Apps for Safer Trick or Treating

By Tracey Dowdy

Tis the season! No, not Christmas, though if you’ve been in WalMart or Target lately there’s plenty of Christmas décor to confuse you. Halloween is nearly here and with it comes all the cautionary tales of Halloween Past. When I was a kid it was razor blades in apples, now it seems we’ve moved on to fears of drug-laced candy.

Of course, parents should exercise caution at Halloween – at what other time do we encourage children to accept candy from strangers? – particularly if your child has food allergies or sensitivities.

These apps can help ensure your little goblins have a safe and happy Halloween.

The First Aid: American Red Cross app features videos, interactive quizzes, with easy to understand step-by-step advice for all kinds of medical emergencies including allergies and anaphylaxis, so you can feel better prepared in the event of an emergency. The app is fully integrated with 911, so you can contact emergency services directly through the app. Free – iOS/Android

Spokin is a food allergy app that provides you with allergen related resources customized to your family’s food allergies, location, and experience. Protect your child from accidental exposure through Spokin’s hidden allergen feature or find answers to your questions, and even follow another user with the same food allergies and taste. Free – iOS

Google Maps lets you keep track of your child’s location in real-time or use it to access the location of a parent or chaperone who might be with them. You need at least two smartphones (or a tablet with cellular) with the Google Maps app downloaded and location sharing activated – one for you and one that goes with the trick-or-treaters. Once downloaded on both devices, open “Location Sharing” on the left-hand side menu on the app. Free – iOS/Android

Life360 allows you to set up a trick-or-treat route with your children and as they reach the next zone on the map, you receive a notification on your smartphone. The apps also share the phone’s battery life, so you’ll know if the phone did die, or if they turned it off to do a second round of trick or treating. Free – iOS/Android

For many of us, it’s impossible to know all your neighbors. The FBI and U.S. Department of Justice have sex offender registries that connect all U.S. state, tribal, and territory websites so that citizens can search for the identities and locations of known sex offenders.  

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.


Thursday, October 24: Saluting YOU



When: Thursday, October 24, 2019
8:00 – 9:00 pm ET
5:00 – 6:00 pm PT

Join host Pam Rossi (@Always5Star) and the #VerizonSalutes team at 8 pm ET (5 pm PT) on Thursday, October 24 as we salute YOU for your contribution to society!
Regardless of what type of work you’re in, you play an important role in making our society work. YOU are the reason Verizon is committed to building a better network for the way you work, play and interact with one another.
Join host Pam Rossi @Always5Star as we share how we utilize technology to help us at work and make our lives more enjoyable!
RSVP and attend the chat for a chance to win one of TWO brand new
Google Nest Hubs!

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

  1. Email (subject line: VerizonSalutes) indicating your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed:
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#VerizonSalutes) on Thursday, October 24 between 8:00 – 9:00 pm ET.
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

“Be A Looper” – Suicide Prevention App

By Tracey Dowdy  

According to the World Health Organization, over 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression, but fewer than half of them receive any treatments.

It’s a statistic that seemed all too relatable for Amanda Johnstone, who lost twelve friends to suicide. Though the reasons each took their own life varied, they had one common denominator. “They all thought they were a burden, and it was too hard to keep reaching out,” says Johnstone.

To manage her grief and hyper-aware of the need for emotional support, Johnstone cam up with the idea of organizing close friends into a group SMS text that would serve as a routine, low-key mental health check-up. Every day at 4 pm, each would rate their mental state on a scale of one to ten, so those who were struggling had immediate resources and support.

Johnstone’s idea was even better in practice than in theory, so she took the idea to a developer who helped her create “Be a Looper,” a free peer-support app enabling users to touch base with five friends daily. Launched in November 2017, Be A Looper has spread to 76 countries—with Australia, the U.S., and the U.K. as the top three users—and was nominated for the 2018 Global Mobile Awards. 

The apps help users to both share how their day is tracking and keeps a close eye on those that may need support. Users can add up to five ‘Loopers’ into their network, and all networks are private. When an individual Looper is added, they are prevented from seeing other people. Instead – they get to create their safe network. The app doesn’t work offline, but users don’t need to have cellular reception just be connected to the internet (either via WiFi or via data) to use the Be A Looper app.

“We are all on our phones all the time, so it made so much sense to create something that’s already in people’s hands, which gives them that nudge to reach out and take a little bit of care of each other,” says Johnstone.

