Friday, August 29: How To Choose a Smartphone



When: TODAY, Friday, August 29, 2014
12:00-1:00 pm PT
3:00-4:00 pm ET

‘How To Choose a Smartphone’

Join @thetechdad @theonlinemom and the rest of the VZWBuzz team TODAY at 12 noon PT (3 pm ET) as we chat about How To Choose a Smartphone!
With all those different brands, carriers, screen sizes and even operating systems, choosing a new smartphone can be a little overwhelming. Join us as we consider all the options, demystify those smartphone specs, and make sure you end up with a device that you will love!
  RSVP and attend the party for a chance to win an HTC One (M8) smartphone or a Motorola Power Pack Slim 4000!

(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: VZWBuzz) and include your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: 
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#VZWBuzz) today 29 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.)

Watching the World Cup with the FiOS Mobile App

This summer’s World Cup in Brazil has been an amazing tournament – full of goals, unlikely comebacks and the surprising success of a few unsung nations. And then there is the unexpected emergence of Team USA from the so-called Group of Death, which seems to have energized the whole country and given a welcome boost to a sport that mostly lives in the shadow of football and baseball.

The friendly time zone of the host nation has meant that most of the games have taken place during the day, rather than early morning or late at night. And while that in theory makes the matches more accessible, it also means that the living room couch is probably not an option. Hard core soccer fans and casual supporters alike have to be a little more resourceful to make sure they are in front of a screen for their favorite games.

Luckily for Verizon FiOS customers, the start of the World Cup coincided with the addition of six new out-of-home live TV channels, including ESPN, ESPN 2 and Univision Deportes, which between them are carrying all 64 matches of this year’s tournament. That means FiOS customers can use the FiOS Mobile App to live stream every game.

The FiOS Mobile App is compatible with the iPad, iPhone, most Android tablets and phones, and Kindle Fire tablets, giving FiOS customers a wide range of portable TV screens for their own personal viewing. And of course, out-of-home viewing doesn’t stop with the World Cup. The six new channels brings to 40 the total number of live channels available through the FiOS Mobile App, including CNN, Disney Channel, Food Network, Showtime, STARZ, and many more.

Movie fans have an even wider choice, with over 60,000 on-demand titles available and free and subscription offerings from HBO, Cinemax, Encore and more. The FiOS Mobile App also has strong parental controls, so you can make sure that your kids see only the shows you want them to see.

The day has finally arrived when we no longer have to worry about missing the next big game. With FiOS and the FiOS Mobile App, our TV screens are with us wherever we go!

The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for Verizon FiOS. All opinions are my own.

Why We Post Photos of Our Food

By Stacey Ross

I am not a foodie, or a chef. Heck, I do not think I enjoy food any more than your average person. (Well, unless it involves a good beer and sushi…or chocolate!) So why, on any given month, might a good majority of the photos in my social media streams center around food? Why are so many people compelled to tweet what they eat?

My personal view is that food is not that sexy, although I have been known to refer to some Japanese appetizers as “foreplay”! Typically, if I am playing a role in the branding process, I snap away to display a new camera feature, a hotel restaurant, or a favorite item from the menu. And even if there is no compensation involved, there is nothing like giving homage to a person or an institution – like a beer with the ballpark in the background – that you think is doing a great job. It’s just part of the social media culture!

I have found that a photo of a particularly appealing meal can be a valuable contribution to the inter-webs, particularly when accompanied with some descriptive words, recommendations, or geeky captions. I also take the opportunity to share bloopers. For example, my Facebook post sharing my burnt cookies was pretty well-received, likely because of the caption, “Warning: Mom Blogger Hazard!” The sentiment conveyed along with image becomes a unique form of storytelling, although a photo of a standard sandwich and French fries might not be all that compelling!

So why do others post their meals? I asked my colleagues and received a palate-full of replies.

Second nature for foodies

Freelancers, bloggers and foodies all click away ritualistically like they are foodarazzi.  Gina M. Ruiz, a food blogger and a freelancer, hangs out a lot with a Michelin-starred chef, so taking photos of food for her blog Dona Lupe’s Kitchen is imperative. The same applies for her inspiration, Chef Gianfranco Minuez, who is documenting his dishes for a future book. For Gina, sometimes she is “just impressed with the beauty and color or the plating style,” and at other times she is developing a recipe.

My Facebook friend Kimberly Edwards shared that two of her friends must photograph before they eat and that some of her friends regularly post on the review site Yelp. They make a habit of reviewing restaurants before they even open and are often the first to document their experiences – all with their handy cameras!

