Sarah E. Werle Kimmel

Sarah E. Werle Kimmel

Your family technology coach

Learn Chess with a Smart Connected Board – ChessUp Review

When I go to CES, one of my favorite things to do is to browse through “Eureka Park”. It’s a small section of CES where the booths are just one teeny tiny table one after the other. I mean, there are office cubicles that are bigger than these booths. However, it’s where I usually find the most innovative products!

2 years ago I came across a company called ChessUp. When they displayed what their board could do, I was literally blown away. OK, maybe not LITERALLY, but you get the idea.

When the ChessUp board arrived, my teenage son, AND his two friends, completely abandoned the video games they were playing and huddled around the kitchen table to play a game of chess. That is how powerful this board is!

As you touch each chess piece the board will light up with potential moves. If you have some of the assistance features turned on, it will light up red if the move is not a good idea, and green if it is a good move. You can turn these assistance features off, and it will simply light up the potential moves in a blue color.

If you place a piece in an incorrect place, of if the piece should have been removed from the board, it will glow purple under that piece. You can check the app at that point to see where that piece should be.

When you are in check the space under your King will light up and blink red. A move that puts you in check mate will light up the whole board and end the game.

The ChessUp App

In order to play a game with these features, you need to connect the board to the ChessUp app. This is a Bluetooth connection, so your Bluetooth will have to be enabled on your phone.

The dashboard will show you past games, and any games you haven’t finished yet. If you tap into the game it will ask if you want to sync the board to the game so you can continue it. It will make sure all the pieces are in the right spots and allow you to go from there.

In iOS there is a “learn” section that will have various tutorials on pieces and types of moves. This feature is coming soon to Android as well. I love that you can go through these lessons and learn more about how the chess pieces move, and different rules that every day players may not be aware of. The section is fairly limited at the moment, but there are sections for Intermediate and Expert players that I’m sure will get more content in the near future.

When you tap to start a new game you can choose the level of assistance you would like for your pieces (will it glow green/red or just blue for various moves like a mistake or an excellent move). You can even give yourself a hint limit so you don’t play like my son plays and just taps every piece looking for a green one. You can actually plan your move and then tap to confirm if it’s a good move or not.

You can adjust this level on the fly just by tapping on the settings icon on your side of the board. You can also use this to change the player to an AI player if your friend has to go home.

Next, you would choose your opponent. Whether you play against the board’s AI, a live person, or choose an online match through ( is coming soon!). If you choose to play against the AI you can choose the difficulty level of that player as well. As you get better, you can keep increasing the difficulty level of your AI opponent.

Once you have chosen all of the settings for the game, tap on “start game” and it will have you place the pieces on the board. If you place a piece incorrectly the light below it will not turn off. This ensures that all of your pieces are correctly placed before the game starts.

One thing I learned during the setup of the board, is that the Queen is always placed on her own color! I had NO idea (obviously, I’m not that good at Chess…. YET).


There is a great carrying case you can purchase to tote the board and pieces around, and the set comes with an additional Queen (to help with pawn upgrades). You can also purchase a checkers set that can be used with the board too.

Additional pieces can also be purchased if you lose any. Since there is so much technology in each piece, it would get a bit expensive, so definitely guard those pieces with your life.

If you want to turn off all of the technology and just play a game of chess, you can absolutely do that as well. Without power, it’s just a standard Chess board.

All in all, this chess board is so much fun to play, and now my son is determined to become a Chess champion. I think with ChessUp’s help, he is sure to get there.

How To Setup Parental Controls On a Smart TV

These days I don’t think it’s even possible to purchase a TV that is not connected to the internet, or “smart” as they would have you believe. Since most people have ditched standard cable or satellite service in favor of streaming platforms, it just makes sense that the TVs you buy these days would be able to download those apps.

There is a big downside though to the smartification of all of our devices. That is the unbridled access to all of the good AND the bad of the internet for our children. This leads many parents to want to make sure they have some protections in place that will help shield their children from the content the parents don’t want them to see.

Unfortunately, most of the smart TV platforms are still WAY behind the times when it comes to Parental Controls. They are extremely limited in what they can do, and are often confusing as to what the settings actually mean.

