we know exactly how difficult it is to compete in a store with more than a million other titles, especially in an area where there are other well-established apps.

 

Our intention was to find something that would help not only get and keep our son, Adam, excited and motivated to do his chores but also to get and keep my husband, Kevin, and I consistent and accountable for chore management. And quite frankly we needed a better way to limit the amount of T.V., computer, and iPad time Adam was getting. None of us were very good at any of this, at all!

 

We tried a variety of approaches, from the good old-fashioned chore chart to trying a few of the apps, but nothing was working for us. They were either too complicated to setup, too complicated for Adam to use before he could read, or too simple and cutesy that Adam quickly out grew it. Also, we are data privacy freaks, so a solution that requires signing into a website and sharing and/or tracking of data is unacceptable. And finally, like many others, we are on a tight budget and are unwilling to pay a subscription fee to manage chores, which is often required for a web solution.

 

Chore-inator app to help keep track of kids chores

 

It was at that point that we decided to do what we do best – build an app to help us. So we put some of our other app ideas on hold and got to work. We had three primary goals when designing Chore-inator:


1. It needed to be so easy to use that you knew intuitively what to do when you picked it up whether you were a toddler who couldn’t read but had 1 or 2 basic chores to do, a teen who just wanted to get in and out so mom and dad would quit nagging, or a busy parent who needed to get it all set up very quickly.
2. It needed to be engaging enough to not only get kids of all ages engaged and motivated to do their chores but to keep them engaged and motivated without being too cutesy that tweens and younger teens were turned off. It needed to be flexible enough to grow with our family.
3. It needed to be extremely quick and easy for parents to get a status of all the family’s chore activity for the day, all in one easily understandable view.

 

We didn’t want an app that was just the electronic version of a traditional chore chart. We wanted an app that really focused on streamlining the process of managing the household chores, an app that exploited the latest and greatest technology and design available to create a workflow that was pleasing to the task at hand and would keep us all accountable without being an extra burden.

 

Like every other parent out there, we are busy too and want to spend as little time necessary on managing the household while at the same time teaching Adam discipline and motivation for a job well done when contributing to the household.

 

Chore-inator launched at Macworld back in March. What started as a family discussion soon won “Best in Show” in addition to being twice named “Best New App” and top banner feature in the Productivity section of the App Store. The experience, as well as the media attention, was confirmation that we were on the right path so we went right back to work when we got home to finish Chore-inator 2.0, which was a top banner feature in the Productivity section of the App Store once again.

 

Chore-inator has been such a big help in our own family. From a parent’s perspective, it has really helped keep Kevin and I consistent with both making sure Adam is doing his chores but also that rewards, such as iPad time or special treats, are limited and tied to positive behaviors. And there is never any doubt whether or not allowance has been paid. Adam recently spent a few days at his Grandparents. He would not let us leave until we looked to make sure there were no rewards or allowance outstanding!

 

From Adam’s perspective, he loves to take pictures of his completed chores to show us. It makes him feel good to be contributing to the household by being responsible for completing a few age appropriate chores and he is learning the value of saving, whether it is saving allowance or saving stars to redeem rewards.

 
 
 

 

How do you setup a chore schedule (and “payout”) in your house?

 

 

Disclosure: Press post

 

For more information check out their website: Chore-inator.com, twitter @Chore-inator and Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/binaryformations and on iTunes: Chore-inator  iOS app.  .

 

 

 

 

Give gift of Time and Organization with OneNote for Mother’s Day!

Disclosure: Sponsored Post

 

Mother's Day Gift Time

On Mother’s Day, the gift options for that special Mom in your life are endless. One of my favorites is the gift of time with my family, friends and myself. Both organization and automation are essential to freeing-up that valuable time and Microsoft OneNote really helps.

 

New updates to OneNote are pretty exciting and I shared several in my last blog post. It’s available across my wide variety of family devices, and the perfect way to help get better control of my time. Better yet, my family helps by organizing their lists as well on OneNote so we ALL have more time!

 

Here are some of the ways you can give the gift of time and organization to your Mom (or if you are a Mom, suggest to your family!)

 

CREATE/UPDATE FAMILY PHOTO ALBUMS: Scan and organize old family photos into a OneNote notebook to create family albums. OneNote’s integration with apps like Office Lens (for Windows Phone) and Genius Scan (for iPhone, iPad and Android) give you a OneNote scanner in your pocket, so getting your family photos into OneNote is a snap!

