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Shuddle Rideshare Service For Families (Discount Code!)

Disclosure: Sponsored post. See below for special Shuddle discount code for Techmamas readers!

 

Shuddle

One of the biggest challenges for families is the minute by minute, ever-changing scheduling of driving kids to and from school, after school activities and everything in between. With a mix of minimum days, school holidays, after school activities, homework, sick days, sports and medical appointments, no two days are the same. Assembling a weekly transportation schedule is like putting together one of those 1,000 piece puzzles, and while I’m a master project planner (My Parent Plan), scheduling can be a challenge.

 

I decided several years ago to work out of the home for several reasons, including the flexibility to drive my kids around. Now that my three boys are getting older and I can keep track of their location by calling their phones, I feel the time is right to go back to working outside the home.  As I am planning this transition I realize the biggest challenge is transportation for my tween sons (twins). Several of my friends confirmed that they, too, have the same problem.

 

Shuddle

Photo credit: Shuddle

 

When Shuddle contacted me to work together on a (disclosure) sponsored post, I said, “How did you know that I have been looking into transportation options?”  The fact they contacted me happened to be a coincidence because I had independently planned to try their service. Shuddle is a rideshare service designed specifically to transport busy families with drivers that have caregiver experience. They undergo an extensive verification process (national criminal background checks, motor vehicle records check, employer reference checks,  in-person training and vehicle inspection), plus live monitoring and support for every ride.  I started my transportation hunt by looking into hiring a driver on my own, but the verification process was complicated and some information was hard to find. Shuddle’s verification process is a huge benefit.

 

The steps to start using Shuddle and scheduling a ride are straightforward.  The flexibility of having  until midnight to book a ride for the next day is helpful.  One key requirement is that riders must have a mobile phone in order for drivers to reach them. Even if your kids don’t currently have phones, there are a great selection of budget basic prepaid phones that have the ability to call and text. All of my kids started out with those types of phones anyway. Shuddle currently operates in the San Francisco Bay Area (Marin, Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, Burlingame, San Jose, Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Mountain View).

 

Shuddle Mobile App

Photo credit: Shuddle

 

Shuddle has an iOS and an Android app to enable managing and scheduling rides easily on the go.

 

As much as the transportation features offer great value, I also appreciate the flexible employment opportunities Shuddle is providing to women. Here are some of the interesting facts about  Shuddle:

  • “Shuddle has given thousands of rides and has a community of more than 200 female drivers, 80% of which are mothers themselves.
  • In contrast to other companies garnering praise for having 30% of their workforce composed of women (Lyft), Shuddle’s  community of all women drivers is unprecedented.
  • Shuddle is one of the only companies in which women are at the forefront of the ride sharing economy and is proud to be presenting an economic opportunity for them.
  • To make money with other rideshares, you really need to drive Friday and Saturday nights, and so there are understandably concerns about safety. That isn’t the case with Shuddle and whose value proposition speaks strongly  to women.
  • Shuddle rides can be scheduled by midnight the day before, giving drivers the opportunity to know who they are driving before they get in their car.
  • There are no late-night rides or rides with potentially threatening customers, etc.

 

***********DISCOUNT OFFER TO TECHMAMAS READERS***************************

 

If you would like to try Shuddle, use the code TECHMAMAS to have one free ride up to $20 in value

 

To sign up, CLICK HERE to load either the Shuddle iOS or Android Shuddle app.

 

To learn more about Shuddle (such as passenger requirements, driver screening and the ride experience), visit: http://shuddle.us.

 

 

Disclosure: Sponsored post. My words are my own.

 

 

 

 

How To Choose Apps For Kids: Mom With Apps

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Moms With Apps and The Motherhood.

 

Mom With AppsAs a mom of three boys I know how much kids love apps. As a parent, the process of finding the information I need about the apps was not only confusing but also incomplete because the current app stores don’t provide everything I am looking for. I have seen different figures on the number of apps out (and they change by the minute), but current numbers are around ONE MILLION APPS!  Most of all, getting the complete information I needed to make sure the app was safe for my kids has been challenging.

