How To Extend the Battery Life of Your Smartphone

Yes, we love our smartphones. Whether it’s texting, checking e-mail, playing Temple Run, or even making the occasional phone call, our smartphones have become constant companions, and our lifelines to family, friends and the outside world.

But while they may be our favorite gadgets, they can also be the source of intense frustration. And I’m not talking about dropped calls and poor reception. I am talking about battery life – or what perhaps should more accurately be described as battery death.

It doesn’t seem to matter how much battery life we have when we leave home in the morning, by lunchtime that happy green bar has turned a nasty red, and we are desperately trying to squeeze in one last e-mail before we are cut off in mid-sentence. While we have a half-day’s work left ahead of us, our smartphone has decided it has had enough, leaving us scrambling for a charger and a nearby power outlet.

But while more complex features and apps undoubtedly put a strain on the too-small batteries that are found in most smartphones, there are certain things that we can do to make the overnight charge last a little longer. Here are some suggestions:

Adjust the screen settings

One of the biggest drains on battery life is the smartphone screen. If you use your phone indoors most of the time, then you don’t need a bright screen or the auto-brightness setting that most smartphones default to. Use your display settings to take down the brightness a few notches and you will immediately notice the difference.

Similarly, most smartphones give you the option of adjusting the screen timeout length – the amount of time the screen stays bright after you stop using it. Make sure you adjust it to the shortest setting, so it quickly dims or blanks out when not in use.

Turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

While it may make sense to use your own Wi-Fi network when you are at home, you should switch off Wi-Fi and rely on your wireless carrier as soon as you leave your house. If Wi-Fi is left on, your smartphone will constantly be searching for networks – and draining battery – as you move from place to place.

Similarly, if you no longer have a need to connect to a Bluetooth headset or speaker turn off the Bluetooth pairing app. It will save the phone from constantly scanning for other Bluetooth-enabled devices.

Use GPS apps sparingly

Similarly, apps such as Maps or Facebook Places, which constantly use GPS technology to fix your whereabouts, will also quickly drain your battery. If you use these apps, make sure you properly exit or disable the app when you have finished using it.

Be wary of downloading non-essential apps that ask permission to track your location. Most of the time, they will just use that knowledge to serve local advertising – and drain your battery at the same time.

Limit multi-tasking

Although multi-tasking is a welcome and highly-promoted feature of many smartphones, keeping numerous apps open at the same time rapidly drains battery. If you use The Weather Channel app to get your local forecast, remember to exit the app when you have finished, otherwise it will continue to provide battery-draining updates as it runs in the background.

Turn off notifications

Most smartphones will automatically light-up, buzz, chime or flash when you receive a call, text, e-mail, voice-mail or any of the other 1,001 things that today’s smartphones can do. Consider whether you need these constant notifications and turn off the ones that aren’t essential.

Disable video auto-play

At the end of last year, Facebook introduced auto-playing videos and video ads, which means that a video starts to play as soon as you pause on it in your News Feed. Instagram and other video-sharing and social networking sites have similar features. The problem is that these videos can use up a lot of battery – and data – without you realizing it.

To disable video auto-play, open the Facebook (or Instagram) app and click on App Settings. Scroll down to Video Auto-play. Here you can decide whether you want video auto-play to be on, accessed only through Wi-Fi (to save on data) or turned off altogether. You can still play videos in the ‘off’ mode by clicking on the video itself but it will no longer automatically play as you pause over the update.

Consider a power-saving app

More recent devices like the Samsung Galaxy S4 come with built-in power saving apps. Examples of power saving tactics are limiting the power used to light the screen or turning off the phone’s haptic features (vibrations and other touch sensitive feedback).

If your phone doesn’t have a built-in app, consider downloading a third-party power-management app like JuiceDefender or GreenPower, which will ensure Wi-Fi and other battery-guzzling features are turned off when not required. They can also manage apps for more efficient use of the smartphone processing power.

