How working parents use technology to monitor, communicate with kids

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As a working mom, I love texting. Today, my daughter sent me a text letting me know she was attending a club meeting after school. I forwarded the text to my son so he would know to wait for his sister.

If I’m out interviewing someone for a story, I can text my kids from the road to make sure they are where they need to be. But I’m certainly not as tech savvy as some of the other working moms out there who are using all kinds of devices and apps to keep up with their kids.

With school starting up again, here are some of the ways working parents are using technology to know who their kids are with, what they’re saying about their school day and whether they are safe.

  • Monica Vila 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.
  • Some parents use technology to keep their kids on task — even from their workplace. From her law office, Eden Rose, a legal administrator at Buckingham Doolittle & Burroughs, uses her iPhone to access the iCam on her 10-year-old daughter’s laptop. “It helps me know she actually is studying when she says she is.”
  • There’s always that fine line between monitoring and snooping, but safety remains a big concern for working parents. Honeywell saw the uses for video beyond the typical monitoring for an intruder, marketing it as “the perfect system for the working family.” The home security system, called 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
  • Parents also are using Global Positioning System tracking devices on kids’ cellphones and in their cars. Sprint is just one of the wireless carriers that offer the Family Locator service, it shows the phone’s GPS position on an interactive map. The service is password-protected so only authorized parents  or guardians can locate their kids.
  • A creative variation on GPS, aWareAbouts 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, working 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.
  • Working mother, Wendy Brown, has regular afternoon Skype sessions with her 13-year-old daughter, who logs on from a laptop the minute she arrives home from school.

Readers, is there some cool tech device or App you’re using to keep up with kids?

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