Tuesday, April 18: On Demand Entertainment



When: Tuesday, April 18, 2017
8:00 – 9:00 pm ET
5:00 – 6:00 pm PT
Join Mary Beth (@5cupcakes) and the #FiOSPhilly team at 8 pm ET on Tuesday, April 18, as we chat about On Demand Entertainment!
Join us as we explore how a combination of streaming options and on demand services are allowing us to watch our favorite TV shows and movies wherever and whenever we want!
RSVP and attend the chat for a chance to win an Echo Dot home assistant or a Fire HD 10 Tablet with Alexa!

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

  1. Send mail to RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: FiOSPhilly) indicating your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: http://bit.ly/2pqALvx
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#FiOSPhilly) on Tuesday, April 18 between 8:00 – 9:00 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.)

Toddlers, Tablets and the Right Amount of Screen Time

By Tracey Dowdy

If you’re the parent of a toddler, you’ve no doubt wrestled with the “How much is too much?” question surrounding screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics has its recommendations, as does every mother on the playground, your own mother, the lady behind you at the checkout stand, and not least of all, your toddler.

Smartphones and tablets have become an integral part of our lives. A study by Pew Research Center found that at least 83% of all 18 to 49-year-olds in the US – the age bracket most likely to be parents of toddlers and elementary aged children – own smartphones.

Why is there so much controversy over the issue? Is allowing your toddler to match shapes on a tablet any less effective in facilitating cognitive development than playing with physical shapes? Will using tablets delay motor skills? Will it delay development of social skills? A lot of the conversation surrounding these questions is based on fear. Many parents question their choices and the hype around screen time plays on this fear. The fact is, there isn’t a lot of scientific research simply because the issue is relatively new. The iPad is only seven years old –researchers are still measuring the impact.

In an article for Psychology Today, doctors Tim J. Smith and Irati R. Saez de Urabain, state, “Touchscreens offer an intuitive interface which enable toddlers to gain intense contingent sensory stimulation during a peak period of neural development and at an age when the relatively immature motor and linguistic systems have previously limited cognitive stimulation.” In other words, your toddler can use their gross motor skills to touch and match onscreen images before they develop the fine motor skills necessary to perform more advanced kinesthetic activities. Also, the flashing lights, sounds, and immediate positive feedback children get from tablets is a great motivator to continue playing and learning.

The TABLET (Toddler Attentional Behaviours and Learning with Touchscreens) project at Birkbeck, University of London, is studying the long term effects of media use on children between 6 months and 3 years of age through their Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, also known as Babylab. The study includes onsite research in London and an online survey open to parents worldwide. If you would like to participate in the study, click here to be directed to the survey. It takes approximately 20 minutes to complete, is completely confidential, and because they understand what it’s like to parent toddlers, the questionnaire can be paused and completed in more than one sitting.

This is not to say you should disregard the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics or of the National Association for the Education of Young Children; nor should we equate passively watching Frozen for the umpteenth time with playing educational games like Fish School.

At the end of the day, it’s like almost every other element of parenting. It’s more art than science and most of us are making it up as we go along, just like our parents did. And look how great we turned out!

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.

What’s Hot in Technology

By Megan Valente

Technology trends seem to be changing faster than the winds and with little to no warning… “What are kids using nowadays?” is something even I ask, despite being a 20 year old college student. Because keeping up with all of these trends can be exceptionally difficult, here is a list of “what’s hot.”

Picture blogging is the new thing. Instagram has topped all media platforms in popularity, especially among younger teens. It’s a tool to show off your friends and family and over-the-top vacations, all with an aesthetically pleasing design. Lots of businesses now also use Instagram to promote their brands and products – Instagram also being an exceedingly popular place for brand representatives and influencers to post and make money.

Many young people feel invincible when they think the evidence of whatever shenanigans they got up to last night is only temporary. Snapchat has created a fun and unique platform that allows people to connect through pictures and videos that expire within 24 hours and is at the height of its popularity.

Venmo is the big thing right now for money transfers. It’s a lot like PayPal, but more popular among high school and college students. You can send money or request money from people instantly and have it either remain on your Venmo account to purchase other things or have it transfer straight to your bank. Easy peasy – and safe.

Spotify is everything. Streaming is now America’s most popular ways to consume music and Spotify has learned to be ‘all about that streaming life.’ Users can download the free version right to their phones or you can buy the premium version of Spotify for $9.99/month ($4.99/month for students) and gain unlimited access to their entire music library. You can build channels of your own and share them with their family and friends. Dance party anyone?