Images of inspiration

Lifestyle blogger Abby N Lili contributed, “I do not consider myself crafty or artistic, but I can cook. Taking pictures of food and sharing it on BabyBirdsFarm is my creative outlet. I like to believe it is useful to others too. Hopefully, they want to try the recipe, learn something new, or are just inspired to cook fresh, healthy good food.”

Another Facebook friend Lucretia Madden Pruitt added, “I like looking at other people’s food pix because it: a) stimulates my own appetite, b) gives me ideas for dishes to make or try, c) is artistic and aesthetically pleasing, and d) lets me share that moment with them.”

A conversation starter

When shared creatively to celebrate not only the food itself but the experience surrounding it, the “foodographer” can tell a story. I would be doing a disservice to you by editing the response of Faryl Zaklin a social media wizard, friend, and blogger at, so here is all she had to say on the matter:

“I’m not a fan of foodie pics on social media but I can tolerate it if: it’s for accountability; the meal presentation is just beyond words; you’re in a different country and the cuisine is unique; you hunted, slaughtered and cooked part of the meal; it’s moving or has eyes; any part of it is flaming (intentionally or unintentionally); your kid made it; you did an especially good job at making it and you’re proud; you’re sharing a recipe for the photo subject; or you did such a bad job preparing it, words fail you.”

Melinda Kruse DiPerna also hits the nail on the head: “It’s a way of sharing beauty, flavor, color, fun. No different than [photographing] a great flower. Occasionally funny or a warning.”

Food as the great connector

Whether we post photos of our hamburgers for branding purposes or for sensual pleasure, we can’t deny that food serves as a great unifier and conversation starter. When we have family and friends over or even meet someone for the first time, we tend to organize the gathering around a culinary experience. Virtual or not, what is on the dinner table brings people together.

A news anchor at NBC 7 San Diego, Jodi Kodesh, shared, “I do it nearly every time I cook, because I NEVER cook! I’m horrible. When I do make a pretty plate, I want a little bit of praise for the hard work I put into whatever meal I’m showing.”

A firefighter for the U.S. Marines, Ace Torres, knows that ladies love food (and we know firefighters are notorious for having their way in the kitchen!), so he figures that sharing food that he has either bought or cooked himself on his stream might “entice a date by showing girls what they could be eating if they go out with me.” And he makes sure to point out “I don’t use Instagram filters on my food pics.” Ace wants to be sure to portray accurately what a lady can expect. Smart move!

Food remains one of the most talked-about topics on social media and, with the advancement of technology, practically anyone who can aim and shoot can take a delightful photo. As Cari Bee, lifestyle/entertainment blogger behind, reminds us:  “Food is inherently communal. Even if eating alone, we feel compelled to share our experience.”

I’ll chew to that!

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of 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.

Friday, August 8: Back To School



When: TODAY, Friday, August 8, 2014
12:00-1:00 pm PT
3:00-4:00 pm ET

‘Back To School’

Join @theonlinemom @RobynsWorld @geekbabe and @thetechdad TODAY at 12 noon PT (3 pm ET) as we get ready for Back To School!
It’s time to start planning for the Fall and our smartphones and tablets  can help. With scheduling tools, study aids, organizational apps, and more, mobile devices can make us all more productive!
  RSVP and attend the party for a chance to win Beats Solo On-Ear Headphones or a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) Tablet!

(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: VZWBuzz) and include your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed:
  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.)

Can a Tablet Replace Your Laptop?

By Robyn Wright

Tablets have become tremendously popular in the last couple of years and many people have started to wonder if they can use one to replace their laptop. The answer might be yes, depending on how you are using your current device.

While budget will also be a factor in deciding whether you can ditch your laptop, there are three areas that you need to consider before making the switch to a tablet:

Consumption or Productivity?

Will you use the device primarily to consume data, such as searching the Internet, using social media, viewing files, playing games, reading books, etc.? If so, then a tablet might be a good option. However, if you rely heavily on your device for creating blogs, editing images or video, working with large documents and spreadsheets, and other business tasks, then you might find a laptop is still the better choice.

Tablets can still help with business tasks but they are less likely to be robust (fast) enough for serious users and can leave them feeling frustrated. If you lean towards the lighter side of productivity, then an external keyboard is highly recommended.


If you are always on the move for work or play and need a device with you at all times, then a tablet’s lighter weight and smaller size can be a big benefit. Tablets also tend to have good battery life, so you can go longer without having to search for a power outlet.