 

Enter Moms With Appsa first-of-its-kind destination that gives parents the power to choose the best apps for their kids“. I was more then thrilled to receive a press outreach email about getting more involved with Moms with Apps. Their website has been one of the sources that did provide the information needed to make decisions about kid’s apps. Now they are expanding the features on their website, and it could not have come at a better time (maybe they heard my S.O.S. pleas every time I search for apps online)!

 

Moms with Apps currently has 285 developers in its community and 885 apps in the discovery center. The website is also founded by parents who “who love using technology with their own kids, Moms With Apps only features developers who have committed to high standards for protecting kids’ privacy and building great family-friendly apps”.  The new Moms With Apps features will enable me to quickly find out what is inside each app which will make the decision process so much easier. Most of the apps they cover are from independent developers and you can edit your search terms for iPhone, iPad, iPod, Kindle Fire, Android Phone or Tablet or Windows Phone.  Moms With Apps is even looking into adding more features like the ability to rate apps.

 

Here is more information from the press release that explains the three things the Mom With Apps website offers:

 

 

1. Helps you find the rights apps for your children. All of these apps are meet a set of design and development guidelines, including the following:

 

Mom With Apps checklist

 

 

2. Know what’s inside the app before downloading!

 

Mom With Apps whats in app

 

Mom With Apps whats in app

 

 

 

Search for apps based on these specific requirements: 

 

Mom With Apps - app requirements

Mom With Apps - app requirements

 

 

3. Meet the developers behind the app. Find out what inspires them and share your feedback about their app with them! If you love a developer’s app, you can search for more by them under the developer’s page:

 

Mom With Apps - meet the developer

 

 

 

How are you been choosing kid’s apps? What information are you looking for about the kid’s app that help your decision process?

 

For more information, please visit momswithapps.com, Twitter @momswithapps and on Facebook at Facebook.com/momswithapps. Here is the Moms With Apps press release.

 

 

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Moms With Apps and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

Tips For Moms on Using Facebook Groups

Tips For Moms: How To Use Facebook GroupsHow people communicate has changed significantly thanks to social media networks, especially Facebook which covers family, friends, business networks and more. I have written before about Tips for Parents: Facebook Privacy Settings for Teens but this time I wanted to cover Facebook Groups. It is important that parents understand online security and privacy settings in social networks, then help educate their kids and set up regular communication to help guide them when needed. In addition, moms can use Facebook Groups in several ways to assist in their own communication. I even showed my teen (and did it for myself) how to create a Facebook “close friends” list to see more of their updates on his timeline.

 

 

Lately it seems that every conference I attend, social media groups I am involved with and “In Real life” groups I join use Facebook Groups as communication central. I even have a Facebook Group for a business group I joined in college (made up of business majors from my alma mater). They use a Facebook Group to keep in touch and coordinate events. I recently attended their annual reunion and it was magical to sit with them in real life and catch up on information beyond their frequent online updates.

 

Coincidentally, I was able to join this local reunion because I was in town speaking at a social media conference which used Facebook groups to organize attendee communication.

 

As a mom, Facebook groups are a powerful tool to help organize school, meetup, sports and even fitness group meetups. I just joined a Facebook fitness group with other moms to help inspire us to exercise. My experience as a Facebook Admin for many groups helped me gain information that I have shared with other moms to help them set up their groups. For example, the Facebook Group Admin Help section has basic information on privacy and settings.

 

The most important decision for setting up a Facebook Group is whether your group will be open (anyone can join or be added or invited by a member), private (anyone can join, but they have to be added or invited by a member) or closed (anyone can ask to join or be added or invited by a member). I view Facebook Groups as set up for group communication. Some of my friends have businesses and they want to communicate with customers. I suggested Facebook “Pages” to them as a great tool for customer and community interaction. My next post will cover setting up Facebook Pages.

 

One of Facebook Group’s features is the ability to store files (including DropBox files). For social media conferences, we create group files that contain everyone’s website URL and social media profiles so we can follow and connect with each other online. You can also load photo’s and video to Facebook Groups. I recently just started using this tool called Canva to create not only Facebook graphics but also Facebook banners for Groups and Pages.

