Nation NowBest back-to-school tech-life hacks from parents
Back-to-school season can be just as stressful for parents as it is for some students.
While new technology might be to blame for some of the stress – like kids playing "Fortnite" when they should be doing homework – it can also provide fantastic fixes for some of our biggest daily dilemmas.
Case in point: I asked more than 1,000 parents on Facebook for their best back to school tech-life hacks. Here's what they said.
Many of the most desirable tech gadgets on the market come with a $1,000 (or more) price tag. But there are a handful of sites that deliver the biggest and best discounts right to your eyeballs, with very little work on your part. One mom said she used DealNews to find the $124 8-inch Huawei MediaPad T3 tablet on sale at Amazon, a purchase made because her son needed a basic device to read and do research.
There’s also no need to fork out several hundred dollars on a smartphone for most pre-teens and teens when a $60 feature phone will do. A handful of parents said they’re opting for basic handsets such as the colorful 3G Nokia 3310 to let kids call, text, take photos and use a few basic apps. Parents also gave it high marks for a nearly unbreakable body, all-day battery life, quick charging time and 27 days of standby time.
A father on Facebook wrote that one of his go-to hacks is an app called Epic that gives you instant access to more than 25,000 books, audiobooks and DIY videos for ages 12 and under. The cost for full digital access is less than $8 a month, and you can try it for free for 30 days.
Another point several parents made is that money stress doesn’t stop when your kids get out of school. This is the time of year many students and parents are worrying about student loans. For that, free online tech tool Credible.com is a go-to hack. “I graduated with $106,000 of student loan debt,” 28-year old Jared Davis told me over the phone. “Right out of school, my monthly payments were more than $1,000 per month.”
Davis says the site is similar to Expedia but for private student loans. “It was great to compare multiple lenders side by side without sharing my personal data or impacting my credit score. I’ve saved about $16,000 by refinancing so far.”
The ever-rising cost of college came up several times in parents’ top hacks. A typical college course can set you back more than $2,000 at a public college and well over $4,000 at a private institution. “One way to save is to take as many college courses as you can online and then transfer them,” 49-year old David Mountain wrote via Facebook direct message.
Mountain uses a site called Study.com. According to the site’s College Accelerator page, it offers around 150 popular college courses that most students have to take anyway, but at roughly one-tenth of the normal cost. The credit is transferable to more than 1,500 top colleges and universities.
Several parents also mention smart home gadgets. “I hate to say it,” Tim Kicmol wrote on Facebook,“but, we have 3 (Amazon Echo) Alexas and 2 Amazon cameras. We use the (Echo) Alexa as an intercom system to talk to the three boys from our bedroom. When we are really tired we instruct Alexa to read a story to them. The cameras are used to confirm the boys are staying in their rooms at night.”
Also on Facebook, Matt Hemmert added: “Alexa. She (yes we call her she) is fully integrated into our thermostat, yard sprinklers, room lights, comic relief, timers, shopping lists, schedules, etc. At this level of stickiness, I don’t know if we’d be able to “unsmart” our home. Also, something we’ve started using as well are grocery store apps to place and pay for orders and then just go pick up. My wife loves it because it means she doesn’t have to venture in with our two littlest monsters in tow and it eliminates impulse buying.”Credit: AmazonAlexa to the rescue: the Echo can be used in your child's bedroom as an intercom system to talk to them, or Alexa can read to your son or daughter before bed.
Since I picked up all these hacks thanks to social media, the last hack here is to remember that information and empathy are often as close as your computer.
“My parent-network in real life is about 12 people,” mom of three and parenting author Lisa Heffernan said by phone. But with her Facebook group, Grown and Flown Parents, “I have about 88,000 people to run things by.” There are thousands of well-established social media parenting groups to choose from, or it’s easy to start your own. Heffernan says just remember the rules of engagement, such as keeping comments respectful, no politics, selling stuff or bullying. Kind of like real life – the stuff you’re supposed to learn in kindergarten and all that.
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Now, we would love to hear from you. What are some of your top back-to-school tech-life hacks for saving time, money, and most of all – sanity? Be sure to let us know in the comments section.