Time to Take the Facebook Privacy Checkup

Over the years, Facebook has taken some well-deserved heat for making its privacy settings overly complicated, but that all changed in December 2012 with the introduction of Privacy Shortcuts. Accessible from the little lock icon at the top right-hand corner of any page, the Privacy Shortcuts allow Facebook users to perform a quick check-up of their privacy settings, and also act as a constant reminder of the privacy issues that are most important. Here’s how they work:

Privacy Shortcuts are divided into three distinct areas: Who can see my stuff? Who can contact me? and How do I stop someone from bothering me?

Who can see my stuff?

This, of course, is the most important question for any Facebook user concerned about his or her privacy. The Shortcut explains how you can control who can see your future posts by adjusting the settings at the time you post, but it also guides you to two of the most powerful – and underutilized – tools on Facebook: the Activity Log and View As.

The Activity Log is basically an archive of everything that you have ever posted on Facebook, or anything others have posted about you. You can review by category – Posts, Photos, Likes, Comments, etc. – or by timeline, all the way back to the time you joined Facebook. You get the chance to delete or hide old posts and photos, and even ask others to delete photos that you’ve been tagged in. (Keep in mind that you can only delete old posts and photos from your own timeline. These posts and photos can still appear elsewhere on Facebook.)

View As allows you to see what your timeline looks like to the public or to a specific friend. (Again, even if you hide something on your timeline, it could still appear in your news feed or elsewhere on Facebook. If you don’t want someone to see a certain post or photo, don’t post it on Facebook!)

Who can contact me?

This Privacy Shortcut allows you to control who can send you friend requests and whose messages you see. The new Message Filters are Facebook’s attempt to make its messaging system more useful by filtering out unwanted messages or spam. Users have a choice of Basic or Strict Filtering, with unwanted messages ending up in an Other folder as opposed to the regular Inbox.

How do I stop someone from bothering me?

Here, Facebook provides a shortcut for blocking someone, as well as a way to view users you have previously blocked. Other Privacy Shortcuts allow you to adjust who can look you up using the email address or phone number you provide to Facebook, and whether various third party search engines can link to your timeline.

Taken together these new tools provide Facebook users with an excellent way to perform a quick privacy check-up, while acting as a reminder of what’s important as we all continue to expand our online presence.

It’s Time for a New Router

If you recently bought a new smartphone or tablet but are already looking ahead to your next purchase, then you are not alone. With the manufacturers bringing out new devices every few months and the wireless carriers only too happy to accommodate early upgrades, the lifespan of the average smartphone is becoming shorter and shorter.

Contrast this with our approach to another piece of equipment that is equally important to our digital well-being: the router. Yes – I am talking about that mostly forgotten dusty black box that sits blinking in the corner of your office.

The router is one of those devices that only gets noticed when something goes wrong. Like the time your kids finally settle down to do their homework and someone shouts: “Mom, there’s something wrong with the Internet!” You turn the router off and on a few times, move the cables around a little bit, and miraculously everything is restored to normal.

If you consider how much mobile technology has advanced since the last time you upgraded your router, it’s a surprise the device is still working at all. Faster laptops and data-hungry smartphones and tablets are using dramatically more bandwidth than they used to, to say nothing of the myriad of other connected devices in the home, including gaming consoles, smart TVs, DVRs, and even thermostats and security cameras.

Last week I installed a brand new Verizon FiOS Quantum Gateway router in my home and it’s difficult to overstate the difference it has made. When you get into the tech specs of routers (not something I would recommend!), you learn a lot about frequencies. The Quantum Gateway essentially gives you two separate frequencies, allowing you to perform both high and low bandwidth activities (such as checking e-mail and streaming movies) simultaneously.

With greater data handling efficiency comes greater speed. The increase in speed is particularly noticeable during the Internet “Rush Hour” – that’s 7 – 11 pm in the evening, when everyone is downloading files, refreshing social networks and searching the Web. Verizon’s dedicated, high-bandwidth fiber-optic connection essentially provides each customer with a fast lane to avoid the increased traffic.