Taking your smartphone overseas

While we all love our smartphones and can’t bear to go anywhere without them, even the savviest cellular customer has a little apprehension about planning an overseas trip. We’ve all had those vacations where we have congratulated ourselves for staying within budget only to find that our cell phone bills were hundreds of dollars more than we expected. With international calling rates, costly data charges, and unexpected roaming fees, it’s easy to think that taking a phone abroad is far more trouble than it’s worth.

Thankfully, times are changing. Phone manufacturers and wireless carriers recognize the difficulties associated with cell phone use overseas and have made enormous strides in trying to simplify the process and help control the costs. However, despite the improvements, traveling overseas with your phone can still be a costly experience. Here are some tips on how to make it a little more affordable:

Make sure your phone will work in the countries that you will be visiting

While cost might be a concern, there is nothing more frustrating than arriving at your overseas destination to find out that your cell phone doesn’t work. Check online or call your carrier beforehand to find out whether your phone operates in the countries you plan to visit. (If you are a Verizon customer, then the Verizon web site has an excellent Trip Planner tool that can help you with this task.)

If your phone isn’t going to work overseas, then most of the carriers have a program where they will ship you a country-compatible phone for the duration of your trip. It may even be possible to transfer your SIM card, so you can keep your phone number and access your regular contacts. The carriers will usually consolidate the costs of these programs within your regular bill.

Buy an international plan before you go abroad

Even if you have a phone that works in the countries you will be visiting, make sure you put an international plan in place before you start using the phone. This will allow you to take advantage of low calling, text, and data rates that your carrier has negotiated with local providers, and also eliminate all or most of those expensive roaming charges.

Turn your phone off when you are not using it

Many tourists and other travelers only want a phone for emergencies or to occasionally check in with the family back home. To make sure you keep charges to a minimum, you should turn off your phone when you are not using it. This way you avoid those unnecessary calls and connections that can quickly add up to a significant amount of dollars.

Uninstall or disable data-guzzling apps

Your smartphone may have weather, news or social networking apps that download data on a regular basis or every time your phone is turned on. The same applies for e-mail. While this data may be comfortably absorbed by your monthly allowance back home, it could prove to be expensive while you are traveling overseas. Many recent phones now have an option under Settings that will allow you to completely disable data access. If not, make sure you uninstall or disable those data-guzzling apps before you start your trip.

Disconnect from your network or switch to airplane mode

Most smartphones now have “airplane mode,” or the ability to disconnect from mobile networks while still being able to access Wi-Fi hotspots. When you switch to airplane mode, you won’t be able to call or text, but you will still be able to connect to Wi-Fi networks to send e-mail, surf the Web, and use certain apps. And the really good news? Data transfer over Wi-Fi will not incur any charges from your wireless carrier.

If you have any questions about traveling overseas with your smartphone, be sure to talk to a sales representative or visit your carrier’s web sitebefore you start your trip.

How to cut down on your kids’ screen time

Our kids spend their days surrounded by screens. With TVs, computers, iPads, video game consoles, and smartphones, it’s almost impossible to avoid a media overload.

And the problem is only getting worse: studies have shown that 8- to 18-year-olds now spend an average of over 7½ hours a day with some form of media.

But how can parents tackle this problem? What is a normal amount of screen time, and what tools are available to help us set acceptable limits?

Perhaps the first thing to recognize is that not all screen time is inherently “bad.” For example, reading a good book on a Kindle or using the computer to research a homework project are two examples of the positive use of screens.

What we are trying to cut down on is “casual screen time,” or the screen time that replaces exercise and time spent socializing with family and friends. And here, the biggest culprit is still the TV.

The Kaiser report found that the TV is regularly on during meals in 64 percent of U.S. households and is on “most of the time” in 45 percent of homes. Think how much media consumption and screen time could be eliminated if we could just hit the TV off switch a little more often.

The next most important thing we can do is introduce some rules. The Kaiser research found that in homes where parents set limits, children consumed an average of three hours less media a day.

