Imagine not knowing where your child is or who they are with. On any day, this is unsettling.
But what about on Halloween? A day when children approach strangers’ homes to get free candy can be scarier than all the costumes and haunted houses put together. That’s especially true for parents who are, for the first time, allowing their children to trick-or-treat with a group of friends not accompanied by an adult.
Luckily, there are a number of smartphone apps and other resources that can provide parents some reassurance and help ensure that this rite of passage remains all in good fun.
Eric Larson, retail manager for U.S. Cellular Northeast Wisconsin, said the smallest precautions, ones that can be applied to even the most basic smartphones, are most important.
“For example, parents can set up alarms on a child’s phone for periodic reminders to check in,” Larson said. “Parents should also program phone numbers into their child’s phone as In Case of Emergency.”
Numbers labeled as ICE make a contact search much easier. Instead of typing a full name or entire phone number, all a child has to do is input important letters to narrow their search.
Larson said law enforcement is familiar with the code and often searches phones for these numbers.
In addition, the flashlight function works great for night visibility, he said. The app is free and available for both Android and iPhone.
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Some smartphone apps are a bit more complex, but provide a plethora of information for emergency situations or simply keeping track of children.
Family Locator is a free app that tracks phone locations to help parents keep tabs on family members. Parents can see kids’ locations in real time and receive notifications when they reach their destination.
The Red Panic Button app is specifically designed for emergencies. A press of the button sends a text message and email that contains a link to Google Maps along with the child’s GPS coordinates to everyone in the panic contact list. There are variations of this app. Some versions are free while others cost $2.99 a month.
FBI Child ID is a free app that provides tools in case a child goes missing. Features include convenient electronic storage of photos and vital information about a child so parents can show pictures and provide physical identifiers to first responders. It also easily emails information to authorities.
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Life360 is a free app that allows users to create private groups, and communicate via group chat. It also sends notifications when members check into places and users can even set boundary limits.
“Life360 is perfect for those situations when a child is not supposed to cross a certain street,” said Melanie Skalmoski, Green Bay Police Department crime prevention coordinator. “With this, you can see it happen and take the necessary next steps.”
Larson said he hopes families don’t just use these apps during Halloween, and that they become a regular element of family safety precautions.
“As a parent of five children, these resources mean a lot to me,” Larson said. “My best advice is to make sure kids know exactly how to use them and emphasize the importance of each one.”
Other safety tips
Green Bay police Lt. Matt Cain said while technology provides countless safety tools, parents and children should not forget the essentials.
Some tips include wearing reflective clothing, trick-or-treating only during specified hours, traveling in groups and staying on sidewalks to avoid vehicles.
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