 

ORGANIZE WEEKLY RECIPES: Have the whole family find recipes they want to “help” cook for dinner and scan those or save the online links into a OneNote Notebook. Then save in a “special occasion” notebook some fun recipes to cook for Mother’s day or other events. You can even download this customizable OneNote recipe book!

 

MOTHER’S DAY CARD: Have your family create their own pictures as well as find special memento’s or photos to scan for a Mother’s Day OneNote Notebook.

 

GROCERY LIST: Have the family help create a weekly Grocery list on OneNote that can be shared across devices so the family can all help with shopping! Even kids can read OneNote shopping lists on their parents’ phone to help find items at the store!

 

WEEKLY SCHEDULE: Have the family create a weekly schedule in OneNote that can even include screen shots of school lunch schedules, after school activities, scanned calendars and online links. A family that plans together has MORE TIME together! The schedule can also include TODO’s for the week so no one will forget to practice guitar, baseball, tennis or coding (hint hint to my kids!)

 

VACATION LIST: Create the family vacation “wish list”: A OneNote Notebook with vacation idea pictures, links and information so the family can plan special places to visit. After you’ve decided on your destination, download this OneNote travel planning template. Once all your research and planning details are in this OneNote, it’s easy to recall a particular detail at any given moment. You can even use Instant Search in the bar on the top right to recall anything you’ve ever put in OneNote.

 

GIFTS: Have the family create a OneNote notebook recording the gifts everyone wants for special occasions. Add a section detailing ways to earn rewards by completing homework and household chores. For example, if my kids want toys outside of holiday’s or birthdays, they need to create a plan to earn them!

 

ENTERTAINING: Our family realized that we have not been entertaining family and friends as much as we would like so we decided to create a OneNote Notebook with a list of who we want to invite over and meal ideas.

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored series. I am an Office Champion and have received sponsorship and products. All of my words are my own.

 

 

 

Carpool Management Tip: Get Help with Boost by Mercedes-Benz (Giveaway)

Disclosure:  This is a press post. One ride credit was provided to me for review purposes but I also paid for another ride. All of my opinions are my own.

Too busy motherOn TechMamas.com l write about innovative services, apps and websites for parents on TechMamas.com. But just recently as I ramped up my own work,  I realized as a parent with tweens and teens that the main help I needed was driving my kids to and from school/activities after school. I have carpools, but that does not always work because kids go to different activities afterschool. I tried to fit in work during school hours but it seemed like my kids were either always waiting for me to finish something so I could drive them, or waiting to get picked up at times when I was running late from a meeting. Yes, driving my kids around was the one challenge getting in the way of me ramping up my work. So I set off to find a service, website or app that can help me find a solution to my carpool challenges. As would have it, I was lucky enough to see an email from the folks at Boost by Mercedes-Benz on their new innovative transportation service for kids.

 

Boost by Mercedes-Benz

Photo Credit: Boost by Mercedes-Benz

 

Here is the information from Boost by Mercedes-Benz on the story behind their innovative transportation service. The current zip codes covered are in California – Palo Alto (94301, 94302, 94303, 94304, 94305, 94306), Los Altos – 94022, Menlo Park – 94025 and Mountain View – 94043:

 

Story behind Boost By Benz:

Busy schedules and the stress of scheduling for today’s youths seem to be part of the daily family life. Boost by Mercedes-Benz was developed to address that challenge. Boost by Mercedes-Benz (www.boostbybenz.com) is a proof-of-concept business launched by the Business Innovation Team at Mercedes-Benz Research & Development in Sunnyvale. This youth transportation service is designed to transport children safely and reliably to and from the educational and recreational activities that fill their day.

 

 

Knowing how important it is for children to balance school and extracurricular activities, it can be very tough for parents to get their kids from place to place – safely and on time. The goal at Boost is to make parents’ lives easier, while enabling children to participate in more activities. In addition, Boost hopes to minimize the number of vehicles on the road (and in the school driveway) by providing a safe, reliable youth transportation alternative for parents.

One of the goals in Business Innovation is to change the way people think about transportation and with Boost; the team has already seen this shift taking place.

 

 

Technology story behind Boost by Benz:

 

Innovative technology is the backbone of Boost by Mercedes-Benz. We built a seamless system that handles route planning, notifications and updates to allow our Boost Dispatcher, Driver and Concierge to focus on what’s most important, your children.