Here are some rules that are guaranteed to dramatically cut down on your child’s screen time:

  • No screens during meal times. That includes meals in restaurants as well as at home. How many times have witnessed families that are totally disengaged when they go out for a meal because the parents are constantly checking their BlackBerrys while the kids are playing handheld video games.
  • No screens during homework. Kids call it multi-tasking but instead it’s one big distraction, resulting in poor concentration and lower grades.
  • Limit casual screen time to an hour a day. And only when all homework and chores have been completed.
  • No screens in the bedroom. That means all screens, including phones and smartphones. Late-night texting and Web surfing have been cited as two of the main reasons why today’s teens are not getting enough sleep, with consequences that range from poor academic performance to obesity.

Once these basic rules are in place, try to monitor exactly how much screen time your child is exposed to each day. Nearly all computers and video game consoles have built-in parental controls, which can be used to regulate the amount of time your child spends surfing the Web or playing games. Agree with your child what is appropriate; you can even draw up a regular schedule so there can be no argument over what’s allowed.

Above all, set a good example. Most children learn their good and bad habits from their parents. Make sure that the amount of time they spend in front of screens is one of the good ones.

Do you have other tips for regulating screen time? Share your thoughts with The Online Mom!

Apps for Your TV

We love our apps – those small downloadable programs that turn our smartphones and tablets into news and weather feeds, sports tickers, portable music players, gaming platforms, and much, much more. But if we can get those apps on our small screens, why can’t we get them on our big screens? Well, now we can with FiOS TV Widgets.

Just like smartphone apps, FiOS TV widgets are small Internet-enabled applications, only these apps run on your FiOS TV set-top box and are controlled from your TV remote.

FiOS TV Widgets are completely free to FiOS TV subscribers and are a great way to make your TV more useful and fun. Watching TV and want to check your Facebook page without powering up your computer? Just call up the Facebook widget and you’re connected to family and friends. Want to listen to your favorite songs and artists? Use the Pandora widget and get instant personalized radio stations right there on your TV.

FiOS TV Widgets deliver news and weather, sports and fantasy football stats, and even your favorite YouTube videos. Other widgets complement existing TV programming by enhancing the TV shopping experience, or notifying you when your favorite sports teams are in action. You can even use the Twitter widget to stream tweets on your favorite TV shows.

Not to be outdone by smartphones and tablets, FiOS TV Widgets are turning our living rooms into interactive entertainment centers. Just one more reason to make the switch to FiOS TV!

The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for FiOS. All comments reflect the independent opinions of The Online Mom contributing editors.

Classic children’s books for the iPad

We all grew up with them, those classic children’s tales that get passed down from generation to generation and whose storylines are as comforting as a bowl of mac and cheese. But while the characters and narrative maybe familiar, the way today’s kids are experiencing these books couldn’t be more different. Gone are the cracked covers and dog-eared pages of those old hand-me-downs. Instead, our kids are mesmerized anew by seeing these wonderful stories come alive on the iPad.

It’s no longer a question of just following along with the printed words. Now there are voice-overs, animations, games, puzzles, music, and a whole lot more. We recently took a look at some of the best-known children’s classics that are currently available for the iPad. Here are 10 of our favorites:

  • Jack and the Beanstalk Children’s Interactive Storybook

    jack150This classic story is perfect for a digital transformation, and Jack and the Beanstalk come alive in over 30 pages of imaginative animation, games and other features. Shake the iPad to scare the giant, tickle Jack to get him to sing, or match up the beans in a fun game of memory. The beautiful illustrations, the friendly narrative and the great sound effects will keep your kids coming back for more!

    Developer: Ayers Animation
    Price: $3.99
  • PopOut! The Tale of Peter Rabbit

    peter150This carefully crafted reproduction of the classic Beatrix Potter tale has won numerous accolades, including induction into the iPad Hall of Fame! Accompany Peter as he chomps his way through fields and gardens, encountering enchanting scenes along the way. A beautiful soundtrack sets the tone and children can choose the voice-over or read the text aloud themselves.

    Developer: Loud Crow Interactive
    Price: $3.99
  • Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?

    brown150Oh the wonderful sounds Mr. Brown can make! Part entertainment, part education, this compelling picture book includes dozens of delightful sounds as Mr. Brown impersonates everything from cows to cats. But it also acts as a wonderful teaching aid for kids who are learning to read. Tap individual words to have them read aloud or just follow along with the excellent narration.

