Friday, August 1: The Mobile Conversation

VERIZON INSIDER TWITTER PARTY

#VZWBuzz

When: TODAY, Friday, August 1, 2014
12:00-1:00 pm PT
3:00-4:00 pm ET

‘The Mobile Conversation’

Join @theonlinemom @RobynsWorld @geekbabe and @thetechdad TODAY at 12 noon PT (3 pm ET) as we look at The Mobile Conversation!
Mobile devices are changing the way we communicate but is that always a good thing? Are they bringing us closer together or driving us apart? And what about their impact on the English language?
Jn us tmrw as we discus this imprtnt issue!! 🙂
RSVP and attend the party for a chance to win one of TWO Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphones or an LG Tone Pro Wireless Stereo Headset!

(Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)

To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: VZWBuzz) and include your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: http://bit.ly/1tnsxzM 
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#VZWBuzz) today between 12 – 1 pm PT
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

(The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for Verizon Wireless.)

Friday, July 25: Mobile Security Check-Up

VERIZON INSIDER TWITTER PARTY

#VZWBuzz

When: TODAY, Friday, July 25, 2014
12:00-1:00 pm PT
3:00-4:00 pm ET

‘Mobile Security Check-Up’

Join @thetechdad @theonlinemom @RobynsWorld and @geekbabe TODAY at 12 noon PT (3 pm ET) as we take a Mobile Security Check-Up!
We are all going mobile and that means our sensitive personal data is going with us. Join us as we examine the vulnerabilities of the mobile lifestyle and take a look at some simple steps that can help us feel more secure!
  RSVP and attend the party for a chance to win one of TWO Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphones or a Belkin NetCam HD Plus!

(Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)

To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: VZWBuzz) and include your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: http://ow.ly/yc9bs
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#VZWBuzz) today between 12 – 1 pm PT
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

(The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for Verizon Wireless.)

Friday, September 12: Emergency Preparedness

VERIZON INSIDER TWITTER PARTY

#VZWBuzz

When: TODAY, Friday, September 12, 2014
12:00-1:00 pm PT
3:00-4:00 pm ET

‘Emergency Preparedness’

Join @theonlinemom @thetechdad @RobynsWorld @geekbabe and @VerizonInsider TODAY at 12 noon PT (3 pm ET) as we discuss Emergency Preparedness!
With TV and newspapers highlighting more frequent health scares and weather-related incidents, it’s important for individuals and families to be prepared in case of an emergency. We look at the important role mobile devices can play, and how they keep us in touch with loved ones, allow us to share information, and help us be ready for any eventuality.
  RSVP and attend the party for a chance to win a Nokia Lumia Icon smartphone or a Mophie Powerstation!

(Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)

To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: VZWBuzz) and include your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: http://ow.ly/yc5oV
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#VZWBuzz) today between 12 – 1 pm PT
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

(The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for Verizon Wireless.)

Friday, July 11: Making the Most of Summer

VERIZON INSIDER TWITTER PARTY

#VZWBuzz

When: Friday, July 11, 2014
12:00-1:00 pm PT
3:00-4:00 pm ET

‘Making the Most of Summer’

Join @theonlinemom @RobynsWorld @geekbabe and @thetechdad this Friday at 12 noon PT (3 pm ET) as we utilize mobile tech to Make the Most of Summer!
Whether your summer plans include overseas travel, day trips or just relaxing at home, your smartphone or tablet can help. We look at some of the mobile tools and apps that can brighten even the cloudiest day and make summer 2014 a season to remember!
  RSVP and attend the party for a chance to win a Jawbone Jambox Mini speaker or a Samsung Galaxy S 5 smartphone!

(Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)

To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: VZWBuzz) and include your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: http://ow.ly/yc1bJ
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#VZWBuzz) this Friday between 12 – 1 pm PT
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

(The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for Verizon Wireless.)

Fun Ways to Connect With Grandparents via Technology

By Stacey Ross

My kids and their grandparents share a thriving digital relationship with one another, whether it’s playing (remote) checkers on a Sunday morning, sharing what projects they have been working on via video chat, or even getting some tutoring in for upcoming science tests! Technology that allows intergenerational ties to flourish is a real gift, especially since not all grandparents are a quick drive up the street!

Mary Larmoyeux and Nancy Downing wrote a valuable book, The Grand Connection: 365 Ways to Connect with Your Grandchild’s Heart, which encourages the relationship between grandkids and their grandparents, offering fun activities and stories to help strengthen family ties. The authors encourage grandparents to learn new technologies to stay in touch with loved ones. The book prompted me to share and explore how other families reach out this way.

