Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Shopping: How to Get the Best Bargains Without the Boobytraps

You want to fill everyone’s Christmas stocking with good cheer but be careful of cybercriminals.  We can help you find the best bargains without the boobytraps!

Some of the best deals of the season are online this year.  

47% of merchants said they will use social media such as Twitter and Facebook to advertise the best deals.  

This year offers some fantastic ways to find where the best bargains are and you can shop at home in your pajamas, while stuck at the airport, or even on your lunch break all with the touch of your finger!
Some companies are creating online exclusive offers.  One example is Sears.  Sears gave out fan only deals and a drawing for a gift card exclusively to their Facebook fans this year.

Here are 4 tips to find the best deals without the boobytraps!

1.  One card:  Use a specific credit card for your online purchases.  Set up alerts to be sent to your phone and email so you know every time your card is used.

2. Keep a record:  Save a screen shot or print out all receipts and hold for at least 90 days, longer if there is a warranty.

3. Be A Secure Shopper with CIS:  Computer, Internet, Secure

Computer:  Know the computer – do not use a communal computer or one that is not up to date on antivirus protection

Internet:  Check your internet access – know how you access the internet – only make a purchase if you know your connection is safe

Secure:  Secure Sites only - Check the Webname – it should include HTTPS: the S stands for secure.  The website should include an icon of a padlock

4.  Instant Access to Deals:  Sign up for email alerts from your favorite stores.  If you use social media sites such as, Twitter or Facebook, there are a lot of great deals posted on those sites.

Finding the Best Bargains:
There are several wonderful sites that you can use to help you find the best online bargains without tripping on the cybercriminal booby traps.

We have highlighted several sites that you may want to check out this year:

Social Media:
On Facebook, you will find many vendors with pages you can become a fan of.  Some are offering EXCLUSIVE deals for their Facebook fans.
Some highlights include:
Best Buy

Twitter offers some great tips about upcoming sales and special offers.
Some Twitter accounts you may want to follow include:




Holiday Shopping: Buying Tech Gadgets that are Fun & Educational for your kids

Still shopping for your kids and grandkids?  Do you want to buy them a new tech gadget that is both fun and might help them with school or afterschool activities?  You are not alone!

A recent survey said that the average shopper plans to spend around $200 on tech gadgets during the holidays.  Tech gadgets are at the top of holiday wish lists for most kids.  How do you sort through the ads and the gimmicks to find tech gadgets that are both fun and help with your kids’ education?  

Kids want to have the latest gadgets that they see on TV commercials, in the movies, the ones that their friends are using, and most of all, they want to copy and be like you which means they want what you use.

There are some great gadgets this year on both the low end and high end of the budget that support both fun and education.

I have grouped a selection of fun and educational tech gadgets into four categories:  Practical, Cool, Hands On and Games.

Practical:  Computers, Electronic Readers, Computer Accessories

Cool:  Smartphones, Gaming Systems,  Power Mats, Virtual Keyboards, Smart Pens, Portable Secure Wireless

Hands On:  Cameras that have Still & Video, Robots

Games:  Fun and educational such as problem and puzzle solving

As with all purchases, make sure you have the following with you before you purchase:
1. Budget – how much you are willing to spend
2. Price – do your homework so you know if you are getting a good deal
3. Service – how will the child receiving the gift be able to get it serviced if there is a problem
4. Warranty – if you know the child will be hard on the gadget, including an extended warranty may
                           be a good option

Practical:  Computers, Electronic Readers, Computer Accessories
Computers – Desktop or Laptop but Laptops are usually asked for more frequently by kids.  

Electronic Readers – Your kids can download newspapers and books and tag key research items that they might need for homework such as quotes and statistics.

Most kids are asking for laptops so they have the ultimate in flexibility and portability.

Windows 7 on a Desktop under $1200:  HP TouchSmart 600 has touch applications where your kid can use a touch of the screen instead of a mouse.  Sleek all-in-one design packs a nice PC into a 23.5 inch monitor.

Mac on a Desktop:   the iMac starts at under $1200 and offers a wireless keyboard and their newly designed Magic Mouse.  Screens start at 21.5 inches and go up to 27 inches.  Great all-in-one design fits on desks short for space.

Windows 7 Laptops under $600:  Dell Studio 15, HP Pavilion dm3,  Lenovo G550 2958

Mac Laptops under $1200: Apple MacBook Pro has a longer batter life with a sleep aluminum unibody design.

