I realize I’m so last year. I’ve finally mastered this texting thing…OMG I’ve even got some of the text terms down… and now here comes all kinds of new Apps and technology to communicate with your teen.
From her law office, Eden Rose, a legal administrator at Buckingham Doolittle & Burroughs, uses her iPhone to access the iCam on her daughter’s laptop. “It helps me know she actually is studying when she says she is.” Rose also uses a smartphone to send her daughter afternoon reminders to take her medication or check email alerts from new websites her daughter has visited. She uses Google Latitude to track her daughter’s location. “It’s been a big help to me. If she’s supposed to go to a friend’s house, I know that’s where she is.”
Monica Vila, founder of TheOnlineMom.com, creates video messages for her teen daughter to watch on the family computer when she arrives home. “I might say, check Aunt Judy’s Facebook, she left a really funny post. Then I’ll blow a kiss. It’s simple and it’s a different quality communication than a text message.”
Myriad new smartphone apps are rolling out that use location-based technology. For example, the new app I’m OK, in the iTunes store, is kind of a private Foursquare for parents to ensure that their children are safe “without the nagging.” Family members check in from the library or Starbucks and let Mom or Dad know what they’re doing and that they are OK — then it rewards the child for doing so. They can even upload photos of the book they checked out.
Another cool tool: Honeywell’s Total Connect 2.0, is set up to take a short 10-second video of your child disarming the alarm and entering your home. It then sends the clip as an email. Honeywell also has created a smartphone App that will send the video to your cellphone. (You can also have a camera set on the liquor cabinent)
More parents also are using Global Positioning System tracking devices on kids’ cellphones and in their cars. My son’s friend recently showed me his cellphone and told me his mother had a locator on it. This was after an incident a few days earlier when he had turned off the ringer on his cellphone during the school day and forgot to turn it back on. After school, he came home with my son. I later learned his mother was frantic when hours went by and he hadn’t arrived home.
Sprint is just one of the wireless carriers that offer the Family Locator service (also available as an app). It shows the phone’s GPS position on an interactive map with street addresses and landmarks. The service is password-protected, so only authorized parents and guardians can locate children from their Web-enabled phone or a computer. A creative variation of the iPhone app uses the location features of the phone and a system of mutually agreed upon check-in times. When a check-in time comes, the app alerts your child on his phone that he needs to check in with you. The child has the option of calling and talking to you or sending a message that includes his coordinates.
Beyond monitoring whereabouts, parents are going online at work to check their kids’ grades, now posted in online grade books in most counties. And they’re looking over homework and giving feedback through document-sharing sites such as Google Docs.
Peggy Sapp, president of Informed Families, made a great point about technology to monitor kids. The key, she said, is knowing what to do with the information you learn. Her advice: Make the rules, post them and discuss the consequences of breaking them.
Readers, are you using any cool tech tools to communicate with or monitor your teens?