USA Today - Keep Tabs on Your Kids
08/03/2012 - Every year, there's a new batch of kids who are getting themselves to school and letting themselves into their homes for the first time. As parents, we want to know that they've actually gotten there and they're getting there safely.
Whether it's an electronic back-seat driver to keep your teen in line on the road or an app your child can use to check in, technology can step in to help you stay in touch with your kids and watch over them without being overbearing.
One of the easiest ways to keep tabs on your child is to use a cellphone location service. All four major carriers offer them. Sprint's Family Locator service will locate up to four phones for $5 per month. You can locate two people for $9.99 per month or five people for $14.99 with AT&T's Family Map service. T-Mobile'sFamilyWhere service enables you to track up to 10 mobile devices for $9.99. And with Verizon Family Locator ($9.99 per month), you can set up location-based alerts so you know when your child gets home, in addition to locating anyone on your Family Share plan.
Of course, a location service is really just tracking the phone's location, not your child. So you may also want your child to check in with an app like Gone Out - Later Folks ($1.99 on iTunes). It can record and share the details of any outing, including friends' names, transportation mode, location and photos.
I also like Life360 Family Locator (free on iTunes andGoogle Play), which has a panic button kids can hit if they're in trouble. Parents will receive a call, email and text with their location. For a more hands-on approach, kids can talk to a trained safety adviser with StreetSafe, a personal safety app and service (free in iTunes and Google Play; requires subscription which is $20 a month, $45 a quarter or $150 a year). Advisers can recommend the best route, keep your child company and call the police if there's an emergency.
If your child's a new driver, you'll want to check out Tiwi. The device is installed in your vehicle and monitors the car's speed, whether your child is wearing a seatbelt and how aggressively the car is being driven. If there are any concerns, your teen will hear a verbal prompt and you'll be notified via text, voicemail or email. You can also set up SmartZones, so you receive notifications when your child arrives or leaves school, home or any other designated area. Prices are quite steep, starting at $599 for the hardware and a $24.99 per month service fee. For $9.99 per month, you can add roadside assistance and emergency support.