Why Smartphones are Critical for Your Family (Especially Kids!)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted (sorry about that!), but I thought that this was an important topic that needed to be put out there for all of you.

I’ve always been opposed to kids getting cell phones too early – yes they’re convenient, but to me I’ve felt that kids aren’t ready for a phone until probably around high school.

However, I’ve had to rethink that train of thought… the James Holmes’ shootings during the Batman Dark Knight Rises movie really got to me.  First of all, my prayers are with the victims and their families of this tragedy.

This whole ordeal got me thinking though… if my daughter were old enough to be at the movies when this happened, I’m sure as others were, I would be frantically trying to find out if she was OK.  That’s where I think a smartphone is important.  You might be thinking “so, why would they need a smartphone – couldn’t you just call her if she just had a regular cell phone?”  Yes, but if she made it out to the parking lot with everyone that was gathered there, with all the commotion going on, she probably wouldn’t hear the phone.  And depending on the circumstances, she might not have a chance to check in with me right away.

Step over to a smart phone.  I am currently using an Android phone, but whether it’s an Android phone, an iPhone, a Windows Phone, they call them smart phones for a reason.  One of the staple apps that almost every Android user will install is Google Maps because it’s amazing.  However, most people who download the app are unaware of a portion of the app that gets installed called Latitude.  Latitude is an app that allows you to share your location with other contacts.  You individually choose contacts you want to share your location with and can request they share theirs as well (though they are not required to do so).  You set it up one time and then forget about it and it will periodically update your location.  You can setup the phone to permit contacts to have different settings as well – for example, I could set it so my wife and daughter could see my exact location, but maybe a couple friends would only be able to see the city I am in.

So, in this scenario, if my daughter was at the movie and this took place, I would be able to open the Latitude app and be able to see if she was in the movie theater or in the parking lot (or wherever else).  This is not a solve-all obviously, but it does help give you a better idea on the fly of what the status is.  Think about how useful this would be in a kidnapping (until the phone was taken away) or just if your teenager was out with friends at night… simply a little peace of mind knowing where your loved ones are.

And of course, you can’t beat free, which is the cost of Google Maps.  Latitude is it’s own app in your list of apps once Google Maps is installed.  Keep in mind, this is not a spying app – each contact determines whether or not to share their location and to what extent – and it can be turned off easily.  This is something you use with people you trust.

Of course, this is not the only app out there, just one example that had come to mind for me.

This incident has really made me rethink my viewpoint and I now think that as soon as your child starts to go places with friends, it’s time to think about if a smartphone is right for them.

Have a great week!

— Jim