Here are some ways families are getting on board:

Emailing and texting: My kiddos don’t yet have smartphones, but they do have tablets. They use Talkatone to text with their grandparents and email to exchange photos, whether they’re from nature hikes or an afterschool activity. Just an update every now and can brighten everyone’s day – and there is an extra-special glow when the grandparents get a goodie in their in-boxes!

Video conferencing

“My kids FaceTime with my mom all the time. As adults we FaceTime with my grandmother, too. We called her from my sister’s wedding reception so she could “be there!” ~ Rachael Nash Wunderlich, founder of Adventures in Wunderland

“We have started to leave Skype video messages for Grandma and Grandpa instead of just a voicemail. The kids get a kick out of seeing themselves record it and my parents just love it!!” ~ Elaine McGhee of ThriveMomma.com

Like the idea of seeing one another while talking? If you own a personal computer with an Internet connection and built-in or clip-on camera, you are all set for Skype or FaceTime. The applications are free, and connecting with other users is the fun part! I love that my kids use these methods to show their grandparents what current projects they are working on or share their latest dance moves!

Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, or Twitter

As kids get older, they can have fun engaging with their loved-ones through their social media accounts. I love watching inter-generational connections become meaningful ties, enabling families to stay connected in a more robust way than just by phone. Whether they are sharing photos from a road trip, funny videos they found on the Internet, or they just want to send a sweet message, family members can embrace simple ways to give a shout out that can be quite endearing.

Creative apps

My kids and their grandparents use the Magisto and FXGuru apps to send fun videos or photos and also use apps such as PhotoFunia and CollageMaker when they want to get creative. It gives them a big laugh and allows them to reflect either on the outings they had together or include one another in photos when they were unable to be present in person. Their personal creations are great trip mementos too!

Katie Tynes, a mom in my San Diego community, encapsulated so very well the benefit that technology plays in intergenerational communication: “We have always lived away from my parents due to our military life. Thanks to Skype, FaceTime and phone calls, my daughter has grown up with them and formed a bond that is stronger than anyone could wish for. They’ve read stories to her, listened to her learn to read, spent hours playing dolls and even attempted checkers, which was a riot to watch.”

What activities do your kids do to engage with their grandparents? Do you see open opportunities for them to grow in that area? Do share!

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of SanDiegoBargainMama.com. A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.

Getting Along with Siri

How to make Apple’s personal assistant your friend

By Tracey Dowdy

I have a complicated love/hate relationship with Siri. On one hand, she’s a lifesaver as I am blind as a bat without my reading glasses, so texting or emailing without them ends up being an intriguing game of deciphering autocorrect and “I wonder what that’s supposed to mean” for the recipient. On the other hand, sometimes it’s more trouble than it’s worth when she consistently or repeatedly misunderstands what I’m saying. It can be frustrating and, to be clear, it’s not you Siri, it’s me!

However, there are ways to improve your relationship with Siri that don’t involve couples therapy or walking away altogether. The key is to keep it simple. With a little patience and a little practice, you can get to know one another better and wonder how you ever lived without her!

Personalize your contacts

Siri had a rough time finding my daughter Ceilidh. (Go figure!) It’s pronounced Kaylee, but Siri was saying it as Kaleed. To correct Siri’s pronunciation, simply say, “That’s not how you pronounce Ceilidh.” Siri will ask you to pronounce it again for her. She’ll display 3 possible pronunciations and you can pick the correct one from this list. She’ll then pronounce the name and will pronounce it correctly going forward. Another option is to go into your Contacts>Edit>Add Field>Phonetic First Name. If a family member goes by a nickname, you have the option to add the nickname as well – Contacts>Edit>Add Field>Nickname.

Manage your calendar

Adding an appointment is as easy as saying “Siri, schedule a meeting with Paul tomorrow at 11 am.” If the individual is in your contact list, he will receive an email invitation. If you say “Schedule a meeting” but don’t include details such as a date or time, Siri will ask for clarification. If you make a mistake or need to make a change, it’s as easy as saying “Cancel my appointment with Paul tomorrow.” To review your day, you can ask Siri “What appointments do I have tomorrow?”

Hands-free texting

Use “Text” and “Tell” to have Siri send a message for you via SMS. Give simple commands like “Text Roy to meet me at Thai Orchid for dinner” or “Tell Ceilidh to pick up milk on the way home.” If you get a text while driving, you can have Siri read it aloud and respond without ever taking your eyes off the road.

