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As our society started to modernize, we started to find new, different ways to make the most out of new inventions. While we rely on technology at work, we also use it at home quite a bit. In many ways, technology has managed to revolutionize our lives while providing in creative ways for us to enjoy and make the most out of life. In this article I’ll discuss some of the many benefits of using technology at home.

Benefits of Using Technology at Home

Improved Communication

It would be tough to argue that technology hasn’t improved how we communicate. Thanks to technology, people are just a phone call or a click away. We take this for granted, but it’s a big deal. Being able to simply and cheaply connect with the ones we love when we want has allowed families separated by oceans to stay connected.

Increased Productivity

Sometimes we lack the tools and features we need to improve our productivity. Thankfully, technology helps automate many tasks. From robot vacuum cleaners to smart appliances that seem to have limitless potential. Technology can make us more productive and free up time to focus on the activities that we enjoy.

However, parents must be sure to properly secure smart home devices from hackers and teach their kids about healthy screen time. It’s far too easy to let technology get too ingrained in our lives, resulting in more negatives than positives.

Identifying Health Issues

Smartwatches and high tech medical equipment can easily identify health issues. Then you can go to the doctor and address said issues. Health Tech has revolutionized how many people treat illnesses and seek information. Connected devices, such as blood glucose monitors, have made it possible for people with illnesses to lead a more normal life.

Health Tech has also impacted doctors and medical professionals who can now monitor a patient remotely. Gone are the days of having to go into the hospital on a regular basis for check-ins. That means more time for family and fun!

Expanded Search Capabilities

Thanks to technology and more specifically the internet, you can find solutions to everything you want. You can buy nearly anything your mind can imagine online, research the topics you are interested in and find communities of people with shared interests.

I’m old enough to remember libraries, encyclopedias, and (gasp!) the Dewey Decimal System (Google it kiddos). Needless to say entering my query into a search engine and getting thousands of results in 0.12 seconds is amazing!

Increasing Your Security

Some of our frequent readers will find this item odd. Normally I’d discuss how you have to secure such and such a device, keep strong passwords, and myriad other security measures. I still believe all that and think every parent has a duty to teach their kids about good cyber security practices.

With all that said, technology can also be used to boost your personal security. GPS-enabled devices allow parents to know where their kids are and who they are connecting with online. Home security devices give you more control over who enters your home. Digital lockers also provide a means to backup important documents and photos.

Technology is like any tool. It can be used for good and bad. We have to protect ourselves from those who use it for bad. We also have to enjoy and take full advantage of all the positives that it brings to our lives! I for one am not a Luddite enough to want to go back to the pre-tech “Dark Ages”.

Access to Global Knowledge

When I was a lad in school we had pen-pals. I’d write a letter with pen and paper, mail it through “snail mail” and eventually get a response. This could take weeks.

Today you can chat with people from all over the world anytime you want. The access to knowledge on a global scale is one of the greatest benefits of using technology at home. Can’t travel to Europe? Your kids can watch some educational videos on YouTube then, with parental supervision, find an online pen-pal from a kid-safe site and chat with others on the other side of the world. It’s a great opportunity to expand a young mind and all you need is an internet connection.

Saving Time and Money

In the age of click-to-buy with Amazon this might not seem to be true, but we can save time and money using technology.

It’s now easier than ever to purchase items on the cheap via auction sites (eBay) or from large merchants. Online storage is certainly cheaper, in many cases free, and much more convenient than the ‘ol floppy disk or external hard drive.

“Time is money” is one expression that we’ve all heard and is true. Deciding between picking up a prescription or watching your kids soccer game isn’t a fun choice. Clicking a button while at your kids soccer game to schedule curb side pick up is an excellent option!


It can be helpful to rely on technology. It has the potential to help solve life’s problems in a variety of ways. The right tech can eliminate time-wasters. It’s important to use tech whenever you can, but at the same time you still need to have some limitations as it can be very addictive. Used wisely, technology has the potential to change your life and eliminate many of the chores and challenges many of us encounter throughout the day.

Many technological devices and applications can be used in multiple ways and for either good or bad reasons. If you’re a parent and are curious about VPNs and if you children should be using one, we put together this quick post to introduce the topic. By the end of this article you will be able to answer “what is a VPN” and have some idea if it is right for your children.

What is a VPN

A VPN, or virtual private network, is essentially a service that routes an internet connection through a server. This hides your online actions and can make accessing the web safer. Many parents at this point probably read “hides your online actions” and decided this is not for kids. Don’t be too hasty with your judgment and let’s dig in deeper.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Yes, a VPN can be used for naughty reasons. Kids trying to get around parental controls? A VPN is an excellent tool for that purpose (kids: please don’t actually do this!).

Think of the VPN as a steel-reinforced tunnel between your device and the internet. You enter the tunnel when you connect to the VPN via your device. The VPN then masks your IP address, so it would appear as if you are coming from a different location, then connects to the internet. That steel tunnel is tough to penetrate and provides protection, to a degree, for those wanting to hide their identity. The VPN will also encrypt incoming and outgoing data to protect it from prying eyes.

VPNs got their origin with remote workers. It allowed people to connect to a corporate network when they weren’t at the physical office. Today this is a little less necessary. Most websites, and certainly the ones an employee should be using, use the HTTPS protocol. Many browsers also notify you via a pop-up if you attempt to access a risky site. So while the original use-case may no longer be the leading use-case, other reasons for using a VPN exist.

Should Your Kids Use One?