 If you or someone you know may be contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line. In emergencies, call 911 or seek care from a local hospital or mental health provider.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Yahoo may owe you $358 for data breach settlement

By Tracey Dowdy

Did you get an email from Yahoo stating you may be eligible for compensation due to a data breach? Unfortunately, it’s not a scam. If you had a Yahoo account between 2012 and 2016, you’re eligible to take part in a class action settlement to compensate you for losses as the result of a data hack.

According to Yahoo, over the past several years, hackers gained access to Yahoo user accounts on multiple occasions and stole user’s private emails, calendars, and contacts. On the Frequently Asked Questions page of their website, Yahoo outlines just how far the hackers went

  • In the initial breach in 2012, Yahoo states that no data was taken, but in 2013, hackers gained access to all of the more than three billion Yahoo accounts. They stole names, email addresses, telephone numbers, birth dates, passwords, and answers to users’ security questions. 
  • Then in In November 2014, “malicious actors” again gained access to Yahoo’s user database and “accessed  the names, email addresses, telephone numbers, birth dates, passwords, and security questions and answers of Yahoo account holders.”
  • From 2015 to September 2016, hackers bypassed the need for a user account password by creating “forged cookies” that provided them with access to Yahoo email accounts, impacting approximately 32 million user accounts worldwide.

As a result, Yahoo has announced that if you had a Yahoo account any time between January 1, 2012, and December 31, 2016, and are a resident of either the US or Israel, you are eligible to file a claim for part of the $117,500,000 settlement fund. This includes accounts with Yahoo Fantasy Sports, Yahoo Finance, Tumblr, and Flickr.

As for how much compensation you can expect, the number varies, and you may choose either money or credit monitoring.  

According to the website, the settlement provides the following benefits to Settlement Class Members:

  • Data Security Practice Changes and Commitments by Yahoo (see FAQ 10);
  • Credit Monitoring Services (see FAQ 11, FAQ 17);
  • Cash Payment as an Alternative to Credit Monitoring Services (see FAQ 12, FAQ 17);
  • Fraud Resolution Services (see FAQ 13);
  • Cash Reimbursement for Out-of-Pocket Losses (see FAQ 14 and FAQ 18);
  • Cash Reimbursement for up to 25% of Paid User Costs (see FAQ 15 and FAQ 19); and
  • Cash Reimbursement for up to 25% of Small Business User Costs (see FAQ 16 and FAQ 20).

If you choose to submit a claim, you must submit all forms online or postmarked by mail by July 20, 2020.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

How Digitally Savvy Are You?

By Tracey Dowdy

A recent Pew Research Center survey found that Americans’ understanding of technology-related issues “varies greatly depending on the topic, term or concept.”

The survey consisted of ten questions designed to test Americans’ knowledge across a broad range of digital topics, “such as cybersecurity, or the business side of social media companies. The median number of correct answers was four. Only 20% of adults answered seven or more questions correctly, and just 2% got all ten questions correct.”

To be fair, some of the questions are a little obscure, and even someone like me who regularly reports on digital matters wouldn’t necessarily be able to answer. For example, only 15% of adults correctly identified a recognize a picture of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey

The survey was conducted in June 2019, with data collated from the 4,272 respondents to the test. 

Some of the results: 

  • 49% weren’t clear on what private browsing does
  • Only 30% knew that “https://” means that info entered on a website is encrypted
  • Only 28% accurately identified an example of two-factor authentication
  • 67% knew that phishing scams could take place across a variety of platforms
  • Only 24% of Americans are aware that “private browsing” or “incognito mode” only hides the user’s online activity from other individuals using the same computer, and does not mean the user’s actions are masked or not being tracked by the websites, the ISP, or even an employer if the browsing is being done on a work computer. 

Unsurprisingly, younger adults generally scored higher than older adults across digital knowledge questions, as did those with a bachelor’s or advanced educational degree. 

For example, 18- to 29-year-olds correctly answered a median of five out of 10 questions, compared to a median correct response of three among those ages 65 and older.

“Adults with a bachelor’s or advanced degree and those under the age of 50 tend to score high on these questions,” Pew said. “Adults with a bachelor’s or advanced degree answered a median of six questions correctly, compared with four correct answers by those who have attended college, but have not obtained a degree and three by those with a high school diploma or less.”