 

I also stress the importance of establishing Facebook Group community guidelines with admins such as banning people who say inappropriate things. Communication can flourish in a Facebook Group that is focused on a theme (i.e. fitness, networking group, conference, mother’s group) and, in the same light, shut down if members don’t speak to each other in a respectful way, keeping inappropriate topics and language off the group’s timeline.

 

Managing any group of people can be challenging, especially one that is online. But with the right guidelines and members, it can be a vital source of connection and information exchange.

 

Facebook did some research related to moms and Facebook Groups and shared it to press. The information below is from that Facebook press release.

 

Facebook Press Release: Insight from Moms Group

 

Access/Usage:

  • Check the Group daily, as often as News Feed
  • Access via both mobile and web; also utilize email notifications to see new items in email and flag for follow-up

 

Why they use Groups

Top Reasons:

  • A robust resource – Group members are from all over the US and the world, so you feel that you can ask a question and get a variety of responses and perspectives.
  • They can relate – Moms can ask any question to see if someone else has gone through the same thing, what the outcome was, any first-hand advice.  Your friends or family may not have children, or children at the same age, whereas in the Group, you can connect with other moms in the same situation that you’re in.
  • It’s separate – The Group is separate from other friends/family/co-workers on Facebook so you feel comfortable posting in a secure, like-minded forum.
  • It’s fast – “It’s so easy to post a question and get several responses within minutes”

 

How they connect w/ other moms

 

Moms use Facebook Groups mostly to connect with other moms outside of their friends/people they already know, in some cases developing deeper connections –

  • “I have friended many of the women in this group, even though I have never met them. I started to recognize certain names and stories. I felt like I knew these women personally. So I would reach out and say hi and then our friendships began.”
  • “There are a few groups that have been spun off from this group. In some ways, there are moms that I see in multiple groups and stay in contact with them more than I see my husband’s posts!”
  • Some noted that the Facebook Group is even more supportive than local meet-ups in-person.
  • “I use a local meet-up group as another source of information and way to meet people, but this group is by far more supportive. Interestingly, my local group has since moved onto Facebook.”

 

How-To

Facebook Groups is an easy way to connect and share things with family or specific sets of people like teammates, coworkers, or anyone with a shared interest. Over 500 million people use Groups each month and hundreds of thousands of Groups are created each day with the goal of connecting with others on common ground.

 

Below are some tips from Facebook on how to create a Group as well as how to continue to maintain a successful and active Group:

 

How To Create a Group:

  • On web: From your homepage, go to the Groups section on your sidebar and click on Add Group. Click Create New Group, from there a window will appear where you’ll be able to add a group name, add members and select the privacy setting for your group. Click the Create button when you’re finished.
  • On iPhone: Tap More, then under Groups, tap Create Group and enter Group name, description, privacy setting, and an icon.  Tap Create in the top-right corner to confirm.
  • On Android:  In the menu, scroll down to Groups, tap Add Group, enter the group’s name and select the privacy setting.  Tap Continue to confirm.

 

How to Join a Group:

Go to the group you want to be part of and then click Join Group in the top-right corner. You can also join any Open group that you see on the About page of someone’s Timeline by clicking Join.

  • You may have to wait for a group admin to approve your request. In some groups, you can also be added by a friend who’s already a member.
  • Customize Your Groups Privacy Setting: You can select one of three privacy options for each group you create: Open, Closed or Private.
  • Open: Anyone can join or be added or invited by a member
  • Closed: Anyone can ask to join or be added or invited by a member
  • Private: Anyone can join, but they have to be added or invited by a member.

