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.

Still in doubt about which political statements are true? Fact check on, 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.

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.

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? 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 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 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

How Library Tech Helps Boost Summer Reading

Welcome to long summer days and relaxing summer nights. Kids are decompressing from the school year and easing into a new, low key routine. Summer reading is a fulfilling and mellow pastime for the whole family, and having plenty of books around is key to keeping it going. I’d love to share how we use technology to boost our access to new (and free!) reading materials all summer long.

Increase Book Selections with Summer Reading Lists

At the beginning of summer I print out reading lists for each daughter. My favorite grade-level lists are provided by the Houston Area Independent Schools Library Network (HAISLN). I like these lists because they are accessible online, and contain at least a paragraph to describe each book. The descriptions are important for helping kids preview and select books of choice.

Local libraries may also have their own reading lists. For example, the teen section for Redwood City Library provides reading recommendations for each area high school, which are all available online.

Find Incentives with Summer Reading Challenges

Search “summer reading challenge” in your web browser to find national challenges (like the one hosted by Scholastic) or regional challenges from libraries. For older readers, the GoodReads social network has an annual reading goal program that can be used during the summer months. With a quick search we found the summer reading challenge for our local library, and I’ll bet yours has one too!

Access Books Freely and Easily with the Library Hold System

Physically taking a book list to the library and trying to find all of the books by hand can take a lot of time. Sometimes, your branch may not have the book or it may be checked out. To streamline, we use our library’s online catalog to place a hold on each title. This way, we receive notifications once the books arrive to the hold shelf. Using the hold system is an awesome way to stock up on a bunch of recommended books, for free!

Would you rather access the library catalog on mobile? That should be easy enough. Just check if your local library has an app, or add the library’s webpage to your home screen.

Once our summer reading is underway, visiting the library (and the treasures waiting on the hold shelf) becomes a real treat. If you are motivated to keep kids current on keyboarding or digital literacy skills, have them log books onto a Google Doc. Let them build a table with title, author, and date completed. Before long, the book list will grow, and peaceful readers will fill the home.

Lorraine Akemann | Cofounder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Photo Credit Flickr [Spirit-Fire]

Shark Week Educational Apps for Kids

I’ve been a fan of Shark Week since it was first created as a TV programming series in the late 1980s to dispel myths about sharks. Its success enabled viewers all over the world to appreciate these awesome creatures as way more than just predators circling divers in a cage.

Although Shark Week has recently slid into sensationalism (which has appalled the scientific community because of fictitious and non-factual shows), the result of having a dedicated week to be reminded about the ocean’s wonders can serve as a positive benefit for environmental awareness.

Let’s continue the awareness by considering educational apps that are fun for young summer learners during Shark Week.

shark week
“Murky Reef” (critical thinking activities for elementary students in 1st and 2nd grade)
shark week
“Treasure Kai and the Lost Gold of Shark Island” (interactive book app)
shark week
“A to Sea” (alphabet app with sea creatures for early learners)
Shark Week
“A Shark Knocked on the Door” (animated storybook app in Spanish and English)

I curate apps by searching the Know What’s Inside App Discovery Center, reading Digital Storytime’s reviews, researching what’s new on the App Store, reading the App Friday newsletter, and from keeping in touch with the network of family-friendly app makers I’ve known throughout the years. If you have a favorite Shark Week app for kids, please let me know in comments, or tweet to me at @LorraineAkemann.

Happy Summer Learning!

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

Photo Credit Flickr [Matt Kowalczyk]

Let’s Build Your Resume At BlogHer16

If you are thinking about your next career step, join me at #BlogHer16 on Friday August 5th for the Resume Building Open Lab.

BlogHer Open Labs are hands-on round table sessions where attendees share expertise on specific topics. I will be leading the Open Lab for Resume Building, and near me will be experts available for WordPress, Google Analytics, and Email Marketing. BlogHer Open Labs are a great place to get individual questions answered. Be sure to come and check them out!

For my lab, feel free to bring your latest resume or thoughts about career goals, and we can take it from there. Can’t make it to the Open Lab? No problem, just reach out on social media (@LorraineAkemann) and I’ll be happy to connect at another time. Here is a list of subjects we’ll be ready to address:

Resume Review

Let’s get into the nitty gritty and read your resume together. Having an objective person review your resume can help prioritize the most compelling content, scan for typos, and give the boost of confidence needed to get that resume out into circulation!

Resume Formatting

Dates, indentations, margins, grammar and headings: elements like these can be the reason why resume writing is such an overbearing process! Let’s face it together. I’ll have some reference books and samples on hand so we can make sensible decisions on whether that section needed a semicolon or a period!