 

 

We kept a parent’s busy schedule in mind when we built our scheduling and notification system. A simple, three-step process guides you through the one-time, online account setup. Once your family’s info is in our system, simply schedule a ride online by selecting riders, pick-up and drop-off locations, and ideal pick-up and drop-off times. Confirm your child’s ride and you’ll get an email confirmation with the ride reservation details.

 

 

The rest is even easier. We’ve built custom tablet apps for our Boost Team to allow you complete transparency throughout your child’s ride. You’ll be notified via SMS or through our iPhone app 24 hours before the ride notifying you of our arrival time. Then, the day of your child’s ride, we’ll notify you that we’re on our way to pick up your child. When we arrive, we check them in via our technology and you’ll be notified that they’re aboard Boost. If so inclined, you can log in to your account while they’re aboard Boost to get a birds-eye view of their ride. Lastly, we’ll notify you to let you know they’ve safely arrived at their destination.

By blending the ease of technology with the best in transportation, you’ll rest easy knowing your kiddos are safely bound to their next adventure.

 


Overview of Business Innovation:

Business Innovation initiated in 2007 is Daimler’s ‘think tank’ for innovative solutions beyond the core business of car manufacturing. The team deals with future trends and technological, social and cultural developments to create profitable business models. Tested and evaluated on a pilot basis, success stories like car2go and Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy started here as proof- of-concept projects and have subsequently become prosperous businesses. Business Innovation teams are also located at the headquarters in Stuttgart, in Beijing, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires and Sunnyvale, CA. Business Innovation at Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America, Inc. started in 2012.

 

 

Boost by Mercedes-Benz

Photo Credit: Boost by Mercedes-Benz

 

 

Details:

To sign up visit https://boostbybenz.com/. The hours currently are Monday through Friday from 12noon to 7:00pm.  The trips are scheduled online but there is also an Boost by Mercedes-Benz iPhone app and they send texts (I have an Android phone so I used the text option). Pricing will depend on the package you get, but for me it was cheaper then hiring a sitter for their minimum amount of hours per day. Instead I was just paying per ride which worked for my kids schedules.  In the van there is a driver (of course) and a Concierge that is in charge of watching over the kids and walking them to their destination from the car.

 

Boost by Mercedes Benz

Photo Credit: Boost by Mercedes Benz

 

 

Above is one of the press photos of the Concierge that rides with the driver. I used Boost to take my boys to an exercise class. The Concierge greeted me for pickup and then at drop-off walked my boys into the facility and to the class instructor per my instructions. The driver waits with the other kids in the van while the Concierge delivers the child being dropped off. In my experience, both the driver and the Concierge were very friendly and my kids enjoyed using the service (which is the most important thing!).

 

 

Now I just need to figure out my schedule in a way that I can plan the rides in advance.  Boost By Benz usually recommends scheduling rides at least 1-2 weeks prior but some time frames may be open if you need to schedule closer to the date needed. Boost also requires 48 hour cancellation to receive a 100% refund.  They will also be running over the summer! In fact, there is a special promo going on now dedicated to summer booking. Parents can use the discount code “SUMMER15” when they register and checkout on boostbybenz.com to receive 15% off rides (expires on April 30th).

 

 

I am thrilled to know that transportation services like Boost by Benz exist to help busy working parents manage carpooling challenges!

 

GIVEAWAY:

 

Please share your family carpooling challenges in the comments and we will randomly choose one comment to win ONE RIDE CREDIT received when they sign up for Boost by Benz.

 

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 by zip codes valid to Boost by Benz stated above and 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 ends May 6 2014 -10am pst. Winner will be announced by May 7 2014.

 

 

 

Disclosure:  This is a press post. One ride credit was provided to me for review purposes but I also paid for another ride. All of my opinions are my own.

 

 

 

TechMama Talks: Work, Family, Education and Mobile Tech

TechMamas talkIt may have been a month since I last posted, but that gave me some time to think. During that time I decided to channel my dear Grandmother in my writing, who as she got older decided to share her authentic voice. Of course, that involved some embarrassing moments such as when she met a new boyfriend of mine for the first time and asked “I look forward to seeing you walk down the isle together”. I joked and said “you mean at the grocery store?”. But my Grandmother must of been reading our body language because we did end up walking down the isle and are a happily married couple running after our adorable but energetic three boys. I feel privileged to have met an amazing community of bloggers online and share my insights on technology. Now I want to go back to sharing my musings on life and important initiatives.