At the end of the day this decision will really come down to you, the parent, and how much you trust your children. VPNs do make it more difficult to monitor your child’s online activity.

As I mentioned above a VPN can be used to get around parental controls and other limitations, such as a school network. The very nature of a VPN means that your children’s digital adventures will be hidden. For many parents this is a huge, and unnecessary, risk.

For the most part, I agree.

However, a part of me, the nerdy part, also wants my children to understand what a VPN is, how and why they are used, and to have experience using one.

While I certainly hope my kids don’t have much to hide from me, the use of a VPN could help obfuscate their online profiles from preying and unwanted eyes. The use of a VPN will also keep my kids more secure if they are out and accessing public WiFi or any other high risk network.

When Should Your Child Use a VPN?

I like to travel with my family. Prior to the pandemic we would take a trip once a year out of the country. It gives us an opportunity to explore another culture and world. This relates to VPNs because not all countries are as free and open as the U.S.

Let’s take a look at China. A number of years ago we took a family trip to see the Great Wall. It was amazing! However, I also encountered the Great Firewall of China. If you haven’t heard, this is China’s firewall that allows the government to censor and control what is allowed online.

While I was technically on PTO I still wanted to check my work email. The issue? The company I was with had us using Gmail and that cannot be accessed within China. I had to rely on a trusty VPN to check my work messages.

This is a fairly harmless example and, yes, a VPN could be used for much worse. However, it serves to highlight the fact that a VPN doesn’t automatically equal bad intentions.

For parents who have a child living or studying abroad a VPN could be a perfectly normal tool to ensure communication with family back home isn’t interrupted.


A VPN acts as a tunnel between your device and the internet. It adds security and privacy when you’re online. For certain cases, such as when accessing a risky network, they do have some benefit. However, most kids won’t need to use a VPN. It’s important to speak with your child about the benefits and risk of technology. However, it doesn’t mean that you must endorse or permit the use of that technology.

The use of a VPN will ultimately come down to the use case and your comfort level as the parent.

As parents our worst fear is that some harm comes to our child. While we can protect them physically our ability to protect our children online can be much more difficult. It’s critical that parents use parental controls for kids gaming apps to avoid unwanted interaction from online predators.

It can be easier than you’d expect for bad actors to gain access to children via gaming apps. Let’s explore why this is the case and what you can do to protect your family.

How Bad Actors Gain Access

Games such as Minecraft and Fortnite are fun and provide a way to relax while being challenged. Players can interact with other in-game players and this is where trouble can arise. If your kids are playing against their friends it certainly is not an issue. However, it’s all to easy for a new “friend” to appear online claiming to be someone or something that they aren’t.

The predator is able to communicate with children all without ever revealing that they are an adult. Remember that all these games use avatars that don’t have to resemble the player in real life. Many games are also lacking on the sign-up and verification front. They don’t employ age-verification or any style of check to ensure a bad actor doesn’t gain access to other players.

Sure many games are recommended for use by those of a certain age. We’ve all seen the “this game designed for 13+”. You’d be a bit foolish to think this has any impact on preventing people of all ages from using the app. It’s all too easy to click “agree” or confirm your age without any verification.

Use Parental Controls For Kids Gaming Apps

Predators know that people can be lulled into a false sense of security. Games and apps designed by trusted names might pass a parent’s radar without much scrutiny. If the game or app is from Disney or Lego, for example, how bad could it be?

While the game developer wants to provide an exciting gaming experience, the familiarity with the brand might lead some parents to overlook setting proper parental controls.

Parents should ensure they know what games are on their child’s phones and tablets. Even if the game looks harmless, don’t assume that predators aren’t lurking in the shadows. Any games with chat or other social features should make your spidey-senses tingle as that is an easy opening for a predator to exploit. A predator can send a message pretending to be a child of a similar age and then build trust. This could eventually lead to your child engaging in video chats or sharing personal information with a complete stranger without you knowing.

Parents can take many steps to avoid this scenario including setting parental controls and employing the assistance of web and app monitoring solutions.

If you’ve done a review of the app and don’t find a way to limit, or completely turn off, chat features it’s best to remove the app and find something else to play. Yes, your child might be angry. However, their anger is better than the alternative. It also presents an opportunity to educate your child on the benefits and dangers of the web. I don’t advocate for scare tactics. However, children should know that the web can be a risky place and proper steps must be taken for self-protection. Presenting a view that the web is always great or sugar coating the risks will only end up causing trouble in the future. Frank and honest discussions will educate your child. They will also appreciate, after a certain age, your straight forward manner and open communication with them.

Red Flags To Watch For

Let’s say you’ve reviewed each app and only allow your child to use those that pass your review. That’s a great start! You’ve also set parental controls where possible in the apps your child does play. You’re well on the way to “Dad of the Year” at this point.

Before getting to excited, however, it’s important to remain vigilant. Apps are constantly being updated. New updates can invalidate prior settings and bugs are frequent in software. A simple update could cause numerous problems. Keep your guard up by making it a habit to periodically review your child’s apps and their settings. Also keep an eye out for certain red flags that your child might being having some issues online. Such red flags might be:

  • Your child appears to be growing distant and it isn’t the normal teenage years
  • “Friends” you don’t know are sending your child message in the app
  • Hiding, or turning off, a device when you enter the room

If you happen to notice any of the above behavior or other strange behaviors from your child it’s time to set further restrictions on app games. Parents should also ask their children questions and foster open communication. Your child should be comfortable speaking with you about difficult topics. Responding with anger won’t foster that trust. Remember, your child isn’t at fault here. Some predator is online attempting to exploit a weakness. They are the bad actor. Your child is, after all, just a kid and can’t be expected to defend themselves from every possible threat.


