Life360 is a site that deals with ensuring the safety of your family and protecting your assets (people & property). Obviously, this is something very important to me and my wife so as a service on its own, it definitely deserves a thorough discussion. However, in this case, I wanted to mention something else: one of their editors contacted me a few weeks ago because I had been selected to be in their “Blogger Spotlight.”
This is the first “profile piece” that I have had the pleasure of participating in and while I have always told my kids that it is not good manners to “talk about oneself” I thought that I would make an exception in my case, mainly because I want to first, thank Life360.com for the opportunity, and second, to acknowledge the writer, William Kennedy, for asking great questions and putting together such a fine interview piece.
William actually interviewed me via email and presented me with some great, thought-provoking questions like:
- What launched your passion for technology? Was it something you developed at an early age or did it emerge later in life?
- Is technology an interest shared by the rest of your family? In your role as a parent, are there certain tech items you couldn’t live without, or that you find particularly useful? Are there items that help you connect with your daughters?
- As part of your blog, you comment on social media, and I wonder if you have observed ways social media has made parenting easier or ways it’s made it more difficult?
He then crafted the Blogger Spotlight based on my answers. The full article is on the Life360 blog (as well as later on in this post).
A Little About Life360
Life360.com offers a variety of services and products to help you meet the critical goals of ensuring the security and safety of your family. This carefully thought out site includes such named services as:
- Emergency Messenger – a backup communication channel with emergency contact lists.
- Life360ID – children frequently don’t have picture ID’s but Life360 helps with this by creating cards, tags & bracelets with their critical information.
- Lost & Found – if you have ever lost an item, chances are, you never got it back. Life360 provides recovery tags for your valuable items.
- Tracker – for Android phones only (currently) you are able to keep tabs on the location of your family using your cell phone and theirs.
- Life360 Mobile – (Android phones only) with the Life360 app, you have a variety of services within the click of a button, all contained within one application.
- Identity Protector – identity theft is very common nowadays (I have actually had my identity stolen before and it is a horrible experience). Using the Identity Protector, you can ensure that your family’s credit safety remains intact.
- Offender Monitoring – unfortunately sexual predators and offenders do live among us. With the Offender Monitoring app, you can get a completely listing on each offender in your area to ensure the safety of your children.
Their site also mentions some exciting features that are coming soon including:
- Get Ready
- Curfew 2.0
- Collision Detector
- Custom Emergency Plans
- Custom Alerts
- Quick Cards
- Buddy Cards
- Pet Tracker
I encourage you to take a look at those services for details.
Life360 is free to try for 45 days. After that period, you will be billed based on the plan you selected at sign-up: Individual Accounts ($7.95/mo) and Family Plans ($19.95/mo). However, when you think about it, isn’t it truly difficult to put a price on a service that helps protect you and your family?
The Complete Life360.com Blogger Spotlight Article
Below is the full text of the Life360 article:
Blogger Spotlight on Michael Sheehan of HighTechDad
The father of three daughters and an avowed gadget junkie, Michael admits he sometimes feels “two things tugging me in different directions: family and technology.” But, he says, “instead of trying to battle these two potentially opposing forces, I made the effort to combine the two.”
One product of this endeavor was Michael’s blog, HighTechDad, where—as his tagline aptly states— “technology and fatherhood collide.” His writing focuses on analyzing, reviewing, and making sense of the latest technology for dads like him and other parents navigating today’s world (which seems to see a daily increase in collisions between families and tech).
Michael acknowledges the importance of minimizing technology’s potentially disruptive impact on the household, while deriving as much benefit from it as possible. But, he adds, it’s equally important not to use technology as a substitute for good, old-fashioned parenting.
“Connecting with your children does not happen through technology. It is merely a tool to get your work done,” he says. “It cannot replace face-to-face interaction or ‘floor time,’ This has actually been a bit difficult for me to grasp at times since the attraction of new technology is very strong, and I frequently look for ways for tech to work better in the family (and subsequently write about it).”
Michael’s readers aren’t the only ones getting the run-down on technology and its applications from the HighTechDad; his daughters are also beneficiaries, not that he plans to rush them into the wide-open, sometimes dangerous world of tech, without proper guidance and pacing.
