3 Ways to Stay Informed While Taking a Break from Nonstop News

I almost missed daylight saving time in California. While taking a break from nonstop news, I turned off the TV and other devices over a sunny spring weekend. The 24 hour news cycle had taken its toll and I was motivated to power off during the glorious daytime weather.

By Monday morning I was already behind, almost missing the time change and nearly making the kids late for school. I needed to do a better job of staying informed without getting overwhelmed by the constant flow of breaking news. I needed a refresher on media literacy!

Thankfully, Common Sense Media broached the topic with their latest report called News and America’s Kids. Although the research is focused on kids and teens, many of their findings and recommendations are also helpful for adults. While reviewing the report on how young people gather and perceive the news, I found excellent tools for becoming a smarter news consumer. This report prompted me to take a step back and rethink my own approach to news.

I’ve started to focus on three main areas: 1) the quality of news content, 2) the method of news gathering, and 3) the awareness of news habits. By paying attention to each topic, I’m confident I can get back on track. Here’s the plan!

1. Think critically about the quality of news content by brushing up on media literacy.

If you navigate to the homepage of Common Sense Media, under Parent Concerns, the first option is News and Media Literacy. Click that! In this section you will find ways to spot fake news, reviews on credible news sites, fact checking resources, and explanations about journalistic definitions of fact versus opinion. I especially like News Literacy 101 which offers tips and techniques for thinking critically about information. Should we believe everything we hear? Who is the source? What are some alternative points of view? How objective is the segment? Do you notice any bias? These are all great questions to help discern the credibility of incoming information.

2. Manage methods for consuming news into more predictable formats. Don’t forget about slow news options like print, podcasts, or standard daily news segments.

In search of slower, long form news, my husband and I went on a mini date to the magazine stand at Barnes & Noble. We picked up a few periodicals we’d missed over the years. From the progressive left to the conservative right, there was a wide range of titles to choose from. Immersing ourselves in a few magazines was a refreshing way to engage in thoughtful discourse during these interesting times. The time delay of seeing information in print (on topics that were headlines a week prior) can lend perspective on hot button issues.

Likewise, podcasts and TV shows deliver current events in a dedicated listening setting. With a set timeframe to listen to the news, I’m less likely to be distracted by random headlines throughout the day.

3. Recognize binge behavior. Awareness is a great first step to help minimize wasted time.

I recently organized my iPhone into specific screens with folders of apps for various uses. For example, I have a folder titled “Binge Break”. In this folder are social media apps like Instagram and Twitter, in addition to news apps like The Skimm. Putting the BINGE label on the folder has deterred me from accessing it more often than necessary. It makes me think, “Is it worth my time to binge, or should I be doing something more useful?” The simple but effective tactic of organizing a desktop or device should not be undervalued when so much of our lives are spent online.

Taking control of media input us helping me think more deeply about a topic rather than merely reacting to it. Thanks Common Sense Media for getting the ball rolling!

Lorraine Akemann | Co-Founder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Photo credit [Flickr creative commons]

Decode Teen Text Lingo with the Digital Glossary by Common Sense Media

New content guiding parents in the digital world is published on Common Sense Media at a rapid rate. Recently I spied the Digital Glossary, which is a reference guide for teen text lingo, apps, and popular online communication terms. For a parent with teens, this is especially handy!

The Common Sense Media Digital Glossary

Access the Digital Glossary at https://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/digital-glossary. The Digital Glossary is organized by alphabetical tabs. Each tab jumps to a section of terms and explanations. If you want to know what “on fleek” means, search by clicking the MNO tab. If you want to know what “bae” means, click the ABC tab.

teen text lingo

Fun family questions about teen text lingo

  1. To make the Digital Glossary an interactive family tool, try asking teens if the definitions are correct. How would they change a definition? Which definitions are missing, old, or most popular?
  2. If teens created their own Digital Glossary, how would it work? Would they create an app? Would they vote up the most popular term? How could new terms be entered?
  3. What would YOUR new text term be? Have everyone in the family invent their own acronym, phrase, or even an emoji. Get creative. As we always say around here, the more conversations, the better.

Lorraine Akemann | Co-Founder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Photo credit [Flickr creative commons]

Fun with New iOS 10.2 Emojis

Sometimes new emoji characters are released in a software update, just like they were this December with iOS 10.2. Reading the update notes, I was pleased to see new emojis from Unicode 9.0, in addition to new emojis representing professions, added to the keyboard on my iPhone’s operating system.