 

Tips for Creating and Maintaining a Successful Group:

  •  Post Early & Often: Groups are more successful when the Group founders visit the Group early in its existence and post more often – get your Group started with posting on topics that encourage members to engage, share from the get-go and Like posts from other members.
  • Spread The Word: Groups thrive when more than just the original Group founders invite people to join – add additional people as administrators for the Group and encourage other Group members to invite their friends or networks. For Open groups, add tags like life, sports, food, and more so that other people can find your Group and join.
  • Make it Visual: Facebook found that flourishing Groups include logos, pictures, descriptions, or other visuals.  Consider adding a link or visual to every post on the Group page. You can also add files to your Group – here’s more info on sharing stuff from your Dropbox with your Facebook Group.
  1. On your group’s page, start a new post and click Add File. You’ll see a “From Your Dropbox” section next to Facebook’s regular file uploader.
  2. Click Choose File. If you haven’t already, sign in or create a Dropbox account. If this is your first time, you’ll also be asked for permission to link your Dropbox account to Facebook.
  3. Select the file from your Dropbox, and a link to the file will be added to your post. You can also include a message with your post.

You can curate your News Feed for content posted to your Groups.  If you’d like to modify what you see from your Groups in your News Feed, click on the drop-down in the upper right hand corner of a post on News Feed, and select one of the following options:

  • I don’t want to see this
  • Unfollow your Friend
  • Unfollow the Group

 

You can also control the Notifications you receive from your Groups.  On the Groups page, click on “Notifications” in the upper right hand corner and select one of the following options:

  •  All Posts
  • Friends’ Posts
  • Off

 

 

How do you use Facebook Groups?

 

 

Disclosure: This is a press post.

 

 

 

Carpool Management Tip: Get Help with Boost by Mercedes-Benz (Giveaway)

Disclosure:  This is a press post. One ride credit was provided to me for review purposes but I also paid for another ride. All of my opinions are my own.

Too busy motherOn TechMamas.com l write about innovative services, apps and websites for parents on TechMamas.com. But just recently as I ramped up my own work,  I realized as a parent with tweens and teens that the main help I needed was driving my kids to and from school/activities after school. I have carpools, but that does not always work because kids go to different activities afterschool. I tried to fit in work during school hours but it seemed like my kids were either always waiting for me to finish something so I could drive them, or waiting to get picked up at times when I was running late from a meeting. Yes, driving my kids around was the one challenge getting in the way of me ramping up my work. So I set off to find a service, website or app that can help me find a solution to my carpool challenges. As would have it, I was lucky enough to see an email from the folks at Boost by Mercedes-Benz on their new innovative transportation service for kids.

 

Boost by Mercedes-Benz

Photo Credit: Boost by Mercedes-Benz

 

Here is the information from Boost by Mercedes-Benz on the story behind their innovative transportation service. The current zip codes covered are in California – Palo Alto (94301, 94302, 94303, 94304, 94305, 94306), Los Altos – 94022, Menlo Park – 94025 and Mountain View – 94043:

 

Story behind Boost By Benz:

Busy schedules and the stress of scheduling for today’s youths seem to be part of the daily family life. Boost by Mercedes-Benz was developed to address that challenge. Boost by Mercedes-Benz (www.boostbybenz.com) is a proof-of-concept business launched by the Business Innovation Team at Mercedes-Benz Research & Development in Sunnyvale. This youth transportation service is designed to transport children safely and reliably to and from the educational and recreational activities that fill their day.

 

 

Knowing how important it is for children to balance school and extracurricular activities, it can be very tough for parents to get their kids from place to place – safely and on time. The goal at Boost is to make parents’ lives easier, while enabling children to participate in more activities. In addition, Boost hopes to minimize the number of vehicles on the road (and in the school driveway) by providing a safe, reliable youth transportation alternative for parents.

One of the goals in Business Innovation is to change the way people think about transportation and with Boost; the team has already seen this shift taking place.

 

 

Technology story behind Boost by Benz:

 

Innovative technology is the backbone of Boost by Mercedes-Benz. We built a seamless system that handles route planning, notifications and updates to allow our Boost Dispatcher, Driver and Concierge to focus on what’s most important, your children.

 

 

We kept a parent’s busy schedule in mind when we built our scheduling and notification system. A simple, three-step process guides you through the one-time, online account setup. Once your family’s info is in our system, simply schedule a ride online by selecting riders, pick-up and drop-off locations, and ideal pick-up and drop-off times. Confirm your child’s ride and you’ll get an email confirmation with the ride reservation details.

