Should You Use Your Smart Phone to Track Your Kids?

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Ever lie to your parents, even once, about where you were after school? It’ll be tougher for today’s teenagers, who may have to leave their smart phones behind if they don’t want Mom and Dad following their every move. An increasing number of apps for mobile devices are utilizing GPS technology to help parents keep tabs on their kids. One research firm estimates that more than 70 million people across North America and Europe will be using such programs to track family members by 2016.

Skeptical? Some 20 million people have already downloaded Life360, a location app that allows family members to alert one another when they’ve arrived at various spots and to follow one another’s movements with by-the-minute updates. Jessica Denay, a single mother in Los Angeles, uses Life360 to monitor her 12-year-old son Gabriel as he travels to school, basketball practice and her ex-husband’s house. “I can’t even describe how comforting it is,” she says. “It’s hard for moms to let go of our babies. This makes me feel better. I don’t have to be hovering right there, but I know that he’s safe.”

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Peace of mind aside, it’s not clear that electronic surveillance is the most effective way to parent in the digital age. “People have different styles of parenting and different notions of what it means to be on top of your children,” says Enrique Velasco-Castillo, a mobile analyst at IHS Screen Digest. “The problem is that many of these apps inadvertently send the wrong signal, saying, ‘I don’t trust you to tell me the truth of where you are and who [you are] with, so I will need to install this on your phone to track you.’ “

There’s also the question of compliance. While the monitoring apps can be effective with preteens getting their first smart phone, persuading rebellious teenagers to allow themselves to be tracked can be a bigger challenge. Mobiflock, a powerful Android app that allows parents to block the use of certain apps and even shut down cell-phone functionality remotely, has a bad rating in the Google Play store because kids have been loading it with one-star reviews. “It’s wack and won’t let me do anything and is blocking me from having a social life!” one (presumably teenage) user laments in an app review.

Life360 CEO Chris Hulls points out that parents’ demanding to know their children’s whereabouts is not a new development; teenagers have been rolling their eyes at this violation of their civil liberties for generations. And he tries to portray Life360 less as a surveillance device than as a tool for familial communication. “We don’t really see ourselves as a tracker,” he says. “It really is much more [centered] around family awareness. [The Life360 app] is just an easier and more efficient way of doing it.”

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While Life360 controls much of the market, dozens of apps, offering a wide range of monitoring features, are available for parents interested in following their kids more closely. Here’s a look at some of the more popular among them:

Life360 (available for iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry; free): This hugely popular app offers a group-messaging program, the ability to “check in” at a location to alert family members that you’re there and safe, and of course GPS monitoring that can pinpoint a child’s location on a map for a worried parent. The map also marks the locations of hospitals, police stations and even the homes of registered sex offenders.

Securafone (available for iPhone, Android; free): This GPS-powered tracking app features a panic button that kids can press to immediately dial a number preset by the parent. It also has an Android-exclusive “distracted driver alert system” that disables the ability to text or use social media when the user is traveling faster than 5 m.p.h. Parents can also set up virtual fences around their kids — the boundaries of a school, for example — and be alerted when they exit the area.

SMS Tracker (available for Android; free): Once installed on a phone, this program runs in the background and allows a third party (like a nosy parent) to see all ingoing and outgoing call logs, text messages and photos. It’s already been downloaded more than half a million times.

Footprints (available for iPhone; $3.99 per year): As with Securafone, parents can set up virtual fences around their kids and be alerted when they exit the area. (This feature is said to be in development for Life360 as well.)

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Mobiflock (available for Android, Nokia, BlackBerry; $25 per year): This app allows you to take complete control of your child’s phone from afar and block certain apps, disable the camera and even shut down phone functionality for a predetermined amount of time.

AT&T Family Map, Verizon Family Locator, Sprint Family Locator (available for all cell phones; $5–$10 per month): Get a plan with your cell carrier and you can monitor your child’s movements even if his or her mobile device is not a smart phone.

22 comments
Anna_Berg
Anna_Berg

I installed SpyToMobile to monitor my child. Using the app you can: intercept incoming/outcoming SMS messages, read Whatsapp messages, check incoming/outcoming calls, see contact lists, track location. I advice you to use it!

