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Experts Warn Apps Alone Can’t Protect Children

Smartphone Technology Tracks Location, Limits Device Use
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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New apps allow parents to use smartphones to protect their children, but some experts say you shouldn’t rely on the technology when it comes to family safety.

Beth Blecherman, founder of TechMamas.com, said there are a growing number of apps that not only track children, but can also restrict which apps kids can use.

“You can put on Web filters so they’re really only viewing,” she told CBS 2’s Kristine Johnson. “You can control access for them not to download any apps at all. You have to approve it.”

Other apps, such as MamaBear and AppCertain, will tell you what your kids are exposted to online through their phones and who they add as contacts. They will also let you limit their access to the devices.

“With AppCertain, you can actually set curfews for digital devices for the kids, and I think that’s really important ’cause kids have a hard time managing their screen time,” Blecherman said.

Some apps monitor kids offline, using GPS to pinpoint their location.

Julia Roberts, a mother, said she wants to know where her children are at all times and counts on a locator app called Life360 to give her peace of mind. The app has other features, such as alerting her to the whereabouts of sexual predators.

“One of the reasons I do it is just so we can monitor their safety,” Roberts said.

But some experts say the monitoring of children can only go so far, that when it comes to keeping them safe, there’s nothing more valuable than face-to-face communication.

“No new innovation in technology is going to take the place of those important conversations about ‘what do you do when you’re confronted with a stranger, online, across the street, in the supermarket?'” said Robin Stern, associate director of Yale University’s Center for Emotional Intelligence.

Experts also say that it’s important for parents and children to agree on the use of apps. Otherwise, children will find ways around them.

Still, Roberts said she is sold on her electronic oversight, adding that her kids think twice about what they do because of it. Her 12-year-old daughter admits that’s true.

“I think of being more careful because my parents would know what I’m doing,” said her daughter, Quinnlin.

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