Electronic reader
The top 3 choices this year are:  Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, and Barnes & Noble Nook

Accessories to consider are:  extra batteries, carrying cases, adapters for car use, printers, copier/fax, scanners, mouse, headsets.

Cool – Smartphones, Gaming Systems,  Power Mats, Virtual Keyboards, Smart Pens, Portable Secure Wireless

Smartphones can provide your kids with easy access to educational information and use it as a device where they can call or text you to let you know they are safe.  Some of the top choices are iPhone, BlackBerry Storm, Motorola Droid.   Your purchase will also include a monthly service charge so make you understand contract options before buying the device.

Gaming Systems can provide your kids with a platform to surf the net, communicate with friends, store pictures, and play educational games.  Some of the top choices are PlayStation, Wii Nintendo, and Xbox.

Power Mats are designed to recharge many devices such as phones, computers, music players on one mat saving space and eliminating cords.

Virtual Keyboards project an image of a keyboard onto a desktop so you can do away with a separate keyboard.  Using Bluetooth technology, you can project a virtual keyboard to use with your computer or smartphome.  If your kids watch CSI, they will have seen this cool capability on that show.  You can find more information at ThinkGeek.com

Smart Pens offer different features and functions.  Some can record what you say and translate it to text.  Others can take short videos.  Some can copy printed words that you can upload to your computer.  For younger users, Poingo and the LeapFrog tag reading system use smart pens to help your budding reader.  For older kids, look at SpyNanny, LiveScribe and Oregon Scientific,
Portable Secure Wireless:  You can use a broadband access card as a cheaper option.  If more than one device needs to connect, consider the Sprint or Verizon MiFi option.  With the purchase of a small device and a monthly fee, you can connect up to 5 devices at a time on a secure wireless network.

Hands On:  Cameras that have Still & Video, Robots
Unique:  Pets-Eye View Camera from National Geographic allows you to see what your dog or cat sees.
Cameras for Younger Kids:  Lego and Vtech Kidizoom Plus
Cameras for Older Kids:  Nikon D300, Panasonic Lumix, Sony CyberShot, Canon PowerShot
Robot for Younger Kids:   Matchbox has a Rocky the Robot Truck that is an interactive robot and dump truck or you can program a soft and furry friend such as the My Pal Scout by LeapFrog.
Robot for Older Kids:  Tin Can Robot kit from Green Science.  The Lego and Roborover allow your kids to build robots that can also be programmed to do different tasks and functions.

Games:  Fun and educational such as problem and puzzle solving.  

This season you have many choices.   We have highlighted a few for you.  A tip to make sure your game is Family Friendly is to check the rating.  When shopping for a game, look for “E” somewhere on the box or the website.  The “E” means the Entertainment Software Rating Board has reviewed it and it is suitable for “Everyone”.  If it says "E10+", this means that the game is meant for Everyone 10 and older.
Family Friendly & Educational Games:

ItzaZoo:  Teaches children how to read or improves their reading skills.  Your kid goes on adventures with zoo animals.

Dora Saves the Crystal Kingdom:  Learn problem solving and Spanish.  Kids join Dora for adventures.

LittleBigPlanet :  Great for teaching problem solving.  You help a little boy named Sack Boy navigate by solving puzzles.  

Scribblenauts:  Puzzle solving and spelling.  You study a puzzle and spell an object that you need to have to resolve the puzzle.  

Mattel’s Mind Flex:  Using mind and body, this game uses NeuroSky technology to measure your theta-wave brain activity.  As you concentrate, you can power a fan with your mind that pushes a ball.

KidZui.com:   This is a web browser designed to keep kids safe online.  It also provides access to kid friendly games, social networking, and filters youtube videos for age appropriateness.



Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Your Kid's Posting Online Becomes their Personal Billboard - What does their brand say?

Your Kids' Online Brand.

What your kids post online could come back to haunt them when they apply for college or a job.
Their posts can lead to being cyberbullied or worse.

Some helpful tips to help your children post things they will not regret later.

1. Know the technology: Visit sites such as MySpace and Facebook.
Set up Google Alerts so you know when
something is said online about your kid.

2. Walk the talk: Open your own social networking profile.
Find out what your kids use and open a profile on that site.

2. Friend your kids: Link to your kids' online profiles.
You will be able to teach them, by example, how to be a good digital citizen.

3. The Billboard Rule: Teach your kids that what they say online can become their personal billboard
defining what people think about them- such as potential colleges or people that may hire them.

4. Digital Citizens: Observe the golden rule – be good and kind to others. Report those who are not.

5. Digital Tracks: Each post leaves a trail. Digital is forever. Anonymous is never anonymous.

A great way to know what people are saying about your kid online is to set up a
Google Alert with your kid's name.

