Back-to-School Tech with Jennifer Jolly

It’s back to school season – and while there’s a lot to get excited about – a slew of recent surveys show there’s a lot of stuff stressing out both parents and students right now too. Among the biggest concerns? Money, safety, and even rising college costs.

USA Today Tech-Life Columnist Jennifer Jolly asked 1000 parents to share their best tech-life hacks – here’s what they said:

#1. Slash costs of new gadgets:
Don’t feel like you have to get the $1,000 gadget when $100 will do. Grab a great deal like this $124 8-inch Huawei MediaPad T3 tablet. What one mom said she liked about it – aside from the price – is that it’s a solid tablet for a student who needs a basic device mainly to read and do research – Plus, there’s smart app access that gives parents some control over what he’s doing online.

#2. Go old-school to save money on kids’ phones
There’s also no need to fork out several hundred dollars on a smartphone for most pre-teens and teens when a $60 feature phone is what they really need. A handful of parents said they’re opting for basic handsets like the colorful 3G Nokia 3310 to let kids call, text, take photos, and use a few basic apps. Parents also gave it high marks for a nearly unbreakable body, all-day battery life, quick charging time, and 27 days of standby time.

#3. Connect directly with your child, no matter where you are in the world:
Many parents said their biggest concern is being able to connect with their child – especially younger kids who are too young for even a basic cell phone. For that, there’s a handy device called the Relay. Aimed for kids ages 6-11- Relay is a fantastic screen-less, water-resistant device that works like a walkie-talkie, but with the connection of a smartphone. That means you can have direct contact with your child – whenever you want from either your smartphone or from another Relay device – and they can contact you by pressing the large button in the middle of the gadget. Relay uses 4G LTE connectivity so you can check on them, and talk with them, whenever you want – from anywhere you want.

#4. Hack student loan payments by thousands of dollars:
Money stress doesn’t stop just because your kids graduate from college – in fact this is the time of year many parents and even students are worrying about student loans. is a comparison site kind of like Expedia – but for refinancing student loans. It that lets you compare multiple lenders side-by-side without sharing your personal data and without affecting your credit score. The grad who told me about this hack – already saved $16,000 by refinancing his 106-thousand dollar student loans.

#5. Earn college credits for 1/10thof the cost:
Another way to slash college costs? Use a site like to earn college credits from the comfort of your own home. College Accelerator helps you earn low-cost college credit online at about 1/10ththe cost of traditional college courses. It offers more than 150 of the most popular college courses and credits are transferrable to more than 1,500 colleges and universities. You can take as many course as you like for $199/month.

For information on any of these, see Jenn’s website at or weekly Tech Now Column at