Adding a data plan to your tablet increases the portability advantage, because you have a constant connection to the Internet. Adding a tablet to a Verizon More Everything plan is only $10 per month – a low price for such convenience.

If you want portability but need a more powerful device, there are thinner, lighter, and smaller laptops available. These will cost you more but you will have the ability to carry out more tasks, and they are still lighter than the older traditional laptops.

Apps and Programs

Some users may need access to more traditional software for work or school but most tablets don’t support these programs. If you need a specific program, see if there is an app version or a web-based platform that would work on a tablet. Apps are abundant and there are many alternatives for the more commonly used programs. Even if you do not need specific programs, it is still wise to visit the relevant app stores to make sure you can carry out the tasks that are important to you.

Have you made the switch to a tablet or are you considering it? What are the most important factors in your decision?

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

Teen Cell Phone Use: Addiction or Integration?

By Tracey Dowdy

It’s no surprise when I say we’re a tech-addicted society. Things that we didn’t know existed 10 years ago are now a fundamental part of our daily lives. Case in point: our smartphones. According to a recent study, we check our smartphones an average of 110 times a day.

It’s also no surprise when I say the group most prone to this behavior is teens. This is the generation that really doesn’t remember a time before cell phones much the way my generation can’t imagine life without cable TV. (Yes, I had to go that far back for a technological innovation. Stop judging.)

How do you know if your teen’s attachment to his or her phone goes beyond the norm? At what point should you be concerned? Ira E. Hyman, Jr., Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Western Washington University suggests applying the standard definition of addiction to cell phone use: “Tolerance (decreased value requiring more use to get the same effect); Withdrawal, (symptoms if you don’t have access to your addiction); Increased use; Inability to cut back on use; Reduction of competing behaviors; Engaging in the behavior despite risks and negative consequences.”

With this definition in mind, does your child:

Sleep with her phone?

Of those surveyed, 75% said their phone is never more than 5 feet from them at any given time. Fear Of Missing Out (or “FOMO”) is a big part of this. At an age when peer acceptance is at a premium, failure to respond to a text or phone call in the middle of the night can be a very big deal.

Experience anxiety if she is separated from her phone?

Let’s be honest, “Nomophobia” or the fear of “no mobile phone” affects more than just teens. Anyone would – or should – feel uncomfortable if their phone is lost, as we have so much personal information stored on our devices. But if being unable to check your phone for short periods of time leaves you feeling nervous or uneasy and leaves you unable to focus on the task at hand, there may be cause for concern.

Feel an overwhelming urge to respond to calls or texts immediately?

This is one is a little tricky. My husband is incapable of letting a phone ring or receiving a text without checking it. It goes against his personality and his nature as a therapist – “What if someone really needs me?” If your teen sees her phone as the priority at all times – regardless of circumstances – or her preoccupation with her phone keeps her from engaging with people or situations, it may be time for a conversation about boundaries.

It is important for us as parents to remember that what may seem over the top to us may be perfectly within reason to the next generation. While we struggle with a work/life balance and lament that work follows us home through our smartphones, our kids are growing up in a world where that will become a work/life integration. Technology seamlessly runs through their lives ostensibly without interruption.

This is not to say that there is no need for balance. Everyone needs to disconnect at some point. If your teen isn’t getting enough sleep or her grades are being affected, again, it’s time for a conversation. Any behavior that is having a negative effect needs to be addressed. Teaching our kids responsible cell phone use is part of teaching them self-care – it’s common sense parenting.

Remind them that no matter what is considered “normal,” there are times when using your phone is not okay – texting and driving for example. And as Hyman points out, a little more consideration for others when using a phone would be nice too. We’ve all been stuck near someone having a carefree conversation, oblivious to the fact the rest of us don’t want to hear about their bunion surgery, children’s potty training mishaps, or TPS reports.

Maybe that’s just me showing my age again. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go yell at some kids to get off my lawn.

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.

Backup Your Data with Verizon Cloud

As we load up our smartphones and tablets with more and more contacts, documents, photos and other media files, the prospect of losing all that data becomes more of a concern. After all, smartphones are not like laptops. They fall out of pockets, the get left in restaurants, and they spend an unusual amount of time in bathrooms! Sadly, most smartphones are an accident waiting to happen.

Given the important place that mobile devices now have in our daily lives, it makes perfect sense to have a back-up plan – except that’s what we have been saying about our laptops and computers for years without much to show for it. Fortunately, backing up a smartphone takes a lot less effort.

While there are lots of third-party cloud options, the option that makes the most sense is usually the one provided by your carrier. Verizon recently introduced an updated and upgraded Verizon Cloud storage service, which allows customers to sync and save important contacts, photos, videos, music, documents, and even text messages.

