Cyber Safety
A digital photo can live forever and can go anywhere. Hackers and thieves are waiting for you to click one wrong link or dangle a too-simple password. From shopping online to protecting your information … guarding your children to shielding yourself … being street smart in today’s wired world is trickier than ever. Tech’s Appeal tells helps you do what you can to be safe, prepared, and aware.

It’s that time of year again. And I have a million ideas for you, starting with some just all-out awesome stuff:

Lenovo Yoga Book: $499.99


Perfect for tweens, teens, on-the-go moms, and digital dads: this is the thinnest and lightest 2-in-1 hybrid notebook computer on the planet — and it comes packed with mad-skills.

  • It’s like the Ginsu knife of PC’s: it bends, it folds, it flips, it types, it draws, it plays, it glows.
  • This super-portable two-in-one laptop/tablet hybrid ditches a physical keyboard for a touch-sensitive surface that does double duty as a keyboard and digital sketchpad.
  • Available in both Windows 10 and Android versions.
  • Weighs just over 3-pounds. 10+ hour battery life.

This is the future of laptops!  Speaking of the future…

Samsung Gear VR $99


For the first time ever, this year’s holiday shopping lists are filled with requests for VR headset from kids and adults alike who want to give virtual reality a spin.

  • Samsung’s Gear VR is my top choice as the best way to dive-into other worlds right now because it’s inexpensive, high-quality, portable, and a really comfortable fit overall.
  • The Gear VR headset that works with newer model Samsung Galaxy smartphones like this S7 Edge. (Note 5 or newer.)
  • You just pop in the smartphone, put it on and see a completely new world that wasn’t there before, filled with things that can delight, scare, awe, thrill, educate, entertain, and just plain blow you away. It’s basically magic.
  • Kind of like going from black and white TV to color.

Navdy: From $67/mo. with 0% financing. (Or $799)


San Francisco based Navdy just released this futuristic heads-up-display that pops into a mount on your dashboard, plugs into your car’s OBD port, syncs with your smartphone and projects messages, maps and apps right into your line of sight – almost like it’s appearing on the road ahead of you.

  • Navdy also read your texts out loud and let you respond using Siri or Google Now.
  • Navdy Hand Gestures let you to accept a call or message with the simple wave of your hand. Swipe left to accept, swipe right to ignore.
  • The Navdy Dial also lets you scroll, zoom and navigate menus – all without ever taking your eyes off the road or hands off the wheel. It’s kind of like what fighter jet pilots use –  minus the missiles.

From a smart car to a smart home…

Honeywell Lyric T5 Wi-Fi Thermostat: $149


Crazy smart. Super simple. This new Honeywell Lyric T5 Wi-Fi Thermostat is an awesome addition – or great first step – toward a true smart home.

  • It works with Siri, Alexa, and adds geo-fences – so it knows when you leave and when you’re about to arrive back home and will adjust itself accordingly to save $$
  • You control it with an app on your smartphone – and can tailor it to your normal routine, or let it adapt to your life as plans change all on its own.
  • (And it looks really retro cool…)

Tile Slim & Mate Trackers $25-$100


This gadget is the saving grace for anyone who’s ever lost anything – like their wallet, keys, purse, laptop, smartphone, glasses, you name it!

  • These are brand new, super slim and more powerful than ever.
  • The Mate goes right onto a keychain, or your purse (I have it on my purse), a zipper, or backpack. You press the center button here and it syncs right to an app on your smartphone.
  • Tile Slim works the same way – this is the one I have in my wallet and on the back of my laptop. It’s the world’s thinnest Bluetooth tracker – as thin as two stacked credit cards.

Tile Mate: One Tile Mate costs $25 and a four-pack costs $70.

Tile Slim: One Tile Slim costs $30 and a four-pack costs $100.

Hasbro Joy For All Companion Pup: Robot Companion Pet Pup $120


Rounding out the best gadget list ever – a robot puppy. Sure, it looks like a toy, but this realistic “Joy for All Pup” has a big job: to bring companionship to anyone and everyone who needs it — minus the mess. Hi-tech built-in sensors and speakers make this little rascal respond to motion, touch, the sounds of your voice. The pup can run around, turn his head, and bark in response to your voice. Pet his back, and you’ll feel a heartbeat, too!

