Parents use phone apps for child safety



Posted on November 30, 2013 at 4:04 PM

Updated Saturday, Nov 30 at 4:20 PM

PHOENIX -- With many children owning smartphones, parents are using technology to keep track of their families.

Tech safety is trending and the number of apps available to monitor kids is increasing, said Beth Blecherman, founder of the Techmamas blog.

"One of the reasons I do it is just so we can monitor their safety," said Julia Roberts, a Valley mother who uses locator apps with her children.

Apps like "Find My Kids," "Family Tracker," and "Life360" use the GPS feature on kids' phones to pinpoint their location and report it to their parents.

Roberts uses Life360, which also says if her kids are near registered sex offenders.

Other apps, like "MamaBear" and "AppCertain," tell parents what their kids are exposed to through their smartphones. The apps include parental controls.

"With AppCertain, you can actually set curfews for digital devices for the kids," Blecherman said. "I think that's really important because kids have a hard time managing their screen time."

But a common concern is whether these apps invade children's privacy.

Yale University psychoanalyst Robin Stern said age is an important consideration.

"What we know about brain development is that at about 16, things get a lot better in kids' ability to make decisions," she said. "So between 13 and 16, your kids probably need more monitoring than they will at 16 and beyond, and it depends on the individual."

Stern said apps should not replace communication between parents and their kids.

"No new innovation in technology is going to take the place of those important conversations about what do you do when you're confronted with a stranger online, across the street, in the supermarket."

Roberts said her kids think twice when using their phones because they know she is monitoring their actions.

"I think of being more careful because my parents would know what I'm doing," said her 12-year-old daughter, Quinnlin.