New iOS 10.2 emojis

To best understand what was added I consulted one of my favorite emoji websites, Emojipedia. Their changelog and video provide an overview of the latest. Notable additions include gender diversity, food, sports, animals and professions. For example, now there is a dancing man, in addition to a dancing woman. We also have scientists, teachers, mechanics, a croissant, and even water polo players!

Can you find your favorite new emoji?

One way to become familiar with the enhanced emoji keyboard is by picking out favorites. My daughter and I did this after updating our phones. She sent me the cowboy-hat smiley face, and I sent her the pizza. Sounds a little silly, but the more interaction I build with my kids, the better!

Which emoji most reflects your identity?

Can you find your hobby, interest or profession on the emoji keyboard? As a blogger, I quite like the lady technologist. Similarly, I like the lady mechanic because I could have used that after fixing our household pipes the other day. Which ones would you use to describe yourself?

Do you use emoji combinations?

My friend recently sent an “XO” emoji combination in a holiday message. I hadn’t seen that before, but thought the hugs, represented with emojis, were cute and creative. What new combinations will be made with this latest set of emoji characters? Keep your eyes open – only time will tell.

What’s coming in 2017?

Curious about the next emoji update? Me too. I’d like to see if they add ballerina or pointe shoe emojis for my daughter and her friends. This is important stuff! Head to the Unicode website to keep up with the plans. Don’t see what you like? Then make a submission. The more we participate, the more we can help grow and diversify this new method of communication.

Lorraine Akemann | Co-Founder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Photo credit [Emojipedia video screenshot]

Talking with Teens about Snapchat Groups

Snapchat announced a new group chat feature just in time for the holidays. Groups allows up to 16 friends to communicate on a chat. Separate, 1 on 1 chats can occur simultaneously by tapping a group member’s name on the bottom of a group chat. Returning to Groups is as simple as a swipe.

I’m not an avid Snapchat user, and nor is my daughter, but many of her friends are on Snapchat. In case she gets called into group chats with the release of this new feature, I want to have a conversation about how it works.

Conversations about new technology can provide interesting ways to keep up with the trends. This way, my daughter knows I’m aware of the new feature, and we have an open communication channel for learning how to use it best.

Here are some topic ideas for talking with teens about Snapchat Groups:

  • Can you show me how to use this new feature?
  • What do you like about it?
  • Do you have any concerns about group chat?
  • Do you communicate the same thing to a group that you would in a 1 on 1 conversation?
  • What would happen if you thought you were talking 1 on 1, but the message instead went to the whole group?
  • How can you navigate carefully to make sure you know where your message is being sent?
  • Even if the group chat is deleted after 24 hours, how many people might have saved a portion of it? How is this possible?
  • How many times per day or week do you check Snapchat? Do you think Groups will impact this frequency, either more or less?

These are merely some ideas for starting points. It’s not always possible for every parent to know every feature of every app on a consistent basis. What is possible, is to care consistently about how are kids are managing themselves online – and then talk about it!

Read the Snapchat app review from Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media has a thorough Snapchat review covering how Snapchat works, potential parental concerns, user reviews, and more talking points for families. Dig in at Common Sense Media, or watch the video if you’d prefer a visual summary.

Happy chatting, and happy holidays!

Lorraine Akemann | Co-Founder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Social Media Etiquette For All Ages

On Thursday November 3rd cyberbullying became a campaign headline. Melania Trump acknowledged the good and bad sides of social media culture in her Pennsylvania speech, along with the intention to address youth cyberbullying as a national conversation. As the wife of a man who is known for his Twitter outbursts, the irony of this point was pounced upon over the Internet and Melania herself quickly became a subject for the nation’s cyberbullies.

As sarcasm exploded through the #MelaniaTrump hashtag, I wondered about social media etiquette for all ages, adults included. As a Bay Area resident who lives within miles of city with a major high school suicide problem, I believe that teen anxiety and depression may be due in part to information overload accessible through social media.

Social media is a powerful tool that can celebrate and sting at the same time. For kids, it’s especially powerful because the world is watching, which is much different when just the playground was watching. Increased audiences bring increased pressures and vulnerabilities. Children need safe space to grow their confidence and self-esteem, but when social media metrics assess every action, this safe space is at risk of disintegrating.

If we get to a point when youth is more concerned about building their audience than about building their character, we have a problem.