SonaliSingh
SonaliSingh

I am using mapimoapp GPS Family Tracker (http://mapimoapp.com) to Track my child location. I don't want to do anything to track my kid.I just give missed call to his mobile number and i will come to know about my child location. This is Awesome Application. I am very much happy after downloading this application on my phone.

smith.john6274
smith.john6274

I am using TiSPY. (https://tispy.net/TiSPY/) for monitoring on my child. This application provide me quick sms, call logs list. I am also blocking adult application from my son's mobile and block contact. I am also monitor facebook, viber and whatsapp usages from my son's android mobile phone.

rbuckthorne
rbuckthorne

To keep tabs on my 2 teenagers, I've been using WhereGuard (whereguard.com). 

It is not that I don't trust my kids, it is more that I don't just the judgement of (any) 10-year old. Nothing bad has happened, and I am 99.9% sure my daughter will be where she says she is, but being able to easily check simply gives me peace of mind.

explorer2123
explorer2123

I'm glad I'm not a teen or kid anymore. This stuff is creepy.

robyns
robyns

I think in this day and age using technology to keeps your kids safe is a smart move. It is there so why not use it? Unfortunately, raising kids in 2013 is not the same as it was 20 years ago... this world is scary and as mothers it is our job to keeps our cubs safe! Speaking of cubs..there is also a new app out called MamaBear. It has GPS tracking plus you can even track your kids social accounts like Facebook...It also has a driving monitor too. It is free and I've found it very helpful when keeping track of my kids. The website is www.mamabearapp.com

rymiller85
rymiller85

Yes, I really think it is important to monitor kids usage. It is just as blocking channels on the TV or internet. This a smartphone world and kids know how to find what they are looking and this is why parents should monitor their kids. I know a lot of parents that use mobile spy and phone sheriff to watch their kids. Some parents even find things that are surprising to them and they would have never thought that they would have to deal with some of the things that they found. These days you need to make sure that your kids are safe because there is so much out there that can keep your kids in trouble. Better safe than sorry. Use the mobile spy it help saves lives.

John
John

In this article somebody forgot about my favorite tracking application which I use. It is a Family Compass. Is much more comfortable and adjusted to my requirements. All features can be set and changed on the website www.familycompass.net where I see all necessary information about my family. I'm really recommend it for anybody who looking for a application for monitoring his children or family members

John
John

In this article somebody forgot about my favorite tracking application which I use. It is a Family Compass. Is much more comfortable and adjusted to my requirements. All features can be set and changed on the website www.familycompass.net where I see all necessary information about my family. I'm really recommend it for anybody who looking for a application for monitoring his children or family members

atticus451
atticus451

If parents are smart they would. If the kids aren't doing anything they should be doing they have nothing to worry about. (Although, that's the reason I wouldn't want it on my phone as a teenager. Of course back in the day their communication to call me home was a cow bell.) 

marty9999
marty9999

 If you are looking for complete parental control for the iPhone or iPad, look into FREE McGruff SafeGuard.

 

You might remember McGruff “The Crime Dog” - Take A Bite Out of Crime - from your own childhood.

They also offer  have a PC-based Parental Control software: (http://www.GoMcGruff.com).

 

McGruff SafeGuard released a Child Safe Browser app which is a look-alike for Safari, and offers parents with complete control of the categories of websites that can be visited.

 

It also sends a summary of activity to the parent via email.

 

Check out http://www.GoMcGruff.com/brows...

Charles Parker
Charles Parker

Phones are going to come out with users like computers -  where the child will not have authority to do things like put it into airplane mode - or even turn it off -  THey could leave it somewhere -  but then they wont be able to text or tweet their every thought to the rest of the world.  And without admin rights they could not just add whatever app they want no would they know there is a tracking app on the phone they are using -  or be able to remove it.

Greg Miernicki
Greg Miernicki

Um, all the kids have to do is put the phone in Airplane mode! LOL!

spwright1
spwright1

Fri. 9/14/12

Well of course any Teenager is going to Hate this thing !  I'm glad that My Parents did NOT have this !

Ya can't wait for Your Teenager to get their driver's license amp; be able to drive themselves.

Then You worry yourself Sick wondering Where they are late at night.

This is a Positive for Families amp; should be used to track Teenagers.

SPW in Alaska

petra2
petra2

@joemiller We are also using Pocket Nanny and we are quite happy with the new version which finally supports multiple chills. Also one child can be monitored in real-time by multiple parents. More Info: http://pocket-nanny.com

RobertHill
RobertHill

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