News Column

Cellphone Apps Help Monitor Children's Locations

Oct. 22, 2012

Richard Mullins

cellphone apps

If you're looking to keep track of your kids this Halloween night, consider this: Kimberly Kelso can just glance at the MamaBear app on her cellphone to precisely locate her kids at any moment, day or night.

She even receives an alert if one of the kids uses a "restricted" word on Facebook or posts a photo on Instagram.

"I consider this a safety issue," Kelso said, whose kids are 18, 15 and 8. "Before I was a Mom, I'd never think of doing this. Now, I can't live without it. This just gives you peace of mind knowing where they are and what they're doing."

While past generations of parents may have simply told their kids, "Be home before dark," more parents are turning to a new wave of cellphone apps that use GPS to track their kids during school, soccer practices, spring breaks and parties.

AT&T, Verizon, Apple and a slew of start-ups are tapping into that powerful mixture of love and fear that parents feel about their kids, and are jumping into the kid-tracking market. Some with free apps, some with subscription services, and some with ways to also send alerts when kids leave school, arrive home, enter a forbidden zone or post pictures on Instagram and or link to a new "friend" Facebook.

So here's a guide if you're spooked by the thought of your child being out after dark, or any other time for that matter:

MamaBear: Tampa-based and built with the protective parent in mind. MamaBear will locate any family member using GPS, show a trail of where they've been, and can send text alerts if the child enters an off-limits area, or if they're not at school, practice field or gym at a specific time -- or if they turn the service off. Plus, it can monitor their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and other social media activity, even if the child doesn't have a phone. Example: An alert on your phone saying "Johnny used a restricted word on Facebook." Presently works on iPhone and Android. Bonus: The app is in beta, so it's presently free, and has no subscription charge.

Snap Secure: Subscription-based service for $5.99 per month that's part of wider tech-support provider (Anti-virus, spam, online backup). Can locate family members, monitor call and text activity, and sends email alerts if they leave a certain area. Android and Blackberry, with iPhone support in development. No social media monitoring.

Verizon Family Locator: Subscription-based service (not an app) for $9.99 per month for any phone on Verizon's Family "SharePlan" package. Can locate phones and sends alerts when phones leave certain locations, including non-smart phones using Android operating system, and show a trail of where they've been. Works only on Verizon Wireless account phones. No social media monitoring.

AT&T FamilyMap: Subscription-based service and app for $9.99 per month can locate phones and send alerts via text or email with location, on demand, or at specific times. Works only on AT&T account phones. No social media monitoring. (Presently some glitches on iPhone5 that AT&T is working to fix.)

Apple Find Friends: Free app for the iPhone, iPod, iPad can locate other Apple users who agree. With iOS 6 update can send alerts when they reach destinations. Requires Apple iCloud account (free). Works well with other iPhone maps and messaging systems on phone. Can identify general location of iPads and iPods if the device accesses known Wi-Fi hotspots. No social media monitoring.

Footprints: Subscription service starting at $1.99 for three months can locate phones, track location history, alert if they arrive/leave a certain location, and alert if the device exceeds a speed limit. Can track iPads and iPods if the device accesses a known Wi-Fi location. Facebook login, but no social media monitoring. Apple devices only.

Family Tracker: One-time purchase of $3.99 on iTunes. Can track multiple phones, and trigger alert on those phones, like a siren. Works on iPhones/iPads/iPods and Android devices, and can show location history. No social media monitoring.

FamZee: A free version can locate phones and offers emergency alerts. A premium service for 99-cents per device adds location history, time-based alerts and extra parental controls like remote device locking and data/voice/text usage. Both iOS and Android phones. No social media monitoring.

Source: (c)2012 the Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Fla.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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