podcast for kids

Podcasts for Your Next Family Roadtrip

 By Tracey Dowdy

 If you’re like millions of Americans, at some point this summer you’ll be loading up your vehicle for a good ol’ fashioned road trip. There’s only so many hours you can fill with the license plate game, and if you’re trying to still maintain some kind of control over screen time, podcasts are a great alternative. Everyone loves a good story, and no matter your age or interest, there’s a podcast for that.

Kids Listen surveyed 400 parents about their kids listening habits and found that 80% of kids listen to a podcast more than once, and 20% of those kids listen to a single podcast episode more than 10 times!

And, according to the Audio Publishing Association, comprehension, vocabulary, reading speed, even motivation are all positively impacted by auditory learning, so listening to a podcast won’t only entertain them, it’ll make them smarter!

Here are some of the most popular podcasts for your kids:

Story Pirates

Story Pirates is an audio show narrated by actors, comedians, and entertainers like Dax Shepard, Wyatt Cenac, Claire Danes, John Oliver, and Patton Oswalt. Each episode features a story written by kids, and with titles like “Evil Cockroach Nation,” “Vampire Quest,” “Eat a Spider Day,” and “The Hamster’s Workday,” you know there’s a lot of laughs in store. (iTunes)

What If World

If you’ve ever had to answer round after round of seemingly pointless, or brain-bending questions, have we got a podcast for you. Abacus P Grumbler, Randall Radbot, and Whendiana Joan help Mr. Eric tell stories that answer kid-submitted questions like “What if a tiny dragon lived in my closet?” “What if basketballs and baseballs were alive?” or “What if cats ruled the world?” Mr. Eric makes these worlds come alive and helps kids stretch their imagination as they daydream along with the story.  (iTunesGoogle Play)

Spare the Rock Spoil the Child

Spare the Rock Spoil the Child is the most fun you’ll ever have introducing your kids to your music. From the wacky theme song to eclectic playlists with everyone from They Might Be Giants to Stevie Wonder, and Carole King with a few kid-favorites thrown in, you’ll have a blast exploring old and new favorites together. (iTunes)

Five Minutes With Dad

Dad Nick Pavlidis and his elementary aged kids Pavlos and Angela share their thoughts on family, friends, and life in general. Each episode allows you to listen in on a little father-son and daddy-daughter time as they have organic, authentic conversations, and learn how best to communicate and problem solve together. Past episodes include, “Why Moms Rock!” “How to Be Kind at School,” and “What to Do When You Make a Mistake.” It’s the perfect podcast to help you with family or parenting resources, kid’s activities, and ideas on how to spend quality time between you and your kids.  (iTunesGoogle Play)

Wow in the World

From the brilliant minds at NPR comes Wow in the World. But before you think “No way – NPR is way too stuffy for kids!” Let me tell you that the one of the first topics explored is the question, “How do astronauts poop in space?” Now tell me that isn’t going to get your eight-year-old son’s attention. Each episode hosts Mindy Thomas and Guy Raz take listeners on journey into the wonders of the world around them and explore science and technology.

Circle Round

Created by parents, Circle Round takes carefully-selected folktales from around the world and transforms them into dynamic and engaging radio plays for kids ages 4 to 10 narrated by actors like Ed Asner, Tony Hale, and Richard Kind. Each episode explores topics relevant to kids like kindness, persistence, and generosity, and ends with an activity designed to start a meaningful conversation between children and grown-ups. (iTunes)

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.

Tuesday, July 2: Smartphones & Kids

Smartphones & Kids

When: TODAY, Tuesday, July 2, 2019
8:00 – 9:00 pm ET
5:00 – 6:00 pm PT
Join Liz (@WestNewYorker), and the #JustKidsPlan team at 8 pm ET (5 pm PT) on Tuesday, July 2 as we chat about
Smartphones & Kids!
 What’s the right age for a child to get a first smartphone?
Should kids have access to smartphones in the classroom?
Should parents monitor smartphone activity?
Is a family plan the best way to go with kids in the house?
Smartphones provide undoubted benefits but they can also present difficult choices for both parents and children. Join us as we look at the pros and cons of putting smartphones in the hands of tweens and teens, and share some tips on how to make the transition to a multi-phone household as easy as possible!
RSVP and attend the chat for a chance to win a brand new iPad!
Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. (You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)
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  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: https://bit.ly/2IO8l7P
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GenZ’s Thoughts on Entering the Workforce

Would you rather be unemployed or work at a job you hate? Is doing something innovative in your job more important than the level of compensation you receive? Do you believe technology is changing the job market for the better and creating new opportunities? 

