Should You Be Concerned About Net Neutrality?

By Tracey Dowdy

How many times have you heard the term “Net Neutrality” in the news over the past few weeks? What does it even mean? Is it something we should be worried about? And, the Internet has been around for years – why are we talking about this now?

Simply put, net neutrality is a policy that prohibits internet service providers (ISPs) from discriminating between Internet traffic among different websites. The plan advocated by President Donald Trump-appointed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai has the potential to change the Internet as we currently know it.

The proposed plan eliminates the right to equal access, or “net neutrality,” and big telecom companies could potentially charge Internet users more money to visit certain websites or use certain apps.

Net neutrality proponents fear companies like Comcast will slow down Internet traffic for videos and ask sites like Hulu or Netflix to pay more money if they want the service to run at optimal speeds, meaning the cost will eventually be passed on to the consumer and smaller sites who already pay for bandwidth.

“The Internet should be competitive and open,” Google said in their Take Action statement on the issue. “That means no Internet access provider should block or degrade Internet traffic, nor should they sell ‘fast lanes’ that prioritize particular Internet services over others. These rules should apply regardless of whether you’re accessing the Internet using a cable connection, a wireless service, or any other technology.”

On the other side of the issue are large telecom and Internet providers like Verizon, Charter and Comcast. “The FCC is not talking about killing the net neutrality rules. In fact, not we nor any other ISP are asking them to kill the open Internet rules. All they’re doing is looking to put the open Internet rules in an enforceable way on a different legal footing,” So states Verizon’s general counsel Craig Sillman in a video outlining their position.

David L. Cohen, speaking on behalf of Charter, owners of Time Warner Cable, says “We have stated on numerous occasions that we believe legally enforceable rules should continue to include strong transparency, no blocking, and anti-discrimination provisions. We don’t prioritize Internet traffic or have paid fast lanes, and have no plans to do so.”

Both sides of the issue state they oppose throttling, premium or paid prioritization for services. The debate surrounds enforcement of the regulations. Is it a federal matter for the FCC to regulate or should the free-market model be the determining factor?

We haven’t heard the last of the issue but one thing is certain – the Internet as we know it is about to undergo significant change.

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 To Do With Your Old Tech

By Tracey Dowdy

If you have given or received devices and gadgets this Christmas, you might be wondering what to do with the tech that they’re replacing.

I’m glad you asked. The EPA has initiatives to work with governments and environmental officials on e-waste management, and there are countless ways we as consumers can ensure technology is safely and appropriately disposed of and kept out of landfills. According to data from the EPA, electronic waste is one of our biggest environmental issues, comprising more than 2 million tons of our total waste. Data from 2014 shows we disposed of nearly 42 million tons of e-waste, according to a United Nations report yet only 10 to 40 percent of it was discarded properly.

This list of resources can help you decide where and how to recycle or up-cycle your no-longer-needed tech.


No matter how old, most devices with a battery or plug can be recycled. There are a number of non-profit organizations and local communities that offer options.

  • Call2Recycle has drop-off sites for rechargeable batteries and cell phones all over the U.S. To find a location, go to org and enter your ZIP code.
  • TIA E-cycling Central lists electronic collection days in your area – just click on the map for an upcoming event.
  • eStewards lets you search by zip code for a recycling, refurbishing, or consumer drop-off site in your area.
  • Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI) lets you search by filters or browse their interactive map to find participating recycling and refurbishing facilities in your area.
  • Best Buy offers recycling options for your electronics (and more), no matter where you bought them.


Another excellent option to consider is donating your electronics to charity.

  • Verizon collects new and used mobile phones, batteries, chargers and accessories in any condition, from any service provider through their HopeLine program which benefits victims and survivors of domestic violence. Drop off devices and accessories in any Verizon retail location or request your prepaid mailinglabel and drop it in the mail.
  • Amazon accepts trade-ins of used games, phones, tablets, smart watches, Kindle readers and eBooks and pays you in Amazon gift cards whether they were purchased through Amazon or not. The condition of the items determines the value of the rebate.
  • Dell Reconnect partners with Goodwill to accept any brand of computer and computer accessories. Drop off used devices off at participating Goodwill locations around the country.
  • The World Computer Exchange promotes the reuse of and proper recycling of electronics and close the gap on the digital divide in developing countries. As part of its mission, they accept and then distributes used computers, accessories, and other electronic devices to communities around the world.
  • eBay isn’t just for making a little extra money from cleaning out the closet or garage. eBay for Charitylets you sell your unwanted devices – or anything else you’re purging – and donate all (or a portion) of the sale to a charity of your choice.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. For even more options on what to do with those unwanted items, check out this list from The Balance.

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.


