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The Father Factor

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Dad’s Guide to Back-To-School Gadgets

Thank God kindergarteners don't need laptops. With my firstborn attending kindergarten soon, clothes and supplies are enough expense. You have no doubt seen the legendary lists of supplies from your child’s school by now. NFI may not be helpful as it pertains to fashion (considering our president has written extensively, and sadly in favor of, the fanny pack!). But as it pertains to tech and gadgets, we can offer our "expert" opinion. 

pencils

Whether it is gadgets for your university student or middle-school scholar, we are here to help you save a few dollars and use the time to connect with your child. See our ideas below on what to look out for in purchasing the lastest mobile devices in three categories: 

Laptops

Dell UltrabookThe new Dell Inspiron Ultrabook (starts at $649) is one of the new "ultrabooks.” It's ultrathin, fast and is said to have a around seven hours of battery-life. Your child may want this laptop considering the offer of also getting an Xbox 360 with your purchase. Also, with your purchase, the machine comes with Windows 7 but Windows 8 can be purchased for $14.99 when you own Windows 7.

macbook airFor Mac families, there is the MacBook Air, starting at $999 for the 11-inch model (don’t forget: $949 with qualifying education discount). The new MacBooks come with OS X Mountain Lion, iLife, iWork and all the software your student will need. The 11-inch MacBook Air has an i5 processor, 4GB of memory and 64GB of flash storage (no hard drive) and at least five hours of non-stop, wifi-using battery life. This makes it one of the lightest laptops ever for carrying around in a backpack with other books all day. The MacBook Air also includes the popular FaceTime HD camera for HD 720p video calling. The Apple Store has Back to School deals that should not be missed. Deals include a $100 iTunes gift card with the purchase. And don't forget to ask about education pricing.

Tablets
Apple continues to have the market cornered with regard to tablet devices. But depending on your student, you may find Google's Nexus Tablet the right fit.

apple new ipadThe new Apple iPad is a powerful and very mobile option. Honestly, dads, the iPad may be a better and cheaper option instead of a laptop for many students. It is the best-selling tablet for many reasons. iPad prices start at $499 for the Wi-Fi-only version and 16GB of storage. Apple’s Back to School deals include a $50 iTunes gift card with new iPad purchase. Remember, education pricing can be used for iPads (same as laptops) because Apple considers this mobile device the same as a personal computer. 

google nexus

If it’s a smaller touchscreen you desire, there is the 7-inch Google Nexus Tablet (which starts at $199 for 8GB) for the student in your house. Consider this option when mobility is valued over storage. It is a great option as long as you have storage elsewhere.

Phones
With so many different phones on the market, students can be very mobile and pack very lightly. From taking notes in class, recording lectures or calling parents, phones can be a very useful tool. For some wondering what phone is best for their student, you may find this helpful:

iphone 4sApple's iPhone 4S (starting $199 for 16GB with contract) and comes with a great camera and tons of features like Retina display. The iPhone also has FaceTime so you can see how your child is doing when each of you are in a Wi-Fi hotspot.

HTCAndroid lovers also have plenty of good choices when it comes to phones. The HTC One V boasts a 3.7-inch screen, a powerful battery and great camera that rivals the iPhone.

When shopping for back-to-school deals, it is a good time to consider asking for an all-in-one printer when purchasing a computer. Most retail stores will consider adding a wireless all-in-one printer when at the time of purchasing a new computer.

Consider these options and for the student in your family when chosing laptops, tablet devices and smartphones. Dad, get involved in the process of shopping with your child this year. Shopping for the best deal and learning about the best device for your child can be a good time of connecting.

Discuss what is most important and useful in the devices with your child. Even though it is money from your pocket, try making it an enjoyable and teachable experience. Your child will remember these back-to-school shopping days. I haven't forgotten back-to-school shopping as a kid. Please, someone reading this, remind my future self of this post when my daughters ask for laptops. Happy shopping, dads!

What is one gadget the scholar in your family wants this year?

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photo credit: Melissa Hincha-Ownby
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Help Us Reach Dads and Help Kids Through Texting

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Did you know that 25% of Americans access the Internet through their smartphones instead of a computer?  That means millions of dads are not accessing National Fatherhood Initiative's web-based resources.
 
We want to deliver our expert fathering advice directly into dads’ hands through a brand new text messaging campaign, but it will cost $2,750 to create and maintain the new platform.

As a reader of this blog, you know how important it is that children have involved, responsible, and committed fathers.  You also know that our resources are making a difference across the nation by helping men learn how to connect with their kids heart-to-heart.
 
Texting LDD graphWe're looking for 110 people to donate just $25 each by August 12 to help us raise funds needed to create this new tool to reach more dads who currently don’t have access to our information.  Not only that, but if you are part of that 25% of who prefers to use your phone instead of the computer, your donation will go towards a resource that you can use too!  

Will you be one of the 110?  Donate $25 (or more!) today.

Google Chrome Hits a Home Run with "Dear Sophie"

“In our 17 years of tracking cultural statements about the importance of fatherhood, the “Dear Sophie” film stands out as one of the most positive messages we have ever found." -- NFI president, Roland C. Warren on Google Chrome's Fatherhood Award™-winning film.



If you haven't yet seen "Dear Sophie," Google's short film about its Chrome browser, then watch it now:







As you can see, this was a no-brainer for us in deciding to honor Google with a Fatherhood Award™ for this powerful message about what good dads do.