Blogs have made a comeback people! No longer the days where having a blog is a teen angsty and trivial thing to do. Many different genres of blogs exist and have bred subcultures of communities. You can find a blog that fits pretty much any of your tastes; they’re free and incredibly easy to find. Go blogs, go!

Videos are the new black. Everyone and their mother watches videos because they are such an easy way to consume media. This means growth in popularity of YouTube channels and everyone has the potential to learn pretty much any type of skill they can imagine or consume hours of entertainment.

Uber is one of the best (and my personal favorite) car services. You can call a ride from virtually anywhere using your phone and the driver will pick you up and drop you off at the location you request. There is no cash involved and, after a night out drinking, it’s a safe alternative to hailing a random cab or walking home. Uber is huge in the college and post-graduate community.

Let’s see if I can get this to 140 characters. Twitter will never die; there are too many memes and funny things to #RT. Long live Twitter! (139)

Now you know what all of the cool kids are doing and I can take a well-deserved nap. Maybe when I wake up there will be hoverboards and cloning – at this rate, who knows?

Megan Valente is a lifestyle blogger and barista and is currently attending Montclair State University. Follow her on Twitter at @TheDayILived.


The X-Plan: A Way Out of Trouble for Your Teen

By Tracey Dowdy

How many times have you found yourself in a situation that made you uncomfortable and all you wanted to do was escape? Especially as a child or teen, did you ever wish there was an escape hatch or an “abort mission” signal?

I remember picking my youngest daughter up from a party in the middle of the evening. Things had taken a turn and she no longer felt safe. She called me, I picked her up, and on the way home we had a good – although uncomfortable – conversation.

However, there may be times your child doesn’t feel safe but either isn’t sure of how to get out of the situation or doesn’t know how to get out without having to explain why. If you remember anything about peer pressure at all, you know it’s a miserable position for anyone to be in. No one wants to be “that kid”.

Bert Fulks is a father of three and an educator at Empty Stone Ministry, working with teens struggling with addiction. He has come up with a simple, effective and ingenious tool to help our kids when they find themselves in a sticky situation – the X Plan. Instead of calling or sending a long text asking for help, kids simply text the letter “X” to whoever could potentially pick them up. Once the text is received, the person who received follows a very simple plan. They call the child and follow this script:

“Hi honey, something’s come up and I have to come get you right now.”
“What happened?”
“I’ll tell you when I get there.  Be ready to leave in five minutes.  I’m on my way.”

All your child has to do is tell his friends something has come up and he has to leave. It’s as simple as that.

To those who suggest it’s teaching kids to be dishonest, Fulks’ says, “Absolutely not. It actually presents an opportunity for you as a parent to teach your kids that they can be honest (something DID come up, and they DO have to leave), while learning that it’s okay to be guarded in what they reveal to others. They don’t owe anyone an explanation the next day, and if asked can give the honest answer, “It’s private and I don’t want to talk about it.” “

One essential element to the plan is that it’s up to the child whether or not they want to discuss what made them want to leave. Fulks admits that’s a tough one. Our obvious reaction to having to rescue our child is to want to know exactly what happened, but it can build a sense of trust and security if we leave the “what happened” unasked. Think about it. Do you want your child to know they can call for help, no questions asked, or do you want them to stay in an unsafe environment while they debate the weight of the consequences at home against the consequences of staying?

One final yet critical element to the plan is to teach your child that if anyone is in danger they have a moral obligation to speak up. That’s one of the moral lessons here – we have a responsibility to help both friends and strangers if they are at risk, even if it means getting in trouble ourselves.

Fulks’ X Plan has resonated with many parents and his original blog post has been shared multiple times by The Today Show, The Huffington Post, ScaryMommy, and several others.

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.

Friday, April 7: The Connected Home



When: Friday, April 7, 2017
3:00 – 4:00 pm ET
12:00 – 1:00 pm PT

‘The Connected Home’

Join @TheTechDad and the MobileLiving team at 3 pm ET (12 noon PT) on Friday, April 7 as we chat about
The Connected Home!
Home assistants, smart thermostats and other connected devices are finally delivering on the promise of the connected home. Join us as we take a look at some of the products that are currently available and explore the possibilities for this exciting sector of the mobile lifestyle!
RSVP and attend the party for a chance to win an Amazon Echo Dot Home Assistant or a Canary Smart Home Security System!