The Best Way to Control a Smart TV

Since these platforms are so limited, you actually need to look outside of the TV to get some really good parental controls. This means that the best way to control a smart TV is through a WiFi router that has parental controls built in. I use a Gryphon Router. Through the Gryphon, I can either assign the TV to one of my children’s user profiles, or I can create a separate profile just for the smart TV’s in the house if I want them all to follow the same rules.

Through the router I can cut off access to the internet on the TV’s during the night, so kids aren’t staying up late watching shows after everyone has gone to bed. I can also block specific apps from playing on those devices like YouTube or Netflix. I can even set up hours of the day when specific apps are available or not available to view.

The one caveat here is that if you allow access to a specific app, you are allowing access to the entirety of the app. The wifi router would not be able to control content within the app. You would need to control that through profile PINs. However, a router like Gryphon CAN enforce YouTube to only display videos available through “restricted mode” but at that point it would be up to YouTube on what it considers is “restricted”.

Parental Controls Available on Each Platform


While Roku is actually my favorite user interface for browsing TV, it’s probably one of the worst when it comes to what is available for parental controls.

First, only Smart TVs built on a Roku operating system (not a Roku device plugged into the TV), you can control the ability to watch TV shows with specific age ratings, but only for the channels coming through the broadcast network. Meaning, you would need an antenna plugged into the TV for those ratings blocks to take affect. However, you can use this setting to block mature shows from the over the air programs.

The content filter block does also affect the Roku Channel, since the channel is made by the same company. There is quite a bit of content on the Roku channel, so it is good to at least be able to filter some programs out. This will NOT affect content within any of the apps you have downloaded though. If you allow Netflix, you allow all of Netflix.

The other thing you can do with a Roku TV is block the ability to install apps without a PIN. So if you remove Netflix from the TV, you would not be able to reinstall it without the PIN. If this is a shared family TV it would be a huge pain to keep adding and removing the application when you don’t want other people to view it.

In order to set the PIN and toggle this setting on, you will need to login to your Roku account on the web.

Google TV

A rising star in the Smart TV world is Google TV. Many top name brands are using Google TV as their underlying operating system for their devices including Sony.

With Google TV you can set up Restricted Profiles, which will allow you to choose exactly which apps will be available when it is on the restricted profile. Which is great, but you would have to remember to switch it to the restricted profile any time you are done watching your shows.

Fire TV

Of the main Smart TV platforms available today, I will say that the Fire TV handles parental controls the best at the moment. The Fire TV allows you to PIN protect the launching of any apps. So if you want to watch Netflix, you would have to enter your PIN code to launch the app. Handling it this way makes it easy to protect the apps you don’t want your kids watching when you are not around, but also makes it easy for you to watch the applications when you want. You won’t have to remember to set it back to a protected mode, you just have to enter the PIN when you want.

The Fire TV also has content filtering, but again this will only apply to broadcast channels like the Roku and the Amazon Prime Video channel. It will not filter content on any of the other apps.

Samsung TV

Samsung bucks the trend of having one of the more popular platforms built-in and opts to use its own operating system. Fortunately, they have taken some of the best ideas and incorporated it into theirs. Namely, Samsung TVs have the ability to PIN lock apps. Similar to the Fire TV this allows you to PIN protect the launching of any applications, so you don’t have to remember to switch to a restricted profile or mode, you just have to take a quick extra step in launching apps you do want to watch.

The Samsung TVs also have a program rating lock, which sounds like it might affect other applications. However, like the other content filters for the other platforms, this will only affect broadcast/over-the-air channels brought in through a coax cable or through an antenna. This will not affect the content available inside individual apps like Netflix and Hulu.

Apple TV

If your home is drowning in Apple products, you may also have an Apple TV. While there aren’t any TVs that have this operating system built into them like the other systems I have mentioned, there are still enough people using the platform to put it on this list.

Like the Roku and Fire, the content filter or age rating you set in the Apple TV restrictions will only affect what apps are available to view and what shows will be available to view inside Apple TV+. Since Netflix is rated 12 and over in the app store, if you set the filter to 12+, they will have the ability to watch anything that is inside of Netflix. You can set a PIN to protect changes to the settings, but you won’t have to enter that PIN to launch applications.