Teaching your child proper cyber-security practices is a good first line of defense. It’s also important that you take a proactive role in reviewing and moderating the apps they play with. When possible use parental controls for kids gaming apps to turn off chat features, direct-messages, voice-calls, or any other vulnerability a predator could exploit.

Today many parents must grapple with the fact that their kids know more about technology than they do. On the one hand it’s nice to see our kids go beyond what we know. However, as Nerdy Dads we also understand the risks of technology. Since we have been around a bit longer, and have the grey hair to prove it, we know that tech is a double-edge sword.

For parents who don’t think of themselves as highly technical the fears can be heightened. This is understandable. As parents we want to protect our children. When we see our children using new technology we don’t understand we get concerned.

Kids today are growing up in a tech-first world. We cannot change that, but we can prepare and make sure we are well-educated on emerging technologies. This quick guide discusses how any parent, regardless of their tech experience, can educate themselves and their children on how to stay safe online.

What To Do When Your Kids Know More About Technology Than You

Get Learnin’

The first step is to start educating yourself. I’m not saying you need to go master programming or white hat hacking. You can take steps to improve your knowledge about computer security. Read up on how to create strong passwords, what constitutes proper online hygiene, and gain a basic understanding of the tech your kids are using.

No doubt your kids will likely master new technology before you do. That’s fine and as a techie dad I’m proud when my kids teach me something. Old dogs can learn new tricks on occasion, I guess. I do my best to keep up on the latest and greatest so that when I hear my kids mention something I have an idea of what they are talking about.

As a parent I’d encourage others to ask their kids about the tech they use. It shows you have an interest in their activities and also provides some good bonding time. What kid doesn’t want to teach their parent something new? It can be a source of pride for your child and an opportunity for you to learn.

Talk To Your Child About Risks

Tech has brought down barriers and boundaries that existed in the past. That is great! It has also provided bad actors with access to some of the most intimate and personal information about us. I don’t advocate for a “boogeyman” approach when discussing the risks of tech. Once your kids hit a certain age they will see past that act and make their own decisions. Rather, parents need to have open and frank conversations with their kids on the risks of tech.

It’s best to go into the conversation armed with facts and recommended best-practices. Explain the risk, provide a solution, and seek to understand your child’s point of view. The dialog can be simple:

  1. Risk: the new smart speaker you purchased is helpful, but is susceptible to hackers who could use it to make unauthorized purchases
  2. Solution: if you want to keep the smart speaker you need to secure it properly against hackers
  3. Child’s POV: do you understand the risks and why this is important to me as your parent

It’s worth mentioning that I don’t think every kid will be a security expert. That’s fine. It’s our job to communicate our concerns and ensure that our kids take the basic steps to stay safe. As we’ve seen countless times, if a determined hacker wants access to something they will find a way in.

Set Boundaries Together

You have one set of ideas about reasonable boundaries. Your kid’s likely have a different idea as to what’s acceptable. I’d actually be shocked if many parents and children see eye-to-eye here.

It’s perfectly fine if you don’t agree on what’s acceptable. That’s where conversation comes into play. Discuss the reasons for your beliefs and take time to listen to what your kids think. It may be that you don’t completely understand what they are using the technology for.

After listening to both sides you and your child can set reasonable boundaries.

Parental Controls

When your kids know more about technology than you do the first reaction might be to use parental controls or monitor their online activity. Those are easy enough to implement and understand. This is certainly a solution to protect your kids from dangerous and explicit content.

Parental controls and activity monitoring solutions can be helpful, but I encourage parents to be transparent about the use of such controls. Explain why it’s important and that it’s for the child’s safety. Jumping right into remote monitoring may lead your kid to think you don’t trust them. If they’ve never given you a reason not to trust them this could lead to resentment.

Reduce Multitasking

I can’t say I completely envy the world my kids are living in compared to when I was their age. Today kids are exposed to technologies that would’ve made my young mind think I’d been sucked into a sci-fi movie. A big difference between then and now is the pressure to stay constantly connected and up-to-date on the “it” thing.

Observe your child in their natural habitat and you’ll likely see them texting while watching a TikTok with Pandora playing and homework on the desk. I have a headache thinking about it. American teens spend an average of 7 hours and 22 minutes in front of a screen each day. This doesn’t include time spent on homework. That is a mind-boggling amount of screen time and as parents we need to guide our children on acceptable screen time habits.


For any parent the advancements in tech are amazing, yet also make us worry more about our children’s online safety. It’s our job to first educate ourselves and then our children about how to stay safe online. For non-techie parents I understand this can be daunting. However, a lot of what I recommend involves open communication with your child. Listen to their input, share your own concerns and thoughts, and set boundaries together. Ultimately a clear dialog will help build trust with your child. When they trust you they will bring their problems to you (sometimes). That beats the alternative where trust is missing and your child fears bringing up any issue.

For parents just realizing that their kids know more about technology than they do I hope this quick guide gives you some pointers on how to manage the knowledge gap.

Staying safe online can be easier said than done. From creating strong passwords to developing proper cyber security habits, it can seem like a daunting task to keep your kids safe online. Thankfully, multiple family tech safety gadgets exist to help us all stay safe and enjoy the web.