    Developer: Oceanhouse Media
    Price: $3.99
  • Cinderella: Storybook Deluxe

    cinderella150This busy version of the classic Disney tale has multiple reading modes, lots of coloring pages, interactive puzzles, and even sing-along games. The mice, the cruel stepmother, the Fairy Godmother, and Prince Charming all come alive through beautiful pop-up illustrations and the perfectly matched musical score. The puzzles have three different difficulty levels to cater for even the youngest Cinderella fans.

    Developer: Disney
    Price: $3.99
  • Pat the Bunny

    pat150This award-winning app is perfect for toddlers and pre-schoolers. Join Pat as he pops bubbles, catches butterflies, plays hide and seek, and much, much more. The book includes various reading modes and a paint mode to allow kids to add their own color touches. The music and sound effects add to the interactive play, and the book will offer a different experience every time your kids pick it up.

    Developer: Random House
    Price: $4.99
  • Grimm’s Puss in Boots – 3D Interactive Pop-up Book

    puss150This truly interactive book features over 30 pages of beautifully-illustrated text, interspersed with magical pop-up scenes full of games and fun challenges. Help Puss as he transforms his master into a worldly prince, takes over the ogre’s castle, and fills its coffers with the King’s treasure. A wonderful music score and spot-on narration keep the action flowing.

    Developer: StoryToys Entertainment
    Price: $4.99
  • The Monster at the End of This Book…starring Grover!

    monster150Play along with Grover, as he does everything in his power to keep you away from the monster at the end of the book. Children are empowered to engage the book at their own pace, working past Grover’s challenges with touch-screen animation. Word highlighting helps reading skills, and there are even tips for parents on how to help kids deal with their fears and emotions.

    Developer: Sesame Workshop
    Price: $4.99
  • Goodnight Moon

    goodnight150The Margaret Wise Brown classic has been reimagined as a completely interactive experience. Children can use the touch, swipe and tilt features to help the cow jump over the moon, empty the bowl of mush, make the mittens wave goodbye, and much more. Discover over 200 objects and hidden interactions, or just sit back and let the soothing narration and sound effects lull you off to sleep.

    Develop: Loud Crow Interactive
    Price: $4.99
  • The Cat in the Hat – Dr. Zeuss

    cat150A wonderfully enriching reading experience, whether your kids are on-the-go, sitting quietly at home, or getting ready for bed. Children can read the story themselves, have it read to them, or use the auto-play feature for a movie-like experience. Highlighters and individual word pronunciation promote literacy, and the voice feature allows kids to record and share their own narrative track.

    Developer: Oceanhouse Media
    Price: $3.99
  • Grimm’s Red Riding Hood – 3D Interactive Pop-Up Book

    red150Another classic Grimm Brothers tale brought to you by the animation experts at StoryToys Entertainment.  The book includes over 30 pages of beautifully-illustrated text, including pop-up scenes, simple puzzles, and entertaining challenges, which take advantage of all the iPad’s touch and swipe capabilities. A wonderful music score and humorous sound effects complete the delightful experience.

    Developer: StoryToys Entertainment
    Price: $4.99

The Best Apps for Staying in Shape

Smartphones and tablet computers have opened up a whole new world of on-the-go possibilities. Nowhere is that more true than in the field of health and fitness. No longer are we tied to a gym or a rigid workout schedule. No more waiting for a personal trainer to tell us how well – or how poorly – we are doing. Mobile devices and fitness apps put all that information right there at our fingertips.

So if you want to know how far you ran or biked today, or you want to keep tabs on how many calories you consumed, then turn your smartphone or tablet into your workout buddy. Here are 10 great apps to choose from:

Endomondo Sports Tracker

endomondo_navnetrækmtaglineThe Endomondo Sports Tracker app uses GPS technology to track all your outdoor workouts, including running, cycling, walking, or any other distance activity. You can pre-set a time or calorie burn as your goal and Sports Tracker Pro will help you beat it. You can also challenge friends, go against their personal best times, and even get encouragement along the way.

