As every parent knows, it's a dangerous world out there. Whether it's a pedophile lurking in the aisles at Walmart, a cyber bully on Facebook or a case of SIDs that strikes in the crib, your child is in danger at every age.
As a new father, I worry about all the bad things that could happen to my young son both now and when he gets older. As a geek, I look to technology to solve the problem. Here are 10 tech tools I found that can help keep your kids safe.
My son just started crawling and, if I take my eyes off of him for a minute, he's on the other side of the livingroom playing with things he shouldn't touch.. Pretty soon, he'll be walking and we'll have trouble keeping up with him in public places. Losing a child in a crowd is every parents' worst nightmare. For just $25, the Mommy I'm Here Child Locator comes with two pieces: a cute teddy-bear shaped device that attaches to your child's ankle or wrist and a keychain transmitter for parents to hold. When you get separated from your kid at Toys R' Us, you simply hit a button on the transmitter and the child's anklet will emit a loud shrieking sound so you can easily find her.
As my son gets older, he'll be heading off to school and participating in after-school activities like little league or, better still, computer club. My wife and I wouldn't want to give him a smartphone in elementary school, but we would feel a lot better if we could know where he was at all times. The Amber Alert GPS V3 is small enough to fit in even a tiny pocket while tracking your child's location both indoors and outdoors, anywhere in the world. Amber Alert's management software allows parents to set geofencing zones in locations where the child should be so they can receive email or text alerts when the child enters or leaves a zone. The device features an SOS button the child can hit in an emergency and the ability to conduct 2-way calls between parent and child. Amber Alert's service, which costs $14.99 to $24.99 a month, is also integrated with the National Sex Offender Registry to alert you when your kid is within 500 feet of an offender's home.
Installing a car seat is an exercise in frustration. Every time my wife I need to transfer our base to a new car, it takes us a good 10 minutes and I always worry that maybe we didn't install it correctly, because our son's safety is on the line. Summer Infant's Prodigy Car Sear offers a high-tech solution to installation anxiety, providing a digital "SmartScreen" that lets you know whether your seat is properly attached.
At least 5 times a night I'll wake up and go check on my son in his crib, just to make sure he's still breathing. The HiSense BabySense V (opens in new tab) could do this work for me. As long as you place the device's two sensors underneath the baby's mattress, the system will alert you if the baby stops moving for more than a few seconds, allowing you to intervene if there's something wrong.
Think of it as a car alarm for your teen. At first glance, the Vigilant PPS22BL looks like a simple keychain, but this device emits a 130dB ear-piercing alarm, which your child can use to scare off an attacker and alert passersby that she needs help. WIth its embedded strobe light, the PPS22BL can also help her find her way in the dark.
Sometimes the computer sitting in your living room can be more dangerous than anything your child will encounter outside. At 8 months old, my son has already shown a strong interest in my computer and my phone. By the time he reaches kindergarten, he could be surfing the web. Whether your child is 5 or 15, you don't want him viewing illicit content or communicating with predators. Net Nanny 6.5 allows you to control what kinds of websites your child can view and what kinds of games he plays. The software even keeps tabs on your child's social networking activity and alerts you if your child is being cyber bullied or talking to strangers.
It's 3 a.m. and the kids are asleep downstairs while you snooze in the master bedroom with your spouse. Suddenly, you hear the smoke alarm and smell smoke, but the kids are separated from you and they may not know what to do. If only you could teleport downstairs, wake them up and tell them how to escape. Actually, you can do all of that except for the teleporting. The KidSmart Vocal Smoke Detector (opens in new tab) allows you to record your voice telling the kids to wake up and giving them emergency instructions. When the device detects fire, it blasts your pre-recorded "wake up" message at an ear-popping 85 dB and then plays your escape instructions to help your children move to safety.
Much as I'd like to stand over my son's crib all afternoon and watch him all night, I often need to get things done while he sleeps. However, if I place a Dropcam HD Wi-Fi camera in front of his bed, I can watch his every move on my smartphone and get alerts if the camera detects enough movement to indicate he might be awake. If he is awake, I can talk to him on the Dropcam's speaker. Because Dropcam stores its video in the cloud, I can log on at work and check on my son while mom is watching him in person. I can even turn the lights down in his room, because this camera offers really strong low-light performance and a smooth 30 fps.
More: Dropcam HD Review
If your children are old enough to carry smartphones, you don't need to give them separate GPS devices. Simply make sure they install Life360 (opens in new tab) Family Locator on their iPhones or Android handsets and then you can use the app to track them on your phone. Life360's simple, colorful interface puts icons for all of your family members onto a map and also shows you other key places around them, including hospitals, police stations and the homes of registered sex offenders.Best of all, LifeCam360's app and core service are free, though you may pay extra for premium features such as tracking a non-smartphone
More: Top 10 Smartphones
Drowning is the leading cause of death for children under 4. If you have a backyard pool, there's always a danger that your child will try to take a swim when you're not looking. Fortunately, PoolGuard's In-Ground Swimming Alarm (opens in new tab) goes off if any object that weighs more than 18 pounds hits the water, giving you time to prevent a tragedy.
More: 5 Great Outdoor Gadgets