 

Parents and Work: I am excited to see women developing initiatives to empower and promote career advancement for women at work.  But from what I experienced as a parent, the job market is very tricky these days so finding work that offers a salary to cover the costs of childcare and extra incidental costs is a challenge. Many parents also need some sort of offer flexible work environments, which can add to the challenge. The job market has changed, there are new job skills required including technology and social media. In addition, while online networking has created multiple channels for career advancement, choosing the right channels to create real business opportunities is an important consideration.

 

The childcare challenge is not just a mom problem – it is a “parenting” challenge. I started a lively discussion on Facebook about this topic and I was thrilled to see responses of parents that are overcoming all types of challenges to work and also parents making the choice to stay home. I made a comment that we all value time with our children, that their happiness is the most important goal of whatever arrangements are made. I look forward to share stories on my blog of women that have found creative solutions to adapt to the modern workplace. Including women that have taken time off for kids then not only ramped back up to work years later – they BLASTED OFF!

 

Family Technology: We are at a time where you can stream, automate, use voice, consume content and entertainment in many ways and multiple devices. But families are struggling with helping their kids set screen time limits, stay safe online, learn social networking etiquette, decide what devices they really NEED and HOW TO use them. To make matters more complicated, kids now grow up surrounded with technology so it is second nature. For example, I have an Internet connected TV and my kids are the ones that signed up and are power users of Netflix compared to me. I feel so old school watching shows on TV networks. I know how to stream everything on my PC’s but at night I still like to turn on the TV and watch a show. My kids hardly watch traditional TV networks anymore.

 

Luckily because of my business, I also consume information and social network online which allows me to talk my kids’ language. At the same time I realize the online world is a dangerous place for kids that require a new type of education. I have been writing online for years about the concept I describe as “Internet safety is the new sex talk”. I remember years ago when I first said that at a social media conference in New York there was silence (shock) then lots of tweeting to share. Now that mostly all devices have a web browsers, it is hard to lock our kids away from the online world.

 

My perspective is that parents need to first educate themselves, then their kids, then create regular conversations and family rules about Internet Safety (and logical consequences if they are not followed). For example, sitting down with teens “together” to look at the privacy controls for all the platforms they are on and “discuss” which should be set to remain safe. But open conversations are key, and it should include cyber etiquette and consequences for inappropriate cyber etiquette (including going to jail!). In our family discussions, I also share age appropriate news stories as examples.  I want to spend more time covering all the online platforms kid spend time on. Of course, I find new platforms cropping up it seems like every day! Automated internet safety controls such as web filters, monitoring apps and privacy control settings are also an effective supplement, but they won’t keep kids safe everywhere they go because as I said web browsers are everywhere! So parents need to do the balancing act of setting “relevant” automated controls, communication and education. That balance is not easy!

 

No matter what strategy parents have, new challenges come up. Like how I tell a bunch of 10 year olds during baseball practice last year that they “HAVE NO REASON TO BE ON INSTAGRAM.. SERIOUSLY!”. Or how do I tell a lovely teen girl (family friend) that the number of LIKES she receives on her Facebook photo does NOT reflect her TRUE BEAUTY. Or how smartphones have become a tool that can get kids arrested if they take the wrong picture or participate in the wrong social media exchange. Or how dangerous the online world is, so much so that I need to have a SCARED STRAIGHT strategy constantly updating the teens I know of the mistakes I read about hoping that they can learn from them. At the same time, I am regularly amazed at some of the positive ways teens are creating support online. When our beloved hamster died recently my son said he received comfort from a Reddit Hamster sub directory (created to memorialize Hamsters that had passed away).  My son received sympathies from around the world when he posted a picture of our Hamster.

 

Education Tech: One of the challenges of our education system is that while more and more kids relate to visual, interactive and experiential learning, many curriculum’s are still based on inflexible models filled with worksheets. The shining stars are the Teachers and Schools trying to transition to experiential learning. Luckily, now there are so many ways to learn online that I could spend weeks covering all the websites and programs. After speaking at a few education tech events and meeting the edtech company founders, I decided that sharing the exciting opportunities that exist in digital learning is a passion of mine. I want to highlight the education tech innovators on my blog as a way to help support their important contributions they are making to the future of education.

