Every time I see a news story about a teenager who has gone missing, I start thinking it sure would be convenient if we could put tracking devices on our children. Of course as a lawyer, that makes me think of a whole lot of ethical and human rights violations. As a dad, though, I think it would be a pretty great idea.
I'm sure one day it will be a question that our lawmakers will have to make decisions on. In the meantime, the GPS technology embedded in our smart devices actually makes it pretty easy to keep track of a person with their consent. We constantly hear about how certain apps are tracking our locations even if we have not knowingly consented to it. This is a scary thought and something we should be leery of, but there are some apps that can use that information in a very helpful way.
One such app is Life360. This app allows you to create a "circle" of other smart phone users. By agreeing to be part of your "circle," other users agree to share their location information with you. This allows you to see in real time where a person in your circle is. It also gives you their daily driving history, which can allow you to see their driving routes and top speeds. This can be very convenient for all sorts of family situations - spouses who travel often for work, parents of teens who are driving or often out with others, or even people with children being driven by babysitters. The app allows a user to turn off location sharing for specific circles they are in, which can be useful in situations where you would not want others knowing your location information at all times. I can see this being useful if you have other people pick up and drive their children to all their activities. You could add the person responsible for your kids to a “babysitters” circle and see where they are at all times. Then, that person can turn off their location sharing for that particular circle when they are not with your kids in order to protect their own privacy.
Another app that can give parents peace of mind with their teenagers is the BSafe app. This app is an alert button that, when activated, automatically alerts pre-set "guardians" of the user's GPS location. It also sends a live stream video from the user's phone camera to his or her guardians until the user marks him or herself as safe. Imagine your teenage daughter is walking out of a store at night and begins to feel uncomfortable because of a person who seems to be following her. By activating the BSafe alert, her location and a live video would be sent to you if you were designated as her guardian. If she had indeed been in danger, you would know immediately that there was a threat and have valuable information to locate and help her before a tragedy occurred. I can’t help but think of the many local and national tragedies that may have been avoided if this app had been around then.
There are some reported drawbacks with the BSafe app, including that it drains the user’s battery. Some users also reported glitches causing their alerts not to be sent to their designated guardians. This app has recently been updated correcting some of the glitches.
The final app to consider is the Noonlight app. Similar to the BSafe app, this app allows the user to get help in a dangerous situation. Imagine the same situation from earlier- your teenage daughter is walking out of the mall and simply feels uncomfortable walking to her car by herself. She can hold down the emergency button on the Noonlight app until she reaches a safe location like her car. Once she releases the button, she must input a pin number within ten seconds, or her location is automatically tracked and 911 is notified. My wife has actually been using this app for years, but it is constantly being updated to add more features that allow you to sync it with other applications for enhanced safety. One thing to note is that there is a $2.99 monthly fee, but $36 a year is a nominal expense for what this app provides, which is peace of mind and actual assistance when in danger.
All of these apps are available for both iPhone and Android phones.
As parents, we certainly want to keep our families safe. And even though technology can pose many types of threats, some of which I will highlight in later videos, these are three examples of how technology really can save lives or provide peace of mind.