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Cell phones and apps can help families have a safe Halloween

by Lillie-Beth Brinkman Published: October 26, 2011
Jack-o'-lanterns
Jack-o'-lanterns
I received this news release from the people of  U.S. Cellular today, and thought it might offer some tech-oriented safety tips for parents of children who are trick or treating this year. Of course, you can keep kids safe for Halloween using tried-and-true, old, technology-free ways, but sometimes it’s fun to think new. Although I haven’t tried these apps, they are free and could be worth a try, particularly for older children who might be celebrating Halloween with friends in the neighborhood instead of their parents this year. ~ Lillie-Beth (lbrinkman@opubco.com)

So here you go!

U.S. Cellular spotlights applications that can turn cell phones into the ultimate safety device

While children are out and about in the neighborhood for Halloween, a cell phone is one of the necessary accessories to help families stay connected and keep kids safe. And thanks to some free apps in the Android Market designed to further enhance family safety, parents are just a download away from some extra peace of mind this Halloween.

“As smartphones continue to add new features, it’s becoming easier than ever for parents to keep tabs on their little goblins,” said Tommy Arens, director of sales for U.S. Cellular in Oklahoma, in the release. “Cell phones today provide more than just the ability to call and check in on your children’s location. We want parents to be aware of other ways that your phone can help you have a safe and enjoyable Halloween.

APPLICATIONS

Two free apps on the Android Market can help:

Life 360: Ultimate Safety App. Life 360 turns your phone into the ultimate safety device and lets you know where your family is located and when your loved ones are in need of help. The app is free in the Android Market and options for premium features, such as tracking pets, are available as well.

Red Panic Button. The free version of this app allows trick-or-treaters the option to press the Red Panic Button to automatically send out a text message with their exact coordinates on Google™ Maps to family members. So when mom texts and asks “Where are you?” a child can quickly and easily send them a map giving their exact location. Panic can also be shared on Facebook and Twitter.

OTHER TIPS

Other ways parents can use cell phones on Halloween depends on their child’s age. Those with small children can pin a slip of paper with their cell phone number, along with the child’s name and address, inside a pocket or onto the costume just in case the child gets separated from the group. Those with tweens or teens can take advantage of their smart phones’ features and apps.

Text it in. Text messaging is a fun and easy way to keep in touch with older kids on Halloween. While planning a trick-or-treat route, parents can pre-program the cell phone with updates to send from certain points along the way. By filing messages such as “At Main and State” or “B home in 15” in the “saved” or drafts text folder, trick-or-treaters only have to press “send” when the time comes.

Timing it just right. A cell phone’s alarm clock is another great tool for parents. When they establish a curfew on Halloween night, parents can set their kids’ cell phone alarm clock to give them a reminder when it’s time to head home. Parents also can help their children set an alarm to ring when they’d like the kids to check in – either by calling or texting.

Safety first. Parents should make sure their kids know how to use a cell phone in an emergency. Before sending kids out for trick-or-treating, parents should teach children how to provide their location to the 911 operator, and describe it using landmarks if an address is unknown or unavailable. I.C.E. (In Case of Emergency) contact numbers can be pre-programmed into the phone so that children can get help quickly. Associates in your local U.S. Cellular store can help you program I.C.E. numbers into your phone.

While children are out and about in the neighborhood this Halloween, equipped with pumpkin-shaped candy buckets or pillow cases for their candy haul, a cell phone is one of the necessary accessories to help families stay connected and keep kids safe. And thanks to some free apps in the Android™ Market designed to further enhance family safety, parents are just a download away from some extra peace of mind this Halloween.

“As smartphones continue to add new features, it’s becoming easier than ever for parents to keep tabs on their little goblins,” notes Tommy Arens, director of sales for U.S. Cellular in Oklahoma.

“Cell phones today provide more than just the ability to call and check in on your children’s location,” Arens said. “We want parents to be aware of other ways that your phone can help you have a safe and enjoyable Halloween. Our commitment to supporting the community is one of the reasons we have the happiest customers in wireless.”

Parents are encouraged to check out the following apps in the Android Market to help make this Halloween safe.

Life 360: Ultimate Safety App: Life 360 turns your phone into the ultimate safety device and lets you know where your family is located and when your loved ones are in need of help. The app is free in the Android Market and options for premium features, such as tracking pets, are available as well.  With the app, you can see where family members are via GPS, WiFi and Cell Triangulation technology; see where they have been; check in to let everyone know you are OK; get help in an emergency with a panic alarm that calls, emails and text messages your contacts; and see safety points in your neighborhood.

Red Panic Button: The free version of this app allows trick-or-treaters the option to press the Red Panic Button to automatically send out a text message with their exact coordinates on Google Maps to family members. So when mom texts and asks “Where are you?” a child can quickly and easily send them a map giving their exact location. Panic can also be shared on Facebook and Twitter.

Other ways parents can use cell phones on Halloween depends on their child’s age. Those with small children can pin a slip of paper with their cell phone number, along with the child’s name and address, inside a pocket or onto the costume just in case the child gets separated from the group. Those with tweens or teens can take advantage of a host of other useful features and applications.

Text it in. Text messaging is a fun and easy way to keep in touch with older kids on Halloween. While planning a trick-or-treat route, parents can pre-program the cell phone with updates to send from certain points along the way. By filing messages such as “At Main and State” or “B home in 15” in the “saved” text folder, trick-or-treaters only have to press “send” when the time comes. 

Timing it just right. A cell phone’s alarm clock is another great tool for parents. When they establish a curfew on Halloween night, parents can set their kids’ cell phone alarm clock to give them a reminder when it’s time to head home. Parents also can help their children set an alarm to ring when they’d like the kids to check in – either by calling or texting.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Many of today’s smartphones take high-quality photos and record HD video. Children are always on the move and can easily slip out of sight in a crowd. Take a picture or video of your ghost or goblin at the beginning of the night, so that if the group gets separated and officials need to get involved, there is an accessible and accurate description of what the child is wearing. Children can also use their phones to take pictures and video of their friends’ costumes or their favorite decorations.

Safety first. Parents should make sure their kids know how to use a cell phone in an emergency. Before sending kids out for trick-or-treating, parents should teach children how to provide their location to the 911 operator, and describe it using landmarks if an address is unknown or unavailable. I.C.E. (In Case of Emergency) contact numbers can be pre-programmed into the phone so that children can get help quickly. Associates in your local U.S. Cellular store can help you program I.C.E. numbers into your phone.

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by Lillie-Beth Brinkman
Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a Content Marketing Manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. She was previously an assistant editor of The Oklahoman
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