Creation Tools

Resume creation tools are becoming more dynamic and visual as our world continues to shift online. Although I prefer the easy accessibility of Google Docs (always simple to update), other options like Canva or Visual CV provide templates and tools for a graphically designed layout. The good news is that plenty of options exist to get your resume experiment started.

Building Blocks (with LinkedIn)

What content will you use for work experience and education when your life has been so diverse? My favorite tool for tracking experience over time has been LinkedIn. There are sections of LinkedIn that cover volunteer work, autonomous projects, certifications and awards. Even if you’ve taken a break from the formal workforce, LinkedIn still provides ways to keep your profile up to date.

File Management

Creating a resume is a process which involves several iterations. Adding a skill, tweaking an action verb, or adjusting the format can be an ongoing process. Keep your files organized to ensure version control. I create folders in Google Drive and save each iteration with the exact date in the filename.

Securing References

As job searches progress, past work references may be needed for potential employers. Do you have people in mind who can provide those references? Are they prepared to receive calls and inquiries to give testimonials about your work? Make sure these contacts are well prepared. A great way to do this is to specifically request a reference after every major project you complete, and then find a reason to keep in touch with that person every few months.


Planning for your next career move involves proactive steps to stay connected to others. This includes having a “yes” mindset (“you bet, let’s do lunch!”), securing references, endorsing others, and attending meetups, conferences or networking events. It’s not always easy to step out into the limelight, but keeping your network in motion is a huge part of uncovering new opportunities.

Luckily, we’ll be in the right place to jump start this type of networking. BlogHer is my number one resource for personal and professional development. Follow everyone you meet, tweet about sessions you find valuable, create new content for your blog, share and learn best practices, and meet new, mutually supportive people.

Going alone? Me too. Let’s meet up!

Lorraine Akemann Quote Card Code

Having worked in corporate America prior to having children, I firmly believe that women should have every opportunity to return to the workforce with confidence. Motherhood, entrepreneurship, blogging and community-building enabled me to find my own professional voice while building a diverse set of leadership skills. The more active I become, the more work opportunities I find.

Let’s lead the charge for workforce confidence at #BlogHer 16. I can’t wait to meet you!

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

Photo Credit Flickr / Flazingo Photos

Best Apps For Hipsters

As a mom of teen girls, why should I care about the apps hipsters are using on their mobile phones? I guess I care because knowing what’s current gives me context while talking with my own kids.

So I started thinking about which apps are popular in contemporary culture and turned my notes into this list. From music and photography to money and transportation, let’s check out what’s deemed necessary by today’s modern youth.


Instagram, VSCO and Google Photos are three apps making an impact on how photos are taken, altered, shared and managed. I use Instagram and have enjoyed posting creative scenes since I opened the account. Using Instagram helps me notice unique moments I can archive in the handy grid view of a microblog.

VSCO seems to take mobile photography to a whole new level. It feels like a virtual photo gallery for the world’s creatives, and offers a wide number of editing tools that my daughter appreciated when I introduced the app to her.

Google Photos backs up all of the photos on your phone upon downloading and opening the app. Features like albums, collages, animations and movies are easily accessible and in some cases automated. As a person who likes to determine the exact file structure of my data, I’m not sure how comfortable I feel with all of the automation just yet. But automation seems to be the way things are done nowadays, so I plan to give it a shot.


I’ve heard references to SoundCloud and Hype Machine as apps for listening to music. SoundCloud is a free app to discover and share favorite tunes, and Hype Machine scans the blogsphere to fuel music listings. Both apps are social, enabling likes, favorites and connections. With only a limited amount of time spent on each app, I’ve already diversified my music interests and look forward to hearing more.

Social Media

Snapchat’s popularity continues to grow, and has surpassed Instagram as the most popular messaging app per a survey released in early 2016. Why is Snapchat so appealing? This video explains how its in-the-moment platform creates authenticity among users, and the absence of follower metrics actually decreases anxiety. After so many years of Facebook-like obsession, maybe Snapchat feels refreshing?

Mobile Payments

With apps like Venmo, physical cash wallets may become extinct! Payment apps let people split the bill with a simple swipe or tap. Sign up, add your bank account, pay and collect with friends.

The questions surrounding these seamless transactions involve security and privacy, and it sounds like the FTC may be investigating Venmo as we speak. But I doubt a single investigation will fend off the rapid adoption of digital payments. Too much convenience has been realized by leaving cash at home. Here is a summary of more apps for mobile payments, plus their pros and cons.