Setting Content Filters Inside of Apps

Since all of these platforms really only have the ability to prevent access to specific apps, and filter content within their own branded streaming services, how can you restrict content inside of apps like Netflix or Hulu?

Most of these streaming services offer the ability to set up different profiles for different members of your family. You can set up the content age rating through these profiles. Just make sure you set a PIN on the adult profiles so they can’t easily switch over to the unrestricted profile. You can usually do this through logging into the apps website. Sometimes the options for these settings are pretty limited within the TV itself.

You just need to make sure you set up these user profiles inside of every app you have downloaded onto your smart tv.

A Word About Your PIN

All of these platforms have PIN code protections, even if they aren’t on the TV itself, inside the apps will definitely have PIN codes. Just make sure you don’t choose a code that your kids will easily guess. Make it something that has nothing to do with their birthdays, your anniversary, or any other special numbers you may have. Since it’s not going to be your typical PIN code, you may want to write it down somewhere safe so you remember it if you don’t have to enter it frequently.

You will also want to make sure your kids aren’t watching you when you enter the PIN code! Kids can be very sneaky when they want to know information! So send them out of the room while you enter your PIN.

With most people ditching satellite and cable subscriptions, smart TVs are going to continue to be the standard, let’s just hope that soon the manufacturers will start improving the parental control settings!

TL:DR; ?? Or watch the video for how to find the parental control settings on each platform…

The Bark Phone Review

“Kids Safe” Smartphones have now been popping up more and more. As I mentioned previously, I’ve been down this road a couple of times with various companies that never panned out and ended up out of business. I keep saying they were just ahead of their time.

We have finally entered the time where these devices are exactly what parents need now. I have already compared all 4 of the major players in the space in my breakdown of Gabb vs Troomi vs Pinwheel vs Bark post. So this post is just going to focus on the Bark Phone specifically.

How does the Bark Phone work?

Let’s start with the basics. The Bark Phone has 3 subscription tiers. The first level is the $49/month plan. This includes unlimited talk and text but no data. If you sign up for this plan, you would only be able to use internet enabled apps on a wifi network. The next, and likely most popular, level is $59/month and includes unlimited Talk and Text and 4 GB/month of data. Finally, the 3rd tier includes the same unlimited talk and text but increases the data plan to 8 GB/month.

The phone comes with a protective case, but since the device is a standard Samsung A13, you could purchase your own cases from Amazon that are a little more personalized. Speaking of the hardware, one thing that sets the Bark Phone apart from the other devices in this space is that the hardware is included in your subscription. You do not have to purchase the phone and then sign up for the subscription, so the initial out of pocket cost will be much less for the Bark Phone.

The downside to this is that you don’t own the hardware, so if you cancel the subscription, you do have to send the phone back. Also, if you damage the phone you will have to pay for repairs or a replacement (unless you have had the subscription for more than 2.5 years).

The other huge plus to the subscription is that it includes a premium family Bark subscription. This means that if you have older kids with a regular phone, or if your children have tablets or other devices that can be used with Bark, you can install Bark and use it on all of those devices as well. Since the Bark subscription itself is almost $100 a year, that will save you some money there.

What can the Bark Phone do?

The biggest benefit to the Bark Phone is the fact that you can make it either as locked down or as open as you want it to be. While other devices limit you to specific apps, the Bark Phone allows you to open up the entire Google Play Store to the phone. You can always remove the store at any point, but you can also leave it open and available, with approval to install apps still turned on, so they can’t install an app or even remove an app without your approval.

You can also disable the web browser, so they are unable to browse the internet. However, if you do allow it the searches will be monitored from Bark, and you’ll get alerted if they are searching for anything that is concerning. You can also enforce safe search on the browser, so search results will be a bit more filtered, and you can turn off or on any of the filtering categories so they can have a safer browsing experience.

The Bark Phone can also have contact approval enabled or disabled. With it turned on, if someone tries to text the phone that is not already on the approved list, the Bark Phone will get a notification that someone is trying to contact them, and will ask if they would like to send the number to the parent for approval. If the parent approves the contact, they will now be able to message or call the person. They will not get the original text message, so that will have to be re-sent.