 

 

The rest is even easier. We’ve built custom tablet apps for our Boost Team to allow you complete transparency throughout your child’s ride. You’ll be notified via SMS or through our iPhone app 24 hours before the ride notifying you of our arrival time. Then, the day of your child’s ride, we’ll notify you that we’re on our way to pick up your child. When we arrive, we check them in via our technology and you’ll be notified that they’re aboard Boost. If so inclined, you can log in to your account while they’re aboard Boost to get a birds-eye view of their ride. Lastly, we’ll notify you to let you know they’ve safely arrived at their destination.

By blending the ease of technology with the best in transportation, you’ll rest easy knowing your kiddos are safely bound to their next adventure.

 


Overview of Business Innovation:

Business Innovation initiated in 2007 is Daimler’s ‘think tank’ for innovative solutions beyond the core business of car manufacturing. The team deals with future trends and technological, social and cultural developments to create profitable business models. Tested and evaluated on a pilot basis, success stories like car2go and Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy started here as proof- of-concept projects and have subsequently become prosperous businesses. Business Innovation teams are also located at the headquarters in Stuttgart, in Beijing, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires and Sunnyvale, CA. Business Innovation at Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America, Inc. started in 2012.

 

 

Boost by Mercedes-Benz

Photo Credit: Boost by Mercedes-Benz

 

 

Details:

To sign up visit https://boostbybenz.com/. The hours currently are Monday through Friday from 12noon to 7:00pm.  The trips are scheduled online but there is also an Boost by Mercedes-Benz iPhone app and they send texts (I have an Android phone so I used the text option). Pricing will depend on the package you get, but for me it was cheaper then hiring a sitter for their minimum amount of hours per day. Instead I was just paying per ride which worked for my kids schedules.  In the van there is a driver (of course) and a Concierge that is in charge of watching over the kids and walking them to their destination from the car.

 

Boost by Mercedes Benz

Photo Credit: Boost by Mercedes Benz

 

 

Above is one of the press photos of the Concierge that rides with the driver. I used Boost to take my boys to an exercise class. The Concierge greeted me for pickup and then at drop-off walked my boys into the facility and to the class instructor per my instructions. The driver waits with the other kids in the van while the Concierge delivers the child being dropped off. In my experience, both the driver and the Concierge were very friendly and my kids enjoyed using the service (which is the most important thing!).

 

 

Now I just need to figure out my schedule in a way that I can plan the rides in advance.  Boost By Benz usually recommends scheduling rides at least 1-2 weeks prior but some time frames may be open if you need to schedule closer to the date needed. Boost also requires 48 hour cancellation to receive a 100% refund.  They will also be running over the summer! In fact, there is a special promo going on now dedicated to summer booking. Parents can use the discount code “SUMMER15” when they register and checkout on boostbybenz.com to receive 15% off rides (expires on April 30th).

 

 

I am thrilled to know that transportation services like Boost by Benz exist to help busy working parents manage carpooling challenges!

 

GIVEAWAY:

 

Please share your family carpooling challenges in the comments and we will randomly choose one comment to win ONE RIDE CREDIT received when they sign up for Boost by Benz.

 

1. One Blog Post comment per person. One Blog Post comment is equal to one entry (so only one entry per person)  2. Winners are limited by zip codes valid to Boost by Benz stated above and to US residents only 21 years of age or older. 3. If a valid email address is not provided in the entry, another winner will be chosen. 4. The prize is not redeemable in cash and must be accepted as awarded. 5. Approximate value of prizes may vary. 6. All decisions are final 7. By entering any giveaway on this website you release Techmamas.com from any liability whatsoever, and waive any and all causes of action. 7. Contest ends May 6 2014 -10am pst. Winner will be announced by May 7 2014.

 

 

 

Disclosure:  This is a press post. One ride credit was provided to me for review purposes but I also paid for another ride. All of my opinions are my own.

