The smartphone in your purse or pocket combines the functions that required a stack of gadgets only a few years ago, all in one small case that costs less than all the devices it replaced. Its bundle of capabilities enables that communications device to become a unique assistant, helping families stay in touch in meaningful ways at the same time that they define the extent to which communication technology enters their lives.
Smartphones can draw families together and not just by enabling them to stay in touch. Offir Gutelzon, founder and CEO of Keepy, uses his smartphone to preserve his family's important moments, "recording my kids' story of the day using video and voice and keeping my schedule in sync surrounding my kids' activities." He also focuses on "keeping the family connected via pictures and moments." He uses smartphone technology in conjunction with other parents at his kids' school, "keeping class parents connected and updated."
Texting predates smartphones and shows no signs of losing its interest value as a means of quick communication. As new drivers, teens rank high on the list of those who need to pay undivided attention to the task at hand. Darryl Hicks, president and CEO of Amber Child Safety, sees the smartphone as part of the solution. "Distracted driving is a serious problem, especially for young drivers just learning the rules of the road. It's important to talk to your kids about the dangers of distracted driving, but it's just as important to know there are ways you can prevent the behavior altogether." He points to new technologies that enable parents to "disable smartphone features when a child or young adult is in a moving vehicle."
Smartphones make global connections easy. Hicks says, "It's not uncommon today to see kids texting a person right across the room, let alone somebody in a different city or state. Unfettered access to Web content and digital communication isn't without risk." He focuses on enabling parents "to monitor texts, put restrictions on what websites a child can visit on a smartphone and set timetables to block calls, texts and app use so they're not up all night staring at a screen." At the same time, emergency access to help remains a paramount concern, making sure that kids can get through to their parents on special numbers that connect "at any time without restriction."
Where and When
Location features and mapping technologies enable smartphones to provide directions, geocode photos and videos, and even help teach geography. That same location awareness can go even farther. When Gutelzon travels on business trips, his smartphone shows him his children's location "on maps and street view," helping him visualize what his children do while he's away. Hicks uses location features to monitor where his children venture when they're out of the house. "Advances in GPS technology have given new meaning to 'eyes in the back of your head' when it comes to keeping tabs on your kids," he says, adding that his technology can enable parents "not only to track their children's location on-demand, but to receive alerts when they leave familiar, 'safe zone' areas, or get too close to areas parents deem to be 'danger zones.'"
The current advantages of smartphone technologies foretell the future they stand ready to provide. "Prepare to ride the next wave of innovation," Rich Theriault, founder and CEO of MyTVChoice, says. He sees change that centers on consumer choices. "The smartphone has delivered the ability for users to control their experience of live TV (aka sports) by skipping ads. This is the first step." The next step, he says, comes when "Commerce will be defined by consumer pull—not seller push. I am not talking about sellers trying to figure out what you want—I am talking about buyers being able to control the timing and intent of each stage of the entire commerce experience from interest/informational browsing through offers to purchase."
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