Let’s get into a few of my favorite gadgets for keeping you and your family safe online.

Family Tech Safety Gadgets

WiFi Parental Controls

You likely know you can set parental controls for your smart TV and mobile devices. But did you know you can also set controls for your home WiFi?

Circle is a solution that helps parents monitor kids online activities and set boundaries. The parental controls allow you to monitor screen time and all the apps/websites your child accesses. With the ability to set rules for home-based and mobile devices you are covered no matter where you or your child go.

The ease of use is a key benefit of Circle. Parents can use one app to set screen time limits, manage access to specific online sites, such as social media, and filter content. The app’s UI is intuitive and easy to use right from the start.

The only issue I have with Circle is that it requires a subscription. A 1-year subscription is $129, so if you have young kids and envision using this for years to come it could get expensive. Circle seems to have a solution for this. They offer a lifetime subscription for $299. While it’s more upfront, if you use the app for more than 2 years it’s a net gain.

Kid-Friendly Smartwatch

I don’t think any young child needs a full-blown smartwatch. They probably don’t even need a smartphone (though substitutes are available). However, a kid-friendly smartwatch with basic functionality can be helpful. Kid-friendly watches have been designed that allow for GPS tracking, messaging, calls, and WiFi. Some even have a camera if that is something important to you.

These smartwatches are a good alternative to a smartphone, which many kids don’t need and many parents don’t want to drop the bucks on. The watch ensures that you and your child remain in contact, but doesn’t open up the world like a smartphone or more advanced watch would. Ideally, these entry level smartwatches are designed for kids age 4-12, so this probably isn’t something you’d get your teenager.

Family Safety Apps

How many of the parents reading this don’t have a smartphone? I’d imagine not too many hands going up. Smartphones permeate our daily lives unlike anything else. While downsides do exist to the high-frequency with which we use our phones, upsides do exist. Enter family safety apps.

Apps, such as Life360, allow family members to form their own group (Circle in Life360 lingo). Family groups allow for chat features, the ability to share location and check crime reports in a specific area. Advanced apps even allow for driver safety features such as roadside assistance and emergency response. These features can be especially helpful for parents who have a teenager jumping behind the wheel for the first time.

Other apps, such as Picniic, add in additional features such as event management. With the ability to create and update calendars no one in the family (you too, dad) will have an excuse to miss an event. Picniic is also fun since it allows members to share news and photos. It’s more private than a social media account such as Facebook which is appealing to many parents.


As frequent readers of our blog know many family tech safety gadgets exist and come in various forms. I’m a fan of using gadgets, apps, and whatever else I can find since I know I can’t be everywhere at once. Technology can help protect families from an exciting, but occasionally dangerous, world wide web. At the end of the day, it’s not my family’s behavior that I’m truly worried about. It’s the bad actors out in the wild who will do whatever it takes to make a buck, steal data, or some other nefarious activity. it is against those threats that I use tech to defend myself and my family. Of course, knowing where a teenager is and being able to summon roadside assistance if they need help is also a welcome peace of mind!

As a parent it’s natural to want to take every opportunity to help your children improve. Once such opportunity emerges when you teach your children how to type. Many schools have removed typing from the formal curriculum. The logic goes that kids already know how to type since many kids have used smartphones before entering school. This is a missed opportunity as touch typing on a keyboard is not the same as typing on a phone.

Kids graduating high school today may never have taken a typing class. The home key method of typing (placing the fingers on asdf and jkl;) is foreign to many young adults. Sure the kids are blazing fast when texting or using a phone. However, this doesn’t translate well to using a computer in the workforce.

Does it Really Matter How We Type?

The short answer is: yes.

The touch typing method allows the student to focus on their writing and ideas. The goal, after all, is to produce a piece of work that will earn a high grade. That becomes much more difficult if you have to think about what you’re writing and how you are typing.

Touch typing is wonderful because it results in cognitive automaticity. That’s when you do something without having to think about it. This is beneficial because our working memory is freed up. Without having to think about typing the brain can focus on higher-level tasks. When a student excels as touch typing they free up other brain resources. By multi-tasking the student allocates mental resources to their best use; focusing on the paper and not worrying about where to find the semi-colon on the keyboard.

Hunt and Peck

Look at any teenager these days and you probably think I’m crazy writing this article. Kids’ fingers move so darn fast on smartphones, how can I argue they don’t know how to type?

I’m not saying kids can’t type. They can. It’s the method used, namely the “hunt & peck” method that is the issue. Smartphone keyboards have made touch typing darn near impossible. Most people, kids and adults alike, are pros at using a phone keyboard. Many don’t even look at the keys when typing. However, research has shown that the home key method of typing is by far the fastest. It isn’t going too far to say that a basic skill of our time is the ability to type fast and accurately.

Newer tech devices aren’t designed for touch typing. Tablets and smartphones cater to the hunt and peck method. New tech requires that we look down at a keyboard and the end result is a decrease in cognitive automaticity.

Technology can be used to teach children many skills, some might even surprise you. If you’re a parent looking for resources to teach your children how to type I’ve compiled a short list below. Some of these are games which shouldn’t deter you from using them as a resource. Games can be a great way to engage young learners and keep them focused on learning a skill.

Resources to Teach Your Children How to Type

TypingClub

First up is TypingClub. A simple and free(!) website that will teach your children touch typing skills. The site includes many games and videos compiled into 600+ lessons. TypingClub provides activities for all ages and skill levels. So beginners and advanced users stand to benefit from some time on the site. You won’t need any special device to use the platform. A web browser and internet connection is all that is required.

