How much time do your kids spend staring at screens? After spending seven months studying more than 1,300 fourth and fifth graders, a research team at Iowa State University found that children whose parents limit the amount of time they spend staring at electronic screens get more sleep, get better grades, have fewer behavior problems and are also at a lower risk of obesity. Because parents don’t always enforce less screen time, the researchers say that parents don’t always see these effects. That’s made even tougher with the fact that the most noticeable effects of limiting screen time – like a child not gaining extra weight – are difficult to notice. The research team says the responsibility shouldn’t rest solely on parents, however. Lead researcher Douglas Gentile hopes pediatricians will begin to urge parents and kids to reduce screen time, too. With the average U.S. child spending seven hours a day in front of some sort of screen, there’s plenty of time to cut back on.
Have you ever been working on Google Doc, only to find you couldn’t do something you needed to? Google recently launched add-on stores for Google Docs and Sheets, which bring new capabilities to your documents and spreadsheets. To see what’s available, click “Get add-ons” in the Add-ons menu of any document or spreadsheet. Every add-on was created by Google’s developer partners. If you find one you want to use, clicking on it will make it available to use right away across all your documents and spreadsheets. Some of the more popular add-ons include Avery’s LabelMerge, which makes setting up and printing address labels a breeze, and the EasyBib add-on, which simplifies the process of citing sources in school essays or professional reports. Google wanted make the add-on process as easy as possible, so they’ll update automatically and look and feel like they’re native features of Google Docs and Sheets. There are about 25 add-ons currently available, with many more on the way in the coming months.
It’s never too soon for your child to play with a tablet, and if you think they’re ready for a tablet of their own, here are some of my favorites available today. LeapFrog’s LeapPad 2 costs less than a hundred bucks and works with all cartridge apps and games from the first LeapPad, giving you access to a massive catalog. LeapFrog also makes the LeapPad Ultra, which is a little more expensive but worth it for older kids, because the Ultra feels like more of a “real tablet” thanks to media apps and other features. The Tabeo e2 from Toys R Us is a great Android device designed for kids ages 6 to 11. The e2 features parental controls and educational applications to make sure you know exactly what your kids are doing with the device. You can manage which apps are installed and limit usage by time or day. All of these tablets are great – and if you match the features and benefits to the intended user, you can’t go wrong.
Which music streaming service do YOU use most often? A recent study found that iTunes Radio, which only launched last September, is now the third-most popular choice for music listeners in the U.S. The survey found that iTunes Radio had already surpassed Spotify and finds itself on the heels of iHeartRadio. The study, which polled more than 2,000 Americans, found that Pandora is still the undisputed leader in music streaming popularity in the U.S. – nearly one in three of those polled used Pandora in the last month, while no other service managed to crack 10 percent. Even though it still trails iHeartRadio, the survey is a big win for iTunes Radio, which had more than 20 million users only a month after it launched. Reports suggest iTunes Radio will surpass iHeartRadio by the end of the year, and it’s not hard to believe – Apple’s streaming service is integrated into every version of iTunes – which has a user base more than 600 million strong – meaning there’s plenty of room for it to grow.
Facebook is a great way to stay connected with family and friends, and to kill some time by playing a few levels of Candy Crush. But if you’ve come to the point where Facebook is more of a burden than a blessing, permanently deleting your account is pretty easy. Here’s how to get rid of it for good. Search for “delete account” in the Facebook Help Center, which is at Facebook.com/Help. Facebook will warn you that once your profile is deleted, the information you had there will be inaccessible. Then, click “Delete My Account.” You’ll be asked if you’re really sure you want to get rid of your account, and if you click yes, enter your password, and complete the “captcha” … you’re gone. An e-mail from Facebook will confirm that you’ve successfully deleted your account. And if you all of a sudden have a change of heart, don’t worry: Facebook gives you a two week grace period. Log back into your account and click the “Cancel Deletion” button … and everything will be right with the world.