Go to www.google.com/alerts
In the search terms box, type "Your Child's name" within quotes
Select the type of alerts as "Comprehensive"
Select "How Often". If your child is active online,
"once a day" or "as it happens" may be best.
Type in your email address
Click on the "Create Alert" button
Go to your email inbox and click on the link in the email to activate your alerts
Resources for Your Tweens and Teens:





Resources for Tweens, Teens, and Parents:








Parents – There are several Social Networking Sites you should be aware of:

Visit them.
Talk to your kids about the sites listed below.
If your kid has a profile at any of these sites, you should too.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Protecting your kids from a cyber bully

Go to the link below to see the video.

When talking to a 2nd grade class, I asked them how many of them had been cyberbullied or knew someone that had...
1/2 raised their hand.

So, I asked each kid and they had a legitimate scenario. Not good!

We talked about how to spot, block, and stop cyberbullying.

The 2nd grade class also took a pledge to never cyberbully and to report it to an adult if they see or hear about it.

WBTV Video:
Protecting your kids from a cyber bully - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC-

Test Your Cyber Bully Awareness:
1. If your child is a victim of cyber bullying, your kid now has an increased risk for traditional bullying, substance use,
school and social problems.

Answer: True

2. Most victims of cyber bullying tell an adult (parent or teacher) about their experience.

Answer: False. In a recent study by Wired Safety, only 5% told an adult.

3. Most victims of cyber bullying are bullied by a stranger.

Answer: False. Only 6.5% of kids during a recent survey said they were bullied by a stranger.

4. Cyber bullying is mostly happening to boys.

Answer: False. Both boys and girls are being bullied online.

5. Which of the following can be considered "cyber bullying"?

A. Harassing text messages

B. Posting mean web messages

C. Sending or posting embarrassing pictures of someone else without their permission

D. Threatening someone on MySpace, Facebook, or another site

E. All of the above

Answer: E. All of the above

6. If your kid is being bullied online, you should tell them to

A. Turn off the phone and/or sign off the chatroom or instant message conversation

B. Tell you or another adult

C. Block the bully's accounts

D. Ignore the bully

E. Any or All of the above

Answer: E. Any or All of the above are appropriate

7. You should not call Law Enforcement if someone threatens your kid's safety online.

Answer: False. You should call the police if someone threatens your kid's safety, asks for a face to face meeting,
or asks your kid to do something that breaks the law

8. If your child is bullied online, you should delete everything said to your kid. The messages are just too disturbing!

Answer: False. You should collect this evidence in case it is needed for action at the school or with law enforcement.
Examples include: instant messaging logs, emails, voicemail and text messages, and screenshots or prints of offending web posts.

Family Safety Pledge:

Remember to include a "No Bullying" Policy in your family safety pledge.
Ask your kids to refrain from bullying others and ask them to tell you if someone bullies them.

Have a family discussion asking your child to alert you if someone is mean to them online.
Promise them you will decide together how to handle it.

Here are 5 tips to BLOCK the bullies:

B: Block the bully's account from your email, online chat, and instant messaging.

L: Look for signs such as strange reactions to text messages or avoiding going online.

O: Obscene or harassing messages that also include physical threats should be reported to law enforcement. Provide copies of the messages for evidence.

C: Contact your school if it is from another student. Consider contacting the bully's parents.

K: Keep your home computer in an open space so you can monitor activity. 70% of teens that have been cyber bullied said they received the message at home.

Suggestions for Blocking Bullies:

Social Sites:

If the bullying is occurring on MySpace or Facebook, contact those service providers.
They have handled complaints of bullying before and may be able to remove the offensive remarks.

Cell Phone:

If the bullying is occurring via text messages, talk to your cell phone provider about blocking the bully's address.


If the bullying happens via email, most email services will allow you to block a specific email address.

Signs that Your Child May Be a Victim of Bullying:

Your child becomes withdrawn.
Obsession with being online or offline that does not match usual patterns.
Compulsive secrecy about their phone and email messages.
Suggestions for Your Kids' School:

Most schools have a zero tolerance bullying policy; ask them to include cyber bullying

Provide newsletter coverage for parents on the matter
Teach the concept in the classroom about how to spot and report cyber bullying
Other Resources:

Online Safety Tips: http://ilookbothways.com/
National Crime Prevention Center: www.ncpc.org
www.McGruff.org offers online games to help teach your kids how to spot and report cyber bullying
Information about what to do if your kid is a victim: