App Name: Mamabear
Available Platforms: iPhone and Android
What does this app do?: Mamabear, an app developed by a small group of Tampa, Fla.-based parents and launched just over a year ago, uses GPS to provide parents with information regarding a child’s location, and alerts when a child has arrived and departed from places a parent deems safe or unsafe.
To use Mamabear, a parent or guardian must download the app to both their phone and their child’s device. For the parent, the app functions like stream of information providing a home screen with a map of the child’s location and a few simple buttons to send messages, check alerts, and adjust settings. For the child, however, the app is more like a game controller with vibrant icons he or she can tap to send notifications. For example, a child can select a tiny car icon to let a parent know to come pick them up, and a handful a of lively emoticons lets children not only check-in to places, but gives them a chance to let a parent know how they are feeling, too.
In addition to GPS-based location alerts, the app offers a few more features parents will find useful: Users can monitor Facebook and Instagram activity, such as when their child adds new friends to their accounts or when he or she is tagged in photos, as well as set a maximum speed limit in order to receive alerts when a child is driving over the speed limit.
Mamabear president Robyn Spoto say she may receive between five to 10 alerts over the course of a day including when her child arrives at school or practice, when her child has left school and arrived home, and when her child was tagged in a photo.
“That collection of information is the most powerful news feed I receive every day,” said Spoto.
Moreover, Spoto points out the social media alerts the app provides can allow parents to identify if there is a possibility of cyber bullying, an issue she says her community is especially sensitive to after a Tampa teen recently committed suicide after being bullied at school and on the internet.
With many children venturing out for Halloween this year, perhaps for the first time on their own, an app like Mamabear may give parents an added bit of comfort reducing the anxiety and street they feel around their child’s safety.
Is it easy to install?: Mamabear is easy to download, but requires a few key steps in order to get started. Once you download the app and set up an account, parents must then create a profile for their child on their own phone with information such as a name, phone number, and birthday. If a parent is monitoring more than one child, he or she can assign a color to each child in order to keep track of them on the map. From there, parents can set up safe and restricted places, as well as social media driving alerts.
Should I try it?: Mamabear is free and works on both iPhone and Android platforms making this an accessible app to use regardless of what type of device family members have. “A parent can have an Android phone and a child can have an iPhone,” said Spoto. “Both will work.” And while keeping kids safe is every parents priority, Spoto acknowledges as a parent she also wants her children to feel like she trusts them. Therefore, she likens Mamabear to training wheels for a mobile device giving children some independence, while granting parents the ability to be aware of things their kids may not be ready for and a chance to start a conversations about them.