Your response to those questions depends heavily on one crucial factor – your age, specifically, whether or not you’re a member of Gen Z – those born between 1995 and 2015. Microsoft and YouGov recently polled 754 students aged 17-25 to gain insight and a deeper understanding into how Gen Z feels about entering the workforce, their expectations for employers, and how technology will impact their career paths and the results may surprise you. 

Source: May 2019 Study by Microsoft and YouGov

Gen Z is the largest generation in history, representing a quarter of the U.S. population, and by 2020, will make up 40% of American consumers. This is the generation that has grown up amid the Global Recession and with war in the Middle East, events that have made them more pragmatic and less idealistic than millennials. 

Gen Z is also the first cohort to grow up with the internet in the palm of their hands. As native internet users, they’ve lived their entire lives with unlimited information but limited amounts of time. Gen Z has adapted to this avalanche of knowledge by developing an eight-second filter. Instead of getting lost in the noise, Gen Zers have learned how to swiftly curate information by relying on trending content within apps and allowing online influencers they trust to help them navigate and evaluate the volume of information inundating them. 

But perhaps the most interesting and impactful data to come out of this study is Gen Z’s attitude toward work and their careers. According to findings, Gen Z would rather be unemployed than work at a job they hate, crave innovation over compensation, believe technology is changing the job market for the better, and that it is creating new opportunities. In fact, more than half (54.5%), expect to do a job that doesn’t even exist yet.

Coming of age during the recession means this is a generation well aware of downsizing and financial insecurity, and while they possess an entrepreneurial mindset, Gen Z’s enthusiasm is mitigated by their risk-averse nature. They’re big proponents of the gig economy, and 34% would rather be self-employed compared to 40% who would prefer to work for a company. And, while almost 1 out of 3 don’t know what type of career they want, over a quarter (26.4%) say they’re planning to pursue a career in STEM, and software engineering is the top choice for new grads. 

Microsoft’s Mark Sparvell, an ed-tech expert and educator for over 25 years, says, “Gen Z is looking for three things in a potential employer: voice, choice, and agency. This is a generation that craves a culture of empowerment. They want to know that what they’re doing has meaning, and has a purpose beyond simply ticking a box, or completing a list of tasks.” 

It should come as no surprise that a generation used to speaking their mind on social media expects to have a voice in the workplace. Employers should know Gen Z values an environment where they can have an open dialogue with leadership. They want a voice – the freedom to discuss opinions and ideas with leadership. They want choice – the opportunity for personal and professional growth and learning; and they want agency – the freedom to act independently and make choices.  Gen Z thinks globally – issues like equality and representation are priorities for them so companies looking to attract new hires will need to be mindful not only of what the benefits package looks like but whether they offer a culture of empowerment and equal opportunity. These are the keys to long-term employee retention and loyalty. 

Gen Z is the most minority-filled generation ever with 49% identifying as non-white. Additionally, 81% have friends who are of a different race as compared to 69% of Millennials, and 59% have friends who are of a different sexual orientation, compared to 53% of Millennials. Companies that take a stance against issues like gender equality or sexual orientation, or are perceived as closed-minded will have a difficult time attracting Gen Z employees.

As the first to live in fully immersed in two worlds – online and offline – Gen Z understands the power of branding more than any generation before. They’ve carefully curated their online presence. Social media isn’t merely a platform for sharing vacation pictures or photos of their lunch; it’s where they live, how they communicate and have many of their most honest and important conversations. Employers trying to attract Gen Z must be equally intentional about their company’s online presence and branding. Gen Z is savvy – they can sniff out artificiality in a heartbeat – but they respect companies and organizations whose online presence is a reflection of company culture and who utilize the latest technology and social media tools.