 

Family Schedule Tech:  One of the main reasons I wrote the book “My Parent Plan” was to help families learn project planning skills. After years of professional project planning I know the concepts but at times still struggle with how to balance it all. With three boys now going THREE completely different directions, I decided to dive deeper into tech solutions to help me manage. Or at least keep my head above water..

 

Health Tech: Feeding my family a healthy diet is one of the biggest challenges I have each week. While I like the concept of eating plant based foods I am also balancing understanding what is best for my family that has different nutritional needs. I will be covering some of online websites and apps that can help parents struggling with healthy eating solutions. I will also be covering my comic adventures trying to convince my sons why healthy eating is important. Including how my teen is “dreaming” of going to a local burger restaurant someday again as a reward. And how at times he sneaks out with his friends to get junk food for dinner after looking in the fridge filled with “green” foods.

 

So while I am far away from being a Grandmom myself, I honor her voice by speaking my own. Whats on your mind?

 

 

 

 

Taking on Family 2014 New Year’s Resolutions. Is it Possible?

*sponsored series

 

2014 Family New Year ResolutionsWhen it comes to annual New Years Resolutions, taking better care of myself and my family’s health  always tops the list. This year we are focusing on finding ways to fit regular exercise into our busy schedule, cooking more plant-based foods, practicing stress-management, spending more quality time together (unplugged!) and advancing my kids’ oral health. Assembling the list was the easy part. Actually doing the list, well, that’s the real challenge. So, following the rules in my book, The Parent Plan, we started putting together the family plan.

 

Exercise: Our family looked at our busy schedule and activities and determined that the best way to fit in regular exercise was to identify flexible exercise options. Was there a year round exercise class for my 11 year olds that focused on overall athletic conditioning? My boys enjoyed baseball, but it did not give them the overall conditioning they needed.  Their favorite gym had a great class and fortunately also offered a workout program for my 15 year old (one drop off).

 

Plant Based Foods: After examining the various medical challenges of our extended family and looking at our own diets needs, we decided to start making plant based foods the staple of our diet. But being a family of 5 healthy eaters, everyone had different tastes.  I found several great plant-based recipe websites, blogs, books and a holistic nutritionist and set out to identify different options that fit our family’s eating preferences. This goal especially overwhelmed me because I quickly discovered just how challenging it was to find recipes everyone liked. I also needed more tools to make cooking fresh plant based foods fit into our busy schedule, including a crock pot and blender. We decided to take one week at time, including new plant-based foods in our weekly meals but still cooking family favorites as well.  We also realized we needed to give our kids a chance to get use to the tastes of some new foods (to go from “yuck” to “yum”). One of those was almond milk and I am thrilled to say they are happy to drink it now, after only a few weeks of adjustment!

 

Stress: Let’s face it, the modern family schedule is so overscheduled that it is hard to dodge stress. With adults managing home and work, and kids balancing school, homework, sports, music lessons and more – even a scaled down schedule is like running a weekly marathon.  What happened to the innocent childhood of yesteryear when kids just played with their friends after school? We decided to prioritize school-week activities to only include high-priority items close to home. For example, instead of driving 30 minutes for music lessons we found a local teacher who was giving lessons to a neighbor and asked if he could stop by our house as well.

 

Family Time Unplugged: Now that our oldest is in high school, we realized that our time together as a family is limited and more family time activities were in order rather than just running past each other each day. Our first step was trying to have family game nights, with electronics turned off. OK, in reality we did accept that types of technology used for games would be acceptable, but checking email or anything else was off limits! Humorous games such as Apples to Apples (we play the “silly” version) and Catchphrase worked the best to enable great bouts of belly laughs, and belly laughs are not only great for bringing our family together – but also for relieving stress. When we feel “serious”, Battleship, Risk and chess fit the bill. But we are always on the lookout for new game.

 

Oral Health: My family moved around when I was of “braces age” so I somehow missed the chance. Because of that, my teeth have some crowding and I have experienced some dental problems. So proper oral health for my boys is a high personal priority. One of my twin sons used a pacifier as an infant while the other did not. He sucked his thumb. Years later it seems using fingers is better than a pacifier because that son does not need braces while the other one does.  My 15 year old has Invisalign, (Disclosure: I am a member of the Invisalign Teen Mom Advisory Board), as the final touch to wearing metal braces when he was 11. He is in the middle of his treatment and it has been so seamless. He just wears the Invisalign aligners, washes them, takes them out when eating and then gets new aligners to swap out on a regular basis. I was worried about how he would feel wearing Invisalign while also starting High School and we are thrilled it has not been an issue (they are pretty much “invisible”).  My 11 year old has asked repeatedly if he can just use Invisalign.  Although he will likely start with metal braces, we know that the is there will be Invisalign for him as well in the future.  Now if I can just get my kids to floss with their regular brushing without nagging from parents.