Read more about these and all of Jennifer’s top gadget gift guides in the Tech Now section of

Posted in Connected Kids, Cyber Safety, Gift Guide, Girlfriend's Guide, In The Press, TechNow, Top tech news

Web search gone wrong. It’s happened to the best of us. You type in an innocent string of words, and some random porn pops up faster than you can scream “NSFW!” Of course, that’s right about the time the boss walks by. Oy vey. Find “safe search” and turn it on. Stat.

Opening a window to everything on the Internet today can be frightening even for some adults. And stumbling across inappropriate content remains one of the biggest concerns when we throw a tablet into the mix of our kids’ daily digital lives. Add to that issues of child safety and protection, online bullying, unguarded app spending … suddenly we’re wishing we could just go back to simpler times. As we wrap up our Kids and Tablet series, here are the simple steps every parent can take — no matter how tech-unsavvy you might feel — to help keep kids safe on slates.


There are hundreds of thousands of apps, and many aren’t meant for young eyes. Excessively violent games and adult-only “hookup” apps lurk around every virtual store shelf, and there’s an excellent chance that you don’t want your kids viewing any of it.

Apple’s iPad requires a password before it dings your credit card for an app-buy. This is your safety valve, so you always know what’s being added to your family’s tablet. Not all such gadgets offer the same default protection, but if your tablet doesn’t automatically require a PIN or you want a more specific level of protection, it’s easy to set up.

On Android: Open Google Play — Android’s app marketplace — and click on the Settings tab in the top right. Scroll down to find the “Use PIN for purchases” option and enable it to require all app downloads to require a security code. Alternatively, you can use the “Content filtering” option in this same menu to restrict only certain types of apps from being downloaded.

PART ONE: Kids can’t resist the tablet temptation

Kindle: Tap on the top of screen to show the Quick Settings option and then click “More.” Now tap “Parental Controls” and enter a secure password. From this menu, you can restrict the ability to purchase content from the Kindle’s app store or restrict specific types of content from being downloaded, such as if you want to allow books to be downloaded at will but keep apps under lock and key.

iPad: The iPad locks purchases by default, but you can also force it to lock out content based on age ratings. Head into the Settings menu and click “General.” Now tap “Restrictions” and enter a security code that the kids don’t know. From here, you can adjust the age blocks on apps, music, movies and even websites visited through the default search engine.

There’s another good reason to lock down app activity: your bank account.

Not long ago, the news was filled with disgruntled parents hit with unexpected app charges after their kids went on spending sprees. These days, purchase restrictions are more strict across the board, but if your kids have access to download games — whether it be without a passcode or because they know the passcode — they likely also have the ability to ring up a hefty bill.

As long as you can keep your code a secret, there’s really no easy way to usurp these parental controls once you enable them. It doesn’t matter if you’re not tech-savvy — these tablets were built with parents in mind, so guard your access code like gold.


There are Web browser apps built specifically for younger surfers. Mobicip is one of the best. The company’s Safe Browser — available on both iOS and Android — caters the Web-surfing experience specifically for your child. Any attempts to access unseemly corners of the Web are met with a block screen, telling them they’ve crossed the line.


Aren’t you overlooking something? Sure, little Bobby is watching SpongeBob on YouTube now, but that doesn’t make the Web’s largest video portal universally kid-friendly, right? Right.

Streaming-video apps such as YouTube and Netflix often have app-specific controls and restrictions for more mature content. YouTube, which hosts videos of everything from live births to extremely violent war footage, won’t play anything considered “graphic” if you’re not signed in to a YouTube account. However, it’s relatively easy to fake an “adult” Google account, so this isn’t a fail-safe for all tableters.

And that’s an important point when it comes to kids and their tablets: The older they get, the greater the chances that they’ll be interested in things you object to. Keeping a 9-year-old from accidentally downloading a dating app is easy, but preventing your 16-year-old from watching violent content on YouTube is much more difficult. These are the same battles parents have been fighting for years, they’ve just now turned from R-rated movies and sneaking a sip of beer to the digital equivalent online.