The Quantum Gateway has also dramatically improved network reach, eliminating those Internet dead spots in my kitchen and certain other rooms in our house. The Quantum Gateway also comes with guest access features and a full suite of parental controls, which includes the ability to limit Internet access for individual devices.

So before you think about upgrading your smartphone or tablet, give some thought to upgrading your home network. When it comes to improved data-handling and performance, a brand new FiOS router will make all the difference!

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

Apps to Encourage Health and Fitness

By Tracey Dowdy

Commuting to work last Friday, I listened to an interview with a personal trainer lamenting all the newbies in the gym come January 2nd. Apparently they are all there to kick start their New Year resolutions to lose weight and get fit but instead they mostly get in the way of the “real clients.”

Not sure she had a job come Monday morning, nor do I think that’s the attitude of the majority of personal trainers, but it reminded me of all the fantastic apps that are available to help us with our health and fitness goals without having to commit to a gym membership. Accessible anytime, anywhere, it’s like having your own personal trainer – minus the judging.

Food Journaling

A big part of meeting those health and fitness goals is making the choice to eat well. It’s not just a matter of what you eat, but when and how often. Food journaling can help you manage meals and snacks and use food as fuel instead of just taking on those extra calories.

Noom Coach is a weight loss app designed to encourage life-long healthy eating habits. Instead of simply counting calories, Noom Coach offers weight loss tips, a pedometer, a color coded calorie counter (red, yellow and green, like a stop light), recipes and nutritional information to help you make wise choices. The food database includes popular restaurants to make eating out less stressful, and there’s community support through user forums. (Free – iOS, Android)

Lose It! is one of the most successful comprehensive weight loss apps to date. When you download the app, Lose It! asks for your basic information like gender, height, current weight and weight loss goal. From there, the app creates a custom plan for you. Record your food intake and activity and Lose It tracks your progress. Find recipes, search the database for exercise and nutrition information, and even use the barcode scanner to determine whether that granola is really worth it. (Free – iOS, Android, Kindle)

Nutrition Menu is available offline so you can search its database of over 100,000 foods and 149 exercises no matter where you are. Track exercise, water intake, weight loss and, if you’re counting calories or carbs, use the “Food Score” or simply record your meals and snacks in the journal. With so many valuable resources, no wonder Nutrition Menu is recommended by Fitness and Women’s Health magazines. ($1.99 – iOS, Android)

Exercise Apps

Obviously diet alone isn’t enough to maintain a healthy lifestyle. If your wellness goals include a little exercise, these apps are a great place to start.

Couch to 5k promises if you’ll commit 30 minutes, 3 times a week for 9 weeks, you’ll be 5k ready. You can choose from four coaches and import your own playlist to keep you motivated. Couch to 5K tracks your progress and includes many other features like counting time on the treadmill to eliminate the “it’s too cold/hot/rainy/sunny” excuse on days you don’t feel like exercising. Because each day builds on the last workout, new runners are less likely to injure themselves. ($1.99 – iOS, Android)

Pocket Yoga is another app that functions offline so you can complete your workout even without an internet connection. Choose from 27 different workouts divided by level of difficulty and duration, so whether you’re a beginner or more advanced you can find a workout that meets your needs. Pocket Yoga maintains a log of all your practices to keep track of progress. ($2.99 – iOS, Android, Windows)

30 Day Fitness Challenges offers 20 different challenges focused on arms, legs, core and strength. Each challenge lasts between 1-5 minutes, which can feel like a very long time if you’re doing planks or burpees! With 30 Day Fitness Challenges you can access tutorials, learn different exercise techniques through videos, track your progress, and get regular reminders when it’s time to work out. ($2.99 – iOS, $1.99 – Android)

If you have a gym membership and simply want help with overall health and wellness, apps like MyFitnessPal, MyDietCoach, and MyNetDiary, can help you stay on track and maintain those healthy lifestyle choices. So whether you were naughty or nice over the holidays, getting back on track and reaching those fitness and wellness goals is well within your reach!