If we get to a point when adults are poor role models for children because they are displaying disrespectful behavior online, we have another problem.

We’ll have fewer problems if people of all ages have the tools, inclination and capacity to demonstrate respectful and productive social etiquette online. With the right examples, maybe it’s possible to turn a negative culture into a positive and encouraging culture.

Let’s start with a few tools for social media etiquette

1. Understand the definition of cyberbullying

Let’s be realistic with the risks of going online by fully understanding the definition of cyberbullying. If you know what to look for, you’ll have the tools to protect yourself. Common Sense Media has a guide for parents called Cyberbullying, Haters and Trolls. It includes answers to popular questions about how to recognize cyberbullying, what to do if kids are bullied, and how to teach safe online behavior.

2. Follow great people

With one look at the Instagram grid view for any online profile, you can quickly assess whether images are appropriate or inappropriate for a particular age group. For my young teens, we opt to follow role models in their area of interest. This includes, for example, social media accounts for sports, art, or dance. Finding positive role models amidst the vast landscape of shocking celebrity profiles can take some time but it’s worth the due diligence. In addition, we make sure plenty of close friends and family members are also linked to our children’s online networks.

3. Use platform features to create safe boundaries

Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram all have privacy settings. Accounts can be customized to be private, blocked, or unfollowed. If harassment is on the rise, ignore, block, delete or report those people or posts. These tools are available and easy to use, and can be effective in setting up smaller, safer spaces online.

What ideas do you have about social media etiquette for all ages? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments so we can continue the learning process.

Lorraine Akemann | Co-Founder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Photo credit: Creative Commons Image

Using Technology to Access More Balanced Political News

The third presidential debate was a doozy. It felt like my kids and I were watching reality TV. The disrespectful banter between the candidates at the Al Smith Dinner was even more shocking. How can I cut through inappropriate election discourse in search of facts and information to cast a confident vote on November 8th? Thankfully, I’m finding ways to use technology to access more balanced political news. Let’s review how.

Aggregate a spectrum of news from websites, apps, podcasts and Twitter

From MSNBC and Fox News to CNN, CSPAN, NPR and Politico, there is no shortage of news to digest. Tap into the sources, and make your own decisions about which organizations are the most biased.

It’s pretty darn interesting, for example, to line them all up on a Twitter list to see who is saying what. I enjoyed reading my politics Twitter feed during a live event because I could see how each network emphasized or bypassed main points.

Meanwhile, apps like CNN Politics do a decent job of summarizing key insights while offering a scrolling view of the latest headline news.

CNN Politics
CNN Politics
Price: Free

Still in doubt about which political statements are true? Fact check on PolitiFact.com, and make it a fun family game by doing challenges on their app, Settle It!

Do you have a long drive or commute ahead of you? Try podcasts, like NPR Politics, to hear what they have to say.

NPR One
NPR One
Developer: NPR
Price: Free

Use On Demand or online video to watch election debates and speeches (if you didn’t catch them live)

Live network television is not the only option for watching election debates and speeches. My cable company offers replay services like On Demand, and sites like YouTube have videos of past events for easy access. Curious to watch the infamous 3rd debate? Here it is on CSPAN’s YouTube Channel.

By watching this debate directly, I can draw my own conclusion about who won versus distilling opinions from spin doctors.

Visit campaign websites and social media channels directly

Since the third debate, I’ve been interested in the follow up speeches to observe how each candidate chooses to recover. By going to their websites and Facebook pages directly, I can access their campaign schedule and key comments to voters. What messages are they emphasizing? What messages are they deflecting? Comparing each candidate page by page gives me a sense of their respective characters.

Facebook
Facebook
Developer: Facebook, Inc.
Price: Free

Join a few mailing lists during the election season

Email is a handy way to stay in the loop even when life gets busy. While doing research for this article, I came across the Atlantic’s Politics and Policy daily newsletter and subscribed. Now at least I can receive some highlights of the day in my inbox and pursue the issues that seem interesting.

Curious about the polls?

The race is on! Check out the latest poll results on a number of sites. I found the layout on the NYTimes website to be informative because it’s broken down nationally and by state.

Interact with the issues

Ready to engage more directly? iCitizen.com is a civic engagement platform that operates at community, state and national levels. I especially enjoyed taking one of their polls to think more deeply about certain political issues.

