WARNING to Parents: Check Your Kids’ Phone For the After School App

New apps are popping up all the time.  This is why monitoring your child’s phone, apps, and activities is so important.  The newest app I have a personal experience with is called After School.  My son called me upset because horribly things were being said about his girlfriend, sexual things. I’m thinking, what kind of app is he using and what is it supposed to be for? My first thought is that maybe it was a tutor or homework help or maybe a meet up app and he could just report the posts as being inappropriate. Turns out it’s an app where people can be anonymous and say, pretty much whatever they want to say about their peers.

I visited the After School app website. It claims to be ”

“After School fosters fun and creative online and offline experiences for America’s teens, in a positive environment with zero tolerance for cyberbullying, threats, or content that threatens the safety of our online community.”

But that is far from what it is. In fact, it’s a breeding ground for everything listed and then some.  I downloaded the app myself to see first hand how easy it was to use and get into.  It’s a free app to start so the barrier of paying for it is already eliminated. It requires you to turn on location service to “locate your school” so you can find your school.  There is no way to use the app without turning location service on.
As soon as the app turns on you are greeted with this picture:

Inappropriate for what is supposed to be a “positive kids app”.  Once in your presented with a list of school from the location service which are pretty accurate and your child must select a school.

It goes on to have you choose an anonymous picture.  Really anyone can sign up for this app. It also asks to access your contacts “so you can find other people that go to your school”. Um wouldn’t a child already know most of the people he/she would want to communicate with??   Then there are filters for sexual, profanity, and drugs. In order to have these taken off they want you to scan your id into the app to “prove” you are 17 yrs of age+.  How scary is that?!!  It also requires the user to link their facebook account so I don’t know how it could be anonymous.

Once on, Kids can use gifs along with their posts. Quite a few inappropriate for kids with one that pulled up almost immediately with a girl half dressed shaking her butt.  Kids asking questions like “Would you have sex with Dyllan at school?” and kids talking about having 3 ways. Yes there are innocent ones like kids admitting they have a crush on someone or if they would kiss so and so but it’s maybe only 50% of the posts. Most are sexual related and I didn’t even turn off the filters because there was no way I was scanning any ID!!  Some kids are actually using their actual pictures and I know some of these kids!!  They have to link their facebook accounts to join so it’s not truly anonymous.

I can also not find a way to easily remove yourself from the app.  Here are just a couple things I found in the 5 min I was on there but there were plenty more.

 

This app with location services and the way kids talk would be a pediphiles dream.  I can’t tell you how to parent but I recognized plenty of kids on there that my son knows. Kids I never thought would say those things.  Check your kids phones.  Don’t assume your kid wouldn’t do that. I never thought my son would fall for an app like this but he did!

There are stories of kids being contacted by people that don’t even go to their school.  When I searched more about it I found an article about in on the Washington Post as well.


Six Financial Saving Tips Before Pregnancy

Six financial saving tips before pregnancy

Planning and expecting mothers usually do a lot of research to help them be better, more prepared mothers. Having a baby and witnessing the miracle of life is a beautiful experience, but it can also be terrifying, especially the expenses.

Listed below are some financial tips for saving money before the baby arrives:

1. Monitor your budget

Planning a budget requires research; you probably won’t know all your expenses without monitoring your current budget. Collecting receipts is a great way to see where your money is going and to become aware of foolish spending habits.

Once you look at your current expenses, it’s easy to see where a new baby would add to costs. Aside from expenses like diapers and wipes, babies increase the cost of some utilities (e.g. water for baths and bottle washing).

You should also decide whether and when you would need to pay for childcare. You don’t want just anyone watching your little one, and finding a reliable babysitter can be time-consuming and costly.

Perhaps most importantly, make sure you have an emergency fund set aside. Babies come with a lot of unexpected expenses, so it’s best to be prepared for these.

2. Cut back on things you don’t need

If you save your receipts, it’s easier to see what you actually need and what things you could live without.

Making a list of essential and non-essential expenses will help you figure out where you can cut costs. You may find that some necessities like groceries are a better bargain at different outlets than the one you traditionally use.

Buying food from a restaurant instead of preparing meals at home is an example of a non-essential expense. Not only is it healthier to eat food you make at home, but also it can save loads of money.

You can prepare meals and store them away for when you need them, or you can stock your freezer with microwavable meals from the grocery store. Either way, you will save time and money.

