Family Cloud Computing Tips: 5 Ways to Get Connected

Family Cloud Computing Tips: 5 Ways to Get Connected

Family Tech

Technology for parents & kids: Hints, tips, online safety strategies & more.

Adapt to survive and thrive! That’s the motto of today’s tech-centric world, and families can heed that advice by taking advantage of the latest digital solutions available. After all, technology hasn’t just transformed the way we communicate, educate and entertain ourselves. It’s also opened up a world of connectivity and convenience for today’s family.

Luckily for those managing a modern household (wait: when did the four year-old learn to use our smartphone?), balancing both real and digital life doesn’t have to be difficult either. All you have to do is tap into the power of the cloud – a.k.a. online services and solutions – to stay on top of your day and everyone’s schedule.

Case in point: A variety of new high-tech tools make it easy to connect the pixilated dots by putting everything you need, from photos to calendars and phone numbers, in one place and synchronizing data across all of your family’s devices. Using these cloud services – accessible from virtually any Internet-connected gadget – you can easily login and share contacts and calendars with loved ones, or access songs, snapshots or videos nearly anytime, anywhere. But the beauty here isn’t just the ability to keep everyone on the same page, or easily share all your favorite stuff with friends and family. It’s that you can use cloud services in unexpected ways to keep in touch with loved ones, and keep up with life’s thrilling twists and turns. In essence, wherever you travel, your family travels with you – and so does all of your favorite stuff.

What makes these online software applications so handy, especially for those of us on the go, isn’t just their versatility. (You can securely store and pull down everything from chart-topping tunes to book reports to home videos from Internet-connected devices on-demand.) It’s the fact that as a parent, you can also backup everything in one secure spot where it’s easy to grab and share, and  manage and monitor family life online.

For example, Snap One provides a handy method for sharing contacts and calendars or storing all of the stuff that matters most to you online, so you can easily grab it as needed or get it back if lost. The cloud service’s apps also provide a helpful way to stay on top of kids’ comings and goings, protect your family’s privacy, and enjoy greater peace of mind.

Looking to provide your family with a convenient way to stay organized, safe, and stay up to date? Maybe it’s time you put your head in the cloud. Here are a few handy tips that can help you start putting the best that this technology has to offer to work for you and your children- and putting your increasingly hectic schedule back together.

Store More

Want to put all of your favorite files at your fingertips wherever you travel, so no one “accidentally” leaves homework lying around, misplaces the babysitter’s phone number, or forgets to bring grandma those photos she keeps asking for? Cloud storage solutions (which can archive data online so it’s accessible anytime, anywhere) make it easy to take contacts, calendars and files wherever you go. Back-up your data to the cloud and not only are secure copies readily available to be enjoyed and shared with friends and family on-demand, they’re also available to berestored in minutes if data should ever get corrupted, or should you ever lose your smartphone or tablet. Inside tip: setting devices to automatically back-up information, especially at times when you’re not using them (e.g. overnight), can help ensure that your data is always up-to-date, and that it’s always nestled safely in the cloud. Oh, and if you’re headed somewhere sunny this Spring? For fun, try setting up your devices to send vacation snapshots up to an online private area that you can share with friends and family, so they can keep up with all your travels.

Get it Together

The average high-tech household owns nearlya dozen different devices – and we’re all using an increasing variety of mobile and desktop solutions to connect. To stay organized and on top of your digital life, consider using a cloud solution, which can unite your family’s favorite files and information in one handy spot. (And that are easily visited whether you’re using a tablet, PC, Mac, iPhone, or Android or Windows Phone device.) That way, you can synchronize contacts, calendars and files across a full range of gadgets, and provide your family with access to all of your favorite photos, songs and videos in one convenient online hub.

A great way to start Spring-cleaning this season: Organize documents, photos, phone numbers and more online, then watch as clutter quickly clears across your family’s full range of devices. If you’re a parent, you’ll especially want to consider personal clouds, e.g. those Snap One provides, designed specifically for families.

To get more from solutions like these, try using them not just to manage your family’s data, but also track kids’ real-world comings and goings, and/or browsing habits.

Connect Safely

As increasingly mobile and connected as today’s kids are, many parents are looking to technology to provide greater peace of mind. Be sure to take advantage of the parental controls built into Internet-connected devices and operating systemsto keep tabs on kids’ online activity, filter out inappropriate content, and block unwanted calls. Naturally, you’ll also find them built into many popular cloud applications as well. These tools can help you keep track of where kids are at in real-life, and where they’re hanging out online, without having to helicopter over them.

