Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I've been hearing a lot about Skype these days and thought it certainly warranted a post. Not only because they just launched an iphone application which brings free calling to our mobile devices, but also because of the cost saving and family connection benefits it offers to all families with home internet. In today's economy, most of us can't afford long distance phone bills or flights to visit friends and family and Skype offers a great solution to keep us in touch.

Skype was launched in 2004 as a Voice Over IP solution providing users free calls to other Skype customers and inexpensive calls to traditional phones. Essentially, Skype uses your internet connection to let you turn your computer into a phone. You can use a headset or use your computer’s built-in microphone and speakers to talk to friends and family. Skype now also offers Video Calling so you can connect a webcam to your computer and see the person you are speaking to.

According to Ad Age boomers are using this technology, among other social media, to keep in touch with families and to watch their grandchildren grow up from across the country or around the world. Not surprisingly, Skype now has over 400 million users and, according to TeleGeography analyst, Stephan Beckert, "has emerged as the largest provider of cross-border voice communications in the world.”

To keep in touch with your friends and family a no to little cost to you, visit skype.com and download it today. While your at it, set the grandparents up with a web cam so they can see their grandkids in between holidays!

Family Watchdog

Wow - I just went to Family Watchdog to learn more about the site and upon visiting the About Us section was confronted with this...
* 1 of 5 girls and 1 of 6 boys will be molested before their 18th birthday.
* 90% of all sexual assaults against children are committed by someone the victim knew.
* The typical sexual predator will assault 117 times before being caught.
* The re-arrest rate for convicted child molesters is 52%.

If those statistics don't compel a parent to read on, I don't know what would. Family Watchdog was created in 2005 to provide the information needed to protect your family from registered offenders and predators. The completely free service provides a quick search function on the home page which enables you to enter your address and see offenders in your neighborhood. Here is the map that comes up when I enter my address in NYC.

Each of those color coded boxes reveal the home or work information of individuals who have committed an offense against children, rape, sexual battery and other offenses.

Alternatively, here is a snap shot of a suburb on Long Island where I grew up. While NYC is certainly a hot zone and very difficult to assess your families' risk, many areas of the US will likely be a bit closer to this picture, with just a few offenders in the community and several in the surrounding area to be aware of.

In addition to the search tool, Family Watchdog has partnered with Hand Storm to create an iPhone application called Stay Safe (available through iTunes ) which enables you to search via your mobile device. They also offer e-mail services which can notify you if a registered sexual predator moves within five miles of your address. If you are concerned about a particular offender, Family Watchdog can track them and notify you of a change in their location.

Family Watchdog now also offers updates on food and drug recalls from the FDA, product recalls and safety tips for families. I recommend visiting Family Watchdog to increase your awareness and to protect your family.

Monday, April 6, 2009

GPS tracking wrist watch

Okay, so maybe I am obsessed with GPS tracking of children - but I just came across a pretty cool device that can give parents peace of mind and is not as extreme as implanting a chip under your child's skin.

At the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, British company Lok8u introduced the Num8 digital wristwatch. It looks like a typical watch but what lies beneath is a GPS chip that constantly keeps tabs on the location of the child and can be monitored on the company's website. The device is accurate to within 10 feet and if the watch is forcibly removed it sends an alert to the parents via e-mail and cell phone.

The Num8 is approximately $200 to purchase and $8 for monthly service. Click here to see a clip with more information about the Num8 and how it can be used to protect your child.

What not to do with technology

Technology can be an excellent tool for educating our children and helping them to excel academically. However, on Friday eight Chinese parents and teachers took it to the extreme when they used hi-tech communication devices to help students cheat on college entrance exams.

According to the Guardian, scanners, mobile phones, wireless earpieces and bribery of teachers and university students were used to transmit answers to students taking the "gaokao", the two-day exam that annually determines whether 10 million teenagers will enter university and, if so, which institution they can attend.

Because success on the exam plays a critical role in the future of the students, papers regarding the exam are considered top secret and are kept under armed guard. Parents and teachers involved in this cheating scandal were sentenced to between six months and three years for illegally obtaining state secrets.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tips from The Bump

I recently had the opportunity to speak to Kate Ward, the Online Director for The Bump.com. If you have not yet been to the site – go now. From the creators of The Knot and The Nest, The Bump gives first-time parents expert advice on fertility, pregnancy, birth, and babies. The site has fresh content, local resources, and a ton of interactive tools such as up-to-date community features, baby blogs, checklists, photo galleries, topic-based message boards, and more.

Responsible for driving all content and tools on The Bump and caring for her own 14 month old girl, Kate Ward has got her finger on the pulse of all things pregnancy and parenting. I was thrilled to be able to pick her brain on the best technology available for the various stages of motherhood.

Let’s start with conception and pregnancy. Although it is often a very private issue, Kate informed me that many women who are trying to conceive are using online tools to help them monitor their bodies and share their experiences and suggestions with others.