Only one in five adults answered 70% or more of the questions correctly, and only 2% answered all ten questions correctly.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Websites and Resources: Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By Tracey Dowdy

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign by the National Breast Cancer Foundation to increase awareness of the disease. One in 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, making it the most common cancer in American women, except for skin cancers. Fortunately, the research that’s gone into finding a cure means breast cancer is no longer the death sentence it used to be. A study published in February of this year found that advances in treatment have saved hundreds of thousands of American women, though there’s still much work to do. This year, an estimated American 41,760 women will die from breast cancer.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with breast cancer, these sites provide valuable resources and information to help you navigate your treatment plan.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) is, of course, the premier site for cancer-related support and resources. As a nationwide organization dedicated to cancer research, education, advocacy, and support, ACS offers resources to help understand your diagnosis, explore options for treatment plans, and find resources to help cover the cost of treatment. They also provide resources for your caregivers and family as they support you during treatment.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure raises funds for research, education, and outreach, though probably best known for their community events such as Race for the Cure. Komen has affiliates throughout the United States and internationally. Their website offers financial assistance and insurance information, educational resources on screening and detection,  treatment options, and ways to fundraise and get involved in their efforts. 

CancerCare is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide free, professional help to people with all cancers and their loved ones through counseling, education, support groups, and direct financial assistance. You can search for help by diagnosis or topic, find stories of hope and encouragement from cancer survivors and medical professionals, and much more. is an easy-to-use online platform that allows patients to create a personalized web support community to keep family and friends updated. You can share photos, participate in discussion boards, assign a friend to delegate tasks, get help with website management, access resources for financial issues, health insurance, treatment options, clinical trials, diagnoses, nutrition, and much more.

BreastFree is a site designed for women who are considering or who have decided to have no reconstruction after mastectomy. You can read the reasons behind breast cancer survivors’ decisions and experiences, see photos of women pre- and post-mastectomy, get insight into post-mastectomy issues, and get advice and tips on living breast-free.

Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to improving the quality of life of women affected by breast cancer. In addition to their website, LBBC offers the Survivors’ Helpline, educational conferences, a quarterly newsletter, consumer-focused materials, and outreach to medically underserved women. The site provides resources specifically geared to young women with breast cancer as well as resources in Spanish.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

The Best Cooking Sites For Parents And Kids 

By Tracey Dowdy

According to National Today, October 4, 2019, is National Taco Day and National Cinnamon Roll Day. It’s also National Vodka Day, but that’s a post for another forum. 

Whether you’re celebrating your love of tacos or the ooey-gooey deliciousness of cinnamon rolls, it’s a perfect opportunity to get your kids into cooking. Cooking together is so much more than providing life skills that will help your kids avoid a steady diet of ramen throughout college. Research from Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that kids who eat family dinners get better grades in school, develop communication skills and are less likely to try drugs. It also improves math skills, helps them understand what’s in the food they eat, appreciate the work that goes into preparing the food they eat, and teaches them how to work with others. Raising an adventurous eater takes patience and persistence, but pays off in big ways. On the other hand, raising picky eaters not only means more work for you but may lead to health challenges for them down the road. 

These websites offer delicious, nutritious recipes that you and your child can prepare together and build memories you’ll treasure forever. 

Spatulatta was developed by a mom, her two daughters and their neighbor for latch-key kids. The recipes range from the very simple to more complex, so no matter your skill level, there’s something you can tackle. Choose from a variety of categories, diverse flavors, and styles. They have a YouTube channel so you can watch demos of their recipes.

The Kids Cook Monday is actually an initiative that encourages families to be intentional about eating and spending time with your family every Monday.  The webite provides examples of family-friendly recipes and video demonstrations of its recipes along with a Weelfree starter family dinner toolkit – making it easier for families to commit to cooking and eat together every Monday. “Start your week off right: Make Monday family night!” 

It’s no surprise that The Food Network has its own Cooking with Kids site that encourages families to work together in the kitchen to create simple, kid-friendly meals. Familiar Food Network personalities like Ree Drummond, Tyler Florence, Giada De Laurentiis, and Guy Fieri demonstrate kid-friendly versions of their recipes like Ree’s Prarie Sushi, Giada’s Spaghetti Nests, and Bananimals

Weelicious was created as a resource for parents to see how easy it is to expose children to wholesome, delicious homemade food. Recipes are divided into useful categories like Occasion, Sensitivity, Ingredient, and Cook Time, making it even easier to search for recipes your kids will love. Host Catherine has demonstration videos, ideas for school lunches, and useful resources like tips for how to make groceries stay fresh longer. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.