An App Can’t Replace Your Physician

There are an estimated 40,000 health-related apps out there on the market. Why so many? Because one app doesn’t fit all. Because people download the app, use it religiously for a day, a week, a month, or however long it takes to get over the hurdle they faced, and then stop using it. I’ve got several sitting on my iPhone right now. Sure, I’d love to be fitter, to eat better, to know how many steps I’ve taken in a day. But the truth is, I’m too busy most of the time to call my loved ones, let alone sit and plug my daily food intake into an app.

Some apps are only meant to be used a few times. First Derm, for example, allows parents to take photos of their child’s rash and send them in for review by board-certified dermatologists. With a 24-hour turnaround time, parents can find out if they need to take their kid to the pediatrician, or which over-the-counter cream to use. This seems like a good sell, especially since every health crisis my children have had occurred outside of office hours.

Pediatrician examines baby

The technology is awesome. But, depending on the child’s age, the appearance of a rash is often secondary to the rest of her history and symptomatology. Are the dermatologists on the other end of this app pediatric specialists? Would you trust your child’s health to a random stranger on the other side of an app? Someday, in the not too distant future, these innovations should be used by our doctors themselves.

This begs the question though: are we moving away from having one general physician and moving toward taking medical advice from whoever-can-see-us right now? Is this good for our health? Would you use First Derm? Would you be more likely to use it if it also sent the image to your physician’s office and you’d pay that $40 fee to whomever reached it first?


A Lesson for Innovators: iPotty, the Worst Toy of 2013

Check out yet another innovative way to decrease the amount of time we spend each day interacting with our children: The iPad potty-training seat:

iPad potty-training seat

Now you can let the iPad potty train your child!

Now, my children are WAY beyond potty training, and I’m still bleaching smears off the bathroom walls. I can’t even imagine cleaning up after a potty-training toddler who hasn’t even begun to perfect his aim, and likely won’t because his fingers are too busy playing on his iPad.

I’m all for technological innovations that improve the quality of our lives, that help us form healthy habits, that remind us when it’s time to get up and move around. The manufacturer, CTA, claims that a chief complaint of parents is that they can’t keep the attention of their children long enough to get them to sit (and use) the potty. While this is true – somehow song and dance, reading books to them (that I held – no pooey hands on library books please!) certainly did the trick for us. As an added bonus, my kids learned how to sing, how to interact with people, and yes… even sat on the potty chair while I used the “big potty.”

There have to be some technology-free zones in our homes. The bathroom seems like a no-brainer. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under the age of 2 should avoid television and other entertainment media because their brains are developing so much at this early age. It seems to me that innovators should have some ethical responsibility to their customers. It’s one thing to build an app that works for a few weeks, but doesn’t keep my attention long enough to actually bring about lasting behavior change. It’s altogether different to develop a product that claims to help toddlers developmentally while potentially doing the exact opposite. Some are calling this the worst toy of 2013. I hope CTA throws in a free container of Clorox wipes with every purchase.

Parents of Teens: Beware the Vine (When Viral Marketing Goes Awry)

Just when you thought it was safe to give your kids an iPhone: adolescents have a new, potentially viral, way of making a name for themselves (and landing in jail, the emergency room, or on your local news).  Vine, an app that allows you to record and loop six seconds of video (and only six) all from your iPhone, requires a steep ramp in creativity as it helps savvy brands (and teens) to reach fans.

How much can you do in six seconds? GE’s six second science fair is perhaps one of the most inspirational, strategic, and targeted use of Vine I’ve seen:

It’s a fast, relatively inexpensive way to reach a lot of people with a condensed message.  And, the social media kickback doesn’t hurt either – a few popular, company-generated vines can inspire crowds to make their own, using your hashtag to increase their reach.

Screen shot 2013-09-23 at 10.07.59 AM

Unfortunately, Vine’s become an inexpensive way for today’s teens to record and amplify their antics as well.

Matt Espinosa, a 16 year-old Virgina boy, has amassed quite a following of (mostly) younger adolescent girls through his Vines.  This past weekend, he organized a meet-up with his fans at a mall in Fairfax, Va.  The screaming pre-teens created such riotous chaos that other shoppers and security guards thought there was a shooting.  Espinosa is cute, no doubt, but this new ability to organize crowds via smartphones can lead to trouble, costing taxpayers and businesses money, and may not be the sort of fame he’s proud of in 20 years or so.

Last week, another teenage boy, Obi Nwosu, attempted to film himself jumping over an oncoming car for Vine.  He was hit by the car – and it was all caught on film.  Nwosu posted it to Vine originally, but then deleted it realizing that he shouldn’t “do it for Vine.”