Location-based instructions

One feature I recently became aware of is Location-Aware Reminders. Working via your phone’s GPS, Siri can send reminders as long as there is an address tied to the message. For example, if you need to pick up bagels on the way home, make sure the address for the deli is in your contacts. Tell Siri “Remind me to pick up bagels at Locke Street” and when you’re out running errands, a reminder will pop up. You will need to ensure Location Services is enabled – Settings > Privacy Location Services.

Check your voice mail

My husband insists on leaving voice mails, a source of never-ending frustration for me and our children. Just send a text! This isn’t 1987! Sorry – hit a nerve there. Discovering that Siri can retrieve and playback my voicemail may or may not have saved my marriage. Say, “Siri, play my voicemail” and she’ll put your phone on speaker and read it aloud to you.

Apple has a convenient user guide that will help you get started and walk you through how to use Siri. It includes a section on Frequently Asked Questions and list of apps that Siri works with worldwide.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. 

Titus O’Neil: The Importance of Fatherhood

Fatherhood is the greatest responsibility and honor a man can have placed upon him. I never met my biological father, nor did I grow up with a male figure in my home. I didn’t grow up with money, a nice home or fancy clothes. In fact, I spent the majority of my childhood living in the projects or with family members. However, thanks to my mom, I had no shortage of love. Because of that I feel very strongly that love, faith, strength and courage are the most important elements of growing and learning at any stage of life. Now, as a father, I strive to demonstrate these in my home because the greatest lesson my kids have taught me is how to love people unconditionally.

Being a father has allowed me to keep things in perspective, for which I am extremely grateful. When a young fan asks for an autograph or picture or when I visit hospitals and schools, I always think, “What if these were my kids? What if my children were sick or didn’t have the resources to obtain a great education, live in a safe neighborhood or live a comfortable life?” I am very grateful when people go the extra mile for my kids, and I make it a point to always return that favor.  Life as a WWE Superstar is hectic and stressful at times, but the ability to positively change lives on a daily basis motivates me to work hard. My kids could not care less if I win or lose a match or if I have a bad day at work. I’ve come to find not just my kids but WWE fans love and respect me regardless because beyond the lights, cameras and the action in the ring, they continue to see a real, genuine person. My philosophy with my kids is simple…I expect them to do their best and be the best people they can be and they expect the same of me.

To me, being a father is simple. I live for my kids, not through my kids. I’m not trying to force them into doing the things I did as a child in sports or extracurricular activities because they are who God made them to be. As their father, my job is to provide my children with the best positive guidance, motivation, discipline and resources possible to help them reach their greatness. I do this with plenty of love and try to be a living example instead of a telling example. I’ve learned kids respond more to what they see you do, as opposed what you tell them to do. I am their first role model, and I take that very seriously.  They might not take the same path I did, but as long as they respect people, work hard, are positive about life and give their absolute best effort, I always will be proud of them.

To me, the most important part of being a father is being present. Kids really remember the moments and time you spend with them more than the things you buy them. The smallest moments make the biggest impact on a child’s life. I often am asked what I like most about being a father and my answer is always that I love everything about being a father – the challenges, the responsibility, the discipline, the laughter, the school functions…you name it, I love it.  Father’s Day is really a special day, but for me, every day is Father’s Day because I get another day to enjoy all of the wonderful characteristics my two sons display. I also get to be part of a very great fraternity….FATHERHOOD! I am honored, humbled and proud to be a father.

Titus O’Neil

How To Find the Right Apps

By Robyn Wright

Our devices have a lot of great apps preinstalled these days, but there are thousands more available to you in the app stores. For iOS users, that means the iTunes App Store; for Android users, Google Play; and Windows Phone users, the Windows App store.

There are apps designed specifically for smartphones, some just for tablets, and some that will work on multiple types of devices. With so many apps available, it can be a little overwhelming to find new things to try. However, all the stores have tools that can help you find just the right apps.

Register Your Device

Even if you only get free apps, you still want to create an account in your app store. This will store the apps you have download in case you get a new device. It also will help you see just those apps that are compatible with your device. If you do update your device, you can change that information in your account settings whenever you need to.

Editor’s Picks

All the stores have selections made by the editors of the store that they are spotlighting. These are apps that someone who works with apps regularly has looked at and are considered worth your time. Most Editors’ Picks are updated on a weekly basis. Make a habit of checking them out to find great apps.