The only drawback is really a matter of opinion. The site’s design is rather minimalist. I prefer this look. However, some parents and kids prefer something more eye-catching and engaging.

Epistory

Do your kids love adventure games? Do you want them to develop better typing skills? Epistory – Typing Chronicles is the win-win solution. Epistory is an adventure game “where everything is to be written”. The lead character in the game gets to ride a magic fox. The objective is to remove the evil insect creatures from the land. Kids journey throughout the game and must use typing to defeat the bad guys.

What TypingClub lacks in visual appeal Epistory makes up for in a big way. A fun, action/adventure game that encourages typing skills will keep many kids engaged for hours.

The leading drawback is that this is a paid game. Starting at $14.99 for a single copy isn’t offensive if compared to a traditional video game. However, it’s still more than free. The game is designed to work on desktop computers for either Windows or Mac.

Typing.com

Typing.com has by far on of the best domains I’ve come across. You know exactly what’s going on at typing.com. The site offers resources for schools and students. Students can take typing skill assessments and build their proficiency from beginner to advanced typist. The big selling point of Typing.com is the games.The site provides a ton of fun, arcade-like games for kids to play.

The big drawback for Typing.com are the ads. They can be a bit much at times. While you can pay to remove ads, the $34.95 (as of this writing) fee to remove the ads is a bit much.

Typing Pal

Typing Pal helps learners develop their touch typing skills via engaging animated lessons. You start out by selecting an environment based on skill level. Kids then progress through the various exercises. The platform takes a beginner approach with early lessons focusing on proper finger placement on the keyboard. After completing the program children will have an opportunity to take tests and earn certificates.

Typing Pal offers a free typing test and lite version, but the personal version will cost around $23 per year. The personal version provides one profile, so parents with more than one child may want to consider the home edition. Providing up to three profiles, the home edition is a bit more at $30.


If you’ve been exploring options to teach your children how to type I hope the above guide provided some assistance. Yes smartphones are everywhere today. Kids use them just as much as adults. It’s important to learn the basics of touch typing and become proficient at the skill. Today, at least, using a keyboard is still required for many jobs. School research papers will also still be typed out on a desktop or laptop. Finally, learning a new skill builds a sense of pride in many children. Being known as the fastest typist in school might be a badge of honor to some!

It’s the age of Alexa, Nest, Ring, Echo and countless other smart devices. With more devices than I can list hitting the market it’s important that every parent take precautions to secure your smart home devices from hackers.

Smart devices have been in the news and it hasn’t all been great PR. In December 2019 hackers managed to speak with 8-year-old girl through her family’s Ring camera. Other families have reported bad actors hacking baby monitors.

Hackers are a creative bunch, but their access methods are not always complex. In many occasions the hacker actually logs into the device using the correct username and password.

In this article we discuss various ways that hackers obtain your account details and how to protect your family.

Gaining Access

The movies might have us believe that hacking involves working late into the night, downing Red Bull, and wearing a hoodie. Techno music optional.

The fact is that many hackers look for the simplest path to achieve their goal. “Work smart, not hard” is the hacker mantra. So how do they access your devices using the path of least resistance?

They Ask

Yup. The old saying “ask and you shall receive” is well and good in Hackertown.

It’s the easiest method by far for a hacker to gain access to your smart home devices. This could come in the form of a phishing email. Anyone who takes the bait will soon find their account compromised. While some of you may scoff that someone would fall prey to phishing attempts, these aren’t your granddad’s phishing emails. These have become very convincing and sophisticated.

Hackers prey on our sense of urgency. The email will usually say that your account has been compromised and you must log in ASAP. The email looks legit with proper colors, logos, and it even sounds official. So you click a link. On the landing page you notice it looks just like the [insert smart home device] page should.

So you change your password on the fake site. Heck, the hackers might even send a confirmation email so you can log into their fake site. By this point they have already accessed the real site and are causing havoc that you will only discover later.

The Defense

Phishing emails have been around for a long time and we will continue to see them. This is because they are very effective. Your best defense is to never, ever, not ever, don’t even think about it, and NEVER, click a link in an email warning you about a breach or compromised account.

If you do receive such an email then open a new browser window and directly enter the site’s URL. Yea, it’s an extra step and links are so easy to click. However, it’s because links are so easy to click that hackers keep on phishing.

They Crack It

Accounts with simple passwords crack easier than an egg at the diner. Hackers know this and use it to their advantage. Programs exist and can be easily purchased on the dark web that enable a hacker to try thousands of passwords in the blink of an eye. A weak password will fall with this type of brute force assault.

So, wise one, you’ve decided to pick a crazy word from the dictionary. Who would ever guess snickersnee (a long knife, FYI) is your password? The hacker using a dictionary attack would get it.

The Defense

Modern password standards from NIST suggest that you create passwords that are 20+ characters. You can string together several words and separate with special characters. So now you might use

snickersnee!abibliophobia$malarkey#dog

I’m guessing the last word was a bit of let down, but I only know so many odd words. Also, don’t use this password now that it’s on the web.

A final tip is to change your password if someone else learns it. Seems pretty basic, but how many friends have you shared a Netflix account with where the password is the same as another account?

Previous Hacks

By now most adults and tech-savvy kids know that big companies get hacked. They likely get hacked more than is reported in the news. And it makes sense why. A large company, such as Target, is a gold mine for hackers. Personally identifiable information (PII) sitting in databases ripe for the taking!