Simple and Healthy Intentions for 2018

By Amylou McBride

As we jump into the New Year, it’s only natural to begin to formulate our New Year’s Resolutions. Ultimately, New Year’s resolutions are intended to make our lives healthier and productive but they’re often broken and forgotten by the time Valentine’s day swings around. Instead of labeling our new healthy habits as strict resolutions we must adhere to for the entire year, I encourage people to think of these new habits as intentions to live a healthier lifestyle.

The key to ensuring your goals become a part of your lifestyle is to start implementing them today rather than waiting until January 1st. Here are my favorite ways – and some helpful apps to get you started – to lock in my new healthy habits mindfully. Whether you’re a new mom juggling the everyday tasks and responsibilities or just someone who wants to implement healthy habits, these practices are for you.

Start Your Meditation Practice

If you don’t have one minute to meditate, you need an hour. Meditation, along with proper breathing, is the essential connection between the mind and the body that allows us to cultivate peace and calm amidst the bustle and hustle of our 21st century lives. If you don’t know where to start with meditation, try using the HeadSpace app. It provides excellent guides and examples to make meditation easy, simple and a habit.

Prioritize Your Sleep

It’s time for our world to start sleeping longer and deeper. Allowing yourself a solid 7-8 hours of sleep will not only erase any under eye bags but will give you more energy and clarity to be your best self each and every day, not only for those around you but for yourself.

Adopt a nightly routine that can include anything from a long Epsom salt bath to just allowing yourself to take 5 deep breaths in your bed. Allow yourself to have that sense of quietness. If you are interested in tracking your sleep to see just how much shut-eye you’re actually getting, I recommend using an app. Some of my favorites are Pillow and Sleep Cycle. These apps analyze your sleep pattern and gently wake you up when your body is ready to seize the day!

Move Mindfully

We all know by now the importance of exercise. It’s incredibly important to exercise mindfully so that you’re not overtaxing your body or causing hormone imbalances, which lead to extra weight gain, depleted energy levels, and hair loss just to name a few symptoms. To keep your body in balance, try to break a sweat every day in whichever form you love. I love to supplement my yoga practices with at home (or gym!) workouts with the Nike Training App; it’s perfect for all levels and all sorts of fitness goals, using a variety of equipment or just your own body weight. Be mindful and listen to your body. If it itches to be pushed, push it; if it screams for rest, allow it to rest. That’s where we find the perfect balance.

These are just a few healthy habits you can incorporate into your daily routine to find balance, energy and clarity. Take time to develop habits out of these practices, so they become non-negotiable despite the needs of children, school and work. But if you slip up, know that you’re not breaking any strict resolutions and you’re doing your best!


Managing Kids Expectations at Christmas

By Tracey Dowdy

Christmas is heralded as “the most wonderful time of the year,” but if you’re the one managing the family budget, a lot of times it doesn’t feel that way. If you’re managing the budget and your children’s expectations, there’s a good chance you’re sometimes made to feel like the Grinch.

So how do you manage expectations when everywhere you turn is another ad or marketing ploy targeting your children? It’s not easy, but these tips can help.

As with so many other parenting tips, start with a conversation. Obviously, that conversation is going to look different for your three-year-old versus your 13-year-old, but being clear ahead of time can help mitigate Christmas morning meltdowns.

For toddlers who are learning to share, explain that while they might like an infinite number of gifts, if they had them all, there wouldn’t be enough for all the other children. Use this as another teachable moment, reinforcing what you’ve been encouraging them to learn all along. For older children, remind them there is a limit to what you can – and will – spend. Part of maturing is learning to manage money and budgets – make it a teachable moment for them (and maybe yourself) too.

For toddlers, who often have more toys than they play with, encourage a “one in, one out” rule. For every new toy they receive, find an old toy (in good condition) to donate. Again, you’re teaching them to not only think of themselves but those around them.

For older kids, sit down with them and talk about their lists. Often they’ll include electronics and upgraded tech. If the cost is unreasonable or exceeds what you’re willing and able to spend, talk about prioritizing their wish list or giving them money towards the item so they can save up for it themselves.

The key is to be the example. As the parent, you set the tone for the holidays through your attitude and expectations. If you go in anticipating a holiday worthy of a Hallmark movie, you’re likely to be disappointed and frustrated. Those kind of holidays only happen in the pages of books or on the screen. Instead, help your kids see the bigger picture – that Christmas truly is about giving, not receiving. Volunteer at a shelter, bake cookies for a shut-in or send cards and care packages to soldiers overseas. In doing so, you’ll capture the spirit of the season, and grab some of that Hallmark magic you’ve been searching for along the way.

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, December 15: Holiday Entertainment



When:  Friday, December 15, 2017
3:00 – 4:00 pm ET
12:00 – 1:00 pm PT
Join host @TheTechDad and the #MobileLiving team at 3 pm ET (12 noon PT) on Friday, December 15 as we chat about Holiday Entertainment!
Looking for holiday entertainment ideas? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Join us we share our favorite movies, shows and games, and explore how mobile devices can be a welcome addition to the holiday entertainment mix!
RSVP and attend the chat for a chance to win a $100 Amazon Gift Card or a Braven Stryde Bluetooth portable 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 (subject line: MobileLiving) indicating your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: 
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#MobileLiving) on Friday, December 15 between 3:00 – 4:00 pm ET.
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

Facebook Launches New Messenger App for Kids

By Tracey Dowdy

Last week, Facebook unveiled a new messaging app designed specifically for kids to message friends and family members.