Ultimately, Gen Z is a values-driven cohort, determined to leave the world a better place for having been part of it. While pragmatic, they are hopeful. They want what generations before them have sought – authenticity and stability – but this socially and environmentally conscious generation also demands and inclusivity and acceptance. Savvy companies hoping to attract this generation will find ways to weave their values and culture into their online presence. By demonstrating that you share their vision for these same values, you’ll earn their respect and discover they’re more than willing to engage with you both as consumers and as employees.

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.

Balancing Screen Time During the Summer

Parenting comes with many challenges – potty training, convincing your child broccoli isn’t poison, and mastering the fine art of the diorama. But by far, one of the most significant challenges parents face is balancing screen time, particularly over the summer break.

We shouldn’t be too critical of our children, after all, how many of us take any chance we get to binge a season of our favorite shows on Netflix or constantly check our social media and email, and had Snapchat and YouTube been around when we were kids, we’d behave much the same way.

Too much of a good thing makes it no longer a good thing, so how do we balance screen time with time in the real world?

Be A Role Model

It’s cliché, but actions do speak louder than words, so if you want your child to spend less time staring at a screen set the example by putting down your phone and setting boundaries like a Device-Free Dinner.

Plan Family Activities

Summer means ample opportunities to get outside and play. Let your imagination run wild – go hiking, swimming, build a tree house or camp in the backyard. If heat and bugs aren’t your thing, try putt-putt, movies, or plan a family game night.

Set Device Free Zones

Just like the idea of a Device-Free Dinner, set rooms or times when screens are off limits. For example, no screens at the table, in the bathroom, or the car unless it’s a road trip.

Set a Timer

Let’s face it, going cold turkey is never going to last and your crew will likely mutiny, so a much better plan is to set time limits. You’ll know what works for your family, but set boundaries like no screens before breakfast or after eight pm, or cap their total amount for the day or the week. There are plenty of great apps for Android and iPhone to take the guesswork and prevarication out of the equation.

 Set Boundaries

At the very least, make a rule of one screen at a time. If it’s movie night, no phones or tablets. That may be a harder one for parents than for kids if you’re sitting through Secret Life of Pets for the fourth time, but it’s important to lead by example.

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.


Surviving Summer with Your College Student

As a mom to one daughter who lived in the dorms during college and another who lived at home, I think I have a reasonably balanced perspective on the joys and pitfalls of both.

I missed the daily, routine interaction with my oldest, but had to navigate the at times very turbulent waters of being a mom to a “sometimes” adult. I sometimes say, because my daughter was all about being an independent woman until dinner rolled around and she wanted to know what I was making, or, going out for a dinner but suddenly being a kid again when the check came.

If your college student is coming or already home for summer, June to September can be fraught with peril, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Use these strategies to keep summer as light and carefree as you dream it can be.

Take a Breath Stop for a minute and think of some of the attitudes and styles you embraced when you were in college. Once you stop shaking your head and or giggling at your temporary insanity, remember your college student is in the midst of their search for their identity. Your child may come home and announce they’re vegan, switching religions, walking away from their faith, changing majors, or dropping out of school. The key is to remember that not all of these changes will stick. Some will – tattoos, like diamonds, last forever – but for the most part, they’ll move through many ideologies, philosophies, and relationships, so it’s pointless to get hung up on any of them. Show interest, but keep careful of asking too many questions, sharing your opinions, or passing judgment. It’s important to think of the relationship regarding where you want to be in five years. Is a lousy tattoo worth damaging your relationship with your child?

Time is Relative

Remember, your child has been away and enjoying their independence, perhaps for the first time. Often one of the biggest challenges between college students and parents is the issue of day-to-day scheduling. Because they’ve been on their own, sometimes college students need to remember how their behavior impacts others. The best way to curtail this conflict is by sitting down and having a face to face conversation about your expectations on everything from chores, meals, work schedules, sleeping in, and sharing vehicles. There’s a distinct shift in the family dynamic, and the sooner everyone acknowledges it, the easier it will be for everyone.

Jobs vs. Internships

Many students will find summer jobs to help with their expenses over the summer, and tuition or costs in the Fall. However, some students will instead have an internship, often unpaid, that will help them secure employment after graduation. There are paid internships out there, but even those generally pay very little. As parents, it’s important to remember that the lack of pay should never be confused with a lack of value. Internships offer students the opportunity to talk to adults currently working in their field of interest and allow them hands-on experience. There are miles between classroom training and fieldwork, and that experience can be life-changing.

It’s a Balancing Act

It’s important to remember that your student is probably just as anxious or annoyed about what’s happening as you are. Open and honest conversations, respect for one another’s feelings and privacy, and the freedom to both express yourself and forgive are key.

Summer break is temporary – family is forever.

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.

Thursday, June 20: Making the Most of Your Summer Vacation

Making the Most of Your Summer Vacation

When: TODAY, Thursday, June 20, 2019
8:00 – 9:00 pm ET
5:00 – 6:00 pm PT
Join travel expert, Pam Rossi (@Always5Star), and the #Verizon55Plus team at 8 pm ET (5 pm PT) TODAY, Thursday, June 20 as we chat about
Making the Most of Your Summer Vacation!
 Whether you’re hiking, sightseeing or just working on your tan, summer vacation is the time to recharge your batteries and create memories that can last a lifetime.
Join us as we share tips on how to make the most of your precious vacation time and suggest a few ways your smartphone can help with your travel planning and add fun to your vacation!
RSVP and attend the chat for a chance to win a brand new iPad!
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How Should Kids Spend Their Summer Vacation

By Tracey Dowdy

School’s out and those long weeks of summer break are looming large. What to do, what to do?

There are several factors that have no doubt shaped your plans – finances, child care, your child’s specific needs, and how you’d get everybody where they need to be when they need to be there. But, no matter whether your kids will be spending their days at Space Camp or Camp Mom, there are a few things you should consider.

Downtime is Important. Our children live in a busy, sometimes over-scheduled, world, and like us, are distracted by their screens. However, in order for our brains to process the barrage of information it receives every day, it needs unchallenged time, away from distractions and stimulation, and it needs adequate sleep. You may think that “mindless” video games offer enough downtime, but that’s not so. Gaming still requires the brain to anticipate obstacles and respond to the action in the game. Real downtime allows the brain the opportunity to store memories, remember newly acquired skills, and learning to focus.

Let them be bored. There are few phrases more annoying to a parent than the dreaded, “I’m bored.” But next time you hear it, don’t get irritated and don’t solve the problem for them. Children need to develop time management skills and how to solve their own problems. When you rush in with options and entertainment, you rob them of the opportunity to deal with uncomfortable feelings like boredom. Instead, encourage them to think through their options and make a choice. Think about times you’ve been on a long walk or had an aha! moment in the shower. That’s your brain creating neural pathways connecting experiences and memory with new information to create a solution, something that’s impossible without the emotional and cognitive space that downtime offers.

 Help them find their “flow.” Researcher Reed Larson has studied the development of motivation in children and teens, and he’s found that the key is finding that “flow.” When a child is engrossed in an activity that is both challenging and successful without being stressful, dopamine levels spike, which builds the brain’s motivational capacity, something that will come in handy when they face a challenge where they aren’t so successful.

Involve your child in the decision.  Obviously, they won’t necessarily get the deciding vote, but offering your child options while involving them in the process means they’ll be more accountable for their choices. It has the added benefit of teaching them that choices have consequences, good and bad, and that we have to live with the choices we make. It may be as simple as chocolate or vanilla ice cream, or as big as choosing which camp to attend, but either way, it’s a teachable moment.

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.


Help Your Teen Finish the School Year Strong

A friend of mine is a high school guidance counselor and though there’s never really a season her department isn’t busy, the race to the end of the school year seems to amplify everything from emotions to deadlines.

Whether it’s the high-achievers who’ve given their throughout the year and are running out of emotional energy and physical stamina or those who’ve been coasting and now realize that what they thought was the light at the end of the tunnel is the train coming straight at them, tensions can start to run high. For students with IEP’s, learning differences, attentional or behavioral issues, or social-emotional vulnerability, the end of the year can be a seemingly endless series of stressors.

As parents, there are few things more heartbreaking than watching your child struggle and knowing there are limits to how much you can help. Learning to manage schedules and stress is part of the maturing process, so it’s essential to walk beside your child, supporting them, rather than in front, snow-plow style, clearing the path for them.

If your child seems to be struggling, these strategies from family therapist, Roy Dowdy can help.

