Summer is here—time for family, BBQs or, as my neighbors have nicknamed my grilling expertise, Garb-BQs. School is out and most of our kids are in day camp, overnight camp or maybe interning at a business or food establishment.
Here are some tips and tools that might make things easier using technology.
Smartphones are in my opinion necessary. You can get really good prepaid phones with all the apps. Or give your kids your old smartphone.
Even something as simple as a text that camp or work is letting out late is useful. Maybe start a family WhatsApp group so Mom and Dad are always in the loop. The WhatsApp tool is great for family trips to let everyone know where they are. Seminaries use WhatsApp extensively to keep in contact with their students. I even have seen WhatsApp shiurim.
So every kid asks Mom and Dad for money. Maybe it’s for the canteen, spending money or whatever. Carrying cash limits kids to what they can do or it can get lost. A great option that my family uses is student Paypal cards. It’s works just like a credit card—it can be used in any store or to withdraw cash from an ATM. What’s unique about Paypal is a parent can instantly send money from their smartphone or PC. With my kids we have a small threshold amount that will replenish automatically. If the Paypal card is lost there is only the limited amount the parent has put on the card. A report is sent to the student, and it helps young people learn how to manage their money.
Please check with your camp for rules about smartphones. Many camps have IT people, Wifi and voicemail systems. A great tool is Facebook Messenger. (Stay tuned for a future column about it.) Facebook Messenger is in my opinion the first app that has done away with classic telephone numbers. Simply install the Facebook Messenger app on your smartphone and choose any of your contacts you can make real calls, video conference and of course text. It’s quite clear and really convenient when a student only has wifi as a way to communicate.
Another fun vacation activity, using Waze or Google maps, is to pick an obscure hotel and head out there. With your portable grill and a cooler you can make a really cheap vacation. Ask the locals who work there what attractions are there. In some locations like Greenwich and Stamford, CT, there are great hotels with sushi, a high-end steak house and a JCC for pizza. Grubhub is an app that will list and arrange for delivery to these hotels, if you want to splurge a little.
Electricity, power and batteries are always an issue. One can purchase a Lelo stone that has great battery life and fast charging. A must-have is the USB car starter/device charger. All of which can be purchased on Amazon for under $100.
Of course no BBQ Dad can be without the Bluetooth thermometer. One puts the plunger in the meat and the app that comes with the thermometer can tell you what temperature the food is and if it’s rare or medium. Yes, it takes the fun out of Dads burning the food, but it’s a great gift.
Though, as I write every summer, having constant communication and access to email is amazing, I don’t think a family of five sitting in a hotel lobby on the same couch, all texting, constitutes a family vacation.
Just a little side comment. It seems a lot of teenagers are not excited about working in camps. Some families may opt to send a kid to camp for one month, or maybe to Israel, and are looking for a small job that a student or recent high school graduate can do for a short term. Personally I would love to be working as a counselor again. But that’s me.
Garb Consulting Group (GCG) gets around 50 applicants from all the local high schools. GCG is blessed to have Moshe Papier, Ezra Lynn, Aryeh Pechet, Zack Oppenheim and some others who join GCG for the second month. The key from personal experience is these teenagers want to feel important. We try to prepare projects that will keep the day exciting. Though recently we pulled everyone into a large email migration. For any employer interested in some tips, GCG has had summer interns for about 10 years. They keep in touch and may work during winter break or some come back and work after Israel. It’s an honor to be called as a reference four years later when they apply for a job. Some started as interns and now work for us full time. Though internships are usually unpaid, we work to get some stipends for travel and we treat everyone to lunch once a week. I value the time we have with these interns and I recommend any company to follow our lead.
My favorite take-out, Ma’adan Catering’s, owner Yossi asked me to list an app every week that people may be able to use that’s not one of the well-known apps. Please send me a short description of your favorite app and it may be mentioned in a future Ungarbled-tech column. Email [email protected] with your app suggestions.
By Shneur Garb
Shneur Garb is the CEO of the Garb Consulting IT Group in Teaneck, NJ. Shneur gives seminars on internet security and internet safety around the US. Any questions or comments, email [email protected]