The thing most teens (and many adults) still don’t seem to understand is that nothing is ever permanently deleted from the Internet.  It didn’t take long for the video to resurface and quickly gain cringe popularity.

Socialmediaphobe’s bottom line is, once again: parents, talk to your kids!  The speed of social media fame is incredibly fast; stunt videos that they may think make them cool can be dangerous and permanent, and have long-lasting implications on their health, their future college and job opportunities.  Many of today’s youth only access the Internet from their smartphones, making it even harder for parents to track their activities – and more important!  Know what your kids are doing, filming, and viewing online, and talk to them about making good choices.

This is something BatDad captures quite well – in a rather big-brotheresque way sure to make most parents smile.

Mothering by the Numbers

Screen shot 2013-03-05 at 10.27.29 AM

Years pass, but what changes?

Years pass, but what changes?

At some point yesterday morning – maybe it was the third time my nearly five year-old son threw himself to the floor in a fit over cereal, or maybe it was the realization that I hadn’t done laundry all weekend long and that same son wore pants from the dirty clothes hamper to school – I decided it might be fun to count my daily chores.

  • Trips to school: 4
  • Loads of laundry: 5
  • Flights of stairs: 46
  • Meals prepared: 5 (kid and adult versions of breakfast and dinner)
  • Beds made: 0 (woops)
  • Books in Progress: 4
    • Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys by Drs. Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson
    • The Fiction Class by Susan Breen
    • Liking the Child You Love by Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein
    • Miraculum: Poems by Ruth L. Schwartz
  • Hours worked (for pay): 8
  • Trips to grocery store: 1
  • Miles on stationary bike: 13
  • Cups of coffee: 3
  • Cans of Diet Coke: 2
  • Times my four year-old son melted to the floor in fits of horror: 6
  • Mom blogs visited: 3
  • Times I checked Facebook on my computer: 2
  • Times I checked Facebook on my iPhone: 5
  • Times I checked Twitter: 2
  • Number of clicks on articles found in Twitter feed: 5

Moms represent such a huge and influential market that I thought I’d share some other statistics about the power of moms.

  • By the time of baby’s second birthday, there have been 7,300 diaper changes (Piekut, 2008)
  • Preschoolers require mom’s attention every four minutes (Piekut, 2008)
  • Moms mention brands 73 times per week vs. 57 mentions per week for men (Walter, 2012)
  • 64% of moms ask other moms for advice before purchasing a new product (Walter, 2012)
  • 63% of moms consider other moms to be the most credible experts (Walter, 2012)
  • One in three moms are bloggers (Bodnar, 2012)
  • According to the Department of Agriculture’s Center for Policy and Promotion, the average weekly grocery bill for a family of four was $236.60 (Sehghetti, 2012)
  • Moms represent a $2.4 trillion market (Walter, 2012)
  • The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are 85.4 million estimated moms in the United States alone (U.S. Dept. of Commerce, 2011)

So, the next time your spouse comes home and wonders why you haven’t changed out of your pajamas, let him know that not only did you ensure that your children survived the day, you also kept the market afloat.



Bodnar, K. (2012). 21 Internet marketing stats that will blow your mind. Retrieved from:


Seghetti, N. (2012). Prepare to pay an extra $875 for food in 2013 (unless you use these 4 tips). Retrieved from:


Walter, E. (2012). The top 30 stats you need to know when marketing to women. Retrieved from:


U.S. Department of Comerce. Retreived from:

Facebook: Don’t Mess with My Downton (or Take a Deep Breath, a Sip of Scotch, and Review Your Privacy Settings)

Confession: I read past the spoiler warning every time.  So, when I signed onto Facebook Monday morning and was greeted by friends who’d seen Downton Abbey the night before and were shocked and saddened by the episode, I couldn’t help but do a bit of research.  My Facebook friends were kind and did not divulge the source of their grief – but I knew something big had happened and couldn’t wait until the full British version arrived (we do DVDs, not DVR) to see it.Screen shot 2013-01-30 at 12.21.52 PM

The Internet is so easily searchable that in 20 seconds or less I’d found out what all the fuss was about, felt my own dismay, anger, and grief, AND couldn’t share it with those in my household!  For the second time in a month, I wished Facebook didn’t exist (way to blame the source smphobe!).  It made me want to organize my Facebook friends into “people who watch Downton” and “people who could care less about a subtle, British, dialogue-driven series”.  With the U.S. launch of Facebook’s new graph search, finding this information should be easy.  With graph search, Facebook indexes data from personal profiles and status updates (i.e., places, photos, people, Likes, etc.) to make it searchable.

