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Technology Tips

March 06, 2022

Cell Phone in the Washing Machine - Arg!

Talk about timing...

So I'm sitting here working on a magazine article on kids and cell phones, and I decide to take a break from the home office and switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer. (OK, and maybe grab some Triscuits and cheese... If there are downsides to working from a home office, like the constant reminder of dirty laundry, there ought to be upsides, like snacks. Right?)

Perfect time to discover that my 12-year-old son left his cell phone in his pants pocket and it went through the wash cycle. &*^())#$#^!

I knew I wasn’t alone with this problem when I Googled “cell phone in washing machine” and up popped 332,000 results. That seemed a bit overwhelming, so I decided to go straight to our service provider, who suggested removing the battery and letting the phone dry out for a few days. Sometimes that does the trick, they said — but often it doesn’t.

Unfortunately phones that are damaged by liquid aren’t covered by most manufacturers’ warranties. So this may be an expensive lesson for one young man regarding always emptying his pockets at night. (But his dad’s wallet went through the laundry — again — two weeks ago, so this may be a genetic problem we’re dealing with here!)

Hey, anything for a good article-sidebar idea, right?

Has this happened at your house? If so, did the phone ever come back to life?


January 06, 2022

Want to Watch Your Family Grow? Check This Out

Each year on June 17, since 1976, Diego and Susy Golberg have taken a photo of themselves for posterity. When sons Nicolas, Matias and Sebastian arrived, each joined in the yearly ritual as well.

After three decades, what has been created can only be described as a treasure. Check it out on their website.

ABC News producers were so taken with the project, they did a segment on it, which you can also see on the site.

Funny, but Diego and Susy don't look too pooped during the crazy baby/toddler years, but when the boys hit their early teens, they look like they've been through a lot! Coincidence?

You might be wondering how I stumbled upon this cool website in the first place. I found it through StumbleUpon, an amazing new site that helps you find websites, videos, photos and more, based on your interests. (Be careful... It's addictive!)

December 13, 2021

Sick of Video Games? Get the Kids Hooked on Something Better

"Mom, can I do PlayStation?" It's a phrase I hear all too often, even though we limit "screen time" at our house. Of course, I don't completely despise video games (although they do seem to suck the brain cells from my 11-year-old son's skull, right before my eyes). That black box comes in handy when Mom and Dad are in need of a privilege to take away when a certain kid crosses the line.

Sure, Matt spends plenty of time doing homework, hanging with friends and playing sports, too. But what I've been wanting, this holiday season, is a gift that will replace video games when Matt wants to noodle around with something electronic around the house. Something educational and also fun. (That will be just between us. Dare I use the words "educational" and "fun" in the same sentence? Not around Matt, who'€™s sure he gets enough education at school.)

DIGITAL MUSIC MAKING TO THE RESCUE

Finally, I've found the answer: Creating and recording music on our home computer. Specifically, using GarageBand (approx. $99 as part of the iLife '08 Family Pack), which we have installed on our Mac. You can also find similar software for Windows, such as Cakewalk Sonar Home Studio (approx. $100) M-Audio Pro Tools (approx. $249), Sony ACID Pro (approx. $40), etc.

Matt has been taking piano lessons since first grade, but he was never able to combine his love of music with his love of pushing buttons and messing with games and all things digital. Until now.

Chris "Sharpie" Sharp, 37, of Midland, Texas, knows just a little bit about this whole digital-music thing — on a somewhat grander scale. As the monitor engineer for Rob Thomas on his recent solo tour and for the upcoming Matchbox Twenty tour this January through March (he's also worked with Nickelback, Usher, Evanescence and others), this guy understands music and the digital world. (If, like me, you need a definition of what a monitor engineer does, Sharp is the guy off to the side of the stage who mixes the sound that the band hears in their earpieces while they're playing.) I couldn't think of a better-qualified person to ask about all this electronic stuff because he is not only musically and technically savvy — he's also a devoted dad.

GEARING UP

Sharp and his wife, Rinda, 32, have two kids, 15-year-old daughter Destinie and 15-year-old son C.J., so he knows all about the allure of video games. But he thinks my husband and I might be onto something by deciding to get Matt a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) controller to use with GarageBand. 

This keyboard-like device (prices start at around $200) doesn'€™t record sound waves like a tape recorder does. It digitally encodes the start of a note, its pitch, length, volume and musical attributes, such as vibrato. As a result, MIDI music files take up a lot less space than digitized sound files. (So there might actually be some room left on the computer for Matt's book reports...) Soon Matt will be able to write and record his own songs and send MP3 files to his friends.

Using a MIDI controller with computer software like GarageBand can open up a whole new world of creativity for a kid, Sharp says. And today's digital technology means that you don't need an entire board, like the monster board he uses on tour, to record your own music. A kid can do it at home. Pretty cool.

GOING FISHING


While he agrees that many parents can barely tolerate the video games that their kids crave, music is something where we can meet our kids halfway, Sharp notes. "Music speaks to each person," he says, adding that he tries to share in the types of music that interest his kids while also subtly sharing his favorite music with them. (And in his line of work, he's definitely on the "hip-dad" side of things, which helps.) "It's sort of like fishing. You can't force your kids to be interested in a certain thing, but you can try different types of bait." So you'll hear hip hop, rock, Tejano and other types of music around the Sharp home.

Sounds like good advice. And while my husband and I love to share our favorite music with Matt, and we love to learn about what he likes, we're looking forward to hearing him make and record some fun music of his own very soon. Because with today's technology, a kid's desire to play with electronic stuff and push buttons can be satisfied while he's also learning about computers, music and all things digital.

Take that, Dragon Ball Z!

September 10, 2021

How is Your Teen's Tech Etiquette?

Cell phones. Instant messaging. E-mail. Our teens (and even our pre-teens) are pretty well connected these days. And that makes it likely that they'll forget, sometimes, that it's all too easy to be quite rude or even hurtful when using one of these devices.

Writer Melanie G. Snyder tackles the subject in this month's Broward Family Life magazine, a publication for Broward County, Florida parents. (Click on the link to download the Sept. issue as a PDF file.) If you've been to a movie lately, or if you have a child who has been hurt by IM-inspired gossip, you'll agree that Snyder's message is timely — and important.

She offers a terrific article, along with some great "Tech Etiquette Sanity Tests" from Nancy Willard, author of Computer Ethics, Etiquette and Safety for the 21st Century Student:

Continue reading "How is Your Teen's Tech Etiquette?" »

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