If you’re willing to let your teenager use a tablet, you’ll either have to lock down absolutely everything you find objectionable, including apps such as YouTube, or you need to accept that giving them such a digital responsibility also means that they might run across things you don’t approve of.

The best way to make a tablet safe for a child is to get involved. Talk with them early and often about important digital core values. If you don’t trust your kids to do the right thing after you’ve taught them high-tech rules of the road, they’re not ready for a tablet.

Posted in Connected Kids, Cyber Safety, Digital Parenting, TechNow

Pick a tablet, any tablet, and put it in front of a child. Then, watch the magnetic attraction pull them in and steal all semblance of self-control. Tots, teens and all the screenagers in between can’t resist that tablet temptation.


Of the 120-million tablets sold in 2013, their owners keep getting younger … and younger … and younger. According to a recent study by San Francisco-based Common Sense Media, 38% of babies under 2 use tablets or smartphones, up from 10% in 2011. What’s more, nearly as many children own tablets today as adults did just two years ago. This enormous growth is thanks in part to the plummeting prices of entry-level devices, which are sometimes even less expensive than the parade of kid-specific devices flooding store shelves. And more and more companies are targeting the kids tablet market, too.


While some parents are thrilled with this new wired world, others fear the total tablet takeover will turn their precious children’s brains to media-saturated mush. Most of us modern moms and dads are somewhere in between, glad to share tablet time with kids, but also cautious about those sticky fingers and malleable minds.

It’s true, handing your kids an all-access pass to the land of iPads and Galaxy Tabs is a bit like handing over the keys to your car. Are they ready for it? How much tablet time is the right amount for their budding brains? Will they run up a fortune in apps, or stumble across content they shouldn’t see? What the heck are they actually doing on there?

These are just a few of the questions researchers have been working hard to answer, and a topic we’ll tackle over the next few installments of Tech Now. We’ll take a look at the rules of the road when it comes to giving your kids a tablet, see which specific tablets might be the best fit for your particular brood, and walk you through the tips and tricks to keep kids of all ages safe on their slates.


Researchers find that kids today play more with touch-screens than traditional toys. As a mom myself, I want to know what that shift means for our future generation, and for those of us doing our best to raise healthy, well-rounded kids. We’ve heard debates over the effects of TV, video games and even certain types of music, and — surprise! — that same battle has now turned to tablets.

There’s no question that screens and technology can open the door to intellectually stimulating content, but they could also close doors to physical activity. They help kids keep in touch with Grandma and Grandpa across the miles and let them check in with Mom or Dad after school, yet they set up barriers when kids don’t interact with the people and situations around them. What’s a modern mom or dad to do?

That’s where we pick back up tomorrow, with part two of this series, when we look at how much screen time is the “right” amount, what impact slates are having on kids, and what you need to consider before giving your child a tablet. I call this rules of the road, because I’ve so often craved an easy to follow “map” of sorts that covers the basics — the how-to’s and what-for’s — when it comes to dealing with this somewhat hot-button parenting issue.

Be sure to weigh in with your own questions, comments, concerns, and check back here tomorrow for part two of this series; kids and tablets, rules of the road.

Posted in Connected Kids, Cyber Safety, Great Gadgets, TechNow

Smart Kids Apps to Prevent Summer Brain Drain & Get Kids Ready to Go Back To School:
Want to prevent summer slide – make sure kids go back to school with their brains brimming with bright ideas? Or maybe you just want to make their screen time is quality time? Here are 10 apps that can be great for young minds:

1. Touch ‘N Sing – Touch and Sing Along Picture Book
This is great example of a healthy first foray into the online world for kids as young two. It features 12 classic children’s songs, each with a different goal; learn letters, body parts, music, interactive play, reading, numbers, elements of science, and life skills to help prepare for the real world. Another stand out feature? It grows along with your child – as they progress through the various levels – the learning possibilities become limitless. The developer’s name, SumahoMAMA, means “cell phones Moms,” in Japanese, where it was created by moms looking for the very best ways to create healthy, safe, and manageable digital introductions to young kids. In additional to the apps content, no advertising is used in this product. That’s a bonus, for sure.
For ages: 2+, Available on iTunes, Free

2. WWF Together:
The World Wildlife Federation App lets kids experience the world’s most amazing and endangered animals through in-depth, interactive stories of giant pandas, tigers, and polar bears.

