Phones and computers have transformed at warp speed over the past two decades, and the digital age has even brought with it a new social media shorthand language (which your kids use IRL, leaving you ROFL). When you see your kids using those apps they “can’t live without,” don’t feel like you weren’t meant to partake. There’s no reason mobile technology should leave you with your head-spinning.
Beyond games and text messaging, new phones are capable of accessing a wealth of entertainment and information. Above all, they provide us with efficiency tools for our everyday lives. Who doesn’t need that? Here are a few ways you might be able to enjoy the apps your kids are “playing with” this year.
The hustle and bustle of life can sometimes prevent you from keeping up with your family and friends. Teens and young adults can be especially hard to keep in touch with via more traditional communicative technologies (i.e., phone calls and email), especially since there are a plethora of apps that they use just for sending messages to people. Here are the top ones you might spot, and how they might actually prove useful for you, too:
WhatsApp allows you to send an instant message to anyone anywhere in the world for free. This has a number of benefits:
1. You won’t need as many texts, so you can lower your SMS rate plan.
2. You can keep in touch with people traveling abroad for no added cost.
3. If phone service is spotty, you can still send messages as long as you have a Wi-Fi connection.
Better yet: Kids and grandkids live far from home? No problem! You can share messages and pictures with a group of people, to stay in touch as a unit. We know one family that has their own WhatsApp group and, despite living in different states, they share everything – from random thoughts to photos of impressive meals they’ve cooked. Even the “lurkers” in the family, who follow more than they post, can stay in touch with what their parents and siblings are doing halfway across the country.
Skype is a great way to communicate with people in other countries without shelling out for expensive long-distance charges. When both you and your chat-mate have the program, you can talk for free online through video chat or instant messaging. Even if you’re both in the same country, it’s one of the easiest ways to have a video chat – so that you can actually see the person you’re talking to.
Better yet: Skype also allows users to call regular telephones all over the world for pennies a minute. You can even use Skype to make business calls at lower rates than what you’d pay with your average phone service provider. It’s especially useful for international calls, but you can also save on long-distance in-country calls, too.
Nearly every mobile device available has a built-in camera, and the entire world seems to betaking full advantage of this photographic access by compulsively documenting their lives. Still learning how to master your smartphone camera? Enter Instagram. Not only can you snap a pic and share it with your friends and family in an instant, but you can also crop, edit and caption every moment, before awaiting “likes” and comments.
This is perfect for those whose inner photographer is looking for that next great shot. Or if you’re constantly forgetting to send out photos from that last family vacation, you can post one or two in the moment to appease the masses.
Better yet: Instagram is also a great way to follow your favorite brands, chefs, designers, NGOs – you name it – to stay in touch with the latest trends, events and ideas.
Uber and Lyft
Thanks to apps like these, you no longer have to track down a local cab number or wait on the sidewalk hoping one will pass by. Either of these apps will help you find a ride in minutes by locating the nearest driver. As an added bonus, according to the blog What’s the Fare, the average Uber or Lyft ride will often cost you less than the average taxi ride.
Better yet: Since your payment information is stored in the app, there’s no need to exchange cash when the trip’s over. Just hop out and say “Thanks!”
Although your GPS might have some pretty decent traffic warning capabilities, your kids know that news travels fastest via social media. With Waze, you’ll receive navigational instructions, as well as warnings of traffic disasters, speed traps, road hazards and more, as soon as a fellow Waze user reports it.
Better yet: Waze boasts that having its app is like having your own personal community helping you to find your destination via the fastest route possible.
You may not have the same taste in music as your children, but music and radio apps can help all of us find and listen to our favorite music.
Pandora and Spotify
Each of these apps has a free version that allows you to create customized radio stations with intermittent ads. All you have to do is link your account to an email address to start listening to music. Each app has discovery options based on your musical preference that allow you to find new music, and you can go commercial-free for less than $10/month.
Better yet: If you’re not particularly interested in discovering new tunes, you can still find and listen to your favorite classics on demand, as much as you want, via Spotify.
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