Back to school season is definitely upon us, and if you haven’t shopped for the latest and greatest in back to school technology, you’re in luck. TechNow creator and host Jennifer Jolly joined me yesterday to dish on the future of technology. She also shared tips on how parents can save money when purchasing tech gadgets, and most important of all, how parents can keep their children safe while using tech devices.
Candace Rose: What are some of the hottest tech must haves this year for students?
Jennifer Jolly: “We’re really standing in the middle of the classroom of the future. Instead of chalkboards back here, you’re seeing a smart board. You’re seeing holographic keyboards, a smart pen, it’s really a smart device. It’s a way for kids to automatically record everything they write, hear and draw during class time and automatically synch those to the iDevices.
We’re seeing everything from smart watches for kids to what’s really become like the number 2 pencil these days, and that’s basic smartphones and tablets. These are all the hottest devices and even though we’re kind of in this classroom of the future, these are available now.”
Candace Rose: How can a family save money or better stretch their tech-budget?
Jennifer Jolly: “Well, the good news is there are more ways than ever to really get more bang out of your budget when it comes to going back to school There are lots of specials going on right now across devices and across carriers. One that you should definitely check out is T-Mobile. They are having four lines for $100 a month. That is unlimited talk, text, 10 gigabytes of LTE data, no strings attached except that you have to sign up before September 30th. That alone will save the average family about $60 a month, and with that savings you can get two or three of these other gadgets.”
Candace Rose: Do teenagers really need a device for school?
Jennifer Jolly: “More often than not these days schools are implementing a BYOD (bring your own device) kind of policy. They’re asking kids to come to school with a gadget that they can take notes or access the internet or they’re asking that as soon as you go home you need to do a lot of homework online. You need to turn in your homework online. My daughter’s 13, she’s going into the eighth grade. All of their homework is managed online, so more often than not we’re seeing that kids either need to have their own specific devices or at the very least need to utilize one that the school loans them for the year.”
Candace Rose: What precautions should parents take – should they spy on kids phones?
Jennifer Jolly: “Well, parents not only have a right to know what’s going on with these gadgets that your kids have, but really it’s your duty as a parent in 2014 to know how much time your kids are spending on these connected devices, what websites they’re visiting, what they’re doing across social media, what apps they’re downloading, and you need to do some homework yourself.
I am talking so much about the apps that raise a red flag – I’m talking Snapchat that all my daughter’s friends use. I’m not okay with her using that one because if you have to send something that you need to delete (which half the time isn’t deleted anyway) chances are you’re saying something that shouldn’t be said. That’s also true when it comes to kids wanting to have these gadgets in their bedrooms overnight. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that ‘Oh, but my alarm’s on my smartphone’. Too bad, mom’s buying you a five dollar alarm, all of the gadgets go out of that bedroom at night because there is nothing good that can happen between a teen and the world wide web at midnight. We’re just seeing a lot of sleep deprivation and a lot of trouble, so get those gadgets out of those bedrooms.”
Candace Rose: What programs or apps should parents consider to keep track of kids’ device use?
Jennifer Jolly: “There’s a lot of apps, there’s built-in parental controls across most devices – everything from the tablets that you see here to the smartphones that you see here (please see video above for details) and basically all the laptops have built-in controls. Your carriers and subscriber services have built-in parental controls, and then there’s free apps like Teensafe. It’s free, works across Android and IOS and it gives you a really good idea of what your kids are doing on that specific device.
And then if you want to go full NSA lock it down know what’s happening every second, there’s something called Mobiflock Mobile Guardian. That’s going to cost a little and it works across all platforms. That’s going to give you a much deeper dig, you’ll be able to read your kids text messages and that sort of thing. But really parents, this isn’t about spying on your kids and helicopter parenting and controlling their every move, it’s about engaging, setting up rules and boundaries. It’s a lot like when you teach your child, your teen how to drive a car, you don’t just hand them the keys and wish them good luck as they head off out into the wild world in traffic. It’s the same idea with these devices.
I know that you feel like they know more than you, do a little homework. Make them teach you if nothing else, but make this be something that you’re doing together.”
Candace Rose: Where can we go for more information?
Jennifer Jolly: “You can always go to my website at JenniferJolly.com or check out our weekly series TechNow at USAToday.com or for some of the really great back to school specials, go to T-Mobile.com.”