Parenting these days is a busy job, often requiring lots of juggling of overlapping schedules! Knowing where your kids are and where they should (or shouldn’t!) be, is more than peace of mind for many parents – it’s a safety issue. In today’s online and offline world, it’s a no-brainer that the safety of children trumps their privacy. Using locator apps to keep tabs on our kids is a way to use technology and connectivity to our advantage. But we need to be careful that we use it to build trust and grow the independence and autonomy of our kids rather than a tool for control.
What are locator apps?
A locator app uses GPS to locate a phone (and some of them even a GPS watch) on a map in real-time. You typically need to adjust the settings of your phone to ensure that you allow the tracking app you’ve installed to access your phone’s location, and make sure the GPS location service is turned on.
Why should I use one?
A locator app is a great feature for families to keep track of each other. By using the real time location and location history features, parents can monitor the locations of their children throughout the day, checking where they are and whether they make it to certain destinations on time. Some apps allow you to set up safe zones and provide real-time notifications when the child leaves and enters the geographical boundaries or “geo-fences” that parents have set up. Some even have the capability to get your kid’s attention by setting the device to play a loud, annoying siren – a fool-proof way to get them to check in! And then there are parental control apps that include geo-tracking together with monitoring online activity, web filtering, time management of applications, screen time, and other features.
How do I choose one?
You are spoiled for choice, with both free and paid-for locator apps to choose from. You’ll need to figure out what you want from the app first, for example monitor location, check location history, limit areas, set geo-fences, message or call your children or make sure that they can call you, speed monitoring, crash detection and alert, SOS button. Once you’ve narrowed down what you need, you’ll need to make sure it comes from a reputable and trustworthy developer that provides the support you need rather than just mining your information and data and pushing adverts at you!
What are my choices?
We’ve rounded up a short-list of really good options that work for both Android and Apple devices, give real time locations and don’t rely on the other person accepting one-time tracking requests:
Real time location; Location history; Place alerts; Help alerts; Battery monitoring; Messaging; Navigation; Driver report; Crash detection and alerts
Free (Basic), $4.99/month (Premium)
Find My Kids
Real time location; Place alerts; Movement notifications; SOS button; Battery monitoring; Listening to surrounds; App monitoring; Find my phone alerts
Free (Basic), $2.99/month (1 device), $16.99/year (3 devices), $25.99/lifetime (3 devices)
Google Family Link
Real time location; Web filtering; Screentime controls; App download controls
Location alerts and check ins; Web filtering; Screentime controls; App download alerts; Monitoring of text messages, YouTube, emails, and 30+ different social networks for potential safety concerns
$5/month or $49/year (Bark Jnr), $14/ month or $99/year (Bark Premium)
Real time location; Location history; Web filtering; Screentime controls; App download controls
Free (Basic), R52.79/ month, R1012.61/lifetime
Real time location; Flight tracking; Safe / unsafe zones; Check-ins; Find in a crowd; SOS alerts
Free (Basic), $13/month (Premium)
Keep in mind that there are other options to consider that only work for either iOS or Android, like Screentime (iOS) and FamiGuard (Android), that you may want to consider depending on the devices used by your family.
Your best next step is to check out the options that appeal to you. Some of these options offer a free version with basic features, which allow you to test them out first. Try the basic and free trials offered and see what will work best for your family and their needs.
While there may not always be time during the day to talk on the phone, with a locator app, family members can at least quickly check each other’s locations, staying in touch, keeping everyone in the loop about the day’s plans and maintaining peace of mind. Happy tracking!