 

We want to keep doing family activities that give back (like our regular cooking for a homeless shelter during the holidays), spending time with extended family/friends and setting goals to achieve our own personal best. Maybe I will be brave enough to attempt our household to-do list which includes finding new ways to organize the large quantities of stuff from our three boys. No matter how hard I try I will never be one of those perky naturally organized people that create those beautiful images on Pinterest (even though I find them totally inspirational). Or maybe it is time to realize that achieving perfect household organization may be something not to include so we can at least achieve the family resolution of reducing stress?

 

Organized kitchen

 

What are your 2014 family resolutions? Please share yours and any tips on achieving them while juggling a busy family life!

 

 

 

Disclosure: I am a member of the Invisalign Teen Mom Advisory Board. My son has received complimentary treatment from Align. The opinions expressed are my own. Here is the link to the Invisalign Smile Assessment.

 

 

 

Tips For Winter Holiday Preparation And Organization

*This is a sponsored series.

Holiday PreparationThe Winter holidays are a time for family, friends, and co-workers to celebrate with food, gifts and social gatherings. Behind the scenes is lots of work that needs to be carried out with the utmost precision to make sure everything falls into place.  At the same time, kids are off school so planning activities and keeping them busy is key. Here is a system I used to organize the holidays, please share yours!

 

 

 

  1. Centralize gift and wish lists in the cloud: Gone are the times of separate handwritten notes for gift lists and wish lists. Having the cloud (i.e. storing online) gives us the ability to create a list that can be accessed across devices, whether it be your smartphone, tablet or laptop. Just choose a family digital note-taking app and make sure it is loaded both on the family PC’s and on the family smartphones for mobile access of lists.
  2. Digitize holiday receipts: While some stores now send email receipts, others still use paper receipts. It is important to take a picture of receipts or scan them and retain digital copies online.  For example, while I take pictures of receipts with my smartphone camera or tablet webcam and load to OneNote, my mother has a Neat Receipts Scanner and likes to load her receipts to the NeatCloud. Having digital receipts simplifies both household accounting and returns.
  3. Create central holiday recipe and shopping lists: With  so many recipe websites and apps to choose from, finding recipes to fit the various dietary need of family and holiday guests is easy.  By loading both family recipes and links to ones I find online onto my digital note taking app, I always have the recipes with me no matter where I am. I also maintain a digital list of my favorite local restaurants that offer take-out for those days where cooking is not an option.
  4. Organize travel information: My old habit when traveling was to print out flight and hotel information and carry in a folder, hoping I don’t lose or forget one of the sheets. Some of my friends started using one of the many websites/ apps that help organize trips (such as Expedia or TripIt). Now I use OneNote and load my travel documents in as digital travel “notebooks”. While we try to load all the entertainment in advance of our traveling, my mobile WiFi is really helpful to enable loading of last minute downloads or new entertainment on my kid’s tablets.
  5. Create activity lists for kids, whether on vacation or staycation:  Holidays may mean time out of school for kids, with plenty of time available for activities. With three boys, I research potential vacation activities online in advance (as well as what time they open/close) and create an activity list beyond the regular holiday events. We then sit down with our boys and discuss which activities interest them, which is usually anything outdoors. The weather or strong disagreement between the boys sometimes leads to a “Plan B” requiring more research online.  For example, while a family hike is always a great activity, on rainy days we like to check the schedules for local museums or indoor sports such as trampoline jump parks. If we are visiting relatives in colder climates, then playing in the snow and ice skating are perfect outdoor activities! In San Francisco Bay Area, we enjoy taking winter walks on the beach outdoors with layers of warm clothes. Or indoor activities such as the Exploratorium, ice skating rinks or climbing gyms.  It is also handy to have a list of sites that I can check for family activity ideas such as Red Tricycle, Alpha Mom, Red Rover, Traveling Mom, Parents.com, Rookie Moms and local activity resources such as Bay Area Parent.

 

What are your winter family activities? How do you prepare and organize your holiday fun?