(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: MobileLiving) and include your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed:
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#MobileLiving) this Friday, April 7 between 3 – 4 pm ET
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

Spring Cleaning Your Digital World

By Megan Valente

You can put off your spring cleaning by insisting that the dust bunnies are festive for Easter, but really, you know you should probably do it anyway. To kick-off the preparations for the upcoming warm weather that we so desperately need, here are a few tips to clean up your virtual spaces…which totally gives you an excuse to put off cleaning your living room. Well, at least for now.


Most people who see my home screen are shocked and horrified by the fact that I currently have 15,284 unread emails. To be honest, I’m horrified too. It just seems like such a daunting task at this point, which is why I decided to check out email organizing apps.

I personally like Inbox by Google for its ability to group messages together, because those pesky emails always seem to be missing when I need them most. It offers reminders, an easy navigation system, and better yet, it’s free for our poor wallets – free is for me!

If you’re a texting junkie like I am, I would suggest Hop. Hop is an application that formats your emails like text messages so it has a better visual continuity (and you’ll probably be more inclined to answer). Hop is also freee!


Pics or it didn’t happen. Well, it did happen, but they all got deleted because you dropped your phone in the toilet and forgot to backup your photos. I have two go-to methods because I’m a little neurotic when it comes to preserving my memories.

Google Photos is fast, simple and – you guessed it – free. They offer unlimited compressed photo space at no cost and it is as simple as making a Google account and uploading your pictures! It even groups them together by place, people, and event, and sometimes puts together cute little slideshows for you. What’s not to love?

I’m also a fan of iCloud Photos since I have Apple everything. They offer 5G of free storage and you can access it anywhere. The software can detect faces and tag your friends automatically – perfect for that friend who has been whining all week for you to send them the pictures from that one night out you had. Oops.


I feel like everyone around me is always complaining about the lack of storage on their phones. Here are some fast and easy tips on how to conserve space:

  • See what is taking up your space
    For Android™: Settings > Storage
    For iPhone®: Settings > General > Usage > Manage Storage
  • Delete the apps you don’t use often. And be honest with yourself – you don’t need to be clinging onto that “just in case” app. Redownload it when you need it.
  • Delete the pictures off your phone once you back them up (see above).
  • Make sure your phone has the latest updates.

With these tips, you should be ready to conquer the new season with confidence and finally feel like you have your life under control. Well, at least until summer. Happy spring cleaning!

Megan Valente is a lifestyle blogger and barista and is currently attending Montclair State University. Follow her on Twitter at @TheDayILived.

4 Top Travel Planning Apps

By Tracey Dowdy

Planning a trip can take all the fun out of the anticipation. Reservations, itineraries, travel documents – sometimes it can feel like more trouble than it is worth. There are a million travel apps out there, but sorting through the good, the bad, and the hasn’t-been-updated-in-years can also be a pain.

These are some of the best travel apps available right now.


tripcaseTripCase takes all the individual pieces of your trip and consolidates them into one place.  Just download the app, create a profile or sign up through your Facebook account, add your trip by forwarding your travel confirmation emails to trips@tripcase.com and you’re good to go.  Even better, if you book your trip through a TripCase affiliated partner, your information is automatically added to your account. If you select “Share Itinerary”, friends and family can keep track of your trip and follow your travels.

Cost: Free
Platform: iOS/Android)


tripnaryIf you’re on a budget and have some flexibility in your schedule and your destination, then Tripnary is the app for you. Just decide the general theme of your trip – the beach, hiking trails, skiing – choose your dates, set your budget, and Tripnary will pull up a list of available deals. If there’s something just outside your price range, save it, and Tripnary will notify you when the price drops.

Cost: Free
Platform: iOS/Coming soon to Android

Guides by Lonely Planet

guidesYou can’t go wrong using any of the Guides by Lonely Planet.  With a host of offline maps for over 100 cities worldwide, Lonely Planet does it again. You can bookmark your favorite sights, restaurants, or museums, convert currency, find the nearest bathroom, or even speak like a local using one of their 18 phrasebooks.

Cost: Free
Platform: iOS/Android

Google Trips

googleGoogle Trips utilities your Google account information and makes it available on and offline. It collates all your reservations – flight, car, hotel, and even restaurant – into one convenient location. Choose from one of their day trip options and customize it to fit your schedule and budget, find attractions, restaurants, museums nearby or search Top Spots to see what’s popular in the area.

Cost: Free
Platform: iOS/Android

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.