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. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Friday, January 23: Managing Your Online Profile RECAP

These days if people want to find out more about us, they turn to the Internet. So what are they going to find?
Join Monica Vila (@TheOnlineMom) and special guest and travel blogger Jean Newman Glock (@jeannewmanglock) as they look at the importance of establishing a positive online presence, and explore how mobile devices are playing an increasingly significant role in determining how we are perceived!
Interested in a Mobile Makeover? Fill out the #VZWBuzz Makeover Application and you could win a brand new smartphone or tablet and be invited to appear on a VZWBuzz Video RECAP!

Friday, March 6: Mobile Music



When: TODAY, Friday, March 6, 2015
3:00-4:00 pm ET
12:00-1:00 pm PT

‘Mobile Music’

Join @thetechdad @theonlinemom @RobynsWorld @geekbabe and @VerizonInsider TODAY at 3 pm ET (12 noon PT) as we chat about Mobile Music!
From personalized streaming services to Bluetooth speakers and headsets, mobile devices are continuing to reinvent the music industry. We look at the latest developments in mobile music and offer tips on the best ways to enjoy our favorite tunes!
RSVP and attend the party for a chance to win a pair of Beats Solo 2 On-Ear headphones or a Droid Turbo smartphone!
Join @TheOnlineMom and special guest @Jason__Ramsey on the Video Recap right after the chat for a chance to win an Ultimate Ears UE Boom Bluetooth speaker!

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

  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/IK47q      
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#VZWBuzz) today between 3 – 4 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.)

Apps for a Better Night’s Sleep

By Robyn Wright

A good night’s sleep is an important factor in our overall health and well-being but it’s one that is often overlooked. And while it is best to keep mobile devices out of the bedroom, it’s also true that most of us don’t follow that sound advice. Since those smartphones and tablets are already on the nightstand, it makes sense to take advantage of apps that can help us fall asleep, stay asleep, and track the quality of our nighttime slumber. Here are a few suggestions:

Sleep Better

Turn on the Sleep Better app and set your device on your bed at night and it will track how you are sleeping. You can also input stress levels, exercise routines, caffeine consumption and other factors to see how these things are impacting the quality of your sleep. A dream diary is included to track what kind of dreams you are having.

Platform: iOS, Android
Cost: Free but with in-app purchases


There has been a lot of research lately into power napping to help reduce stress and promote better overall health. powernAPP will give you information about power napping, as well as allow you to set alarms, track the length and number of naps, and more. It also works with Windows Phone voice commands to make it even easier to use.

Platform: Windows Phone
Cost: Free

Relax Melodies

Create a mix of sounds and music that will help you fall asleep in 20 minutes or less. You can also incorporate your own music into your mixes. Relax Melodies is also great for other times when you want to relax, like during yoga and when you’re having a massage. If you need additional help and information, the app contains access to the Relax Melodies blog, with helpful tips and articles on how to get a better night’s sleep.

Platform: iOS, Android, Windows Phone
Cost: Free


The Twilight app is based on research that suggests exposure to blue light, like on smartphones and tablets, may hinder your ability to fall asleep. The app will adjust your screen display based on the time of day. Perfect if you like to read on your device before going to sleep.

Platform: Android

Metro Nap NYC

If you ride the commuter trains in and out of New York City and want to nap without missing your stop, Metro Nap NYC is the app for you. Just let the app know where you want to get off and it will wake you within a certain distance of your stop.

Platform: Android
Cost: Free

I Can’t Wake Up! Alarm Clock

I Can’t Wake Up! Alarm Clock is the perfect app for those people who sleep soundly and have a tendency to oversleep. You have to complete certain tasks before the alarm will turn off – there is no just hitting the snooze button. You can experiment with several options to help you find what works best to actually wake you up and get you out of bed.

Platform: Android
Cost: Free

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!

Best New Apps for Working On-the-Go

By Tracey Dowdy

Does anyone work 9-5 anymore? With mobile tech, we’re able to seamlessly move from work to home to the sidelines of soccer practice and still stay connected. Developers are constantly creating new ways to stay on top of work while we’re out of the office, as well as improving the apps we’re already using.

Some of these apps are new and some are improvements or updates on older apps. These offer some of the best ways to help manage that work/home balance.