Need a lift? Touch a button and your ride awaits. The driver knows exactly where to find you based on the geolocated phone in your hand. Apps make this process so easy that using a human voice to call a cab feels like ancient history. Uber and Lyft are the tools of choice, and even employ drivers with free time to be the ride-givers. These companies have not only transformed how to get from point A to point B, they also uncovered crowdsourced economic options for suppliers. What a world!

I need to watch out before doing more research on hipsters or else I’ll feel like a college student again. The coolest apps seem to be the ones that help social situations flow smoothly. Let’s go out! (Uber). Let’s connect! (Snapchat). Let’s listen to cool stuff! (SoundCloud). Let’s post a great moment! (Instagram). Let’s engage with each other. Maybe interacting with a smartphone isn’t so anti-social after all.

Lorraine Akemann | Cofounder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Photo Credit Flickr [Nuno Ribeiro]

The Number One Rule For My Daughter’s iPhone

We gave our oldest daughter an iPhone for her 11th birthday. Now she is 13. For two years we have followed a consistent rule for the phone, and I believe this rule has helped our family adapt to technology in a balanced way.

The Rule Is Simple

The number one rule for my daughter’s iPhone is that every single night the phone is powered off and stored in the dining room drawer. Powering off a phone and storing it in a common area overnight does not sound revolutionary. The rule does not contain parental controls or overbearing stipulations. The rule is simple, and maybe that is part of its effectiveness.

The Rule Involves The Whole Family

The rule does not single out my daughter as the only one responsible for implementing the rule. Life gets busy and it’s easy to forget details like putting a phone in a drawer. Part of the evening for everyone (Mom, Dad, Daughter, Sister) is to make sure devices are powered off and in their place.

If one person forgets, another remembers, and asks out loud if the phone is put away. Asking out loud reminds and reinforces the importance of the rule. It becomes everyone’s responsibility to put technology to bed.

The Rule Is Consistent And Habitual

Because the rule occurs every night, the practice gains consistency over time and turns into a regular routine. This habit is woven into a rhythm of family life. For our family it now feels natural to power off and put away a phone.

Not all families experience this type of consistency. Some kids spend different nights of the week in different locations. In this case, it would be up to the caregivers to standardize the routine and expectations, regardless of whereabouts.

The Rule Was Stated Before The iPhone Became Available

I kicked off our daughter’s iPhone gift with a letter about appropriate usage that we both agreed upon. This agreement eliminated battles over personal devices from the beginning because expectations were understood upfront.

But letters and contracts may not be the most intuitive tool for families. For example, if you ask me right now, I can’t recall the specifics of our agreement except for the one rule about putting the phone in the drawer at night. Maybe for us, the most valuable part of the agreement was to form that rule. The act of stating ideas in advance can help promote good habits before bad ones get in the way.

The Rule Supports A Bedtime Routine

Bedtime routines are traditionally associated with raising young children. But as digital media plays an increasingly central role in daily life, bedtime routines can be helpful at any age. It can take a lot of willpower to create tech-free zones with devices in arm’s reach. The nightly ritual of powering off and creating physical separation provides a buffer to foster distraction-free sleep.

The Rule Employs Trust

Let’s say the phone is in the drawer at bedtime, but a mouse sneaks out to get the phone in the middle of the night. Does that make the rule a total dud? Sneaky mice are a possibility in any household. In our home, I’m a light sleeper, and I hear it when kids wake up. I would recommend choosing a drawer that is closer to the parents’ bedroom to increase the likelihood of hearing any mice!

While it’s technically possible that every night for the past two years my daughter has woken up to sneak a peek at the phone, it’s more likely that she has appreciated her sleep. I’m making a choice to trust her, and right now that feels like the right choice.

The Rule Helps The Morning Routine

In the era of instant gratification, have you noticed that powering up a phone takes awhile? I love this tendency about electronics because it makes powering off even more effective. The instantaneous rush of phone-checking can be deterred by the inconvenience of grabbing the phone and waiting for it to power up. All ready for school? OK, now grab your phone, or better yet, forget it completely until later in the afternoon.

The Rule Is Contagious

To have any credibility with my family I’m supposed to be modeling this rule myself. I have seen the rule in action with my daughter, and the healthy overall tone it’s setting for media use. On nights when I put my phone to bed early, I also sleep better and feel more balanced.

Our household rule may have been created for my daughter, but it benefits me as well. It’s pretty interesting to hear myself admit: “I want to be more like her.”

As a parent, I’m always learning. I am interested to hear about your household rules for media management. What works, what doesn’t? 

Lorraine Akemann | Cofounder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Photo Credit Flickr [Adam Fagen]