Unfortunately, if the username/password combo to login to your Target account is the same as your Ring account you have an issue. When Target was hacked and data on 110 million shoppers was stolen, you best believe that hackers were trying the same username/password combos on multiple other accounts. To increase their return on hack they likely sold the data to other bad actors on the dark web.

Guess how the hackers accessed Target’s computer system? Yup, a phishing email targeting an employee at an outside vendor. Beware the phish.

The Defense

To secure your smart home devices don’t reuse passwords across accounts. Yes, your email address is likely the same or one of a very small set. However, the number of password options is truly unlimited. Use wonky words, consult an online password generator, or do whatever it takes to generate strong passwords unique to each account.

You’re probably thinking “Great! Another thing for me to remember. Thanks, Daryl!”.

I counter your frustration with the recommendation of a password manager such as Dashlane or LastPass. These solutions come in free and paid versions. They will help you log in to different accounts without you having to remember each individual password. Pretty helpful!

To make it even better these solutions provide a password audit. They will flag accounts that share the same password so you can update as necessary.

Additional Steps to Secure Your Smart Home Devices

We’ve gone over a few methods hackers use to access your devices and some prevention tips. I’ll round out this post with a few additional thoughts.

  1. Utilize Two Factor Authentication (2FA) when the option is available. When enabled, 2FA requires that a code be sent to your phone or you receive a code from a trusted app. To access a site you must enter the proper code. Yes, this makes checking your bank statement more difficult. However, it serves to protect you from hackers as the code is typically time sensitive and lasts for seconds up to a few minutes.
  2. Avoid clicking links as I mentioned in the phishing section above. It’s so important that it’s worth stating again. Don’t click links. Do manually enter the site in the address bar.
  3. Practice good password hygiene so that in the event one account is compromised your other accounts are still secure.
  4. Use a firewall to lock down and secure your smart home devices. This won’t compensate for reused passwords, but it will prevent hackers from exploiting open ports that provide easy access to your home network.

Hackers are smart people and they are getting smarter by the day. Low cost hacker tools can easily be purchased on the dark web making even an amateur a threat. The above steps will help to protect you and your family from unwanted digital invaders. Stay smart, keep passwords unique and challenging, and remember that it’s never too early to discuss strategies to stay safe online with your kids.

As a kid if I played games for too long I’d inevitably hear something along the lines of “games are a waste of time. How will that help you in life!”. The idea of using games to teach children about technology, or any subject, wasn’t popular back in the day.

Today games are enjoyed by adults and children alike. It’s true many games are time wasters with little educational value. Increasingly games are being developed that are fun, engaging, and most of all educational.

If you’ve been searching for a way to start gaming with your children, but want to make it educational then read on.

The Benefit of Using Games

I’m guessing most dads are excited to hear that they can incorporate games into time with the family. What’s not to like about bringing together two things you love? This is especially true for new dads who have put in much less screen time than they did pre-child.

Besides the obvious, games are fun, using games to teach children has many upsides. For instance:

  • Games are engaging which encourages kids to learn outside the classroom
  • Learning from mistakes is important and games are virtually risk free
  • Games promote competition and build a competitive spirit

I feel like laying on the hard sell here isn’t necessary. Dads hear “games can be used to teach my kids” and that is all they need. So, let’s get into the fun part and discuss some games!

Using Games to Teach Children About Technology

Planeta 42 Games

Planeta has been around since 2014 offering free educational games. Their games are usually quick and don’t require much time. This is excellent for short bursts of education and fun. Game categories cover computers, math, cooking, physics, geography, and much more. The IT/computer category along has 70+ games, so you aren’t at risk of running out of entertainment any time soon.

Each game comes with a “how-to” guide and a written description covering the lesson. For instance, the computer parts puzzle game provides snippets on the parts of a computer found in the game. At 2-3 sentences at best these introductions are short, sweet, and easy for children to digest.

One of the best things about Planeta is that you can play without any registration. No account, credit card, or any personal info is required.

ABCya

Next up is ABCya, a site providing games and mobile apps that appeal to elementary students.

Just like Planeta, ABCya provides games spanning a variety of subjects. From grammar to typing and math to language arts, parents can find games in most subjects. What really stands out at ABCya is their filter ability. Parents can filter by common core standards or by the game theme or genre. The friendly layout and awesome searching make this an easy site to quickly navigate if you’re in a rush.

ABCya does offer a free version, but limits users to 6 mobile games per week. If your kid will mostly be at a desktop they can play an unlimited number of regular games. Paid plans do provide more features and can be used across up to 5 devices. Plans start at $5.83 (billed annually) and go up to $9.99 (billed monthly). While this isn’t the most expensive subscription it is still a consideration for families on a budget.

Funbrain

With a name like Funbrain you know this is going to be…fun!

Geared towards K-8 students Funbrain allows you to filter games by grade level, popularity, or subject. For any parent who has a child fascinated by animals this is the site for you. Funbrain incorporates all sorts of animals into their games. This makes it especially fun for young learners.

The site provides a simple UI and user-friendly experience. What is also appealing is the variety of learning styles that can use the site. Some kids (and parents) love games. Others might be more inclined to read. Much like Burger King, Funbrain let’s parents and kids “have it your way”.

Lure of the Labyrinth

First up, this game doesn’t have the amazing graphics you’ve come to expect from Xbox or PlayStation. Many adults may even feel a hint of nostalgia when first arriving on the site. However, don’t judge a book or a game by its cover/landing page.

