Friday, August 15, 2014: Mobile Accessories



When: TODAY, Friday, August 15, 2014
12:00-1:00 pm PT
3:00-4:00 pm ET

‘Mobile Accessories’

Join @thetechdad @theonlinemom @RobynsWorld @geekbabe and @VerizonInsider TODAY at 12 noon PT (3 pm ET) as we chat about Mobile Accessories!
We love our smartphones and tablets but the mobile lifestyle is about so much more than stand-alone devices. From wireless speakers and headsets to heart rate monitors and home security devices, we look at the mobile accessories that are delivering on the promise of a truly connected world!
  RSVP and attend the party for a chance to win a Sony Xperia Z2 tablet or a GoPro Hero3+ (Silver) camera!

(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.)

7 Messaging Apps That Are Replacing SMS

When texting first became popular, most texts were sent via a wireless carrier’s network. This service (also known as SMS) used to be a huge revenue-generator for the carriers, but is now largely bundled with ‘free’ voice or calling plans as the carriers switch their attention to data.

If you are still using SMS to text your family and friends, then rest assured you are not alone. Despite all the chatter about WhatsApp, SnapChat, Messenger and the rest, SMS remains the #1 messaging option for an overwhelming majority of smartphone owners.

But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be that way forever. The ability to add multimedia functions, group chats, video calls, and much more is quickly adding to the allure of messaging apps, and it seems only a matter of time before they catch up and even surpass the popularity of SMS.

If you have a teenage son or daughter, it’s almost guaranteed that they are using at least one messaging app. If you are thinking of joining them, here are 7 of the more popular options:

Facebook Messenger

messengerTNUp until now, Facebook included a messaging feature in its social network app, so there was no need for a separate download. However, Facebook has just announced that all future mobile messaging will have to be done through the stand-alone Messenger app. Desktop users will be able to continue to use the built-in messaging app as before.

Messenger includes text, group chat, photo and video sharing options, and even stickers. The good thing about Facebook is that almost everyone is on it, so you won’t have to spend time adding all your contacts.

Cost: Free
Platform: iOS, Android, BlackBerry


whatsappTNWith over 500 million active users, WhatsApp is arguably the most popular messaging app in the world – so popular, in fact, that Facebook agreed to pay $19 billion to acquire it! WhatsApp’s strength is its simplicity. Once the app is downloaded, WhatsApp checks your contacts and automatically adds WhatsApp users. You don’t need to send a request to be able to connect through WhatsApp.

WhatsApp supports text messages, group messages, photos and videos, and audio media messages. WhatsApp management has also announced that they are developing a voice option, which will be the equivalent of making a phone call.

Cost: $0.99 per year (first year free)
Platform: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone


skypeTNEstablished as a desktop tool, Skype has made an uneven transition to mobile, disappointing some early adopters and encouraging other messaging services to step up and fill the void. The Skype mobile app supports text messaging, photos and videos, and face-to-face video and voice calls over Wi-Fi or a wireless network. There is also a low-cost voice calling option to mobile devices and landlines.

Cost: Free (with the exception of some calling options)
Platform: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone

Google Hangouts

hangoutsTNAlthough Google Hangouts supports an instant text messaging service, its real strength is in multi-person voice and video chats. The video chat option is particularly appealing and supports a number of increasingly sophisticated production options. The messaging app is very basic but it does support photos and GIFs, which can be automatically saved in a Google+ album.

Cost: Free
Platform: iOS, Android


snapchatTNExtremely popular among tweens and teens, SnapChat started life as an instant photo-sharing service that allowed users to add a text caption. The photos automatically disappeared after a few seconds, leading to (largely unfounded) fears of teen sexting. SnapChat also supports plain text chat and has recently added Stories, which allows users to video chat simply by pressing and holding the screen.

SnapChat’s success has attracted the attention of Facebook but so far SnapChat’s founders have rebuffed all acquisition attempts. Both Facebook (Slingshot) and Instagram (Bolt) have recently introduced SnapChat competitors, although Bolt is not yet available in the U.S.