Verizon Cloud allows you to sync across multiple devices, so your content is accessible from both your smartphone and your tablet. You can also manage your content on the Web via a laptop or computer. You can even stream songs and movies from Verizon Cloud without the need to download. Best of all, you can schedule backups to take place automatically so there’s no chance you’ll forget.

You can download the Verizon Cloud app and get 5GB of storage free of charge. If you have a More Everything plan, that free Verizon Cloud allowance increases to 25GB. That’s enough storage for thousands of photos and songs, with still enough room for all your favorite movies. If you still need more storage, then you can buy additional space low monthly rates.

The Verizon Cloud app walks you through all the steps you need to set up your account and it will even delay uploads until Wi-Fi is available so it doesn’t impact your monthly data allowance. Don’t risk losing all your important data. Get the Verizon Cloud app and you’ll have one less thing to worry about!

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

Family Fun with Geocaching

By Robyn Wright

Texting, calling, and playing games are just some of the ways we can use mobile devices to connect with our family and friends. Sometimes though, we need to look away from the screen just a little bit more. One way to get outside but still connect using your mobile device is a fun activity called geocaching.

Geocaching takes you outside to hunt for caches utilizing the GPS function of your mobile device. People all over the world take part and hide little treasures for others to find. When you find a cache, you take one of the items, replace it with something else, and return it to its hiding spot for the next person to find. To start hunting, you use coordinates posted on geocaching sites and apps.

One of the great things about geocaching is that the entire family can take part together. There are caches that range from easy to find to very difficult. The kids love treasure hunts and are usually great at finding them once you reach the correct spot. Geocaching gets you all outside together to enjoy both nature and city areas. While you use your mobile device for tracking, you are still able to be out and about together, talking, enjoying the day, and making some wonderful memories.

Geocaching is also educational. Geography is a big part of the activity. Many caches will contain historical information and trivia about the area in which the cache is located. You will be amazed at what you can learn about the area in which you live. If you are hunting in a park or on trails, you can take the time to learn about hiking, trail marking, tree varieties, animal tracks, and much more. Plus, you can find lots of apps about those areas to put on your smartphone as well.

There are a few guidelines that go along with geocaching, so it is best to do a little reading before you set out on your first hunt. Two of the more common sites are and The latter also offers a premium service if you find your family really enjoys this new adventure. also offers a mobile app, which is free for iOS, Android, and Windows Phones.

Take some family time to go on a geocaching adventure. You will surely discover much more together than just the physical items, and you’ll make some treasured memories at the same time!

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

Technology in the Classroom: One Big Learning Curve

By Stacey Ross

The Learning Curve report, published by Pearson, looks at education across the globe, ranking the world’s educational systems and identifying the skills that students will need to meet the challenges of the global marketplace.

Written by The Economist Intelligence Unit, The Learning Curve reflects a wide-ranging program of quantitative and qualitative analysis, drawing on extensive research and in-depth interviews conducted with several education experts.

The report suggests that our classroom educators are boosting efforts to improve and develop other areas besides reading, writing and math – areas that will build the skills required for the future. These necessary skills include leadership, digital literacy, communication, emotional intelligence, entrepreneurship, global citizenship, problem solving and team-working.

As we see more and more technology integrated into the classroom setting, we are observing approaches towards teaching and evaluating that are quite new. Many of these changes involve the integration of technology in students’ everyday lives.

Collaborative Learning – Students will see less of the traditional multiple-choice tests and instead experience tests that “simulate real-world settings such as chemistry labs, or settings that aren’t normally accessible, like other planets.”

Immediate Feedback – We will see technology that monitors students’ comprehension on an ongoing basis, offering the ability to measure and correct students’ learning pace, and enabling instructors to focus on areas that need improvement.

Tutoring Software – One-on-one tutoring software has shown great results. MATHia, for example, offers a blended curriculum that supplements traditional textbooks and workbooks with one-on-one tutoring software. Students track their own progress by looking at an odometer-type symbol at the top of their screen.

Assessment Tools – The old “bubble tests” are evolving, as testing online now allows for the use of “adaptive tests.” In this scenario, students get harder or easier questions based on their response to the previous problem.

New media is going to play an increasingly constructive role in education. We will see it in how we use smart technology, books, maps and globes, laboratory instruments, visual material, social media, and more. Likewise, we will witness the results of evolving methodologies that aim to integrate technology in ways that encourage students to succeed in building their critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities and collaboration skills. Are you in?

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of 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.