Parent smarter, not harder: How to use Verizon Smart Family GPS and parental control app for kids.
As kids get ready to head back to school, learn how to use Smart Family, a parental control app with GPS to monitor your child’s location, set up alerts and ensure their safety.
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Parents before the digital age had one simple parental control. It was called, “you’re grounded,” or, “go to your room.” If they wanted to know who you were talking to on the phone, they’d just pick it up downstairs and listen in.
It’s different today. Send a kid to her room and she can play Fortnite with other kids around the world or disassemble your old tablet and rebuild the motherboard from YouTube videos.
But today’s parents are learning how to combine “house rules” with the new parental controls. “Seventy-nine percent of parents have used a type of digital tool in the form of in-app solutions, parental controls, safety features, privacy settings or digital usage restrictions,” according to a study on tools for today’s digital parents in 2020 by the Family Online Safety Institute.
And now, parental control apps with GPS built in, like Verizon Smart Family, can help parents do more than set time limits and filter content. They also show your child’s near real-time location using GPS, geofencing, location history, crash detection, as well as provide updates on battery levels and other features parents can utilize.
Verizon’s Smart Family app also uses GPS to meet your kids where they are—whether they’re across town and need a ride, or in a multiplayer game online. So, if you can’t send them to their room, you can shut off their Internet but keep their phone operable to call or text in an emergency. But how do you use these apps so the tech disappears and the parenting stays front and center? We asked an expert, Sarah Werle-Kimmel, founder of Family Tech, how she uses Verizon Smart Family’s GPS and more to parent her two kids, Maddie, age 16, and Michael, age 13.
What is Verizon Smart Family and how does it work?
In short: It’s a way to monitor and control your child’s mobile device. Install the app on your device and the companion app on the mobile devices in your child’s life, and you can set limits on screen time, shut off data, filter out age-inappropriate content and check their GPS location at any time. You can also adjust these settings from the app as your kids grow up, and if they try to uninstall the app from tracking their online behavior, you’ll get a notification about that, too.
Werle-Kimmel recommends using the parental control app that is offered by your wireless carrier—in her case, it’s Verizon’s Smart Family (and if you’re thinking about switching to Verizon, they just launched a new unlimited plan with Welcome Unlimited1).
With the Smart Family app on your phone, and the companion app on your kid’s phone, you’re applying controls as close to the data as possible. If your child tries to access a website that’s off-limits, Smart Family can block the site. Another benefit: While kids can jump between different Wi-Fi networks, this activity does not impact the parenting controls, which also allow Werle-Kimmel to pause the internet access on their phone.
“They can still call and text, but they have no more data,” Werle-Kimmel says. “Which is so fun.”
Parent smarter tip: “I actually use that most every morning: I pause their internet access and then when they’re done with chores, I resume their internet,” Werle-Kimmel says. “That way they’re not on Instagram or YouTube when they’re supposed to be doing something else.”
How to use GPS and location tracking on a parental control app
Why is GPS tracking important in a parental control app? Sometimes it’s just about getting everyone home for dinner. But it’s also about nudging them toward better device habits, too, Werle-Kimmel says. For example, a parent can tap open the app and:
View location history
Navigate to a child’s location
Send location check-ins from child’s app
Kids can also send a request from the app for a parent to pick them up
In the Smart Family app, the GPS location also displays when the location was last updated. Part of Werle-Kimmel’s parenting strategy is to send Maddie and Michael outside for an hour of free time. If the hour goes by and the kids aren’t home yet, she views their location from the app.
She simply taps “refresh” to get an update. The Smart Family app can provide information about the phone, too, such as battery life.
Parent smarter tip: Keeping an eye on battery life means you’ll know if their device needs a boost, too. “Once I was looking at the (Smart Family) app and saw that Maddie’s battery was at 2%, so I sent a quick text and said, ‘Hey, be home by this time,’ Because I knew her phone was dying.”
Setting up geofence alerts and location notifications
Geofencing triggers certain notifications when a user enters or exits a designated area.
In Verizon’s Smart Family app, parents can set the location such as school, work or a friend’s house and get a geofence alert when your kid enters or exits that designated area.
“It’s very intuitive,” Werle-Kimmels says about using geofencing in the Smart Family app. If the device picks up that you’re visiting a certain location a lot, it can also suggest setting up an alert around a new area.
How to set up geofencing:
From the Verizon Smart Family app, scroll down to the bottom
Tap “Add location alerts”
The same technology can also provide Driver Insights, whether the child is driving or in the passenger seat. Parents can use that information to encourage better driving habits. Among the Driver Insights benefits:
Know when kids arrive to their destination, and set arrival and departure alerts
Get driver insights on speeding and hard braking
Provide an alert—with a button to call 911— to the parent and child if a potential crash is detected.
Digital parenting today isn’t about parenting harder—it’s about parenting smarter. And any time you can keep up with your tech-savvy kids, it’s a win. Until then, you’re grounded.
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1 Sarah Werle-Kimmel is routinely compensated as an expert author for Verizon's Parenting in a Digital World. She has not been compensated for this article.