New Tech Tools for Back-to-School Safety

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Need to Know from SafeWise
  • 42% of kids have a phone by age 10—by age 12, that number climbs to 71%.1
  • 58% of kids aged 12-18 have already used ChatGPT—compared to only 30% of parents who say they've used it.1
  • Over 1.25 million children were victims of identity theft and fraud in 2021.2
  • 1 in 3 parents have lost track of their kids in a public place, with nearly 1 in 5 losing track of them for over an hour.3

As the summer sun sets and the bells of school ring once again, parents across the country are wondering: how can technology help make this school year more efficient and secure for their little ones?

From GPS tracker and smartwatch upgrades to interactive learning assistants— and even some old-school wisdom—there's a range of options to consider.

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1. Introducing PinwheelGPT: A safe interactive learning assistant

In a significant stride toward promoting safe and interactive learning, Pinwheel has joined with ChatGPT to launch the  first child-safe AI chat app (powered by ChatGPT) that also incorporates parental monitoring. The new PinwheelGPT app is available on any mobile device (including Pinwheel phones) or desktop browser.

The app is tailored for children between seven and 12 years-old. This app assures age-appropriate content filtering and gives parents a supervisory edge by retaining deleted chat histories.

“With PinwheelGPT we’ve created a fun and educational way for today’s kids to get in on the exciting power and potential of ChatGPT and accessing information on the internet but with safe, age-appropriate guardrails,” says Pinwheel CEO and Founder Dane Witbeck. “Not only can kids participate in the AI tech that’s quickly transforming our world, but parents can be actively engaged in the conversation by viewing – and stepping in when or where it feels right – to provide guidance or clarification. We believe kids should be part of the AI revolution by learning how to use the technology responsibly and our app helps them do that.”

The app offers 20 chat sessions for free, and parents can also choose from affordable monthly or yearly unlimited plans. The premium version delivers unlimited responses for $19.99/month or $79.99/year.

I'm currently testing the app's effectiveness with my fourth-grade niece, and will post a detailed review soon. 

2. Apple’s Family Setup for Apple Watch: A new age GPS tracker

Stepping into the kids smartwatch arena, Apple introduces its Family Setup feature for Apple Watches. A parent-child duo recently made the switch from their cherished Gabb Watch to Apple's offering.

"My Gabb contract expires this week and I made the decision to switch [my daughter] from the Gabb Watch to a Family Share Apple Watch," one father told us (we're withholding names to protect the identity of the minor child). "It was super easy to set up the Apple Watch and we're excited to see how it compares to the Gabb."

Initial feedback indicates an effortless setup process, making the transition fairly smooth. Curious about how Apple's 'Family Setup' fares against kid-centric brands like Gabb and COSMO? Stay tuned for a comparative breakdown coming soon. For parents weighing the merits of various GPS devices and smartwatches, SafeWise has comprehensive guides detailing the advantages and limitations of each.

And if shelling out for an Apple Watch isn't on your agenda, there are still commendable kids smartwatch options on the market—some of which are even up for grabs as promotional back-to-school offers when you opt for monthly services.

3. Old-school wisdom: Safety beyond the screens

Despite the technological surge, some safety measures remain timeless:

  • Personalized gear: Avoid displaying your child's name on visibly accessible items such as clothing or backpacks. While personalization can be fun, it can inadvertently aid strangers in gaining a child's trust.
  • Online sharing: Celebrating your child's first day? Wonderful! But remember, oversharing can expose vulnerabilities. Ensure you share photographs privately, avoiding any indicators like school names or the grade they’re in. A simple rule? If it's information that could aid a malicious individual in identifying your child, leave it out.

As families wade through the back-to-school hustle, the blend of modern tech and conventional wisdom offers a comforting shield, ensuring that safety remains at the forefront of this academic journey.

Related articles on SafeWise


Sources

  1. Common Sense Media, “The Common Sense Consensus: Media Use by Tweens and Teens,” 2021. Accessed August 17, 2023.
  2. Javelin Strategy and Research, “Child Identity Fraud: A Web of Deception and Loss,” November 2, 2021. Accessed August 17, 2023.
  3. SafeWise, "Parent Survey," October 2021. Accessed August 17, 2023.
Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past decade. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime and safety reports and spotting trends. Her expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like NPR, TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of podcast, radio and TV clips in the US and abroad.

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