Created for kids ages 6 – 12, Messenger Kids users won’t need a Facebook account, as under federal law users under the age of 13 cannot legally sign up for Facebook. Facebook says Messenger Kids is compliant with COPPA – the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act – designed to protect the online privacy of children under the age of 13.

Messenger Kids provides a medium for kids to securely video and text chat with parents and a select group of friends using a “library of kid-appropriate and specially chosen GIFs, frames, stickers, masks and drawing tools” that lets them “decorate content and express their personalities.”

You create and control your child’s Messenger profile under your own Facebook account. When you download it from the App Store, you authenticate with your Facebook user name and password. At this point, an account can be created for your child, with the process requiring only a name for the additional profile.

You control your child’s contact list, with the home screen showing only pre-approved friends who are online and preexisting one-on-one chats and group threads.

If the idea of your six-year-old having a social media account is unsettling to you, you’re not alone. COPPA exists to protect children under 13, the most vulnerable age group for online predators and exploitation. Unfortunately, kids are clever and have found ways to bypass policies on site like Snapchat and Facebook, which user by children under 13. Some have accounts created by well-meaning parents. In a blog post titled “Hard Questions,” Facebook’s Public Policy Director Antigone Davis writes, “Children today are online earlier and earlier. They use family-shared devices — and many, as young as six or seven years old, even have their own.”

According to Davis, Facebook collaborated with the National PTA to study over 1,000 parents of U.S. children under the age of 13. Of those surveyed, three-fifths admitted that their children under 13 are already using messaging apps and over 80 percent said their kids started using social media as early as eight. Facebook sees Messenger Kids as a way for parents to control and oversee that social media activity.

Messenger Kids is only available in the U.S., with limited rollout on iOS and a plan to expand to the Amazon App Store and Google Play Store over the next few months.

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.

Monday, January 8: Preparing for College

Twitter hash tag (red)

When: TODAY, Monday, January 8, 2018
8:00 – 9:00 pm ET
5:00 – 6:00 pm PT

‘Preparing for College’

Join @TheOnlineMom and friends at 8 pm ET (5 pm PT) on Monday, January 8 as we chat about Preparing for College!
It’s that time of year when families are visiting campuses, students are prepping for the SAT and everyone is searching for the right college fit.
Join us as we offer advice and tips on the best way to approach this process and how The College Board is here to help you and your student through this journey.

(Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats.)

  1. Email (subject line: ChoosetheSAT) and include your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed:
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#ChoosetheSAT) or follow the hashtag on Monday, January 8 between 8 – 9 pm ET
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!

How to Keep Your Gift Purchases Secret on Amazon

By Tracey Dowdy

Trying to guess what’s under the tree is an underrated holiday sport. I have a friend who used to shake, weigh, feel, and even sniff every gift in order to figure out what’s under the wrapping paper. One year, my mother-in-law randomly assigned a number to each gift instead of name tags to prevent my husband and his siblings from guessing. It was a perfect plan – until she lost the list. It’s a great memory for the family, as every gift was a surprise – even for her.

These days, with so much of our shopping done online, it’s arguably easier than ever to “peek” at your gifts. With shared access to tablets, smartphones, and family computers, it’s just a matter of a click or two, and voilà! – there’s your order history in full view.

Amazon Prime is Santa at my house and, even in a house full of adults, I have to be careful to keep my orders secret. I share a Prime account with my daughter and it’s just a matter of clicking Menu>Your Orders and a complete order history appears. Even if you’re not snooping but just checking the status of an order, it’s impossible to miss.

One way to avoid this is to clear your browsing history. Under the search box on the homepage, click on Browsing History, then click Remove next to any item you want to delete from the list. To clear it all at once, go to Browsing History>Manage History>Remove all items.

You can also choose to toggle off your Browsing history and re-activate it after the holidays.

Another option is to create an Amazon Household homepage. Amazon allows one additional adult plus up to four teens and four children. You don’t need to be a Prime member but Prime members can share benefits within the household. (This doesn’t apply to Amazon Student Prime members).

Through Amazon Household, you can create an additional profile to use for holiday or birthday shopping and keep your order history private on your primary account.

Finally, I suggest turning off Recommendations, since Amazon will make suggestions on related products based on your browsing history. There’s not much point in clearing your browsing history when all those related products will be there in full view. Go to Browsing History >Improve Your Recommendations> Don’t use for recommendations, or This was a gift.  Now, Amazon disregards the purchase when formulating your recommendations.

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.