Although it's impossible to always be there to protect your child, GPS technology can help you locate your child's phone and presumably the kid as well. Various tracking apps for Apple and Android devices, while useful for finding a lost phone are also helpful in keeping up with your child's whereabouts. Keeping GPS turned on and running in the background lets you track the phone on a virtual map, leveraging the device's location services.
Smartphone GPS Primer
GPS with a smartphone is a little different than satellite-based units. Smartphone GPS does not use satellite data directly, relying instead on cell tower triangulation to plot locations on the unit's online map. However, as long as the phone is within range of cell towers and is getting signal, the GPS functions work. However, should your child end up out of range of any cell reception, these functions will not operate as intended. This is critically important, especially if you know your child will be traveling to rural locations, on a camping expedition or heading overseas on a class trip.
Find My iPhone
Apple's logically titled "Find My iPhone" requires the app to be installed on your kid's phone. As long as you have access to the Apple account and password information, you can locate the device quickly. Turn the feature on your kid's phone by tapping "Settings" and then "iCloud." Swipe down until you see the "Find My iPhone" slider. Flip the switch to the right to activate the feature. Go online to www.icloud.com and enter the Apple ID and password. Click on the "Find My iPhone" radar icon. In a few seconds, all Apple devices with the app that are turned on and connected to iCloud will appear on a map, indicated by colored pushtack icons. By clicking on the bubble that appears over the icon, you can locate the phone down to the street level. Although this is not 100 percent precise, the app will get you to within a few hundred feet of the actual device location.
Android's answer to finding lost phones or phone users is Where's My Droid. A neat feature of this app is that you don't need to be using another Android phone to find your child's device. You can locate it by texting "WMD GPS" to you child's phone and then wait roughly 5 minutes for a response while the GPS service works. You then receive map coordinates, a Google Maps link and the nearest address to the Android device. Tapping on the Google Maps link brings up a virtual map similar to Apple's, showing you the location within a few hundred feet of the actual location. Where's My Droid lets you change the command key word or "attention word" to wake the unit up, and make the unit ring with a specific tone in case your child has been ignoring the standard ringtone. Plan B is similar to Where's My Droid, but allows you to install the Mugshot from Kaspersky app after the phone and the user has gone missing. Mugshot from Kaspersky takes photos of the area surrounding the phone, using a remote command you issue. Although this is of limited utility if the device is in a pocket or stuffed in a backpack, if the child is carrying the device you may be able to glean clues as to the unit's location.
Tips and Advice
Location services for both Apple and Android devices must be activated prior to finding the devices on a virtual map. These services are located in the devices' respective settings or setup folders. It is essential that the unit be charged to locate it. For this reason, it may not be a bad idea to use a family charging station in a central location that you as a parent can monitor, ensuring the device is fresh and ready to go each day. If you only want the phone to function as a location device, you can set a password that only you know for the device. This keeps the battery from draining due to use while preventing removal of or turning off of the location app you need. Always have a verbal or written itinerary in addition to falling back on a location service map.
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