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Trick-or-treater apps: Now that's kinda spooky

October 20, 2011 |  1:22 pm


Remember when the No. 1 question about Halloween was, "What are you going to be?"

Now, it seems, the question is "Where are you going to be?"

Times reporter Shan Li wrote Thursday about five popular smartphone apps that parents can use to keep track of their little, or not so little, trick-or-treaters. The apps range from what I would call benign to, well, Orwellian.

On the benign side, for example, is Google Latitude, which allows users share to their locations with friends or family.  As Li writes:

After downloading the Maps app, you can choose to "Join Latitude" and invite your children, who must also enable that feature on their own phone, to share their location with you. Once someone accepts, they appear as an icon on Google Maps.

Nosy parents beware, however:

But inviting someone means they will be able to view your location. Anyone who has received what is called a "sharing request" can also accept it but choose to hide their own location. That means if you're not careful, your children will end up tracking you instead of the other way around (possibly leading to lots of awkward inquisitions).

Which is a real danger, considering that most kids are far more tech-savvy than their parents.  (It's not something I worry about myself, though, mostly because I usually forget to even turn my phone on.)

The good news, though, is that it's free.

On the Orwellian side, you have SecuraFone. 

Designed for teenagers, this app allows parents to set up geofences and receive a text alert any time their child crosses a virtual boundary. With one press of a button, an SOS feature also automatically places a call to a predetermined emergency contact and alerts other emergency contacts via text or email.

For teens with wheels, SecuraFone can temporarily lock down the email and text messaging functions on a smartphone when the device is traveling at a high speed. The app can also send an alert if a preset speed threshold is passed. All settings can be tweaked through a password-protected online account.

SecuraFone, I'm sure, is a huge hit with teenagers.

And how much does creating this little mobile prison cost?  Just $8.99 a month.

Perhaps California, faced with budget problems in its jails, should give something like this a shot.

Now, full disclosure: I'm a parent, and I don't have any of these apps. 

Not that I completely trust my kids.  Rather, I prefer the time-honored tradition of a stern lecture before they set out for the evening, then a good berating when they fail to return a text or call after an appropriate amount of time asking where the heck they are and/or when the heck they'll be home, followed the next morning by a nice, long period of being grounded over said failure.

It worked for me. It worked for their mom.

Plus it avoids the problem of being tracked by my own children. 

After all, children should be seen, but parents should be left alone.


Alligators make for dangerous neighbors

How to boost privacy in the face of Facebook's new features

How to minimize the risks of using free public WiFi hot spots

--Paul Whitefield

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