Microsoft Office Mobile

Microsoft Office Mobile allows you to access, read, and edit Microsoft Word, Excel, and Power Point documents. You can create and edit documents from Dropbox, and the apps offers the option of looking at the original document with all the graphics intact or a Reflow view with a simplified layout more suited to a smaller screen. Although the app isn’t new, the preview available to Android users back in November is now openly available to everyone.

Platform: iOS, Android, Windows Phone
Cost: Free

Evernote Scannable

Evernote Scannable uses your phone’s camera to capture a complete image of your document, automatically rotating, cropping, and adjusting images so your scans are clear and easy to read. Images can be saved or shared via Evernote or other apps, as well as via email and text. If Scannable notes that the image is a business card, it connects with LinkedIn and gets information about the contact.

Platform: iOS
Cost: Free

Perfect Note

Perfect Note lets you organize upcoming projects and tasks all in one place. Similar to OneNote, PerfectNote is more structured with additional organizational, scheduling and security features. Both are great for staying on top of your to-do list, so it’s more a matter of preference than capability.

Platform: Android, Windows Phone
Cost: $1.99


Nintype acts as a third-party keyboard for iPhone and iPad that combines swipes and double taps to let you type 100 words a minute. There are shortcuts for saved texts, emojis and hashtags, and it’s available in thirteen different languages. Users have the option of a battery saving mode that disables animation and saves battery usage up to 75%.

Platform: iOS
Cost: $4.99


Workflow allows you to create your own work flow projects by dragging and dropping any number of action icons. You can create animated gifs and PDF’s, or grab all the images on a webpage. You can even create a speed dial icon on your home page for your best friend and many other fun features. Workflows can be launched from within the app or from another app with Workflow’s Action Extensions, or you can create a workflow with its own icon for your home screen. Workflow includes over 100 actions and works with your Contacts, Calendar, Maps, Music, Photos, Camera, Reminders, Safari, AirDrop, Twitter, Facebook, Dropbox, Evernote, and iCloud Documents, among others.

Platform: iOS
Cost: $4.99/Launch special price of $2.99

Take Charge of Your Online Profile

In today’s world, if people want to find out more about you, they head to the Internet. It may be a prospective employer, a co-op board member, an old friend trying to look you up, or even a future date; anyone who is interested in learning more about you will jump online and open a browser.

So it’s important to ask yourself, “What are they likely to find?” Are they going to be reassured about what a fine upstanding citizen you are? Or are they going to be shocked with what Google uncovers? (Or maybe they will find nothing at all, which can also be a problem!)

I realize that you can’t control everything on the Internet but you can control some things. Every social networking site you participate in – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube – asks you to create a profile, and it’s these profile pages that are likely to come up first when someone conducts a search.

Properly managing your profile is a great way to control the message you want to put out to the world. Here are a few tips on how to present a positive image:

Be consistent. Use the same name and profile across all your social networks, so people know it’s you and you present a consistent personal brand.

Make sure your profile picture is appropriate. While photos of you drinking and partying might go down well with your old college buddies, that’s probably not the image you want to project to future employers and neighbors. Post a recent head shot – and don’t forget to smile!

Provide some background. Facebook, Twitter and all the other popular social networks give you ample opportunity to tell people more about yourself. Take advantage of that opportunity. Use the tools available to project an image and information that you are comfortable with.

Cross link to other web sites and blogs. If you want to highlight a blog or another personal web site, then make sure you cross-link to it from your other social networks. Make your best work easy to find.

Be sparing with the inside jokes. If someone needs to know you well to understand a particular comment, then perhaps it’s not for your public profile. It’s good to be cute or funny but make sure it’s a joke that everyone can share in.

Make the Internet your friend. Build a profile and control the message!

Friday, January 16: How To Be More Productive RECAP

Join Monica Vila (@TheOnlineMom) and special guest Robyn Wright (@RobynsWorld) as they examine ways in which we can be more productive.
Innovative apps, faster networks, and a range of useful accessories are turning our smartphones and tablets into essential work and planning tools. Whether we are scheduling appointments, organizing the family finances, or editing a presentation, our mobile devices can help us become more organized and productive!
Interested in a Mobile Makeover? Fill out the #VZWBuzz Makeover Application and you could win a brand new smartphone or tablet and be invited to appear on a VZWBuzz Video RECAP!