You should also consider paying off all the bills that you can before the baby arrives. Pregnant women often underestimate the amount of time and energy they will have left for phone calls and paperwork after the baby arrives.

You’ll also find that you can do without other things like magazine subscriptions or pricey movie rentals. Getting a library card or investing a few dollars in a Netflix subscription is a viable way to save money on home entertainment.

It is true that you will be very busy with your new baby. However, newborns sleep a lot during the first few months, so you will have a lot of time to occupy while your baby sleeps.

3. Work for as long as you can before your due date

Although the last few months of pregnancy are very uncomfortable, you should look for ways to increase your income (or at least maintain it as long as you can).

One of the easiest ways you can make extra money (and prepare your home for your new baby) is by organizing your house.

Chances are, you will stumble across a lot of things you no longer want or need. Then, you can sell the items online, to individuals, or at consignment shops.

Also, if you are currently employed, your employer may allow you to work from home as you’re due date approaches. Some may even consider hiring you for extra projects you can do from home.

4. Start accumulating items early on

Mothers need a few things for themselves as well as their babies during and after the pregnancy.

A healthy pregnancy is characterized by weight gain of at least twenty-five pounds. Your growing baby needs room to grow, so, before your skinny jeans get too tight, you should begin saving and shopping for maternity clothes.

Like most things, maternity clothes are expensive when they’re brand new. But that’s the great thing about places like consignment shops, thrift stores, and garage sales.

You may find gently used baby products at some of these places, and this is true of costlier items like baby beds as well as baby clothes.

More than likely, you know someone who became a mother recently. They may also have some maternity clothes (and baby items) they can let you borrow (or even give you).

In planning for financial expenses, you should also consider the generosity of friends and family. A lot of people have leftovers from their baby just taking up space, and some people just enjoy giving things to people they love.

5. Host a (diaper) baby shower

While everyone does not plan a baby shower, it is a great way to start collecting items for your new baby, especially diapers. After all, diapers are perhaps the biggest expense for parents.

You will be amazed at how much you can save on everything you want and need for your new baby, even if everyone only brings a box of diapers. You may find the pricey bouncer or car seat you had your heart set on underneath some wrapping paper.

6. Consider breastfeeding

A formula could be one of the most expensive things in your baby budget. Women that choose to breastfeed save a lot of money and hassle associated with feeding their babies.

Obviously, the longer you can breastfeed, the more you will save (and the health benefits for both mother and baby are worth mentioning).

Women who plan to breastfeed should consider that there might be difficulties: some babies have trouble latching and some mothers find that they lack the patience or the time necessary for breastfeeding.

If you do plan to breastfeed, you should be committed to the task and discuss breastfeeding with a lactation consultant. They can give you a lot of information and tips on how to breastfeed (like briefly supplementing your breast milk with formula).

Conclusion

You should be committed to finding ways to save money as soon as you learn you are pregnant.

Actively monitoring your budget won’t just help you adapt to having a new baby; it will also help you plan better for the future. Planning is a key factor in decreasing the stress of financing your family.

Hannah Tong is the founder of Omaby.com, a blog dedicated to providing accurate advice to mothers regarding childcare. She loves taking care of her kids and teaching them the right things. She is also enthusiastic and loves sharing her experiences to teach others about how to care for their families’ health. Check the latest article (Is It Safe To Do Yoga While Pregnant?) here.


Here’s What We Thought of the Pittsburgh Mills Sky Trail

We received complimentary tickets as part of the Pittsburgh Kids Guide. 

There are times that you try something out for the first time and it’s just not what you thought it would be. Then there are other times you try something new out and you wonder when you’ll be able to do it again.  Pittsburgh Mills Sky Trail is one of those experiences.

Located in the Pittsburgh Mills Mall, Pittsburgh Mills Sky Trail is a 32-foot tall, 2 level ropes course complete with 30 exciting elements including zig-zag beams, cargo nets, angled rope ladders, crisscross walks and more. Participants choose their own path through the elements and go at their own pace. The ropes course is also equipped with a Sky Rail zip line connection measuring 69′ long. Participants soar down the length of the ropes course on a self guided zipping experience and are able to enjoy it’s thrills over and over. For young adventurers, there’s a specially designed Sky Tykes ropes course for kids ages 2-7.

