Apps for keeping an eye on the kids

Better design, improved operating systems, and faster networks have dramatically improved the effectiveness of tracking apps – those GPS-driven monitoring programs that can help you keep an eye on the whereabouts of your kids and other family members. Whether you have a youngster who is starting school or a teen who has just got his driver’s license, these apps can help reduce stress and reassure parents that everyone is where they should be.
Although there are dozens of tracking apps to choose from, all of them are slightly different. Some are passive and merely pinpoint a phone’s location; some request a check-in or response from the person being tracked; and some are designed for undetectable surveillance, which starts to be less about monitoring and more about spying.

If you are looking for a monitoring app, here’s a sample of what’s available. All of them have received good user reviews but be sure to do your own research so you get exactly what you’re looking for.

  • iHound

    iHoundiHound, powered by Safety Web, uses geo-fencing technology to send alerts when a child or loved one enters or leaves a designated area. Great for letting moms know when their kids arrive at or leave school or after-school activities. Doesn’t require any action by the tracked party – they don’t even have to take out their phone. iHound runs in the background, so it’s not a significant battery drain

    Platform:iPhone, Android
    Price: Free download, $3.99 quarterly subscription
  • Friend Locator

    Friend_LocatorFriend Locator is meant to be a fun app for friends and family to help keep track of one another. After creating a profile, users accept friends who are the only ones able to view their current location. Then, once a user is logged into the app, their participating friends will be notified of updated locations. Users are also able to post their current location to Facebook and remove locations as desired. If Mom & Dad are checking in on Friend Locator while they’re out to dinner, then it can become a part of the family culture for the kids to check in too!

    Platform:iPhone
    Price: $0.99
  • Family Tracker

    familytrackerFamily Tracker is able to provide GPS data on the location of any family member with an iPhone. This is important: in order for the app to work, the children that you are trying to track must also have an iPhone. To operate, the app sends a ping to the iPhone you are trying to locate. Once the message has been acknowledged by the other iPhone holder, the GPS coordinates of the pinged phone are automatically generated and sent to your phone. Family Tracker is perhaps a great option for families with older iPhone-toting kids.

    Platform:iPhone
    Price: $3.99
  • Family Locator from Verizon

    VZFamilyFormerly known as Chaperone, Family Locator helps determine the location of your family members’ cell phones by providing an approximate address and pinpointing them on a map. Phones can be tracked on the Family Locator web site or on the Family Locator Mobile app. By adding VZ Navigator, you can even monitor turn-by-turn directions, or set notifications for when a phone arrives or leaves a particular location.
    To use Family Locator, you need a Verizon Family SharePlan account and at least two lines. Family Locator costs $9.99 per “Locatee” line. There is no charge for the Locator line.

    Platform:iPhone (web app), Android
    Price: $9.99 monthly subscription per line
  • FamilyMap from AT&T

    Family_MapFamilyMap is similar to Family Locator. You will be able to locate any cell phone on AT&T’s network using a PC or a web-enabled phone. Again, you can set up notifications to automatically get location information sent to you via text message or e-mail. Although you can locate any AT&T phone, FamilyMap works best with a GPS-enabled smartphone.
    FamilyMap costs $9.99 per month to locate up to two family members or $14.99 per month to locate up to five family members. The first 30 days are free and you can cancel at any time.

    Platform:Most AT&T smartphones
    Price: $9.99 per month to locate up to 2 family members
  • Nearparent

    NearparentNearparent is a GPS-enabled app that helps parents keep their kids safe by creating a support network of family and friends who can assist in a moment of danger. It enables kids to check in every now and then to let parents know that everything’s OK. When a child requires urgent assistance, they can simply click a button on the app and it alerts all of the adults in their network that they require help.

    Platform:iPhone
    Price: Free
  • Glympse

    GlympseIf your child also has a smartphone, then you can use a free application called Glympse to share the location of that smartphone for a specific period of time. Once the application is downloaded, the smartphone holder can send a “Glympse” to another phone or a computer so the movements of that original smartphone can be tracked.

    The good thing about Glympse is that it is entirely web-based for the monitoring party – they just click on a link and they can see a detailed map of the smartphone’s movements. Plus, you can turn off Glympse at any time, which is ideal if you are just lending your child a smartphone for the evening.

    Platform:iPhone, Android, Windows, BlackBerry
    Price: Free
  • Google Latitude

    google-latitudeIf you and your family members have Google accounts, then you can use a location-based social networking tool called Google Latitude. Latitude is a feature on Google Maps that allows you see where your friends and family are at any given time. To share locations, you send an invite to a family member or accept an invite if you receive one.
    Both parties sharing locations will need phones with web access, or you can locate someone using a computer and the iGoogle application. Various privacy features allow you to turn off or modify the application at any time.

    Platform:Any smartphone
    Price: Free
  • Mobile Spy

    MobileSpyMobileSpy is a “last resort” tracking option for parents who have real concerns about their kids’ behavior. The service works by logging the activity taking place on the monitored phone, including texts, calls, internet access and GPS locations. To view the logged information, subscribers are given a password to the Mobile Spy website, where they are able to review all of the cell phone user’s activities.

    Platform:iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows
    Price: From $49.97 per quarter

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