Cost: Free
Platform: iOS, Android


lineTNPopular overseas, LINE supports free voice and video calls as well as regular text messaging, photos and more. Although the app is fee to download, users can spend money on a range of in-app purchases, which include stickers, games and even messages from celebrities. Music and shopping services are expected to follow.

Cost: Free with some optional in-app purchases
Platform: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone


kikTNWith the decline of BlackBerry (and the beloved BBM), there was an obvious need for a smart and flexible cross-platform messaging tool. Enter Kik, a rapidly-evolving messaging service that now has over 100 million users. With Kik you can exchange text messages, videos, images, emoticons, and more, and features like Kik Cards allow for a surprising level of customization.

Price: Free
Platforms: iOS, Android, Windows Phone

Verizon FiOS Makes You the Internet Hub

It’s just one of those digital age facts that we always took for granted: Internet download speeds were always faster than upload speeds. If we stopped to think about it – which I’m sure not many of us did – it’s easy to see why that was the case. We have traditionally consumed far more web-based content than we have produced, so it made perfect sense that the inbound delivery mechanism was bigger – and therefore faster – than the outbound process.

However, that’s all changing. We are now just as likely to upload a photo or video as we are to download one. With cloud-based storage and collaborative web sites, we are uploading data as much as we are downloading it. Skype and other video chat apps demand equal data speeds. And don’t forget about the web-based gamer, who relies on even response rates to get the most out of a web-based game.

We are now using the Internet to create and share almost as much as we use it to stream and consume, putting us right at the center of the information and entertainment highway. Given our new roles as information hubs, it’s not surprising that Internet providers are hearing the call for faster upload speeds.

Responding to this new reality, Verizon recently brought FiOS upload speeds in line with their superfast download equivalents. Now with speeds of 150/150 Mbps, you can upload 200 photos (1GB) in just 13.3 seconds or upload a 1-hour HD movie (3GB) in under 3 minutes.

Faster upload speeds make working from home much more efficient: we can send e-mails and share documents without the mind-numbing wait for the files to arrive; we can video chat with friends and colleagues with no lag time; and we can make sure everything is backed up to the cloud for secure, anytime, anywhere access.

We are no longer sitting back, passively waiting for anything the Internet decides to throw our way. We are now both consumers and creators, demanding a data pipeline that is fast and reliable in both directions. Yet one more reason to choose Verizon FiOS!

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

Friday, September 5: Getting More From Your Tablet



When: TODAY, Friday, September 5, 2014
12:00-1:00 pm PT
3:00-4:00 pm ET

‘Getting More From Your Tablet’

Join @theonlinemom @RobynsWorld @geekbabe and @thetechdad TODAY at 12 noon PT (3 pm ET) as we chat about Getting More From Your Tablet!
Faster processors, smarter apps and cloud storage solutions are transforming the way we use tablets. Whether you want to replace a laptop at work or just develop your own personal entertainment hub, we offer suggestions on how to get the most out of these rapidly evolving devices!
  RSVP and attend the party for a chance to win a Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet or a Logitech Harmony Smart Remote!

(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.)

New Tech Toys Encourage Imaginative Play

By Tracey Dowdy

Saying toys have changed since we were kids would make even Captain Obvious himself roll his eyes. Heck, toys have changed significantly from when my kids were kids. The big news isn’t that toys are changing, but how they’re changing.

I tried to limit how much time my kids spent in front of a screen when they were young and did my best to encourage imaginative play. We read every day, built a lot of blanket forts, colored, painted and drew for hours. That’s not to say we didn’t watch movies. I could hold my own in a “Wizard of Oz” or “Lion King” quote-off just fine thank you. I simply preferred to play with them the way I played when I was a kid, when the wheel had just been invented and the latest technology meant my Casio digital watch.  As a result, my girls were never big into gaming or tech until cell phones came along. Now, their phones can do what it used to take a calendar, a camera, a phone, a typewriter, a personal assistant and the U.S. Postal Service to do. Tech has seamlessly merged with our lives from the cradle to the grave.