Using the parental controls built into family-oriented cloud solutions like Snap Secure (which offers many handy safeguards) doesn’t just provide the ability to monitor call and text history, track Internet browsing and block specific phone numbers either. It also allows you to pinpoint your children’s location at any given moment, receive alerts when kids step out of preset safety zones, and setup quick response calls in case there’s an emergency. Spring break is a fun time, but if you’re a parent, it pays to make sure your kids are enjoying they’re time in Orlando as agreed, not Cancun.

Disinfect Yourself

Viruses and malware are among today’s fastest-growing online threats on mobile and desktop devices and are a huge concern for Android users in particular. Actively guard against them by being careful about what you click on, which sites you browse, and not opening attachments from unknown or unexpected sources. Worried that a pesky infection may be going around? Be sure to setup automatic antivirus software scans – and to keep your software safeguards up to date on the latest updates (i.e. defenses). Cloud solutions such as SnapSecure, which employs the #1 ranked Bitdefender antivirus solution, help provide a further line of defense, letting you remotely schedule virus scans from your smartphone, or even wipe data from lost devices.

Of course, it’s also important to keep your personal information private. Always be careful of what you share with others online, and don’t assume privacy settings are set by default. The nice part about personal clouds, which we discussed earlier: you can quickly and easily set them up to provide access to those you trust – and prevent access by those you don’t.

Rock On

To get the most from the cloud, don’t forget to enjoy the freedom (and fun) it brings. Clearly, online apps can help us be safer and more productive, but did you know that these solutions can also entertain (and soothe the savage toddler) as well? Just one example: Using streaming media solutions such as Snap Play, which let you store and access your music library or enjoy custom playlists from virtually anywhere, it’s easy to bring the party with you wherever you go. (You can even listen to all your iTunes music on an Android device.) Put your favorite albums and songs in the cloud, and not only can you save storage space on your computer or smartphone,you can beam your favorite tunes down on-demand, and enjoy them whenever, wherever, no matter if you’re at a picnic or out for a afternoon jog. Plus, there’s always the added bonus of being able to pull up a movie for Mom and Dad as needed – or a cartoon, if a little peace and quiet is even more needed instead.

As you can see, cloud services provide a great complement to the technology and devices you already know and love. So why worry about whose turn it is to pick up the kids (you did remember to get them from school today, right?), when you can put all your family’s calendars, contacts and most important files just a click or tap away?

Get the whole family connected on a cloud solution to stay connected, organized and safe!

10 Ways to Keep Kids Safe Online

10 Ways to Keep Kids Safe Online

Family Tech

Technology for parents & kids: Hints, tips, online safety strategies & more.

Whether you’re worried about social networks, texting, apps, video games, online privacy or other growing areas of high-tech concern, it bears remembering: Keeping kids safe in today’s online and always-connected world requires a multi-pronged approach. As with any form of technology, the most effective strategies are proactive. Educate yourself on new innovations and teach kids positive computing habits, and they’ll be better equipped to make good decisions when they encounter questionable content. Below, you’ll some practical tips for doing just that.

  • Remember that homework is for parents too: Always study, research and go-hands on with new technologies to make more informed decisions.
  • If time’s tight, get a crash course on new offerings, trends and features by visiting popular product review sites or searching for online tutorials, e.g. “How to Turn Off iPhone Purchases.”
  • Besides employing kid-friendly software, apps and web filters, educate children on online dangers and encourage them to speak up when questionable content or situations are encountered.
  • Use the parental controls built into popular entertainment devices, video game consoles and operating systems, and password-protect your settings – but don’t employ easily guessable choices like birthdays and anniversaries.
  • Activate privacy features built into popular social networks to limit strangers’ access to personal status updates, photos and videos.
  • Confine screens to common household areas such as playrooms and dens, so usage and play habits can be monitored.
  • Establish predetermined times when usage of high-tech devices is permitted or banned (e.g. during dinner), and always shut screens off at least one hour before bedtime.
  • Create and enforce house rules: Experts recommend no more than 60-120 minutes of screen time daily, balanced with other low-tech activities. Some families add or subtract time as a reward or punishment for children’s behavior.
  • If you’re worried about children’s online interactions, use programs’ and devices’ built-in features to turn off Internet connectivity, disenable digital purchases and restrict interactions to pre-approved friend lists.
  • Talk about safe online spending, and if you allow kids to make purchases, consider restricting these abilities to prepaid cards.

Technology and Kids: 5 Things Every Parent Should Know

Technology and Kids: 5 Things Every Parent Should Know

Family Tech

Technology for parents & kids: Hints, tips, online safety strategies & more.

Between smartphones, tablets, apps, portable media players, computers and connected video game systems, technology has permanently and irrevocably invaded kids’ lives. Cheerfully for today’s family, it can be an immensely rewarding and uplifting part of household hijinks, as long as parents and children observe a few simple rules alike. Following, you’ll find several expert strategies and tactics for making high-tech devices a healthy part of your home.