Many in the blogging and digital community are up in arms about the potential privacy risks.  I don’t see much room for debate here.  Facebook programmers are trying to find ways to improve their product, and certainly needed to improve their search function.  It’s not Facebook’s problem that your kid tried to hock black market pantry items to his friends or that your daughter has a mind of her own, fell in love with the help and ran away to Ireland to marry. Those are personal problems until one makes the choice to share on Facebook.  It’s our responsibility to check our privacy settings.  Facebook graph search will only index information set for the “public”, so now is the perfect time to review your privacy settings and talk to your kids (PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE) about how future employers will query Facebook to vet job applicants.  If you wouldn’t write it on a billboard or wear it on your t-shirt, don’t put it on Facebook!  What I’d really like from Facebook (or iOS) is some sort of intoxication alert that won’t allow publishing on Facebook or sending Tweets that you may regret in the morning.

I’m on the waiting list to try the Facebook graph search beta. If I had it today I’d search for friends in my city who like Downton Abbey and invite them over this weekend for a Downton-style feast (and marathon, as the DVDs are scheduled to arrive Saturday!).

Flamingo Baking: Lessons in Accepting Limitations and Coming to Terms with the Past on Facebook

Every year as my children’s birthdays approach, we start talking about cakes.  Not what flavor necessarily, but the shape.  Their cakes set the theme for their parties and they’ve made very elaborate baking requests in the past.  I generally spend weeks thinking about the upcoming cake, considering my strategy and ingredients, and at least a day baking and building the thing.  This week, recognizing the limitations of my broken foot, I ordered one from a local bakery.  I felt some guilt in this, despite the fact that Anna and I together couldn’t even remember all the cakes from the previous seven years.

Even my Shutterfly account only had cake pictures going back to 2009.  To dig deeper I had to consult Snapfish and Walgreens using an old email account.

Elmo cake - 2009

Elmo cake – 2007

Castle Cake - Anna's 4

Castle cake – 2009

Bubble Bath Cake - Noah's 1

Bubble bath cake – 2009

Merry-go-round cake - 2010

Merry-go-round cake – 2010

Train cake - 2009

Train cake – 2009

The thing about digging this deep into the past is that you find more than just cakes. You find your life history, chronicled somewhat haphazardly at first, and then more regularly with the rise of Facebook.  Ghosts of your past may still linger on Facebook – my own certainly did as I posted a status update indicating how strange it is that I remember what time I was taken to the hospital, who drove me, the faces of the nurses who cared for me, being told not to push because the chord was wrapped around her neck.  What followed – the gory details of having a somewhat premature baby in the special care nursery, the 8-day hospital stay during which I didn’t know if she’d survive, my relationship with the abusive breast pump, the 15 months of sleepless nights, the post-partum depression – these details get fuzzier with each passing year.  I didn’t expect the ghosts to pop up – my ex’s friends sending nasty comments in a public forum.  At first, I was shaken – why would they choose my daughter’s birthday to amplify their hateful message?  Then, I realized that it was high time I edited my friends list.

As social media managers, we have many options when it comes to treading the muddy waters of social media public relations.  When criticism is taken social, we have two choices: 1) address the criticism in the forum in which it is presented; or 2) take the conversation offline as soon as possible.   Option 2 seems best, especially if you’ve been monitoring your social mentions and catch the comments as they are made.  I did respond privately to one particularly misguided comment, but the others I simply deleted from Facebook.  This is ALWAYS an option!  Also, why are these people still listed as my friends?  I haven’t unfriended anyone in nearly three years; unfriending is still seen as such a dis and I’m generally open to maintaining relationships from my past, with a glimmer of hope that something that once tied us together remains.  It’s different when someone tries to rain on your kids’ birthday parade.  Instead of just unfriending, I opted to BLOCK them from my Facebook page altogether. This means that not only are we no longer friends, but that they won’t be able to find me if they search for me on Facebook and I’ve wiped the slate clean.

Anna, of course, insisted on taking tie-dyed cupcakes to her class – not exactly standard fare at the local grocery store.   Empowered by the rush from BLOCKing the negativity from my life, I rigged a stool on which to rest my knee and stood on one foot – flamingo style – at the mixmaster to bake my peace-loving hipster of an 8 year-old the cupcakes she wanted.  It was painful, and perhaps I should’ve just accepted my limitations and told her that mom’s not superwoman; but sometimes learning to accept our limitations means finding creative solutions rather than giving up.


Tie-dyed cupcakes baked flamingo style