Toy and game developers, who I assume are all exactly like Tom Hanks character in “Big”, have been incorporating imaginative play into their products for years. But they’ve taken it a step further and have become much more intentional by encouraging consumers to submit ideas for games and toys that can then be downloaded or purchased worldwide. In fact, the Toy Industry Association (TIA) recently declared “Custom Built” as one of the top toy trends of 2014.

“Encouraging kid-generated content allows children to tap into their creativity and play exactly how they want to play, whether they are having fun with arts and crafts, designing their own dolls or plush, or building new virtual worlds,” said TIA toy trend specialist Adrienne Appell. “This is an important, growing trend that will continue to have a tremendous impact on the future of toys and gaming.”

Disney, quick to spot a trend, launched “Disney Infinity”, a game where players can take their favorite Disney or Marvel characters and place them in the game. Since its inception last year, the “Toy Box” feature where players can custom design game worlds or download worlds created by others has over 12 million customized toy boxes.

“I believe this generation of players, whether they’re on the digital screen or playing inside their own living room, expects a level of customization in order to feel ownership and pride over what they have,” says Disney Infinity Executive Producer John Vignocchi.

LEGO recently introduced LEGO Fusion, where kids are encouraged to build and create with physical LEGO bricks then scan and import pictures of their creations into the game. Players can challenge their friends to see whose buildings, towers or vehicles are the strongest, the tallest or the fastest. Fans can also submit original ideas through LEGO Ideas and, if the suggestion gets 10,000 supporters, LEGO will consider adding it to their line. They also regularly run contests for their MINDSTORMS platform and fans can submit ideas for the customizable/programmable robots.

User-generated modifications or “mods” are a big part of the video game industry. Nineteen year old Alexander J. Velicky spent 2,000 hours over the span of a year creating the Falskaar mod for Skyrim. It was basically a job application, and though he wasn’t hired by Bethesda, he was hired by Bungie, creators of Halo.

British toy company Arklu hosts social media contests to create outfits for fans of their “Lottie” doll. In May, fans were asked to create a superhero costume for Lottie, so fans from around the world submitted designs. Lilly, a six-year-old girl from Ohio won and now her original artwork, name, age, and hometown will be incorporated into the package design when the costume is introduced in stores.

Similarly, the “My Own Monsters” line from North American Toy Company has creatures based on drawings by employees’ kids about what scares them. “MOrty the MOnkey” shoots at germs with bananas from his belly button and “Yucky” has “very big hands that can wipe off yucky kisses from big people.” Parents can submit their own child’s artwork and the creature will be handmade in North American Toy’s studio.

“Sophisticated content creation is no longer reserved for specialists,” said Michael McNally, senior director of brand relations for LEGO Systems. “Children’s bedrooms have become creative publishing studios, so the expectation surrounding customization, personalization and ‘make-it-mine’ experiences is at an all-time high.”

As I parent, I see all this as the best of both worlds. Kids are still dreaming and building, but sometimes the castle they’re defending or dragon they’re slaying is in the digital world and not the backyard. Either way, that’s a lot of imaginative play, a lot of creativity and a lot of fun!

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.

Monday, July 28: #ConnectedLife



When: TODAY, Monday, July 28, 2014
8:00 – 9:00 pm ET
5:00 – 6:00 pm PT

‘Back To School’

Join @theonlinemom @RobynsWorld and friends TODAY at 9 pm ET as we get ready for Back To School!
August is around the corner and it’s time to start thinking about back to school.  We offer tips on how to prepare – for both parents and kids!
  RSVP and attend the party for a chance to win a Motorola Power Pack Slim 4000 or a Verizon Ellipsis 7 HD 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: ConnectedLife) and include your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed:
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#ConnectedLife) today between 8 – 9 pm ET
  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.)