We went on Halloween, October 31. I really didn’t know what to expect. Would it be super busy? Will it be worth the drive from Johnstown? Will all the kids be able to get the same enjoyment out of it? Valid question considering my 4  kids range from 2 years to 13 years old. When we arrived we found it right next to the food court.  It was quite an impressive set up considering it was in a mall.

Pittsburgh Mills Sky Trail header

It says it’s fun for ages 2-102. The staff gave us a friendly greeting.  They got all 4 of my kids lined up and fitted with the proper size harnesses.  They went over the safety rules with us. The boys were ready to jump into the big kids Sky Trail while my daughter was anxious to try out the Sky Tykes.

Pittsburgh Mills Sky Trail getting ready

My 6 year old was right in the middle where he could have done the big kids Sky Trail or use the Sky Tykes area.  He jumped right into the Sky Trail.  All 3 of the boys started on the Sky Trail while I took my 2 year old daughter over to the Sky Tykes area.  She wanted to climb but she was a little bit nervous. It didn’t stop her though.  Most of the time she wanted mommy to hold her hand.

The nice part is the harnesses are fitted to each person.  They are hooked up to tethers that slide along the bars. They never detach except manually to go on the zip line but they had another staff member assisting people with that.  I’m a nervous Nelly but I had very little concerns with my kids climbing around over my head 12-18 feet in the air. Even if they would lose their footing, they weren’t going anywhere. There were plenty of staff there to help too.

My 6 year old ended up getting cold feet on the big kids trails so he came down and decided to try the Sky Tykes area.  After playing on that area for a bit he decided he was ready to go back on the grown up area.

Pittsburgh Mills Sky Trail Sky Tykes

That practice on the Sky Tykes area must have been just what my 6 year old needed because he was almost keeping pace with his big brothers, 11 and 13 years old respectively.  Almost, my older boys had no fear what so ever.  I kinda wish I would have tried it myself.  But I had the opportunity to talk to the assistant manager and other staff and get some great pictures.  I can’t say enough about how friendly and helpful the staff were.  Everyone had a great time.

Pittsburgh Mills Sky Trail big boys

This would be a great activity to jump in the car on a runny or cold winter day and get your kids active.  Break the boredom and try this place out. Seriously fun for the whole family.  Save your self some money too with a coupon from the Pittsburgh Kids Guide!  It’s $14 for those 48″ or taller and $7 for those under 48″ tall.

SAVE Ropes Course COUPON Pittsburgh Mills #SkyTrail @SkyTrailMills Ages 2-102 http://pittsburghkidsguide.com/coupon.php?regionid=58&bid=12019&lid=16685&dealid=1955

Be sure to stop by Pittsburgh Mills Sky Trail facebook page too tell them Luv Saving Money sent ya!

I’ll leave you with a clip of my 11 year old doing the zip line section of the Sky Trail:

 


Changes In Safety Guidelines For Baby Over The Years

I have 4 kids. My oldest is 13 and my youngest is 2.5.  There’s been a lot of changes with safety guidelines for babies over the years.  For instance, when my oldest son was born his car seat was only a 3 point harness, not the 5 point we use now.  I remember a point when they told us to place baby’s on their tummy’s to sleep.  Of course for years now it’s been that baby’s should sleep on their back.  If you want to go even further, I remember as a young kid not even considering that I’d have to sit in a car seat or booster seat.  I remember people talking about holding their babies in the car which seems unfathomable now.

The point is, a lot has changed in safety recommendations and laws over the years.  It will continually change.  Heck they’re talking about rear-facing until 2 years old now.

For all you grandparents out there, especially new grandparents, you want to do your best to make sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. You certainly know how to take care of a child but can you honestly say you’re up on all the newest safety guidelines and laws for babies? If you are, keep it up! If you admit that you could use a little brushing up, check out GrandparentTips.org.

For instance, you probably have pictures like this of your little ones sleeping:

HALO grandparent belly sleep HALO grandparent sleep pic

I know my parents have pictures like this of me.  BUT did you know that neither of these are safe sleeping positions or placement now?  They now recommend baby’s sleep on their back.  No blankets or stuffed animals in the crib.  Baby’s should either sleep with a snug blanket sleeper or a product like HALO sleep sack.