“Honestly, kids probably could live without immediate access to tech, however, they need to know how to use it in educational ways,” Michael says. “I believe it is critical that our children understand it and are not afraid of it. But it is a difficult balancing act, especially as everyone becomes even more networked. Not only do you have to pay close attention to what your children do online in terms of predators or social bullying, you have to be sure that your children do not get sucked into technology and distracted from learning.”
Michael says he’s still perfecting parenting techniques to ensure his children have a positive relationship with high-tech devices, and he gets plenty of practice on a regular basis.
“My oldest daughter, for example, has become quite good at researching particular topics for projects,” he said. “However, I have had to teach her that she must read whatever she finds and then formulate her own opinions and write what she has learned in her own words, instead of simply copying what she reads.”
Michael’s desire to teach people about technology’s applications, and more recently about its ethical and social implications, has deep roots. As a child, he began experimenting with an IBM PC his father got in the mid ’80s while taking part in a two-week training session for Stanford professors.
“As my father went through the course, I tried to teach myself the same thing that he was learning, however, I quickly picked it up and was starting to write simple basic programs, all completely self-taught,” Michael said. “By the time that his course had finished, I had already mastered everything and was teaching him tips and tricks.”
Michael pursued this “self-taught geeky-ness” through high school and beyond—to this day he has never taken a programming, engineering, or computer course—earning an English and comparative literature studies degree from Occidental College, but realizing meanwhile that his primary interest lay in explaining technology to people.
“I had always had a dream to write some type of ‘How To’ book, but never had the time to do so. When blogging started to become more popular, it got my interest mainly because it was a medium to write and publish but one could do so in bursts in the form of articles,” he said. “As I continued to be the ‘go-to’ person of my friends and family whenever they had hardware or software problems, I started to write down the solutions that I came across in the form of blog articles. Thus my blogging started back in 2005. For me, helping people understand technology was paramount and since I had a background in writing, it was a creative way for me to help people beyond my typical circle of friends and family.”
When it comes to technology inside the family, Michael says one of the best, fun products is the Nintendo Wii.
“It gets people off of the couch and gets them active and working together,” he notes. “However, that being said, it should not be a crutch when engaging with your children… more as a treat from time to time.”
While technology can provide entertainment for a family, it can also create parenting challenges; one of the biggest Michael sees is that posed by the recent explosion of social media, which he appreciates from a business and personal perspective, but worries about as a parent.
“Being a father of three girls, my eyes have been opened early on to social bullying. While boys tend to be physically competitive, girls do it all through the mind. Unfortunately social bullying starts at an early age with simple “snubbing” and friends “flip flopping” (a phrase that my wife uses to explain how friends can be great one day and horrible the next). As social media becomes embedded on more and more devices (phone, TV, video games), the dangers therein increase as well.”
“Unfortunately it is a two-edged sword. If you restrict your children from it, they will still do it behind your back, if you don’t restrict it at all, your child could be either the bully or the one being bullied. Finding that careful balance is difficult and the only way to even start is by ensuring that you always have an open dialog with your kids, be ready to talk whenever they want to talk, and know that you often have to drop everything when they need you,” he says.
Communication also plays an important role in the physical safety of children in a world of hyper-connectivity, and Michael says he couldn’t live without the parental controls built into the Macs his daughters use.
But, he adds, “managing your children’s safety is both an online and offline process. Computer access must be limited and filtered, texting and social media must be restricted until the very latest possible point and simply talking to your children over and over about strangers or even known people about what physical limits are is critical. Unfortunately predators are becoming much more creative in their entrapment techniques, which means parents have to think outside the box even more. This starts at the dinner table and continues whenever you have uninterrupted time with your children where you can ask questions and repeat things over and over until they fully understand the dangers out there and have tools to know how to combat them.”
It’s not an easy task, but for many it’s become an integral part of the full-time job known as parenting.
Apart from his responsibilities to his family and his readers in the blogosphere, Michael serves as the Technology Evangelist for GoGrid, a tech company that does Cloud Infrastructure Hosting, where he handles social media, blogging, marketing, public and media relations, multimedia, event planning, product positioning and a host of other duties.
When he’s not doting on his daughters or his wife, he’s still trying to get his hands on the latest gadget.
Disclosure: I have been evaluating Life360 for an article/review and received a complimentary account in order to do so.
HTD Says: It’s always nice when someone writes about you, your product or service. Be sure to share your thoughts and blogging is a great way to do so!