Now that kids are back at school, they’re spending less time at home and, parents often worry about their children when they’re not with them.
Canary, which makes cameras that let you view the inside of your home from your smartphone, just released a survey showing that 58 percent of working parents can’t pick up their child from school. The survey also found that 43 percent of parents worry that their child will forget to turn off a home appliance, while 29 percent worry about their kid watching too much TV and 28 percent worry about their child “going out and lying about being home.” Half of the parents said they would drive home to check on their kid if they were at work and didn’t hear from their child “within their normal response time.”
I can relate. I trusted my children when they were young but I worried about their safety. My wife and I didn’t try to micromanage them or severely limit where they could go, but we wanted to know where they were and that they were safe.
Today’s parents have tools that can reassure them by showing where their kids are or by indicating if they’ve returned home. Using products like Canary’s cameras, they can even use video to peek inside the house to see what their kids are doing.
Still, kids, especially teens, often want — and for the most part — deserve some privacy. If you’re inclined to track or remotely view your kids, I suggest you talk with them in advance (never do it in stealth mode) and agree to some limits on how and when you’ll use it and how you’ll react to what you find. Explain to them that you’re only looking to see if they’re OK and not interested in tracking their every movement. Be judicious in how you use any tracking or remote viewing technology and don’t use it to spy on them so you can lecture them about where they’ve gone or what they were doing, unless it really does raise a safety concern.
There are several ways to track your child’s phone, but they only work if the phone is on and connected to the network. Even phones that are fully charged can be temporarily offline if the signal is weak, and, of course, if your child has left the phone somewhere, you’ll be tracking the phone and not the child.
If your child has either an Android phone or an iPhone then you already have the technology you need. If you know their Apple or Google username and password then you can track them at any time using iCloud’s Find My iPhone feature by logging into their account. The same is true with Android’s Find Your Phone feature.
There are also ways to share your child’s location without having to know their password, but your child has to set this up in advance on their phone.
iPhone users can take advantage of Apple’s Find My Friends feature. Once someone has shared their location with you, you can find it in iCloud’s Find My Friends section.
Google has a similar app for both Android and iPhone called Trusted Contacts. As with Apple’s Find My Friends app, the Google app will show the person’s current location if they are online or their last known location if their phone isn’t online.Verizon offers a $9.99 a month Family Locator service that works with a variety of phones on its network.
If you have young children or even teens who don’t have a phone, you can purchase a tracking device that will locate your child, assuming they have it with them. Some, like the Trax, are designed to be clipped to a backpack or your child’s belt. It can establish a “geo-fence” so you’re notified if your child is somewhere that they’re not supposed to be. Others like the Flip 2 GPS Watch can be worn on a wrist. Many of these products require that you subscribe to a cellular service for the device, so consider the ongoing costs.
Smart locks and cameras can let you know if they’ve arrived home. Just about all the major smart locks support apps and websites that enable you to know when your door was opened and by whom. In most cases, you can assign different codes to each family member so you know who opened the door and when. There are many smart locks on the market from Kwikset and Schlage, but one of the easiest ones to install is August, which fits over your existing lock. There are also service companies like Vivint or ADT that will install these locks and cameras for you.
Security cameras can give you piece of mind by showing you who has entered your house or, in some cases, what they’re doing in the house if they’re in range. Many allow you to speak to the person in the house from a remote location via your phone app or website.
If you have kids who drive, you can install devices to track the car. Hum by Verizon gives you a great deal of information about your car’s location and speed, allowing to you set an alert if the child exceeds a certain speed or goes outside of a designated zone. Hum also has a speaker/microphone so the driver can call for help and, if there’s an accident, it will notify first responders. It also provides information on the car’s health and comes with roadside assistance. Hum costs $50, including the activation fee, and requires a $10 monthly subscription fee.
Automatic Pro is a $129 device that does many of the things Hum does with no monthly subscription cost. It will allow the parent to track the car while it’s in motion and know where it’s parked. Like Hum it will notify authorities in an accident and provide car health details, but there is no built-in phone or roadside assistance.
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