What are your thoughts on the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign? What news sources do you use most? Please share your thoughts or tips in comments, and good luck on November 8th!

Lorraine Akemann | Co-Founder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Photo credit Flickr Creative Commons

Hollywood App Prompts Mother-Daughter Conversations

I saw the richest mom-with-app on the cover of Forbes magazine while browsing through an airport bookshop this summer. Intrigued, I purchased the reading material for my next flight. By the end of the day, I joined millions of others who downloaded Kim Kardashian’s app to my iPhone. Let’s see what it takes, I thought, to play the game of fame.

According to the Forbes article, the app called Kim Kardashian Hollywood is a remake of a preexisting app called Stardom. Glu Mobile, the company who made Stardom, approached Kim with the opportunity to rebrand the app. She went for it, and according to her remarks at the BlogHer16 keynote, she really enjoys the creative process of bringing app ideas to life.

Hollywood app prompts mother-daughter conversations

Sometimes I get so caught up in what’s educational for my kids, that I forget about what’s conversational for my kids. Hot mainstream topics, like the Kardashians, can be interesting to talk about with young teens. Instead of ignoring these types of media choices, I’d rather learn more about what makes them so popular, and then debate the findings with my girls.

Playing the app myself, I was faced with making choices about clothes, photo shoots, meeting with agents, and decisions about whether to attend a party or go to work. Within 30 minutes, I had over a dozen family discussion points. That does not include tidbits the girls found, like whether to make the game character be snarky or apologetic.

Hollywood app prompts mother-daughter conversations

Before getting carried away with our characters, we stopped the clock and had mother-daughter conversations based on the following questions:

  • What do you think about skipping work responsibilities to be more famous? 
  • What is snark? Why would a snarky comment be valuable in the game?
  • What are your favorite clothes in the game? Do you feel they are appropriate? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think the app is so popular?
  • If you made the game, how would you change the app?
  • What do you think are the pros and cons of being famous? Would you want to be famous? Why or why not?

Before long, we forgot about the app and resumed our regular summer routines. No one in the family wanted to sacrifice their chore money for virtual clothes. And that was fine with me. But meanwhile, we got to benefit from some girl talk by playing Hollywood for a day.

Lorraine Akemann | Co-Founder and Editor | Moms With Apps

10 Discussion Questions for Kids Who Play Pokémon GO

Commentary about Pokémon GO has turned into a national conversation, and opinions about real life gaming have been prolific on tech and parenting blogs. As a blogger myself, I’ve been reading about the advantages and disadvantages of being able to catch Pokémon with an iPhone. But one comment that really caught my attention simply stated the importance of discussion during the gaming experience, which is a helpful reminder worth sharing more broadly.

In the August 2016 issue of Children’s Technology Review, Warren Buckleitner published his thoughts on Pokémon GO:

“The game is loaded with local history facts, which are tied to earning the Pokéballs needed to catch Pokémon. But without discussion they’re only facts. Ask your child to share and discuss what they find.”

When reading Warren’s comment, it felt relevant not only for gaming, but also for parenting. Having discussions with my kids helped me progress through 13 years of parenting. A consistent back and forth exchange of ideas enabled me connect with them to reach agreement and understanding.

In that light, Pokémon GO can be a great source of conversation starters for families.

Here are 10 Pokémon GO discussion questions for kids

  1. Can you show me how to play Pokémon GO?
  2. What are Pokéstops?
  3. How do you catch a Pokémon?
  4. Who are your favorite Pokémon? Why? How many have you collected?
  5. Where have you found the most Pokémon? Why do you think they like that location?
  6. I keep hearing about Pokémon game terms, like gyms, eggs and leveling up. Can you explain those terms to me? What do they mean?
  7. Have you ever been in a Pokémon battle?
  8. What is your Trainer name? Why did you choose it?
  9. What are some ideas you have to stay safe and sensible while playing the game?
  10. When would be a good time to turn the game off? Or on?

Next time you find yourself in the virtual reality of Pokémon GO, remember to ask a child these Pokémon GO discussion questions to start a conversation about what they think!

For more information about Children’s Technology Review, visit www.childrenstech.com or follow them on Twitter or Instagram at @childtech. Don’t miss CTREX, their massive online database of over 12,000 academic reviews of children’s interactive media products. CTREX is an ideal search tool for teachers, librarians and parents who are constructing their digital learning initiatives for the new school year.

