Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Gizmos and Gadgets

My friends know I love life hacks. Anything to make my life easier, I love. Especially gadgets. A melon baller, a cherry pitter, the Eurosealer, Brown & Crisp bags, an anchor for the beach umbrella so it doesn't blow away, Pack It bags (self freezing lunch bags). The Saltwater Canvas Whale bag with all it's pockets and inner carabiner, my beach chair with the face hole for optimum even tanning in comfort, my clear waterproof phone pouch for outside in the summer. My cooling towel, rain ponchos in pouches, my Wonder Wheeler cart, and my zip up picnic blanket with strap for easy transport. E and I both are excited when we see a new infomercial.

When I was a kid, I wanted the patch thing that would repair rips in furniture. I didn't have any furniture to patch but it looked cool. I'm one of the few people who can't wait to try the wireless ear buds coming out for the iPhone 7. Now that I listen to a podcast (For Crying Out Loud) and Stern interviews during E's swim practice, not having those headphone wires that just tangle in my bag is a plus. I know I shouldn't mention this either, but they will be a plus if I was hypothetically going in a tanning bed. Or just laying out at the town pool.

Changing gears here for a moment, compared to most parents these days, at least here and from what I hear of the Los Angeles area, B and I are pretty "free range parents". We give E a pretty decent amount of freedom. Not even always on purpose. I get into a conversation with other moms and I'm just not that concerned with what he's doing. He's not a moron and he's always safe enough. We live in small town suburbia. Yes, things can happen anywhere, but I'm just not wired to be overly neurotic in that respect. Plus, I'm always prepared with my gadgets.

I had seen the Gizmo Pal and Gizmo Gadget (Verizon) in a magazine and was intrigued. E is in second grade. I was walking to and from kindergarten alone and I was five. Unbelievably and annoyingly, school will not dismiss kids without a parent until fourth grade but he is perfectly capable of walking two blocks to school on his own or with a friend. Or at least, I plan on getting him that capable. Because I'm not raising a lemming. Of course, none of his friends parents are ready for this, so I think it will be awhile till he gets to walk with a friend, but I'm working on it. (It's like TWO BLOCKS they have to cross, not busy streets, then one cross with a CROSSING GUARD!) I'm all about the big picture, and the big picture is I'm trying to get him prepared for life.

I'd been leaving him home for periods of time most of the summer and it's gone extremely well. Except that up until a few times after I'd already left him, I didn't have a working landline. I finally fixed that, but I thought it would be nice to have a back up, for when he's out and about. I didn't want to give him a phone, at seven and a half. Even a flip phone. There is really no one for him to call and I definitely don't need him having a smartphone. Even leaving him home, I'm still with him most of the time, and a regular phone or smartphone is just not necessary. I give him physical freedom but not internet freedom.

I read about the Gizmo Pal but it seemed like for the extra seventy dollars or whatever, at his age, it seemed better to just go for the Gadget. It has more capabilities that are cool, but not distracting like social media. It can also call or receive calls from ten people vs the four for the Pal 2. The Gadget also has a pedometer like a Fitbit type thing. E had been asking for a Fitbit. I can't say I haven't been curious how many steps he logs in a day. Though, I wasn't buying him a Fitbit to find out. The Gadget can also text one of ten pre-programmed (by parent/caregiver) texts if just a quick answer is warranted.

We were going to a block party in our town last Saturday night. I already knew we weren't going to be keeping a close eye on him. It was in a cul-de-sac off some streets near-ish to where we live. We didn't know the "guest list" but we knew there would be people there we know well enough- their kids go to school with E in a pretty small school (K-5, two classrooms per grade, about 22 kids each class). There was going to be tons of kids there and it just wasn't going to be possible to follow him around nor do I want to do that. He can't learn independence if I'm following him around. And really, in this situation, NO ONE was following their kids around. We'd lost track of him twice at a Halloween block party last October, where the second time, it just got dark way quicker than we anticipated. He has known my cell number for years but without some way to use it, he'd have to ask someone.

I bought the Gizmo Gadget Friday through Verizon and they shipped it for overnight delivery by noon on Saturday. I was trying to do the pick up in two hours thing they offer online but it wasn't working. I called, they were actually helpful, and did it over the phone, waiving the activation fee and overnight shipping fee. I was able to teach E to use it in like five minutes. I programmed six numbers in there of anyone he might need to call and we tested it out.

The volume on both ends is good. We were both able to easily hear each other. It's very user friendly for a kid his age. He immediately got into the jump rope exercise and the step counting. There are no "games"- just something that has the ability to make funny sounds. It is touch screen so it's easy for him to work it since he's used to the iPad. He finds it comfortable enough. He didn't have a problem wearing it any playing. It's waterproof so he was able to be part of a water balloon fight with it. And be really sweaty, considering last Saturday in Bergen County was like taking a schvitz. It's not small and I believe the Pal is the same size. On my friend Michelle's twins who are five and small, they did look big. But the girls still had no problem wearing them and keeping them on.

Does E "need" this? No. Of course not. It's a luxury. However as a review, I'll say it's convenient. He has a lot of activities. Last year, I sat at every activity for the duration because there was no where for me to go. Now, with some changes I've made, I could actually even go home if needed and come back. Or the supermarket. He could call me from this if he ever got done early. If he forgot something. If he didn't feel well. Or I could tell him I'm running a few minutes late because of traffic. It was helpful at the block party because I could let him run amok and if I really wanted to, I could check the GPS for his exact location. If he really got lost in the dark, he'd be able to call instead of panic.

If he was walking to school, I could check to see he made it there. Or home if I allowed (or the school allowed) him to walk home while I was still at work. Or if he walked to our store from school. That may not happen now, but it's something for the future. My friend's kid is in fourth grade and the first day, which was a half day, he asked her if he could walk to town with his friends for pizza. He doesn't have a phone. She was freaked out because he's never been allowed to walk into town with his friends. If he had something like this, she might have felt more comfortable allowing him to go.

Basically, it's a source for peace of mind if you want to spend the money. Or if you want to give your kid a little baby step into more freedom. For Michelle's kids, the Pal is enough because she's rarely without all four of them and they're all very close in age. If you have two, three, five kids with a bigger span in age, they're most likely going in different directions all the time or in carpools so these are a great way to keep tabs on who is where and when. Without the responsibility of internet and social media access too young.

I really like it. Everything is controlled by an app the parent(s) or caregivers have. He can't do or change anything himself. So it's a nice pre-phone compromise. I know too many people who have given their kids E's age and younger, their old smartphones and now have to backtrack with controls because they didn't think about that prior. When they gave it, the kids were young enough to be in their parents full control. They gave them the old phones in place of a tablet. Kids grow up fast and then they are in position of having too much internet free range. This is a much safer option. 

Other cellular carriers have different versions of child gps trackers but as far as the Googling I've done, these are the options with the most positive reviews. You do not have to be an existing Verizon customer, I believe.

The app you need is called Gizmo Hub. You can also use it to make the Gadget silent during different times or days of the week, check the battery charge, and you can turn it off totally from the app as well.

PC Mag Review - http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2494449,00.asp

Gizmo Gadget- https://www.verizonwireless.com/connected-devices/lg-gizmogadget/

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