7 Mobile Device Security Tips

By Robyn Wright

We carry around a lot of information on our smartphones and tablets. Even if the information is not actually stored on our devices, they provide access to that data through apps and other cloud services.

However we use our smartphones and tablets, it’s important that we take steps to secure them, so our information is protected from hackers and thieves. Some may try and steal data over open connections; others may attempt to steal the device itself. Here are 7 tips on how to keep your information and devices secure.

1. Update Apps and Operating Systems

While updates can fix bugs and other small problems in apps or operating systems, they also fix security issues. It is imperative that you keep your apps and operating systems up to date on all your devices.

2. Lock Your Device

Set up a numeric code, a swipe pattern, or fingerprint recognition to protect the information on your device from thieves and prying eyes. Check Settings/Security to see what your screen lock options are.

3. Activate a Device Finder

There are lots of apps available to help locate a lost device. Install the app of your choice and get it set up so that you can find your phone if it’s lost or stolen.

4. Use Caution with Open Wi-Fi Networks

Free Wi-Fi is nice to have at the local coffee shop, but most networks are open, which means that they lack a firewall or any other security features. While that might be OK for web surfing, it’s not OK for online banking or handling other sensitive transactions. If in doubt, use you wireless data plan instead.

5. No Jailbreaking

“Jailbreaking” a device is the act of modifying the operating system to add third-party apps or another level of customization. When you jailbreak a device, you can also weaken the security features and put yourself at a higher risk for theft.

6. Only Download Reputable Apps

Only download apps from reliable sources, and even then use caution. Some harmful apps can slip through the vetting process. Look for apps with good ratings, lots of downloads, and established developer support.

7. Use Your Wireless Provider’s Tools

All major carriers have a selection of security tools available. For example, Verizon Family Safeguards & Controls feature several different types of controls that can increase security and provide peace of mind for all your family members.

Have you ever had a mobile device stolen? Is your data vulnerable? What steps have you taken to minimize the risk?

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!

Binge Watching May Be Harmful to Your Health

By Stacey Ross

A few months back, my in-laws encouraged my husband and me to enjoy a date night, so we dropped the kids off at their grandparents for our “night on the town.” But instead of dining or taking a moonlight stroll on the beach, we made a beeline for the living room (how exciting, right?) and binge watched House of Cards. And oh, was our “fix” worth it!

Netflix, LoveFilm, Hulu — all coveted examples of on-demand and instant-gratification entertainment that can tempt our willpower yet, on the other hand, give us the opportunity to indulge if we darned well want to! And, thanks to our mobile devices, we don’t even need to be at home for our fix (I mean our movie marathon fun!).

What are the risks?

However, according to a new study, spending hours in front of the TV may pose a health risk. Research published in the Journal of American Heart Association found that adults who watch TV for three or more hours a day can double their risk of early death compared to viewers who watch less TV.

“Our findings are consistent with a range of previous studies where time spent watching television was linked to mortality,” Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “Television viewing is a major sedentary behavior and there is an increasing trend toward all types of sedentary behaviors.”

The study, surveying over 13,000 adults, found the risk of death was two times higher for participants who reported watching three or more hours of TV a day. Clearly, it supports The American Heart Association, which recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week with a mix of moderate to high muscle strengthening two days a week.

Just keep movin’!

So, yes, I got the bug, but it doesn’t have to be that bad! Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Downtown AbbeyStar Trek (any version), Mad MenDoctor Who … the list of the most popular shows that people binge on can also serve as incentives for better exercise plans (not counting those trips to the refrigerator!). The shows can wait for your health, in other words!

We are all good, so long as we get up and keep moving, and keep in mind that a sedentary lifestyle is the issue at hand here, not watching excellent entertainment!

So the moral of the story: Grab some organic snacks and some iced tea and enjoy the luxury of really good home entertainment, but keep on movin’, too! In the words of House of Cards’ Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey: “There’s no better way to overpower a trickle of doubt than with a flood of naked truth.”

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.