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Want to keep track of your kids online? These apps can help

As kids become more independent, we want to foster their sense of responsibility and give them room to prove themselves. But it can be difficult to navigate this natural separation, especially when kids are doing who-knows-what on their devices. There are constant questions: Where are they? Who’s contacting them? What are they doing online? Since tweens and teens are often tight-lipped about their lives, it can be tricky to get clear answers.

Want to keep track of your kids online? These apps can help
Want to keep track of your kids online? These apps can help

Though direct communication is always best, and the conversations around online safety and digital citizenship should start long before a kid becomes a teen, there are occasions when parents feel it’s necessary to monitor what kids are doing on their devices. Maybe they’ve broken your trust or you’re worried about their safety. Whatever the case, there are tools to track what your kid is up to. Be aware that spying on your kid can backfire and that kids can find a way around just about any type of tracking. But if you’re at the end of your rope or just need extra help managing your kid’s digital life, then one of these tools might work for you. To get more information, check out our advice about cell phone issues, including basic parental controls, and less invasive (and expensive) ways to limit access to content.

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Bark: Similar to VISR (see below), kids and parents need to work together to hook up accounts to the service. It also analyzes all device activity and alerts parents when a problem is found. If they get an alert, parents will see the content in question and get suggestions on how to handle it ($9/month).

Circle Home and Go: This app manages the Circle with Disney device, which pairs with your home Wi-Fi and controls all Wi-Fi-enabled devices. Can create time limits on specific apps, filter content, set bedtimes, and restrict internet access for the whole house or for individuals. Circle Go will let parents filter, limit, and track on networks outside the home Wi-Fi (the Circle device is $99, the Circle Home app is free, and the Circle Go service will be $9.95/month).

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Limitly: If screen time and specific app use are your concern, this system might work for you. It lets you track your kid’s app use and limit time using the device or certain apps (free, Android-only).

Pocket Guardian: Parents get alerts when sexting, bullying, or explicit images are detected on your kid’s device, though you won’t see the actual content or who it’s from. Instead, the alert can prompt a conversation, and the app offers resources to help ($9.99-$12.99/month).

Trackidz: With this program, you don’t see specific content from your kid’s device, but you can track app installations and use, block browsers and apps, manage time in apps and on the device, block out device-free time, grant bonus time, track location, get an alert when your kid’s phone is turned off, and see your kid’s contacts. It also claims to detect cyberbullying by tracking when your kid’s device use drops dramatically, which can indicate avoidance. Setting up a geofence lets parents track a kid’s location and alerts them when a kid has gone outside the boundaries, and a kid can tap the power button to send an emergency message to parents (currently free, but will be $6.99).

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VISR: For this one to work, a parent needs the kid’s usernames and passwords, so be aware that it’s easy for kids to set up dummy accounts. Once enabled, the tool analyzes posts and emails for bullying, profanity, nudity, violence, drugs, and late-night use and sends parents alerts when anything iffy is detected (currently free, but will be $5/month).

6 Instagram-Inspired Startups

Never before have fleeting everyday moments carried as much weight as they do in today’s social media-saturated world. Everything from the food we’re eating to our baby’s first steps gets chronicled and captured in fine detail on one social media platform or another. With over 130 million users monthly and a total of 16 billion captured moments, Instagram is perhaps the most famous platform for transforming the ephemeral into sentimental mementos.

But there is a new wave of startups that, following in Instagram’s footsteps, are doing amazing things with photo sharing. Below is a list of 6 of the most notable Instagram inspired startups, which are changing the way we take, share and store photos:

1) Instacanvas

Instacanvas makes it possible to turn an artistic Instagram moment into real canvas-backed artwork, which can then be bought or sold on the Instacanvas marketplace. Within 72 hours of launching the marketplace in early 2012, there were already 4, 000 signed-up users.

With Instacanvas you can set up your own online galleries for showcasing your artwork. As a testament to the success of this startup, there is currently a waiting list for galleries. Instacanvas certainly isn’t the only service taking advantage of the success of Instagram. However, the fact that this new startup has already raised $1.7 million in funding and has over 1 million unique monthly visitors, means it may be leading the pack in its niche.

2) Pumpic

Pumpic is the simplest and fastest way to share up to 10,000 images in their original quality. With Pumpic, there’s no need to upload your images to sites like Dropbox or Flickr, where quality and resolution are often reduced. Pumpic also enables users to share images on social networks and offers robust sharing and privacy controls. So unlike the somewhat controversial privacy policy of sites like Instagram, with Pumpic your images remain yours.

Having recently raised $700,000, this startup looks set to change the way images are shared en masse and offers a refreshing approach to photo privacy.

3) Picturelife

Picturelife is an effective and affordable cloud storage system for pictures that ensures that one’s memories are safe and secure. It also enables pictures to be accessed and uploaded from almost any device be it a Mac, PC, iPhone, or Android device. The app helps users sort out their digital image footprints by organizing all the pictures you’ve uploaded on different social media networks including Facebook, Instagram, and Flickr. Any pictures you’ve been tagged in on will be imported and added to your Picturelife collection.

The startup is the brainchild of OMGPOP creator Charles Forman and recently raised $4 million in funding.

4) Piccolo

Piccolo offers a unique way for social media enthusiasts to do more with their precious digital moments than simply store them online. Using Piccola, you can have printed and mailed a selection of your favorite pictures which you’ve shared on either Instagram or Facebook. This novel subscription photo printing service brings your memories to life in a way few, if any, other online photo services do. It delivers your memories right to your hands via snail mail.

Each month you select the pictures you want to be printed according to your subscription model. Alternatively, you can have Piccola automatically send your most popular pictures. All prints are of the most superior quality to ensure that your memories will last for years to come.

5) Snapchat

Unlike Instagram which focuses on storing pictures, Snapchat is all about disposable pictures and fleeting moments. While this may seem counterintuitive, Snapchat’s 5 million daily active users who on an average day send 200 million photos to suggest that there’s a demand for such a service.

Snapchat, which recently raised $60 million, bringing the company’s value to $800 million, lets you share snaps with friends in the form of either photos or videos. The appeal of such a service is that there’s no record of this shared moment as snaps disappear after a maximum of 10 seconds.

6.) Picture Decorator

Picture Decorator is a relatively new app that brings photo customization to Android devices. As its name suggests, this app makes it quick and easy to decorate photographs. This includes creating collages and adding a host of different stickers, frames, and even text to photographs.

Picture Decorator is becoming increasingly popular and has already been ranked in the top 10 of all Android photography apps in more than 5 countries. The app’s prominence on Google Play is reinforced by how user’s have received it, with numerous positive reviews and many hailing it as one of the most unique photography apps around.

These are just a handful of the scores of photo-related startups changing the way humanity shares moments. As Instagram expands from just images to additionally video and Cisco predicts 90 percent of all Internet traffic will be video by 2014, we should keep our eyes on these and other companies changing the way we capture our lives.

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