Platform: iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry
Price: Free


Fitness Buddy

fitness-buddy150Described as “The Swiss Army Knife Of Fitness Apps,” Fitness Buddy features over 1,700 exercises for every part of the body. Each exercise is accompanied by detailed instructions, photos and animations, and the user-friendly interface allows you to track each exercise and know exactly how you are doing. There are dozens of full workout routines tailored to specific goals – build chest, tone butt, lose weight, etc. Try the free version first and upgrade if you like it.

Platform: iPhone, iPad, Android
Price: Free/$0.99


Lose It!

lose-it150One of the top-rated weight-loss apps, Lose It! allows you to set goals and establish a daily calorie budget to meet them. You stay on track by logging food and exercise totals, which can be synced with a loseit.com account. Lose It! places lots of emphasis on sharing with friends for extra support and motivation. Lose It! claims that the average user has lost more than 12lbs, and more than 85% of their active users have lost weight.

Platform: iPhone, Android
Price: Free


iFitness Pro

ifitness150One of the top-selling – and highest-rated – fitness apps of all time, iFitness Pro includes hundreds of unique exercises tailored to your specific goals. Custom routines include weight-loss, strength, ab definition, and even golf fitness. If you can’t get to a gym, no problem. iFitness Pro has over 40 stand-alone stretches and exercises that don’t require any equipment. Weight and measurement trackers monitor your progress and all data can be e-mailed or backed-up online.

Platform: iPhone, iPad
Price: $0.99


Diet & Food Tracker

sparkpeople150Brought to you by SparkPeople.com, the popular diet and fitness web site, this handy app includes a food and calorie tracker, a barcode scanner for easy data entry, a daily meal planner, and a fitness tracker to monitor calories burned. The Diet & Food Tracker syncs with SparkPeople.com, with its library of fitness videos, recipes, and motivational articles.

Platform: iPhone, Android, BlackBerry
Price: $3.99


Daily Ab Workout

daily-ab150Daily Ab Workout is part of the Daily Workout Apps series. It contains two 5 to 10 minute daily ab routines for men and women. Each routine takes you through twenty ab-sculpting exercises. The routines are demonstrated by a certified personal trainer and target all major abdominal muscles. You can set up daily reminders and a randomize feature varies the routine so it doesn’t get monotonous. Start with the free version and upgrade later.

Platform: iPhone, iPad, Android
Price: Free/$0.99


Gorilla Workout

gorilla150Need to exercise on a budget? Gorilla Workout is a series of over 40+ fast-paced exercises that require no equipment other than your own body. The four distinct exercise groups are designed to match your own fitness level. Each exercise comes with a detailed description, including a video demonstration. The workouts are designed to target specific muscle groups and meet your own fitness targets. Completed workouts can be shared on Facebook and Twitter for increased motivation.

Platform: iPhone, iPad, Android
Price: $0.99


Zombies, Run!

zombies150An incredibly fun and immersive game that puts you in the middle of a survival race against the pursuing Zombie hordes. Choose your own playlist and don a pair of headphones before you start your run and the story unfolds through voice recordings. With over 40 missions to accomplish, including collecting medicines, ammo, batteries and more, everyone is depending on you to keep running. You can’t let them down!

Platform: iPhone, Android
Price: $3.99


Calorie Counter & Fitness Tracker by MyFitnessPal

myfitnesspal150Boasting the largest food database of any calorie-counting app, the Calorie Counter & Fitness Tracker exhaustively tracks your calorie intake and exercise regimen to make sure you stay on plan. The barcode scanner easily identifies all the foods you consume, while the sharing and support system means you’re never struggling with you diet alone. Requires a MyFitnessPal account (also free).

Platform: iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry
Price: Free


Pocket Yoga

pocket-yoga150If you prefer to practice yoga at your own pace in your own home, then this beautifully designed app is for you. Voice and visual illustrations expertly guide you through over 150 different poses and exercises, which are grouped into sessions based on duration and level of difficulty. The app maintains a log of your exercises to track progress and ensure consistency. All exercises are accompanied by soothing music or you can choose from your own playlists.