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored series. I received an AT&T Unite as part of my sponsorship, which keeps me connected on the move to mobile WiFi. My words are my own. For more information, visit att.com/Unite or connect with WiFi Family  (@WiFiFamily) powered by Netgear.

 

 

 

 

Tips To Set Family Goals

Guest Post by Lisa Betts-LaCroix

I’ve had a love affair with goal setting all my life and planning the future has always given me a sense of possibility and hope.  Now that I’m a parent and a consultant supporting others to mentor life-long, self-directed learners (with or without school), I’ve come to realize that we just don’t build goal-setting skills early enough in our kids.  Perhaps, we think, kids don’t need goal-setting abilities since school will march them through necessary skills and content.  But if we want to empower our kids and encouraged them to take control of their learning (and later, their lives) it’s never too early to nurture self-trust and the skills needed to plan and execute on what THEY want.  And while you’re at it, maybe you have some of your own goals.  So why not work on this together?

 

Lots of families do sports together, travel together and share family meal times.  Here’s a chance to envision the future together.  To help each other design and create your lives–because it’s never too late to start.  Model the process, support each other and learn together as a family.  By doing so, you’ll find that deeper connections are forged and self-directed learners are made.

 

Family Meeting

 

In our family, we share a daily ritual simply called “Family Meeting”.  The focus of the meeting is to identify ONE goal per person for that day and to report back on the previous day’s task.  Family goals in our house must meet specific criteria. Our ideal goals:

 

  • Take more than 15 minutes but less than one hour.  If it’s a particularly busy day for someone in the family this may be adapted slightly to suit the situation.
  • Are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound)
  • Qualify as “Relevant” if they contribute to the goal-setter’s development or the well-being of someone else or are accomplishments that would give the achiever a great feeling of pride
  • Would not have been done anyway (ie. I’m going to get myself to work today)

 

We also use Family Meeting time to encourage a growth mindset, modeling learning from our “misses” in a positive and celebratory way.  I find this often works best by modeling instead of trying to get kids to explore their own failure modes.  It’s effective for me to wonder aloud why I’ve failed three days in a row and then to notice that I have a habit of underestimating how long a task will take.  By then resolving to be more self-aware or change my goal-setting approach or implementation, I’ve learned and modeled at the same time.

 

Finally, we track every family members goal in a simple spreadsheet and mark successes with green and missed accomplishments with red so we have an ongoing record and at-a-glance feedback loop.

 

The Goal List

 

Where do the goals come from?  An ongoing list is a great treasure and is useful for quickly identifying goals more quickly.  If you don’t have a goal list, consider starting one.  It can be a complex database or just a list on paper.  But have a list!

 

There may still be times when someone can’t think of a goal.  Here are some Goal Setting ideas and strategies for getting over the hump.  Help each other:

 

  • Brainstorm -How many possible goals can you list without censorship? Go for quantity not quality.
  • Turn complaints into goals – Notice complaints and wonder if the dissatisfaction could be reworked into a goal.
  • Turn self-reproach into goals – If you notice pain, guilt or self-reproach see if there’s a goal to be uncovered.
  • Mine the past – Recall old stories, wishes, fears and memories as ripe fodder for future goals.
  • Maintain what you love about your life – Goals don’t have to come from lack, limitation or need.  If you identify and share what you’re grateful for you might find a goal nearby related to celebrating, maintaining or deepening it.
  • Piggyback on someone else’s goal – Be inspired by each other and people outside of the family.   Doing this as a family allows everyone to be the catalyst and creates an environment for others to express, support and be inspired by each other.
  • Invite Guests – We also invite guests and anyone who is at our house during family meeting to join us in the process.

 

 The Mindset and Foundation

 

  • Keep it light: Make time and space for good laughs and jokes
  • Share
  • Be Curious and ask questions
  • Listen (don’t interrupt)
  • Acknowledge and Thank.

 

What kind of strategies does your family use to learn practice the Meta-Learning skill of Goal Work?  And what ideas have you discovered best support your family’s Goal follow-through?

 

 

Lisa Betts-LaCroix is a speaker, writer and outspoken advocate for radical alternatives to learning.  She’s been featured in 100+ television, radio and news pieces including CBS News, the Financial Times, MGM, Universal and 20th Century Fox.  She’s worked with household names like Norman Jewison, Angela Lansbury, Adam Beach, Kathy Bates and David Carradine, yet Lisa’s deepest passion is in supporting families and self-directed learners reclaim the vision, design and control of their education.