Speaking of text messages, one of the big benefits to the Bark Phone is the fact that text messages cannot be deleted. So, if you are alerted through the Bark admin app that there is a concerning conversation, you can sit down with your child and go through the messages to get context from the phone and from your child.

In case of the other way around (if the phone tries to text or call someone not on the approved list), the same thing will happen. The Bark Phone will let them know the contact is not approved yet and will prompt them to request the approval. Once approved, they can text or call with the contact.

A few of the other benefits are that you can disable the settings. With this disabled, your child cannot add additional accounts, change the time on the device, and so many more things they could do to try and circumvent any parental controls. You can also pause the device at any time, so if your child needs to do their homework, or you want them to come eat dinner with the family, or even if they get grounded, you can just pause the device and all the other apps will be disabled except for the phone app so they can still make emergency calls. The phone also gives you the ability to remotely set an alarm on the phone, which I LOVE.

The last thing I want to talk about is the different “modes” that you can customize on the device. You can change what is available and what is locked during these modes. So you can allow some educational apps during the “school” time while everything but a music app is blocked during the “bedtime”. The last mode is “free time” which you can have things a little more open, but you can pick the timeframes these modes are in affect. If there is a timeframe that doesn’t have a set mode, it will go to what is available by default. You can override the schedule at any time by switching the mode on the fly.

What are the downsides to the Bark Phone?

There are a few things that could be considered downsides, depending on what your needs are. The first one is that if your child already has a Google account that is supervised by Google Family Link, you are unable to add that account to this phone. If your child has a Chromebook, tablet, or other device, you want to keep their account managed by Google Family Link, so you would have to create a different Google account to use with this phone.

Another problem is technically also a benefit, depending on your family. The problem is that the entire Google Play Store is available. You would need to do your own research if your child is requesting a specific app to install. With the other devices, they have done the legwork for you and have vetted the apps they allow to make sure they would be considered safe for your kids. If there are workarounds through the app, they let you know what those are. With the Bark Phone, you do not have this option, so you have to figure out what your child is able to do within the app in order to decide if you want to allow it.

The admin app is a little bit clunky to use. It has this great interface that helps you get to the settings you want, but it’s hard to get back to that screen once you tap into it. Finding the rest of the settings can be difficult as well, since it might be hard to understand which “mode” you are adjusting at any given time. Basically, the user interface could use a bit more work.

Finally, the last “con” is that you are unable to see the entirety of the conversation remotely. You can only see the snippet of the conversation that was flagged for concerning content within Bark. You can always grab the phone and see the rest of the conversation though, as mentioned above.

Final Thoughts

The Bark Phone is a really great option for parents, especially if your child is ready to dip their toes into social media, since the other kids safe phone options do not give you that ability. However, even if they aren’t ready for social media, you could still get this device and make it as locked down as you want. Get your Bark Phone by clicking here.

Kids and Smartphones with Troomi CEO Bill Brady

Discussion with Bill Brady about kids smartphone use, and how to help keep them safe. Also a little bit about Troomi, a kids safe smart phone, specifically.

iGen Book Discussed –

Troomi Phone –

Technology and Special Needs with the Autism Dad

The Autism Dad, Rob Gorski, and Sarah discuss the best technology for kids with special needs, including apps and devices, and how best to manage the technology with your neuro-divergent child.

All links to discount codes and products can be found here

Bridging Apps –

Website –

Podcast Apple –…

Spotify –…

Google Podcasts –…

Healthy Gaming Tips and Advice for Kids & Family with FamilyGamerTV

Join me as I discuss everything from how to protect your kids on video games, and how to enjoy gaming with your kids and family! Learn about gaming in moderation and healthy gaming with your family. Andy Robertson of FamilyGamerTV and author of Taming Gaming literally wrote the book on healthy video game habits – Check out his YouTube channel for more tips! – Resources discussed during the live Board Games: Video Games: Games for Ages: Which Console: Buying a PC:

Epic Games vs Apple and Other Tech Lawsuits with Lawyer Liz

Join me for a discussion on some of the most popular tech company court cases like epic games vs apple and parents vs snapchat and other social media sites.

How much responsibility do tech companies have to protect children? Should tech companies be forced to comply with certain technology standards? Why can’t I purchase digital content outside of the Apple app store or Google play store?

All of these questions and more with Lawyer Liz!