Platform: iPhone, iPad, Android
Price: $2.99

raising-digital-kids

Raising digital kids

I’m always surprised by the different approach parents take when it comes to their younger kids’ use of technology. Some are only too happy to pass over their iPhones or iPads at every opportunity, while others see exposure to video games and the Internet as the end of childhood, something to be put off for as long as possible. This confusion over what’s the “right” approach has even found its way into the classroom, with neighboring elementary schools taking equal pride in their contrasting high-tech or no-tech environments.

But sheltering our kids from technology is only delaying the inevitable. We live in a digital world and if our kids don’t have at least some exposure to technology by the time they reach middle school, they risk falling behind both academically and socially. Whether it’s a school project, a birthday party, or a trip to the mall, if they’re not plugged in, they’re going to feel left out.

But an early exposure to technology doesn’t mean that we have to abandon our parenting principles. In fact, a firm hand and proper guidance while they take those first digital steps is essential. Nothing gives kids more confidence than knowing that their parents are watching over them and keeping them safe as they try new things.

Here are a few tips to ensure a successful transition to tech for your kids:

Get up to speed

Whether it’s knowing how to set up parental controls, finding out whether a video game is appropriate, or just sending a text, it’s essential that parents have at least some working knowledge of all the elements that make up their children’s digital worlds. You may not know everything about technology but you don’t want your kids flying blind or making up their own rules as they go.

Set a good example

Is your smartphone a constant companion? Do you answer texts, emails, or phone calls anytime, anyplace? If so, don’t be surprised if your kids follow your example and reach for their tech toys at every opportunity. The best way to teach our kids appropriate use of technology is to set a good example: no technology at mealtimes, no technology in the bedroom, etc. Find a set of rules that suits your family and stick to them.

Face-to-face relationships are still important

The virtual world is not a substitute for the real one. In an age where everyone on Facebook has 200 “friends” it’s more important than ever to teach the value of real relationships. Accept the role of technology in your kids’ lives, but teach them the importance of face-to-face time with friends and family.

Trust but verify

Privacy is great but not when it compromises safety. Understand what your kids are doing online and how they use their tech devices. Keep family computers in a common area and talk with them about Internet safety. Establishing trust comes from doing the right thing. Make sure you are always the first person your kids talk to when they come across something that doesn’t feel right.

Facebook_parents

Tips for new Facebook parents

We have previously written about how you can monitor your child on Facebook. But what about setting the account up in the first place?

If you are not a Facebook user yourself, it’s easy to be blindsided by a sudden request for an account from your child. A flat refusal might work for a while, but with over 70 percent of teens using Facebook on a regular basis, your child may start to feel left out. The last thing you want him or her to do is resent your intransigence and open an account without your knowledge.

If you are unfamiliar with Facebook or are not sure what’s the right approach for a tween or young teen, here are a few tips to help get you started:

Use your own e-mail address to open the account

If you are setting up an account for a tween or young teen, use your own e-mail address or an e-mail address that you both have access to. This way, you will see friend requests as they come in and any other notifications like tags (your child’s name) in posts or photos. You will also know if your child tries to change the password!

Quality not quantity

When younger kids (and some adults) first open a Facebook account, there is a tendency to equate the number of friends they have with how popular they are. That usually results in a mad dash to friend everyone they know…and quite a few people they don’t! Help them resist the temptation. Building a friend list slowly but surely will make for a much more satisfying Facebook experience.

Don’t allow Facebook to choose friends for your child

After you open an account, Facebook starts suggesting lots of friends for you based on previous Facebook accounts run off the same computer (very sneaky!) or your early friend choices. It will also ask for permission to search your e-mail account, so it can suggest even more friends.

Ignore them all! You and your child should carefully add friends based on your own preferences, not Facebook’s.

Choose the Profile Photo carefully

The photo on your child’s Facebook profile is very important. It can say volumes about how they see themselves, as well as what you, as a parent, think about them. Cutesy is OK, provocative is a no-no. If you’re not comfortable having a photo of your child up there at all, then think about using a picture of a favorite pet, or maybe an avatar. (That’s a cartoon-style image, not the tall blue lady from the movie!)

