Tech expert explains how parental monitoring apps work

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(3TV/CBS 5) -

An app used to monitor activity on a cell phone helped a Valley dad learn of alleged sexually inappropriate relationship between his son and a teacher. 

"As a result of the app, which alerted the parents to some keywords, they then checked the cell phone and discovered the text messages," said Lisa Kutis with the Goodyear Police Department. 

[RELATED: Goodyear police arrest teacher for alleged sexual misconduct with a student]

Police did not know the name of the app, but that has some wondering what technology can help them parent in the digital age. 

"There are dozens of companies that have created solutions for parents that can go anywhere from basic tracking and location to pretty much everything they’re doing on the phone," said Ken Colburn, president of Data Doctors.

But how do you pick what's right for you? 

[RAW VIDEO: Goodyear teacher accused of sex with student says, 'I'd love to go home to my husband']

Colburn recommended these three parental control apps in no particular order to get you started: Family Time, Kidlogger and ESET Parental Control. 

Family Time advertises it can limit screen time and prevent kids from deleting the app. Colburn said it can be difficult to set up. 

Kidlogger, according to Colburn, gives you the most access and control of the three suggested apps. It lets parents know which apps were used, what was written, and who kids are communicating with.

Colburn suggested ESET would be considered the simplest to set up and the most user-friendly. It helps filters websites and can blocks apps. 

"There’s no one-size fits all," explained Colburn. "So you really need to find the combination that works best for you. Most of them do charge either a monthly or annual fee to use the monitoring system because it’s a constant communication channel between the devices."

That fee could range anywhere from $30 to $100 a year or more. 

Colburn said the app will have to be installed on both the child's phone and the parent's phone.

He advised having the same type of phone, both Android or Apple devices, because the apps sync better together. 

Colburn advised that Android users could have more smartphone tracking options compared to Apple. He said Apple is limited with options since it has an internal way to keep monitor devices: https://www.apple.com/families/.

"So what I always tell parents, do rely on technology as your only source of parenting," explained Colburn. "If you’re not having frank conversations with your children, setting guidelines and basically saying we’re going to use these tools to make sure you’re staying within these guidelines, it can turn into a bit of a battle between mom and dad and the child." 

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