 

 

 

Guest Post: Tech For Modern Parenting By Donna Novitsky, CEO Yiftee.com

Guest Post

 How did our parents raise their families without the luxuries of modern technology? From “old” technology like cell phones to booming new tech industries like eGifting, the experience of being a parent today is so much more convenient than the days of our childhood. It may have been a simpler time back then, but it sure is easier now thanks to the multiple tech options available for families. Here are my modern must-haves:

 

Digital Cameras
Long gone are the days of the stressful family photo session when the number of chances for a decent shot were limited. More often than not, the same image is now photographed dozens of times and weeded out later for the perfect shot. What’s more, most of us don’t even carry an actual camera around. More photos are taken every day with a smart phone than with an actual camera. No more expensive film development, the elimination of an actual camera (who needs more stuff to carry around?), and heaven forbid—no more waiting 60 seconds for the Polaroid to develop. While smart phone cameras are improving rapidly, I still like to use my digital camera for special events to ensure action shots or long video footage is taken at its very best.

 

Video Chat
Whether it’s a school performance or a lost tooth, relatives who live across the country can now be a part of our kids’ daily lives thanks to video chat options like Facetime or Skype. Your child calling grandma to tell her some big news is nothing compared to seeing her face- and letting her see her grandkids! Just a few seconds to connect, and grandma can see the missing tooth or watch a school performance from the audience.

 

Smart Phones
I was watching the film Kramer vs. Kramer recently and noticed the many commonalities that parents in 1979 and parents in 2013 experience alike- themes of heartbreak, joy, guilt, compassion, and utter parental confusion. One scene stuck with me in terms of how life is vastly different for us… Dustin Hoffman’s character was at the park with his young son when the boy fell and hurt his head. The dad immediately picked him up and started running down the street, panicked for his boy’s life, emotional music building throughout the long scene until they finally reached the hospital. For a quick second, I found myself silently asking this fictitious father why he wasn’t calling 911 on his cell phone. Our cell phones are taken for granted on a daily basis- especially if you’re fortunate to own a smart phone. More than a tool for emergencies like calling 911 from a park, it’s is a fast form of communication via text, games and apps for entertainment and information, a camera so you don’t miss a moment, a map so you don’t get lost, and so much more.

 

Digital Video Recorders (DVR)
In the attempt to limit our kids’ screen time, we realize the minutes they spend watching television are valuable. But who’s to say if they’re favorite show will be on at the moment you need it to be? DVR has allowed parents to not only monitor what our kids are watching, but when they are watching it and the best part of all… fast forward the commercials (because, seriously, how many times can a kid say, “I want that!” within a 30 minute cartoon?). Not to mention its benefits for us! Very few of us would be able to watch our favorite shows if we didn’t have them waiting for us to press play at our convenience.

 

eGifting
Sometimes referred to as social gifting, it’s the new way to acknowledge life’s special moments- in two minutes or less! Moms are a thoughtful bunch, but we’re busy! We want to let our friends and family know we’re thinking of them, but too often the thought just passes due to lack of time.

 

The go-to solution for moms in the know is Yiftee. A Yiftee (www.yiftee.com) is a real gift, often $20 or less, sent by smart phone or the web to say Thank You, Happy Birthday, or Just Because. This gifting service is particularly unique in this industry since it’s not only convenient for busy moms, it also helps support local businesses. We created Yiftee because we love our local merchants and appreciate the key role they play in our community, so we wanted to bring profitable business to to help them thrive in an increasingly mobile and online shopping world. And we wanted to offer consumers, our friends and others like us, a way to “buy local” quickly and simply from their mobile phones. Frequently you want to do something a little nicer than a Facebook wall post or an email, and Yiftee is perfect for that! It’s the perfect way to celebrate a new mom, a sister’s promotion, a friend hitting her fitness goal—you name it!

 

Regardless of what inventions help your days run smoother, we can all agree that life as a mom is good. Modern technology just makes it a whole lot better.

 

Donna Novitsky is the CEO of Yiftee, the exciting new mobile app and Internet service that lets consumers send thoughtful, unexpected gifts (most under $20) among friends, family and colleagues quickly and easily via email, mobile and social media.