Keeping tabs on your teenager’s smartphone
Q: I am really worried about my teenage daughter. She is on her phone all the time. Is there a free app to see what she is doing?
A: Cellphones are a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you want to be able to contact your teenager any time you need to. But a smartphone also gives your teen unprecedented power. There are so many ways technology can land a rebellious adolescent in serious trouble. Ideally, you should just talk it out. If you’re really concerned, there are apps that can retrieve all the pertinent activities, like texts, web activity and GPS tracking. Most of these have price tags of around $30, but there’s at least one app that I find very effective and costs nothing. Click here to learn more about this clever app.
Animate your Facebook profile
Q: I noticed some people have videos as their Facebook profile picture. How can I do that too?
A: Good eye! Facebook often announces its major changes, such as Facebook Live and the many new emoticons you can use instead of just “liking” something. There’s a media frenzy for every major Facebook innovation, and most of us know about changes before they roll out to all users. But the profile GIF is new, and millions of Facebook users haven’t caught on. Replacing your profile photo with a GIF is pretty easy, but you do have to know what you’re doing. Click here for the steps to place a profile GIF, plus other savvy Facebook tricks.
Fix poky Wi-Fi
Q: My Wi-Fi is terribly slow. What is wrong with it?
A: There are so many reasons why you could have a slow Wi-Fi connection that it’s hard to diagnose from afar. But fear not, you can check a handful of really common reasons. Some of these are an easy fix; you might be too far out of range and your gadget isn’t picking up Wi-Fi the way it should. Other problems are a real pain. If hackers have taken over your router, or your neighbors are borrowing the connection, or your equipment is old, you’ll have work to do. Click here to pinpoint the problems and get the fixes.
Amazon Alexa’s tricks
Q: I got the Amazon Echo for Christmas. It’s cool to ask her to tell you a joke. What other fun things can it do?
A: Leave it to programmers to install a little Easter egg for the rest of us to enjoy. On paper, people refer to Alexa as a “home assistant,” but she obviously has some shortcomings. The Echo can’t bring you coffee or fetch your dry cleaning or provide free therapy after a long day at work, but it still has thousands of skills you’d never know about without asking. Allrecipes’ Alexa Skill puts 60,000 meals at your fingertips. Not only will you get step-by-step, hands-free cooking instructions, but you can also get meal suggestions based on the items you have. Click here for five more unexpected Alexa abilities.
Using Apple’s new touchbar
Q: I have the new MacBook Pro with the touchbar. It’s helpful for inserting emojis, adjusting brightness and volume. What else is it good for?
A: Most people will use the touchbar only for the things you just listed: emojis, brightness and volume. But the bar has a number of tricks up its digital sleeve, if you know what to look for. You can use it to play music, play games, search your photo library and show simple animated sequences. Some people say the touchbar is a gimmick, but I have a feeling Apple is figuring out new ways to put that bar to good use. Click here to find some fun (and funny) uses for the touchbar.
What questions do you have? Call my national radio show and click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet or computer. From buying advice to digital life issues, click here for my free podcasts.
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Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.