Make a Commitment to Education

Dozens of companies such as McAfee, Lookout and Symantec offer an equally dizzying array of software programs, apps and child-friendly Web browsers that block kids’ access to questionable content. But given the clip at which technology advances, and how savvy today’s tots are, don’t be fooled: Software’s no substitute for good, old-fashioned parenting, as an ounce of prevention far outweighs a pound of cure. Realize – homework is for parents as well as kids. As many new apps, gadgets, games and online services debut each week, and ways for connecting and communicating constantly emerge or evolve, technology’s a moving target. The only way to stay abreast of it, and meet the challenges it presents, is to constantly keep tabs on and personally try out new advancements. Ongoing research is crucial, as is investing time and interest: Like every other aspect of raising a healthy tot (i.e. feeding, clothing and teaching good manners), preparing them for life in a wired world requires a lasting commitment. Want to successfully equip sprouts to meet the challenge? It’s difficult to teach the rules of the game if you don’t spend the time to personally see just what it is you’re up against.

Keep Connected Devices in Common Rooms

It’s tempting to let kids keep computers, video game consoles and other Internet-ready devices in their bedrooms or other private areas. But speaking as a former teenage male, trust me: Screens should be confined to common areas of the home. Beyond allowing you to monitor kids’ play patterns, time investment and overall activity, doing so also allows you to see how sprouts are utilizing such systems in context, and whom they interact with. Granted, usage will obviously differ while a parent is present (it’s rare to meet a well-adjusted teen that doesn’t spout off at the mouth like a hardened sailor when adults are AWOL). But by being there during times of activity, even if only on the periphery, you will get a sense of children’s general computing habits, favorite apps/programs and the way in which kids employ such devices. Ancillary benefits are also substantial – i.e. not having to worry about a certain someone sneaking online to clock in time with World of Warcraft during the wee hours… at least, apart from Dad, that is.

Use Parental Controls

Expecting Web Watcher or Net Nanny to babysit your child is ludicrous. (Hint: Kids are smart, and have grown up alongside technology – if they can’t discover a workaround, chances are it’s just one search away on the Internet.) But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the wealth of great tools that manufacturers have put at your disposal. From Windows 7 to OS X Lion, the iPad and iPhone to PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, most mass-market computing and entertainment devices come with parental controls built-in. These controllable system settings – optionally guarded with a password – can limit access to questionable content, the Internet or hardware itself, or filter material by age-appropriateness. Using such off-the-shelf tools, it’s often simple to block R-rated movies and mature games, limit access to devices during off-hours, prevent downloadable purchases, and/or confine online interactions to pre-approved friend lists. The best part: Most are idiot-proof and readily accessible from the gadget’s Main or Settings menu, meaning even us clueless grown-ups can configure them in minutes without reading the user manual.

Guard Your Personal Information

The Internet can be a wonderful place, but it’s also an intensely public one, meaning you should approach it with the same reservations as any open forum. Moreover, no matter how much more intimate social networks like Facebook and Google+ seem, it’s important to remember: As with popular online video games (or any other space where we’re defined by virtual personas), everyone is, to some extent, playing a character. Note that many perfectly normal and healthy relationships can be formed online. But it never hurts to stay paranoid. To this extent, never give out personal information such as names, addresses, birthdays or telephone numbers, or reveal when you’ll be out of town – even if just expressing excitement over your fab upcoming Spring Break vacation. Likewise, use such services’ built-in tools and custom privacy settings to limit access to photos or video of yourself only to approved viewers. If nothing else, it’ll save some embarrassment when college recruiters or prospective employers eventually come looking.

Create and Enforce House Rules

Helping kids understand the difference between right and wrong starts with open and honest discussion. Begin by setting house rules which all family members agree on governing appropriate content, when it’s suitable to use high-tech devices (and in what context) and during which occasions – i.e. dinner – access is prohibited. Experts also agree that setting time limits on screen time is crucial for healthy development. While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one to two hours daily, feel free to tinker slightly, offering more or less time as a reward or punishment for good or bad behavior. Some families even treat the use of high-tech devices as a privilege, incentivizing positive habits by offering kids screen time in exchange for doing chores, earning good grades or helping out around the house. Under all scenarios, kids should always feel comfortable approaching you with questions, whether regarding why rules exist and punishments were enforced, or concerning questionable content they encountered while using high-tech apps or devices.

Long story short: Technology can be an immensely beneficial and uplifting part of kids’ lives. But to realize it’s full potential, you’ve got to prepare them to meet its ups and downs, and – most importantly – commit to cruising right there alongside them on the rollercoaster ride.