Ages 4+ Available on iTunes, Free

3. The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore
This is a stunning picture book app that counts on clever interaction to move the story forward. Kids are encouraged to make sounds, tap, tilt, and play.
Ages 6+
Available on iTunes, $4.99

4. Stack the states:
Stack the States is a big favorite for our daily commute in the car. My daughter reads out the questions and we race each other to see who can answer them first. Helps teach state capitals, shapes, geographic locations, flags and more.
Ages 6+ Available on iTunes, Google Play, Free

5. TinyTap
Tiny Tap gets parents more involved with child’s digital play by letting you create your own games with your kids using photos, music, colors, and words. You can make your own game, or pick from one of the many already created.
Ages 4+, Available on iTunes, Free

6. BuzzMath Middle School
If you want to prevent summer slide and make sure kids go back to school with their brains brimming, take a look at this comprehensive math skills and practice tool that offers thousands of quirky and fun exercises. It’s best for grades six through eight. And I highly recommend it for parents as a way to brush-up too!
Ages 10+, Available on iTunes, Google Play, Free

7. Storia
This reading app from Scholastic is a must-have. It’s filled with an entire library of teacher recommended books, plus dozens of fun and engaging games that help build comprehension and reading retention at every age and reading level. It’s so much fun, children will have NO idea how good it is for them as they work on word puzzles, tap their way through image games, and explore the world of their own imagination through great stories.
For ages 6+, Available on Google Play, iTunes, Windows, and Amazon, Free

8. Todo Elementary Math Series
This is a series of 7 multi-level games that are aligned to the Common Core State Standards for Pre-K through 2nd grade. The games help kids with learning differences, which might be struggling with concepts like telling time. It lets kids learn independently and progress at their own pace. The name, “Todo” translates to ,“all” in Spanish, and stands for the fact that this app helps include all children, no matter what their learning style or speed, understand basic counting and calculations, telling time, measuring, and dealing with money.
Ages 5+, Available on iTunes, Free

9. Watt Pad
This app lets young writers post short stories, novels and poems for others to read and critique. The critique is positive, creative, and aimed at helping kids hone their craft – no bullying allowed. The works are often revealed chapter by chapter, so readers are anticipating new developments and often lobbying the writer for plot shifts or new characters. Famous authors also get involved, for a digital writers-group that’s out of this world.
Ages 12+, Available on iTunes, Google Play

10. BrainPOP
BrainPOP features a new animated movie each day (I love the one about the Beatles)that kids watch – then get quizzed on – in a fun and interactive way. Topics cover math, social studies, English, tech, music, health , and more. The videos aren’t sophisticated, but the information is solid and they are captioned so you can read along. This is a great one on a road trip, so everyone in the car can play along.
Ages 8+, Available on iTunes, Google Play

One last note, most apps have in-app upgrades and new games that you can buy. Be sure to turn off in-app purchases, and set up a passcode that your kids can’t guess. Also, be sure to check-in on what they’re playing. For ideas about how much screen time is okay, without creating zoned out zombies, read the latest guidelines and recommendations.

We know there are hundreds more, and new ones being added everyday. What are some of your favorites? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

Posted in Connected Kids, Cyber Safety, Digital Parenting, Girlfriend's Guide, In The Press, TechStyled, Tips & Tricks, Top tech news, Uncategorized, What The Tech

Win Net Nanny - as seen on the Marie Osmond Show!

Win Net Nanny – as seen on the Marie Osmond Show!

Send us an email and tell us why you want to win a subscription to Net Nanny. Have any funny/scary/interesting stories about digital parenting? Be sure to share them here!

Posted in Connected Kids, Cyber Safety, Digital Parenting, Girlfriend's Guide, Great Gadgets, In The Press, TechNow, Tips & Tricks, Top tech news

Click here to see video
In a world where most of us already have our smartphones glued to our ears and panic at the mere mention of powering down our devices, wearable technology is shaping up to be the next “big thing” here at CES.