Fertilityfriend.com is very popular,” said Kate. “Women are using it primarily to keep track of their own ovulation to determine their schedule. If you are having trouble conceiving, this is the same thing a fertility doctor would do, so this technology allows you to do it on your own.”

Fertility Friend pioneered the concept of online fertility charting in 1998 and has helped hundreds of thousands of women to achieve pregnancy. While it is the leading internet destination for women trying to conceive, there are others that are popping up as well.

One such site, Go28days.com, “is a little bit cleaner then Fertility Friend,” said Kate. “And, it has a lot more sharing capabilities.” Both sites bring together a group of women to help one another figure out what is going on with their bodies and share advice that they get from their doctors. “So, instead of one fertility doctor you can have the advice of hundreds,” said Kate.

Once you conceive, The Bump offers a number of great resources for pregnancy including tips by trimester, real birth stories, baby naming help, and message boards covering every topic you can imagine. One of the most useful tools on the site is their interactivity pregnancy check list – which is similar to The Knot’s wedding check list that we all know and love. It updates you on what you should be thinking about and sends reminders for important to-dos. “It’s great for type A personalities and those that can’t be bothered to keep track,” said Kate.

After the baby arrives your bump will shrink but the need for support continues to grow. “The Bump’s online communities have very high engagement for parents of babies under 6 months,” said Kate. “It's a place where you can get an answer in less than 2 minutes. Even at 3:00 in the morning, there is someone there to talk to. Not only to answer questions but to offer support and let you know that you’re not crazy and your feelings are completely normal.” Kate says that the communities do have a few dads that post but it is mostly women. “I think moms like it like that way because they share a lot of personal information and it is kind of like a little cocoon for them.”

Kate also recommends a couple of gadgets that are very useful for new parents. For those of you that have the Iphone there is a nursing application called Baby Tracker: Nursing that records the time of your nursing session and which side you nursed on last. You can then download the information to a CSV file. “At your first doctor visit they ask you a ton of questions about the babies feeding patterns,” says Kate. The iPhone application or the printable Input/Output sheets available on The Bump will help you to be prepared. “Whether you prefer online or paper, they help you keep your peace of mind and answer your doctor’s questions to be sure your baby is getting enough food.” The application is available for purchase for $7.99.

Another tool that new parents like is the Why Cry Baby Crying Analyzer, said Kate. “It measures frequency and pops out a reason as to why your child might be crying.” While it might sound crazy, the Why Cry has been clinically certified with a 90% accuracy rate from leading research facilities. The sound sensitive device recognizes different pitches, analyzes them and then identifies the baby’s cry into one of five expressions - hungry, bored, annoyed, sleepy or stressed. The Why Cry can be purchased at many baby sites for approximately $100.

Just when you think they’ve got everything a new parent could ever need, they invent something new. If you’re interested in more of the latest gadgets and tools, visit The Bump’s Top 10: Best Pregnancy and Baby Trackers list. And be sure to visit The Bump regularly. Kate and her team have got a few more tools in the works that will continue to help make the lives of new parents easier!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Tech Makeover Contest

If technology has played an important role in how your children learn - both at home and at school - let Cablevision know and you could win a technology makeover. The company just announced the Power to Learn Optimum Technology Makeover to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its Power to Learn education initiative, a nationally recognized technology-enabled learning program.

To enter, families submit an essay of 500 words or less "focused on technology's significant impact on learning, both at home and at school." Essays will be judged on originality and creativity by a panel of judges and five families will be selected to receive the Grand Prize of a complete home technology makeover that includes 10 prizes delivered and installed by Optimum.

For the time it takes to write a 500 word essay, this is certainly worth a shot. Also, Power to Learn offers some excellent tips on how to incorporate technology into your family in the For Parents section. I encourage you to check it out.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sneak-A-Peek at your unborn child

Every day my husband and I talk about what our child could potentially look like. Sometimes it starts because we see a child on the street that looks like one of us, or sometimes we pick a quality of the other that we hope our child gets - I hope ours gets my husbands eyes and legs!

Now, parents can get a sneak peek at what their child might look like. Aha! Baby, the pregnancy search engine, just launched "Sneak-a-Peek" a new photo morphing technology that enables parents to upload photos of mom and dad and have a glimpse of what their child could look like.

Although "Sneak-a-Peek" only reveals the face of the baby and won't predict whether or not my little girl will get her dad's legs, it is a fun technology for the ever-curious parents-to-be. The only downfall is that, unless your like the hard-core tourists and have countless pictures of yourself standing alone with a blank expression on your face in front of attractions - you'll have to take a non-smiling, hair out of face, mug shot of both parents to be able to properly use the system. I was hoping to surprise my husband with the photo but had to reveal my plan and ask him to get in the line-up to get a picture that would work.

If you're curious, take a peek - but don't let it scare you!