Lorraine Akemann | Co-Founder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Photo credit Flickr

10 Steps For Building Your Best Resume

If you haven’t guessed by now, one of my favorite apps for moms is the BlogHer.com website, network, conference, and mobile app! As I prepare to host the Resume Building Open Lab at BlogHer16, I created this checklist to outline 10 steps for building your best resume. Read along or come join the fun!

Resume Building Checklist

1. Track your work

Did you know that LinkedIn offers diverse categories to input your experience, such as volunteer work, languages, and certifications? You don’t have to be in the formal workforce to actively build a professional profile. Professional experience can be gained by managing projects, writing, speaking, or volunteering in your community. Keep track of what you do!

2. Proofread your resume

Have you had another person read your resume? If you don’t have another person around, have you read your resume backwards? Despite many opinions on the ideal resume, one universal truth is that resumes cannot have typos.

3. Choose a format that is easy to update

Whether your resume is created from an online tool, or from an app, or with a graphic template, or from a text document, one of the most important tasks is to ensure that the resume meets the needs of the job opening. This means a resume may require several iterations during a job search. Choose a tool you can update easily to get those submissions flowing.

4. Use strong action words

When describing work experience, do the phrases start with strong action words? To find out, print your resume and underline each action word. Then search Best Action Words For Resume and click through the results to get more ideas. I like the word lists from Time and Forbes.

5. Quantify accomplishments

Look at the two phrases below (from an article in Forbes) and choose which phrase sounds better. The second example is stronger because it provides evidence to underscore accomplishments. Reread your resume and quantify accomplishments where possible.

1) Managed a budget to plan large-scale events for students

2) Managed $12,000 budget to plan large-scale events for 2,500 students

6. Identify keywords by reading job descriptions carefully

Reading job descriptions is essential preparation for writing a focused resume. Does the work experience in your resume address the job description requirements? Or, have you stepped back and thought about your main sets of skills? Are you applying for jobs that match your strengths?

7. Understand applicant tracking systems

Some companies manage resume submissions electronically with software called applicant tracking systems. By understanding how these systems work, you’ll gain more confidence about the best way to create a resume. Simple formatting, accurate keywords, and no PDFs seem to be standard suggestions for resumes that make it through applicant tracking systems. For more tips, read this article from CIO Magazine.

8. Keep filenames organized

Applying to different companies may require optimizing your resume for each submission. Keep filenames organized by establishing a naming convention for each resume version. I keep a master version, and then save iterations with name_date_company in the filename.

9. Secure references

What good is a great resume if you don’t have a great reference? How can you prove that you did great work? Keep in touch with people you’ve worked for, and remember to wrap up projects with exit interviews, mutual LinkedIn endorsements, and reference requests.

10. Don’t get overwhelmed

Diving into resume writing will stir up hundreds of tools and resources. Try not to get paralyzed in the process. Different sources may offer different opinions on the rules of resume writing. Ease up, and chart the course that gives you the most confidence.

Reach out if you’d like some moral support during the process. Networking is a key part of the game! — @LorraineAkemann

Lorraine Akemann | Co-Founder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Photo credit Flickr [Mickaël MÉNARD]

The iPhone Case Dilemma

I’ve owned nearly every generation of iPhone from the iPhone 3, to the iPhone 4S, to the iPhone 5, and finally to the iPhone 6. This pocket computer with apps for everything has become an integral part of daily life. I use the phone to take photos, get directions, and over communicate. So why am I hesitant to use an iPhone case, especially with a device that I don’t want to break?

I thought of this when a blogging contact from News of the Wired told me about his new website for cellular accessories. I said, “Cool, I’ll try one out!” A case will put me at ease when my phone is in someone else’s hands. A case will provide insurance whenever I’m rummaging through my purse over concrete. A case may even prompt me to start gaming by taking it outside to collect small monsters!

Yet I still resist putting my phone in a case. Maybe it’s because my iPhone is designed exactly as it should be, and I like interacting directly with the device. Maybe I’ve finally found a product that doesn’t seem to need any extras.

To my contact, I’d like to publicly thank you for sending me a sample case from Cellular Barn. I like the site, and I’m certain that in the unfortunate event my phone slips and shatters, I may second guess my inclination to overlook the insurance!

What about you? Do you use an iPhone case? Leave a comment if you are inclined, and hopefully their new catalog will catch your interest.

Lorraine Akemann | Co-Founder and Editor | Moms With Apps