Be selective about the Profile Information

Although the account will be live straight away, you still need to complete the Profile Information. Click on your child’s name which appears in the blue menu bar and click Update Info. Here, you can edit your Basic Info,Contact Information, Work and Education, and the things you are interested in like Sports and Arts & Entertainment.

When filling out your Profile Information, make sure that the default privacy setting is always “Friends” and not “Public.” Although Facebook allows you to hide Contact Information, you should leave that blank anyway.

Privacy Settings

Once you have completed the Profile Information, go back to the menu bar and click on the little wheel next to Home. From the dropdown menu, click on Privacy Settings. Here you will be able to change the default privacy settings when your child posts updates and photos, control how your child connects with other people on Facebook, and control whether your child’s Facebook account can be found through public search.

When you have updated the privacy settings, click on Timeline and Tagging. Here you will be able to control who can add things to your child’s timeline and how to manage “tagging.” Always err on the side of caution and make sure contact is restricted to “Friends” wherever possible.

Remember, Facebook has a strong tendency towards openness, which may be fine later in life. When your child starts out in the social networking world, the emphasis should be on privacy.

Be careful about adding older Friends

Be careful about who you and your child add as friends. That 19-year-old cousin might be a great guy at Thanksgiving dinners and family reunions but if he’s just started college and likes to party, there may be things on his Facebook page that you would rather your child didn’t see. Remember, Facebook works both ways: Your child will be able to see everything that is posted to her friends’ pages and even to some friends of friends’ pages.

Teach what’s appropriate

Once your child’s account is up-and-running, spend some time together discussing what’s appropriate to write or post and what’s best left off the site. Teach them to ask permission before posting photos of other people. (Particularly photos of Mommy in a swimsuit!) Talk about updates and photos that are posted by your child’s friends and what you like or don’t like about them.

As we suggested before, set-up the right way, Facebook can provide an invaluable opportunity for parents to teach cyber awareness and appropriate online behavior. Grab the opportunity before it’s too late!

Do you have other tips for kids – and their parents – starting out on Facebook? Share them with The Online Mom!

sad-girl

Want to be happy? Stay off Facebook!

Ever felt that your friends on Facebook are having a better time than you are? You’re not alone. A pair of studies conducted by two German universities found that one in three people had a negative experience when visiting the site, and were often left “feeling lonely, frustrated or angry.”

The first of the studies looked at the scale and nature of ‘envy incidents’ that were triggered by Facebook, and the second looked at how envy was linked to reduced use of Facebook and an overall decrease in life satisfaction.

When it came to the types of Facebook posts that can cause envy, vacation photos were listed as the number one problem. It appears that all those happy, sun-kissed faces on far-away beaches triggered particular resentment among the folks back home, prompting soul-searching and a less-than-flattering comparison with their own more mundane lives.

Next up on the envy chart were the number of ‘likes’ and comments that friends generated for their photos and posts. Much like in high school, those on the outside were left feeling resentful at all the attention being lavished on the popular kids.

The response to these feelings of envy was mixed. Some Facebook users retaliated by boasting of their own achievements in order to portray themselves in a better light. Others withdrew from the site, visiting less often and reducing their posts even further.

Not surprisingly, the studies found that various groups used the social network very differently, and such use prompted different reactions by their peers. People in their mid-30s were more likely to envy family happiness. Men were more likely to envy work and financial accomplishments, while women were more likely to envy attractiveness and active social lives.

The German studies follow similar U.S.-based research that found while having a lot of Facebook friends can give users a superficial feeling of connectedness and belonging, constantly reading upbeat status updates can be a bit of a downer. However, that research also showed that many Facebook users have a tendency to post only good news, or embellish the news that they do post, making their lives seem more interesting and fulfilling than they actually are.

Researchers have also highlighted the potential dangers to teens and younger users of Facebook, who often accumulate large numbers of friends but don’t have the experience or awareness to distinguish between fact and fiction when it comes to other people’s posts.

While there is nothing wrong with having lots of friends on Facebook, it’s easy to be lulled into a fantasy world where everyone’s life seems better than yours. Perhaps the less you know people outside of the Facebook environment, the more you should discount whatever it is they post!