February 19, 2014 11:10 am

Keeping track of the family with technology

Keith McWhirter

Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s my siblings and I were free to roam the neighbourhood and countryside. No cell phones, just a watch and a nebulous curfew as our guide, left to our own devices.

Now devices are what track and connect us. The refrigerator door messaging system has become virtual.


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Closer knit family? There’s an app for that. Cell phones have moved from the realm of “want to have” to “want you to have” as they feed our need to stay in constant touch.

Deciding on which app to actually use is a personal choice depending on the brand of your phone, and what you actually want to do. There is no shortage of options, but here are the top three apps (in my opinion) that will get you started down the path of family and friend tracking.

Find My Friends (Apple) 

You will need to send friends and family members a request to see their location. Friends who share their locations with you appear on a map so you can quickly see where they are and what they’re up to. Being an Apple App, it works seamlessly with your built-in Contacts and Maps applications.

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Life360 (Apple/Android) 

The description: Life360 has established itself as a leading app for everyone in the family to use together. You can keep tabs on all family members using the app and also see when kids have arrived or left their destinations. Used as more of a family communication device than a GPS tracker, Life360 also enables group messaging and instant VoIP conference calls to enable everyone to stay in contact.

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GPS Tracker (BaclBerry/Android /Apple)

The description: GPS Tracker converts your smartphone or tablet into a GPS tracking device. Installing this app to a device that you want to track, it quietly records its locations (GPS, WiFi, or cellular triangulation) periodically and uploads to our secured server. To monitor location of your tracked device, you simply browse to this web site in any browser (either desktop or mobile). Using this GPS Tracker app, you can track your children’s movement daily, follow whereabouts of your family members or employees. In addition, you can locate your lost or stolen device.

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Why would anyone want to follow, or be followed by, those close to us? For me, the answer was simple.

Laziness (for starters), and having the mind of a steel sieve when it comes to remembering who is where and what I need to do to ensure I am where I need to be at any given time.

Sitting a pub with some friends (this is the laziness part) with my phone in from of me, I can see a dot that indicates where my wife and my son are, and they are doing the same. While some may consider this type of family stalking unnerving, it does have its upsides.

  • When my wife arrives home from grocery shopping, I am standing in the driveway waiting to help unload, not in the basement or backyard, oblivious to the fact that help is required elsewhere.
  • My son walks home from work or school and because he is 15, NEVER calls to say he got home OK, but my wife and I have already received a notification that he has arrived. Also knowing if he has left for school yet is a nice touch.
  •  When I am out on the motorbike or at man-church (Canadian Tire) and I lose track of time my wife can quickly check on my whereabouts and know that I am zipping down some back roads, stuck in traffic or just spending all of our disposable income in the power tool section

 Some would argue that these advances in technology are actually steps backwards in autonomy and privacy, and they may be right, but with the ever increasing amount of work and stress that technology has added to our days, it is nice to have that same technology remind us where the most important part of our lives currently are.



This article is not written or edited by Global News. The author is solely responsible for the content. © Keith McWhirter, 2014

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