The stay at home order is slowly being lifted, but for most people, this does not signify a return to normal life. Large gatherings are still not recommended. Pools, youth sports, and various other summer activities are in limbo. Many individuals are still working from home and may continue to do so until the Fall.
Quarantine life prompted many to take advantage of the extra time at home to complete a variety of home improvement projects. At this point, folks are finding out there is nothing left to clean, organize or put together. Here are some tech-based activities for parents who have run out of things to do at home.
Back up Your Family Photos
Simply saving your photos to your home computer or storing them on your smartphone is not the best idea. Relying on one device to store a lifetime of memories creates a single point of failure. You can lose years of your digital memories in mere minutes if your home computer gets infected or your smartphone stops working. Facebook is not a reliable option, either. The digital giant is fantastic for sharing pictures, but the quality of your photos is substantially reduced during the upload process. The original image is compressed to a web-friendly version that cannot be resized, enhanced, or printed.
The best solution is to use the power of cloud computing to organize and preserve your photos. Adobe Photoshop Elements provides an easy-to-use interface for arranging, tagging and organizing those memories. Google Photos offers free, unlimited storage. Similar to Adobe, Google includes some machine learning technology to help you organize and even edit your photos. Google Photos does reduce the quality of your photos, but not enough to be noticeable to most. Alternatively, Dropbox provides two terabytes in its Pro plan for $129 per year. While it is not the free, unlimited storage of Google, the two terabytes should be plenty of room for most families. Images and photos are not compressed, so they are kept in their original quality.
Creating a plan to organize and save your digital memories is an excellent use of your free time.
Set up a Password Manager
A password manager is an application designed to help you create strong passwords and keep those passwords safe. The service can generate long, complex passwords to replace the existing, weaker passwords you may be using. The application encrypts your login details in your “vault” and automatically enters the pertinent information for each site you visit. This feature helps prevent hackers or malicious software from stealing your login credential from your keystrokes.
In addition to passwords, apps like this can hold credit card information, addresses, PINs, and other sensitive information that websites ask for when making a purchase. This is one of the most effective methods to secure your online presence.
I recommend LastPass. It is user-friendly and includes a smartphone app, so your passwords sync to your smartphone, as well. A yearly subscription costs $36 and includes premium features that are well worth the investment. For example, if you believe your account has been compromised, LastPass can automatically change your password to many major websites with the click of a button.
The cost and time associated with subscribing to a password manager will leave you with a peace of mind that is well worth the effort.
Upgrade Your Wireless
With the possibility of schools relying on virtual learning in the Fall, upgrading your wireless network should be at the top of your home improvements list.
The wireless network in your home has increasingly become the backbone of many aspects of your daily life. Smartphones, smart TVs, streaming devices, gaming systems, and in some cases, your doorbell all require reliable wifi to handle the demands of your family. Add video conference calls with teachers to that list now. Talk about overload! This is A LOT to ask of one wireless router, especially if the wireless router is built into your cable modem.
It is time to look at two aspects of your home network: increasing your internet capacity and adding a mesh network to support your family’s needs.
Start by going to SpeedTest.net. Click the “Go” button, and within a few moments, you will be provided with the speed of your internet connection. The download speed will be the focus of this test. In my opinion, the download speed should be at least 40Mbs to support the needs of a four-person family. If your download speed is less than 40Mbs, contact your internet service provider to investigate the cost of upgrading.
Now, onto expanding your wireless coverage with a mesh network. There are quite a few good mesh options out there. Eero is my recommendation due to its ease of use, scalability and features. Eero is incredibly easy to get set up. Wireless routers can be a bit complicated for the average consumer. An app on a smartphone or tablet will guide you through the setup. It took less than 10 minutes to complete the process in my home. The Eero system uses a scalable model to ensure you get the coverage you need, regardless of the size of your home. Owners of smaller homes can get by on a single Eero base station, while larger homes can utilize an additional beacon unit to carry the wireless signal throughout.
The most impressive is Eero’s feature set that you manage from an app on your smartphone. Parents can set up profiles for a group of devices to do things like pause Internet access during dinner or enable Internet content filtering to help keep children safe online. A pro subscription includes additional options such as threat detection and automatic ad blocking across all your devices.
Eero will significantly increase the signal strength and features of your existing network.
Expand Your Mind
Still bored and looking for suggestions? Check out Google Arts and Culture page. While arts and culture are not focused on improving your home, they can help improve your mind. The site is packed with unique virtual tours, activities for adults, audio journeys, and a whole lot more. It is easy to get lost for a few hours in the stories, exhibits and explorations.
Looking for more virtual tours and fun? Click here for Northeast Ohio Parent’s roundup of options.
Mike Daugherty is a husband, father of three young children, author, speaker, Google Innovator, and possible Starbucks addict. He is a certified educational technology leader who has served in a variety of roles through his 18-year career in public education. Currently, Mike is the director of technology for the Chagrin Falls Exempted Village School district in Northeast Ohio. His blog, More Than A Tech, offers advice and ideas for parenting in a digital world.