Lure of the Labyrinth offers math-based puzzles for pre-algebra students. Math-based puzzles doesn’t sound fun until you hear that they are incorporated into an adventure with monsters and a “bean-loving girl with wings”.

The game is centered around rescuing a pet. As of this writing the site shows 39+ million pets have been rescued. That’s a lot of players so they must be doing something right.

TypeTastic!

Does your son or daughter henpeck the keyboard? Want to get them to stop? Head on over to TypeTastic!

Designed to help K-12 students develop typing skills, TypeTastic! boasts over 600 games. That is enough to keep even the most persistent keyboard warrior busy for a while. The games are conveniently broken out into K-2, upper elementary, and middle/high school categories.

The curriculum has been designed to cover everything from training motor skills to mastering touch typing, and testing your typing fluency. This might actually be a game where you and your kids can go head-to-head in an all out typing competition. I realize that may have sounded geeky, but remember what this site is all about.

A free version can be used by parents and kids at home. If you really love the platform they offer a paid version for schools and school districts. Classroom plans start at $99/year and go up.


At first take using games to teach children sounds like a crazy idea. I’d agree if the recommendation was to play mindless games. Using games that reinforce lessons learned in the classroom and that introduce new subject matter are a great resource. Games keep kids engaged and are fun for all ages. Plus, a little friendly family competition can’t hurt…until the kids start cleaning up on dad.

You’ve probably heard about the importance of using strong passwords before. It’s an IT guys favorite thing to go on about. While it might get annoying it isn’t without justification. The most common passwords of 2019 are laughably weak. If adults have trouble keeping a strong password what about kids? Today I’ll walk you through some tips to discuss with your children on how to create a strong password.

Why Are Strong Passwords Important?

The first thing we need to understand is why a strong password is important. Some might argue that a proper password is tough to remember. If hackers are going to get it anyway, might as well make it easy for you, the user. I get it. However, we shouldn’t let down our defense and a strong password is generally the first line of defense.

Today we have password manager applications, such as Dashlane and LastPass, that make storing passwords easy. No longer is the “tough to remember” excuse valid. Not that it really ever was a good excuse.

A strong password helps to keep your accounts secure from bad actors. Hackers, while smart, are also a lazy bunch. Unless you have something very valuable that they want most will seek the path of least resistance. Cracking an easy password with a dictionary attack, for example, is much easier than attempting a strong, unique password.

When explaining why a strong password matters to your kid, keep the following in mind:

  1. 73%+ of internet users have the same password for multiple websites. If one gets hacked the others could quickly follow. Don’t give hackers more avenues to steal your information.
  2. With every additional character you add to your password you’re making a hacker’s job harder.
  3. Strong passwords go hand-in-hand with other security tools such as multi-factor authentication (MFA)

Strong passwords are critical to gaining a solid foundation in proper cyber security.

How to Create a Strong Password

The traditional advice to a strong password goes something like this:

  • 12 characters or more
  • Use numbers, symbols, and mixed case letters
  • Avoid dictionary words
  • Don’t replace letters with easily guessed substitutes (e.g. Hi1l)

So we know the traditional password tips. However, you aren’t a traditional guy. That’s why you’re here in the first place. Let’s get a bit more technical with our advice now.

Jibberish Is Good

Long password = good. Long password + a bunch of random words and symbols = better.

Hackers will use words found in the dictionary or used in pop culture to access your account. Using those words, no matter how unique you think they are, isn’t a good practice. Rather, make up a long word with a bunch of random letters and symbols. It doesn’t have to make sense and the less sense it makes even better.

Be sure to avoid using passwords that are just consecutive keys on the keyboard. QWERTY is fun to say, but doesn’t make for a strong password.

The ‘Ol Razzle Dazzle

Keep ’em guessing by creating passwords that incorporate symbols, numbers, and letters. This makes it harder to crack the code. Since you are using a made-up word it will be twice as hard to access your account.

I’d recommend using some type of password generator to be most effective. As humans we tend to overestimate ourselves. We think we are being completely random, but we really aren’t. Password managers usually have a built-in password generator. Be sure the settings account for length (21+ characters is good) and includes special characters.

Don’t Get Personal

Yes, it’s super easy to remember the name of your first dog. That information is also easy for a hacker to discover. Avoid using the names of pets, family members, birthdays, anniversary dates, addresses and other easily discovered words in your passwords.

This is also a good practice when creating security questions for online accounts. Avoid using answers that could be easily discovered online. For example, if your kid plays for the Lil Lions junior football team don’t use that as an answer to a question.

Avoid Password Reuse

That’s right. I’m saying that you need a new, unique password for every site where you have an account. Again, password managers will save you here.

The primary reason is that if you reuse passwords you might suffer more when one account is hacked. If a bad actor gets your Facebook password, which you also use for your Yelp, bank accounts, and gym account you’re going to have a bad day.

Keep it to Yourself

Your kids, spouse, and best friend might all have a legitimate reason for needing to know your passwords. However, you need to stand strong and say no. Sharing passwords is a recipe for disaster and can cause conflict with those closest to you.

Keeping your password safe means you also need to avoid entering it into a field in plain sight of others. If you can shield your phone or turn your back while you enter your password then do so.

Finally, and this is tough to say, don’t write down your password and stick it next to your computer. My grandfather thought he was smart and hid it under the mouse pad. As you might guess it was easy to find. This also goes for those who avoid password managers and store passwords in a text file. If that is you then be sure the file has some random name. “My Passwords” is not a good name for a file.