Top Apps

The stores also have top app lists. Usually there is a top free apps, top paid apps, top game apps, and even top apps for other categories. The top free and paid lists do not change dramatically, but it is worth checking periodically. The other category top lists will change more often. If there is a specific type of app that you are looking for, such as photography, productivity, or weather, then keep an eye on those lists to see what apps are peaking everyone’s interest.

Suggested App Collections

Similar to the Editor’s Picks, many stores have put together collections based on a theme. These app collections will contain an assortment of apps that fall under the theme. Examples might be Apps for Baseball Fans, Finance Apps, or Racing Fan Apps. New collections are added regularly, so be sure to check often to see if any new collections have been added that are of interest to you.

Check the User Ratings

I encourage you to take the time to rate apps that you have used yourself, because these ratings really can be helpful to others. Not all ratings are helpful; some do not give a lot of detail (good or bad), but many can really tell you quite a bit. The more ratings an app has, the more you can trust the overall rating (stars) it has. However, if there are only a few ratings, be sure to read what reviewers are saying to see why some may be high and some low. If the app is not a free app, then this really is an important step, since you have a limited time to get a refund.

Look for Last Update

An app may look great and it may even have a high rating, but that does not mean it is up to date. All the apps will show when the last update was in the description. If it has been a few years, then it may not still be that great since technology has improved so much so quickly.

App Developer Info and Web Sites

Look for the name of the developer of the app in the description. You will start to see some companies over and over again and may find some brands you really like and some you do not like. When you find a company you like, look at other apps they have developed. Some companies will have links to their website as well; go check that out to get even more information.

All of these tips utilize what is already in the app store. If you regularly check out the app store for new apps and updates, you will find it becomes easier to use with each visit. Remember, you can try out as many apps as you like (particularly the free ones), and just uninstall the ones that you are not happy with. Remember, there really is an app for that!

Robyn Wright is a social media specialist and blogs on her own blog, RobynsOnlineWorld.com, as well as several other sites. Robyn has a love for family, technology, food and lots of apps!

The Hazards of Yearning To Be Liked Online

By Stacey Ross

I recently came upon an intriguing psychologist on Twitter called Collette Smart and followed her digital trail to a website called The Exchange TV that features a discussion on the “Like Me Generation.” She and her colleagues engage in an interesting exchange about social media, and the segment on how people interact and make “friends”  is definitely worth watching.

Smart suggests that the apparent increased need for warm online “fuzzies” is not really indicative of a cultural shift or a trend to becoming more self-centric; rather that the online platforms amplify and enable people to showcase and share what they are really like.

The segment also brings up some issues that might be worth examining further:

Instant affirmation

Research for the segment indicates that from January to October 2013 use of the original “#selfie” hashtag grew by more than 200% and that the top 10 selfie-related hashtags on Instagram included over 41 million photos. That’s a lot of validation-seeking!

In seeking more “likes” and “friends”, people are aiming to demonstrate popularity. While for individuals this can be a very self-indulgent investment of their time, the storytelling component is helpful for businesses and brands, keeping the conversations alive and their fans engaged.

Making Comparisons

The downside to this is that users might focus too much on comparing their “back reel” lives with other peoples’ seemingly more glamorous existences. It is a smart exercise to take a step back and evaluate if the drive to increase your friend count is for the right reasons and question how many “friends” you really need. It is also smart to be discerning about whom you befriend online, as many times the process of un-friending can be daunting.

Ignore the Trolls

Circumvent those users who are aggravators and tend to engage in negative discussions. Most of the time they just hide behind their computers and get a thrill from inciting others.

Alienation

Some of the most well-balanced social media enthusiasts are those who have a thriving offline world and use social media to enhance it, rather than using it to build a social world and friendships. The unauthentic implications of the latter can leave one feeling depressed and increase a sense of loneliness.

Avoid Over-sharing

Young people in particular are smart to rethink the amount of information they divulge online. There are a growing number of incidents of identity theft and, when it stems from someone putting too much information out there, the mess can get ugly.

Another form of over-sharing is what Smart calls “inverted affirmations,” which involve users sharing inappropriate personal information with all of their friends or fans. They do so to seek attention and likes, which will not necessarily fill the void they are aiming to fill.

Storytelling platform

So long as people keep things in perspective, they can embrace the tools that enable their connections, and make sure that their positive and sometimes thrilling engagements remain a productive and meaningful part of both their social and professional worlds.

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of SanDiegoBargainMama.com. A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.