One of the reasons it is so powerful is that rather than taking the usual tack with technology -- that it is a distraction that only geeks are interested in -- it shows instead how dads, who love technology, can use it to be better fathers. (Kinda sounds like our Tech Savvy Daddy campaign...)



Do you see yourself as the dad in "Dear Sophie"? Tell us about how you use technology to be a better dad.







Are Your Kids Sleeping with the Enemy?

This past summer, my 15-year-old niece spent about 2 weeks with me. I always look forward to spending time with her. She lives with her mother—my sister—full time. Since her dad has not been around as much as she would like, I, as her uncle, have become a “Double Duty Dad” to her.

In any case, whenever we are together, it’s always a unique opportunity to get a peek into what’s happening in the teen world these days. On this occasion, I decided to ask her about texting, which was an appropriate topic since her cell phone, like most teen’s phones, appeared to be surgically connected to her hand. So, I asked if she ever had a problem with her friends sending her text messages during the school year, late into the night. She quickly told me “absolutely” and that it’s a big problem. Although she knew that she needed to get her rest, she admitted that she is extremely tempted to respond to these nightly messages, lest she miss some important “news.”

My conversation with my niece caused me to consider two things. First, I could not help but think about the countless number of children who are engaged in nocturnal texting while their dads think that they are fast asleep. Second, I could not help but wonder why a dad would allow his child to keep a cell phone in his or her room overnight anyway. Let’s face it, unless a kid is a “first responder” (i.e. an EMT, firefighter or police officer) or President of the United States, there is really no reason—despite what a kid may say—for them to have a cell phone overnight. In fact, the more that they protest, the more reason there is for you make the nighttime bedroom a "no cell phone zone." Indeed, to quote Hamlet: "[They] doth protest too much, methinks.”

Now, you may think that I am being a bit harsh, or that I am a cell phone hating troglodyte who wants to make living with your teen…well, complicated. Nothing could be further from the truth. As a dad who raised two teen boys, I remember well the challenges and the need to pick your battles. But, if your teen is “sleeping with the enemy,” much is at stake. Here’s why.

Recently, bestselling author Po Bronson along with Ashley Merryman wrote a great book called, “Nurture Shock—New Thinking About Children.” It’s an excellent book that I highly recommend. But even if you can’t read the whole book, I strongly suggest that you read the chapter titled, “The Lost Hour,” which discusses the fact that children are getting an hour less sleep than they did thirty years ago. Bronson and Merryman lay out clearly the considerable research that suggests that this lost hour costs our kids IQ points.

Also, a lack of sleep has also been linked to a negative impact on a child’s emotional well-being, ADHD, obesity, and “fall asleep” car accidents. Furthermore, the impact of lost sleep is especially critical for teens because of the change in their circadian clock as they move through puberty.

Let’s face it. As a “tech savvy daddy,” it’s just as important to know how to limit your children’s use of technology as it is to know when and how to encourage them to embrace it. I know this can be difficult because technology tends to change faster than parenting techniques. That’s why I encourage all dads to step into the mix on this issue. Trust me. Your kids will sleep better. And so will you.

You don't need to move the world - just your thumbs

For the month of March, NFI’s Dad Email is featuring tips and advice on how dads can use technology to help them build their relationships with their kids. Check out the resources from our “Tech Savvy Daddy” campaign here, which we’ll be updating with more information every week this month.

Last week, our focus was on “Mobile Connections,” or using text messaging to connect with teens. A recent Pew Research Study found that 75% of teens have a cell phone. Most of them have text messaging capability, and boy do they use it! 54% of teens texted their friends daily in 2010 (skyrocketing from only 38% who texted daily in 2008!). One out of three send more than 100 text messages daily!

For those of you who are fathers of teenagers, you probably feel like their thumbs are glued to their phone. But, as our Dad Email last week pointed out, if texting is teenagers’ primary means of communicating, why not speak their language? We put together a list of text messages that dads can send their teens to encourage them and build their relationship. Check it out here.

I work with a group of high school students at my church, and I quickly figured out that texting is the most effective way to communicate with them. When we were writing the suggestions of text messages for dads, I sent a text to the teens I know and asked them, “What’s a meaningful text message your dad could send you that would help build your relationship?” If we’re trying to help dads connect with their teens, why not get advice from them?

Here’s what I got back:
  • just check in and see how i was doing
  • maybe like i love u just wanted to remind u
  • probably a Bible verse or just a note that told me to hang in there, or an invitation to spend time with him. That always means a lot to me. :)
The point I got out of this is, dads: it’s simple. Your kids don’t need something incredibly profound from you. They just want to know that you’re thinking about them, that you love them, and that you want to spend time with them. (As busy as your teenagers are, they actually do want to spend time with you, too.)

One text I got back from a teen whose dad is not very involved hit on a much deeper issue. What would be meaningful for this teenager would be “for him to realize what he has put me through and to want to change that.” Clearly, there are years of hurt that need to be undone in this relationship and a couple text messages aren’t going to do much, but I think a little effort on the part of this dad to move closer to his child would do a lot.

I think that’s true for any dad-teen relationship, no matter how good or bad it is. A little investment in your teen’s life will go a long way. Even if it’s as simple as a text message to say “I love you.”

The Father Factor Blog: News, tips, and tools for dads and those helping dads.

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