Safety apps for your smart phone
Julia Roberts is a concerned mom and she wants to know where her family members are at all times. She counts on a locator app to help her keep tabs.
"One of the reasons I do it is just so we can monitor their safety," said Roberts.
Beth Blecherman, founder of TechMamas, says for families like the Roberts, tech safety is trending, with a growing number of apps designed to make you safer with your smart phone.
"You can actually track your child thru the device," said Blecherman. "You can put on web filters. You can control access for them not to download any apps at all, you have to approve it."
Several apps monitor your kids offline, using GPS to pinpoint their location. That's the case with 'Find My Kids', 'Family Tracker' and the 'Life360' family locator app that Roberts uses, which also tells her about nearby registered sex offenders.
"I do look for where hospitals are, and also where predators are," said Roberts. "We do monitor that in the areas we go and especially where we live."
Other apps, like 'MamaBear' and 'AppCertain', will tell you what your kids are exposed to online through their phone and even offer controls to limit what web sites they can visit, or who they add as contacts.
"With AppCertain you can actually set curfews for digital devices for the kids and I think that's really important, because kids have a hard time managing their screen time," said Blecherman.
But when it comes to all this oversight, are parents crossing a line between safety and privacy? Psychoanalyst Dr. Robin Stern of Yale university says age is an important consideration, and privacy becomes more of an issue in teenage years.
"What we know about brain development is that at about 16, things get a lot better in kids' ability to make decisions, so between 13 and 16 your kids probably need more monitoring than they will at 16 and beyond, and again, that, it depends on the individual," said Stern.
She believes parents have to teach their children how to handle situations that could lead to trouble, and not count on an app for that.
"No new innovation in technology is going to take the place of those important conversations about what do you do when you're confronted with a stranger, online, across the street, in the supermarket," explained Stern.
Julia Roberts knows her kids think twice about what they do with their phones because of the steps she's taken, whether they like it or not. Her 12 year-old daughter Quinnlin confirms it.
"I think of being more careful because my parents would know what I'm doing," said Quinnlin.
Blecherman points out that it's important for parents and kids to agree on the use of these apps. She says otherwise, many teens might just find ways to work around various monitors and controls.
Other apps used in this story:
FBI Child ID:
SYGIC Family GPS Tracker:
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