Teaching your kids how to create a strong password isn’t time consuming, but the lesson is extremely important. A quick conversation and explanation as to why it’s important could save your child and possibly yourself a big headache down the road.

Just be sure to practice what you preach. I’m looking at all of you who use your fantasy football username as a password.

Stay safe out there, folks!

Discussing healthy family screen time is kinda like talking about limiting your chocolate ice cream intake. You know it’s probably good for your health, but it just feels so good to avoid any limitations. If setting boundaries for screen time is something you struggle with you aren’t alone. Parents, kids, grandparents, and everyone else has trouble setting healthy boundaries.

In this article I’ll go through a few best practices when it comes to your screen time.

What is Healthy Screen Time?

First up we need to determine if your current screen time is actually unhealthy. If your first reaction was “no way! not me” then you might need to keep reading. No one likes to admit they have a bad or unhealthy habit. I certainly don’t like admitting the number of cookies I can eat in one sitting.

Unhealthy screen habits, which can lead to screen addiction, might be tough for you to spot, so listen to friends and family. If the people around you are commenting that you spend more time on your phone than enjoying real life, you might have a problem. If your first instinct the second your mind wanders is to grab your phone, you might have a problem. Find that you’ve reviewed all the updates in your social media feed going back two weeks and you’re still wanting more? You might have a problem.

Like any problem the first step is admitting you have an issue. Either by your own assessment or that of your peers you’ve decided your screen time is unhealthy. It’s important to catch it early. As a parent your kids will look up to you. If the example you set is that your face must always be buried in a phone your kids can and will copy that behavior. Monkey see, monkey do.

So what does healthy screen time look like? It involves using the screen when it’s good for your family. This could be looking up an attraction on Yelp or a new recipe. All great reasons to be on your device!

Healthy habits also help you meet your personal needs. Mobile banking has helped many people manage their finances and make sure bills are paid on time. I’ll even venture to say a bit of social media can be good for folks.

It’s important for a family to discuss healthy screen habits together. Your kids can’t be expected to pick this information up at school or from friends. Parents have to have the tough conversation and lead by example. Here are some tips for parents looking to address health screen time with their kids.

Steps to Practicing Healthy Family Screen Time

Show Them the Way

Step 1 I’ve already hit on a bit and that is leading by example. How you use your devices sends a strong message to your kids. Much stronger than any words that come out of your mouth. If you are on your phone throughout dinner don’t be surprised if/when your kids do the same. The message you send is that the phone, or other device, is extremely important and can take priority over others.

This isn’t to say that is exactly how you feel. Most dads wouldn’t say they love their phone more than family. However, perception is reality so be sure you don’t give your kids the wrong idea about what is important.

It could be fun to gamify your screen time. Find a tracking app (be sure to vet first to ensure the app is legit!) and track your screen usage. Have your family do the same and make a game of it to see who has the best habits. The next week you can see who has the most improvement.

Seek to Understand

Understanding your child as a technology user is Step 2. When I was a kid you were still a nerd or geek if you played on a computer more than a football field. Times were different back then. Nowadays we love nothing more than to read about some teenager who created a cool new app. Speaking with your child and understanding what type of tech user they are (gamer, coder, etc.) can help you set reasonable boundaries. It also gives you an excellent opportunity to discuss proper cyber security practices.

Share High Quality Content

Step 3 is all about content. Now that you’ve taken time to understand what type of tech user your child is, you can share relevant content. Find articles, apps, tutorials, YouTube videos and other resources that compliment their interest. You can also share resources that help reinforce what they are learning in school.

This is an excellent chance to help explain how to use the internet to find reliable information. With deep fakes becoming more prevalent telling real from fake is tough for the best of us. Teaching your kids how to fact check and use trustworthy sources will be invaluable later in life.

Back to Step #1, you can set a good example by explaining how you select the content you consume. The fact you’re reading Nerdy Dads means you’re likely already a pro at finding the best content on the internet 😉

Come Together

Enjoy some screen time with your kids by helping research reports or go head-to-head in your favorite game is Step 4. I’ve previously written about how fathers can use technology to connect with their children. The world wide web can be an exciting place, so explore it together!

You can also use the web to introduce your children to new hobbies. Getting your kids excited about new things can be a challenge. Showing them videos of other children having fun with tech can be an encouragement. Best of all is that it comes from other kids, so it must be cool! If your good with your hands it might be fun to explore the maker movement with your child. Tons of projects can be found online and you don’t have to break the bank to get started.

Set Realistic Boundaries

Tell your kid they can’t do something and they will bend over backwards to do it anyways. Step 5, involves having direct and logical conversations as to what is and is not acceptable. Explain why you want them to develop good habits. If you had to break bad habits yourself use that as an example. In addition to good screen habits you should also discuss how to protect your personal information. What is ok to share and what should remain confidential can be a fine line. Make sure that line is super clear for your kids.

While I don’t advocate a free for all approach I do encourage other dads to be understanding that some screen time is necessary. Kids don’t head to the library or dig out an encyclopedia to do research these days. Almost all school projects will require some computer work. However, entire weekend binges of WoW shouldn’t be considered research. If, however, that is a real assignment then please let me know what class I should’ve signed up for!


Discussing rules regarding healthy family screen time can help your kids understand what is expected of them. It might also help you realize some of your own bad habits that need to be kicked. Now close the browser, adjust your eyes to the natural light, and go have a fun chat with the family!