According to new studies from IMS Research, the market for wearable-wireless devices is expected to hit revenues of $6 billion within the next four years. But alongside Android powered eyeglasses and tiny video cameras that fit on your ear are a few new gadgets that might just save your life, or your child’s life.

I sat down with Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck Tuesday, as he unveiled Reebok’s new Head Impact Indicator. The thin, lightweight black skullcap sports MC10’s latest series of wearable sensors to help measure and detect dangerous hits to the head.

A tiny rechargable pack, about the size of a quarter, sits at the base of your skull. If you’re hit too hard — an impact registering above pre-programmed thresholds based on the head-injury criteria levels (HIC) — a yellow or red light goes on. The idea behind the synthetic cap is to give coaches, parents, athletes, and even us hard-headed weekend warrior types, a tool to take better care of our brains.

It’s easy to see why a professional athlete who gets tackled for a living would get behind this kind of technology. Hasselbeck has had a handful of concussions in his career and says he’s seen too many of his fellow-players suffer traumatic head injuries, when they failed to realize that knock to the noggin was more serious than they thought.

Perhaps even more important he says, is that this kind of technology could help kids, coaches, and parents everywhere. He talked about watching his own three kids play, tumble, and even wipe-out on a bicycle a time or two. With a head-injury, often times the severity isn’t all that obvious, especially to a child. The warning lights built right in to the cap, could help act as an extra pair of eyes.

Of course, whenever we talk about this topic, whether it’s when my own daughter falls off the monkey-bars or takes a spill of a horse (which just happened recently), I always think of actress Natasha Richardson. She died in 2009 after not realizing that a ski fall had caused her brain to bleed. The new Head Impact Indicator cap is expected to show up on store shelves in the first half of 2013.

Posted in Connected Kids, Cyber Safety, Digital Parenting, Great Gadgets, In The Press, TechNow, Top tech news

Predator Proof Your Child's Gadgets: watch video here.

1:23PM EST December 12. 2012 – Handing over a shiny new smartphone or tablet to a youngster is like giving them keys to a sports car and wishing them luck on the freeway. In this TECH NOW, find out how to head off inappropriate content, over-use and even Internet predators with simple steps that even a non-techie parent can manage.

— Set the rules. Have a heart-to-heart about the rules of cyber-conduct. Let them know this is about keeping them safe, which is your job as a parent. Print out, sign and post a family Internet contract so that expectations and consequences are clear.

— Set up content filters. You can set up filters that even your tech-savvy teens can’t hack through.

Android, Apple and Windows devices have settings or apps that with just three to five steps let you “set and forget” a list of filters. You can password-protect your settings, too, so that your kids can’t (easily) outsmart you and undo them.

— Install surveillance software. The next level of protection is surveillance — with the understanding that you’re using these tools to protect, inform and empower your kids, not to spy on them. After all, teens need to learn about the trust, respect and privacy that comes with growing up. For free filters, try K9 Web Protection. It blocks sites in more than 70 categories, including pornography, gambling, drugs,violence/hate/racism, malware/spyware and phishing.

Additionally, the FTC this week said it is investigating whether some apps violate kids’ privacy rights by quietly collecting personal information and sharing it with advertisers and data brokers. The FTC recommends these six steps for parents:

— Try out the apps your kid wants to use so that you understand the content and the features.

— Use device and app settings to restrict a kid’s ability to download apps, make purchases through the app or access other material.

— Turn off your Wi-Fi and carrier connection using “airplane mode” to disable any interactive features, prevent inadvertent taps and block access to material you haven’t approved.

— Look for statements about whether the app or anything within the app collects kids’ personal information. If you can’t find disclosures or assurances that information collection and sharing is limited, consider a different app.

— Check whether the app connects to social media, gaming platforms or other services that enable sharing photos, video or personal information or chatting with other players. If so, see if you can block or limit those connections.

— Talk to your kids about your rules for downloading, purchasing and using apps, and sharing information online. And make sure you tell them why it matters.

Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy award-winning consumer tech contributor and host of USA Today’s new daily digital TECH NOW . Email her at Follow her on Twitter: @JenniferJolly

Posted in Connected Kids, Cyber Safety, Digital Parenting, Top tech news

Cisco study on Internet habits of Gen Y population reveals how the need to stay connected drives every facet of their lives: from work to shopping, friendships to family

SAN JOSE, Calif. – December 12, 2012 – It’s 6 a.m. Your morning alarm shrills piercingly. You sit up groggily, stretch and yawn. It’s time to get ready for school or work – what do you do next? Get dressed? Take a shower? Brush your teeth?

Ninety percent of Gen Y surveyed worldwide said they check their smartphones for updates in email, texts and social media sites, often before they get out of bed, according to the 2012 Cisco® Connected World Technology Report (CCWTR.) There are 206 bones in the human body, and the smartphone could plausibly be considered the 207th for Gen Y. Two out of five said they “would feel anxious, like part of me is missing,” if they couldn’t use their smartphones to stay connected.

Based on a survey conducted by InsightExpress of 1,800 college students and young professionals aged 18 to 30 across 18 countries, the report examines how Generation Y uses the Internet and mobile devices to connect with the world around them. The report reveals their behavior and attitudes about the creation, access and privacy of the enormous amounts of data being generated daily by smartphones, sensors, video cameras, monitors and other connected devices.

Mobile devices are just the beginning. As more and more people, processes, data and things join and interact on the “Internet of Everything,” the volume and potential value of all the data generated by those connections grow exponentially.

Key Findings of the 2012 Cisco Connected World Technology Report
The new morning routine: toothpaste, toilet paper and texting
Gen Y does not want to miss anything. Checking their mobile devices for text, email and social media updates is how they start their day – often even before getting out of bed. For this generation, information is real-time, all the time.
– Nine of 10 respondents globally will get dressed, brush their teeth, and want to check their smartphones as part of the morning ritual for getting ready for school or work.
– For employers, this is meaningful because it demonstrates that the workforce of the future is more agile, more informed and more responsive than any previous generation. They live to connect and communicate.

Me and my smartphone. From morning through night, Gen Y stays constantly connected.
– More than one in four Gen Y respondents (29 percent) say they check their smartphones so constantly that they lose count.
– Globally, one in five checks a smartphone for email, text and social media updates at least every 10 minutes. In the U.S., two out of five check at least once every 10 minutes.
– One-third of respondents check their smartphones at least once every 30 minutes; in the U.S., that figure jumps to more than 50 percent.

Connected or addicted?
– Sixty percent of Gen Yers subconsciously or compulsively check their smartphones for emails, texts or social media updates.
– Of those, women are more driven to connect: 85 percent of women versus 63 percent of men find themselves often compulsively checking their smartphone for text, emails or social media updates.
– Over 40 percent of respondents would go through a “withdrawal” effect and “would feel anxious, like part of me was missing,” if they couldn’t check their smartphones constantly.
– Of those compulsive smart phone users, 60 percent wish they didn’t feel so compelled.

They’re everywhere!

(Courtesy Isaac On Tech)

Smartphones are used everywhere, even in the most private of places. The craving to stay connected means that the lines between work and social life/family life are blurring. People check for work updates and communicate at all hours from every place imaginable. Time is elastic: For Generation Y there are no clear markers between “the workday” and personal time – both blend and overlap throughout the day and night.

Is romance dead? Globally, 3 out of 4 respondents use smartphones in bed.

– Don’t forget to wash your hands: Over a third use smartphones in the bathroom.
– Set a place at the table: Almost half of the global respondents (46 percent) said they text, email and check social media during meals with family and friends. More than half of American respondents (56 percent) use smartphones during social meals.
Watch out! Dangerous as it is, almost one in five admits to texting while driving.

About the Study
The third in an annual series, the 2012 Cisco Connected World Technology Report, was commissioned by Cisco and conducted by InsightExpress, an independent market research firm based in the United States. The global study consists of two surveys: one focused on college students and workers aged 18 to 30, and the second focused on IT professionals. Each survey includes 100 respondents from each of 18 countries: United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Netherlands, Russia, Poland, Turkey, South Africa, India, China, Japan, South Korea, and Australia.

Posted in Cyber Safety, Digital Parenting, Top tech news, What The Tech