ALWAYS
  • Place baby to sleep on his or her back at naptime and at night time.
  • Use a crib that meets current safety standards with a firm mattress that fits snugly and is covered with only a tight-fitting crib sheet.
  • Remove all blankets, comforters and toys from your baby’s sleep area (this includes loose blankets, bumpers, pillows and positioners). The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests using a wearable blanket instead of loose blankets to keep your baby warm.
  • Offer a pacifier when putting baby to sleep. If breastfeeding, introduce pacifier after one month or after breastfeeding has been established.
  • Breastfeed, if possible, but when finished, put your baby back to sleep in his or her separate safe sleep area alongside your bed.
  • Room share, but don’t bed share. Bed sharing can put a child at risk of suffocation.
NEVER
  • Never put your baby to sleep on any soft surface (adult beds, sofas, chairs, water beds, quilts, sheep skins etc.)
  • Never dress your baby too warmly for sleep; keep room temperature 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Never allow anyone to smoke around your baby or take your baby into a room or car where someone has recently smoked.

HALO safe sleep pic

 

Here are some more safety guidelines that have changed over the years:

HALO parenting then and now

 

What changes are you aware of?  What do you remember your parents doing as a kids that have changed?

GIVEAWAY

1 Luv Saving Money reader will win

a HALO sleepsack or HALO SleepSack Swaddle

Open to US and Canada

HALO SleepSack grandparents day


Where Are All the Pencils and Textbook? A Visit to My Kids’ School

This post is brought to you by Follett.com for back to school advice and more.

I went to my boys’ middle school “meet the teacher night”. It used to be called “open house” when I was growing up.  I didn’t realize that was the only thing that changed when I visited the school.  It’s the same school I grew up in.  The same buildings, most of the same lockers, etc. I’ve been to the kids open house almost every year but there are so many improvements in the way of technology that will help me help my kids more.  If your child has an “Open House” or “Meet the Teacher Night” I highly recommend going.  My kids won’t think to tell me about half of this stuff!

laptop

1. Digital textbooks – forget hard cover books and writing your name in the cover (remember that?) most of my kids text books are digital now.  I can even visit a website and read the same lesson my son is learning online.  I guess the “I can’t do my homework I forgot my textbook at school” excuse won’t fly.  It took me a minute as I looked around the classroom to realize, “Hey! There’s no textbooks in here” lol

2.  Touch-screen projectors – ok I’m sure that’s not what they’re called but it’s the best way I could describe it.  You know the projectors with the slides and magnification.  Those are no more.  Now there’s a projection screen that teachers somehow connect their laptops to and they can move things in the screen and change slides just buy using the screen like a touch screen.  I found out not all the teachers have this yet but a few of them do.

3.  Hi-tech Tools for Science Classes – Again I remember slides of the constellations or even just text book pictures.  My son’s science teacher was very excited to show me his newest tool for teaching.  A program that showed the sky right over our town.  He could do time lapse and show the sky hours before or hours ahead.  He could show nebulas, black holes, and all that cool science stuff.  He told me that what I was looking at on the screen would be what I would see if I would go outside the school with a very expensive telescope.  They also have a planetarium in their science classroom.

4.  Class info online – If I want to know if my son had homework and what it was, If I wanted to know what my kids are learning about in school if my son doesn’t want to tell me, or if I just want to get a hold of my son’s teacher, all I have to do is log in to the school website and I can do any of those things.  I can even print homework worksheets out at home if my son forgets his homework.

5.  Digital test taking – My one son’s teacher told me they take their tests on laptops, turn it on on the computer, it’s graded on the computer, and they received their test scores back on the computer. She showed me a locked mobile metal cabinet that held lots of slim laptop all hooked up to chargers in the cabinet.

6.  Lunch tickets are long gone – I remember my mom having to remember to give me lunch money.  We got reduced price meals so I’d have to go in the free and reduced price line to buy a ticket then go through the line to get my food.  As a teenager I remember being kind of embarrassed about that.  Now no one has to know how much you pay (or don’t pay) for your lunch.  I can add money to my kids’ lunch accounts online. When they go through the lunch line they just have to type in their student id number to debit their account for lunch.  Wish that was around when I was a kid.

Attending “Meet the Teacher Night” also give me a chance to meet my kids’ teachers face to face. It lets me see what kind of environment my kids are learning in.  By talking to my son’s science teacher, I found out he majored in 4 different areas and is capable of teaching 4 different subjects at the school.  He continues to learn. He said he’s currently taking a course on black holes.  All the tech in the world can’t beat a good teacher.

Teaching or Tech

What has changed since you’ve been in school?  What technologies does your or your kids school have? What back to school tips do you have?  Share your stories using #FallBackToSchool