Start with a conversation. Talk to your child, his teachers, and his counselor to help identify specific triggers to stress and anxiety. “Once you’ve identified the stressor, you can implement solutions,” Dowdy says. “If it’s time management, help them create a schedule for their time outside of class. There are countless apps to help manage screen time – one of the biggest distractions – help with organization, and homework help. By incorporating your student in the process, you’re equipping them, not solving problems for them, which in turn boosts their confidence and gives them the tools necessary to face the next challenge.”

Make home a Judgement Free Zone. When you talk to your student, be careful not to pass judgment on them, even if the reasons for their distress seems insignificant to you. Anxiety distorts emotions, and that’s just as true for teens as adults. Suggesting their feelings are invalid will only exacerbate the problem and make them less likely to ask for help.

One bite at a time. There’s an old joke, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”  That’s how you’re going to attack this problem. Identify the stressor and come up with a short term solution. You’ve summer break and the next school year to implement long-term changes, but for now, work the problem in front of you,” Dowdy says. “Sure your son’s constant procrastination is what got him into this mess, and your daughter’s unwillingness to see that hours playing video games is why her room is a mess, and she can’t find her school uniform. But while a lecture on “If you had listened when I told you…” sure would feel good for you, it isn’t going to help your child at this moment. Put out the fire, then talk about implementing “fire drills” going forward.

Take the conversation to the school. Your child’s teachers and advisors are invested in their success too, so it’s essential to involve them in the discussion. By sharing your strategies with school staff, you’ve doubled your child’s cheerleaders and cut your burden in half.

Remember, you may not have the whole picture. Kids don’t often disclose everything that happens in any given situation. Remember, your teen is a former toddler, so the same child who was caught stealing his brother’s dessert and denying it is the one who’s telling you his teacher is out to get him and unfair. If school staff tell you something about your child’s actions, moods, or learning style – even, or especially if it surprises or upsets you — try to listen and hear them out. You tried to pull things over on your parents, and your child is capable of the same behavior.

Finally, if these strategies aren’t enough and your child still feels as though they’re drowning, it may be time to talk to a therapist. Dowdy’s practice is focused on families, and he has students in his office every week who are struggling to manage the demands of school, family, and their friends. “Think how overwhelmed you get trying to juggle that work/life balance. Now look at it from your teen’s perspective – someone who’s schedule and expectations are usually set by you, the parent, or by the school. That feeling of powerlessness can be incredibly stressful.”

To find a counselor, Dowdy suggests talking to the school guidance counselor, psychologist, or Dean of Students, your pediatrician, or other parents you know and trust for a referral to a counselor that specializes in adolescent mental health.

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.


Change Your Default Privacy Settings

By Tracey Dowdy 

In a recent article, Washington Post technology columnist Geoffrey A. Fowler asked, “It’s the middle of the night. Do you know who your iPhone is talking to?”

In the story, Fowler outlines a problem most iPhone users aren’t even aware of, that being the volume of data-mining that occurs while you – and your phone – are asleep. “On a recent Monday night, a dozen marketing companies, research firms and other personal data guzzlers got reports from my iPhone. At 11:43 p.m., a company called Amplitude learned my phone number, email and exact location. At 3:58 a.m., another called Appboy got a digital fingerprint of my phone. At 6:25 a.m., a tracker called Demdex received a way to identify my phone and sent back a list of other trackers to pair up with.

And all night long, there was some startling behavior by a household name: Yelp. It was receiving a message that included my IP address -— once every five minutes,” Fowler says.

Data mining is nothing new, but it’s becoming an increasingly bigger problem. Though Apple stated in a recent ad, “What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone,” Fowler’s investigation proves that’s far from the truth. Another problem is that some of it is our fault. Charles Arthur points out that 95% of us don’t change any of the default settings on our devices, and how many of us take the time to read updates on Privacy Policies? It’s the Rule of Defaults. We’re just too lazy to try and Scooby-Doo the mystery.

Fowler published an excellent article last June that maps out how to start setting boundaries on all the information we willing hemorrhage into the ether via everything from our smartphones, laptops, tablets, and smartwatches to our smart home devices like Alexa, and our Nest doorbell.

If you’re wondering whether it’s worth the trouble to dive into the deep end and change those default settings, consider this, by default:

Fowler calls his suggestions “small acts of resistance,” but if The Handmaid’s Tale has taught us anything, those small acts of resistance are critically important. Blessed be.

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.