If you’re still using a first-gen Kindle Paperwhite, a new update will greatly improve your reading experience. Amazon recently released an update to its original Paperwhite e-readers, bringing them up to par with their successors. The update adds Goodreads integration, meaning you’ll be able to quickly and easily share exactly what you’re reading with your family and friends. You can also use Goodreads to separate your books into lists, share digital bookshelves, browse for new titles or post your favorite excerpts. You’ll also get access to the Kindle FreeTime feature, letting parents create profiles for their children to monitor their reading habits and see how much time they’re spending on the device. The update also adds Cloud Collections – which are customizable e-book list categories, Page Flip – which lets you skim books without losing the page you’re on, and X-Ray – which helps you learn more about what you’re reading. The update is rolling out over the air now, but you can download it directly from Amazon’s website if you want to upgrade immediately.
No matter which wireless carrier you choose, chances are good you’re going to have a pretty high monthly data bill. But thanks to Google Chrome’s mobile browser, you can use less data each month and maybe even save a few bucks. Google has a couple of features in its browsers for Android and iOS that reduce your data consumption by up to 50 percent. Powered by Google’s servers, one feature optimizes and transcodes the images you see on websites to the WebP format, which requires fewer bytes than other, more popular photo formats, like JPEG. To enable this feature, head into the settings menu of Chrome, then select “Bandwidth.” You’ll see an option that reads “Reduce data usage.” Turn that “on” and you’re ready to go! Also in “Bandwidth” is an option for preloading webpages. Chrome lets you choose always, never, or only on Wi-Fi. To save on data, set it to either option that isn’t “Always.” Happy browsing!
If you’re a Comcast customer without a Netflix subscription who’s dying to know what the big deal is about “House of Cards,” you’re in luck. A recent deal between Comcast and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has given Comcast the rights to sell the Emmy Award-winning first season of “House of Cards” through its Xfinity Store – which launched in November as a way to combat Netflix and Amazon Instant video. The deal also added other Sony titles to the Xfinity Store, ahead of the traditional on-demand rental window. Movies like “American Hustle” and TV shows like “Breaking Bad” are also available for purchase directly through any Comcast cable box or at xfinity.com/store. Any content bought through the Xfinity Store can then be watched on your TV, computer or mobile device. The deal gives Comcast customers a new way to watch “House of Cards,” but you have to wonder – with the first season available on DVD since June and the inexpensive cost of Netflix, who is this deal really for?
Have you ever wondered how to take a screenshot on your Mac? It’s really simple. If you want to capture your entire display, press Command+Shift+3. If your sound is on, your computer will make a camera shutter noise and save the image to your desktop. The file will be named “Screenshot” plus the date and time. If you just want to capture part of your screen, press Command+Shift+4, then click and drag your cursor to highlight the area of your screen you want to save. Let go of the mouse, hear the shutter noise, and head to your desktop to find the image. You can also take a screenshot of just one window, again by pressing Command+Shift+4, but then hitting the Spacebar. Your crosshair will turn into a camera, and clicking on the window will save just that portion of your screen to your desktop. Next time you need to show someone what you’re working on, these tools will make a little bit easier.
With Opening Day around the corner, Major League Baseball has announced a new system that will use math to show how amazing that diving outfield catch really was. The new tracking system – which doesn’t even have a name yet – will be used to track the speed and efficiency of fielders. It will base these readings on balls hit into play – including its speed, launch angle, distance and hang time. The system then calculates how fast and how well the fielders reacted, and how optimal the path they took to get to the ball really was. After testing the system at the Mets’ Citi Field last year, Major League Baseball will bring it to Miller Park in Milwaukee and Target Field in Minnesota this year and to every other park by 2015. The readouts will be made available in real time for broadcast and highlights, so the next time Oakland’s Josh Reddick leaps over the wall to rob a home run, we’ll have the numbers to prove just how awesome that catch was.