The world is a much different place than it was 25 years ago. Generation Xers likely remember going outside as kids to “call” for friends and then spending hours outside left to their own devices. Their parents probably had one requirement: “Be home before the streetlights come on.”

Whether it was safer all around or there was a different mindset to parenting back then, modern families today operate a little differently than they did a quarter-century ago. Today, greater emphasis is placed on supervising children in their activities outside of the home. However, parents and caregivers who want to allow children some freedom in a controlled manner may turn to today’s technology to help them.

Thanks to the bevy of family tracking and GPS-enabled apps available for smartphones, as well as standalone GPS watches and other devices, parents can keep tight tabs on their children and even their spouses and elderly relatives. Having a visual location for preteens and teenagers spreading their independent wings can assuage parental fears that kids are lost or up to no good. Simply fire up the app and it’s easy to see if a person is where he or she is supposed to be.

Family locater products also may improve safety in other ways. Apps can help find children who have wandered off in a crowd or locate those who have been abducted.

These apps also are a safety precaution for older members of the family. Spouses worried about each other and harrowing commuting routes or during travel far away from home can be reassured by checking an app and seeing the progress of a trip or approximate location. Elderly drivers have a lifeline home, and those with dementia or confusion can be easily tracked but still maintain their independence.

Many top-notch locater apps can help anyone keep a watchful eye on family. With the Life360 app, families create a “circle” and invite others to join with a unique code. Only those in the circle have access to the location of others within the circle. The app also enables messaging within that circle. Premium features can be purchased to provide additional safety services.

Sygic Family Locator is another app designed to keep families safe and in touch. The app enables parents to set unsafe zones and sends an alert if the child enters it. The cross-platform compatibility means that everyone can communicate even if they’re using different phones and operating systems.

Families can weigh the pros and cons of using family trackers to decide if a more watchful eye is a good bet for them.

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