Tracking your family on a map is easier than ever thanks to these free apps and a specialized phone for kids as young as four.
One of the most popular questions I get is about tracking family members - parents want to see where their kids are on a map for peace of mind, but really anyone can use these tools to share your location with friends or family you trust.
Here's a look at several ways to do it.
This is one of the most popular family locator apps out there, and it's easy to see why. It does exactly what you need and works across various platforms. Life360 says they handle more than a billion location requests every day. This is the most full-featured app of the bunch.
For starters, download the app for iOS or Android and create an account. Then, you can add people to your "circle." When you open the app, you can see the last location of everyone in your circle, along with the remaining battery percentage on their phone. You can also see a history of where someone has been and get alerts when they leave or arrive to a location you specify, like school or work. You can even set a radius around a location for these alerts.
The basic functionality of Life360 is free, but they do have a paid subscription that runs about $3 a month. This gets you an extended location history of 30 days and unlimited alerts. I'd probably start with this app.
Find My Friends is a basic location sharing app built into iPhone. In fact, the biggest downside of this app is that it only works with iOS, so before you jump on board be sure everyone in your circle has an iPhone or iOS device.
This app is pretty bare bones, but it does what you need. Once you have people join your group, you can see their location on a map. You can choose to share in several ways - always, or just when you want to send or request your current location. There's also a function to send a notification when you leave or arrive somewhere. This can be one-time or recurring. For instance, once you set up your work or school location, every time the phone enters (or leaves) that place, it can send the group a notification.
If you have a mix of iPhones and Androids in your group, check out Google's simple solution to location sharing. The main thing here is that you can sign up easily with the Google (or Gmail) account you already have. This way you don't need to keep track of another password.
Once you've downloaded the app for iPhone or Android, sign in and invite some people you want to exchange location information with. Then you can choose from several levels of sharing. There's a basic level that let you know if a member has been online recently, to always on sharing, which lets you see exactly where they are on a map (Google Maps to be exact!). If you're all about Google, you'll love this integration.
Google Trusted Contacts can also send out a message to all of the people in your circle if you feel unsafe - it will send your real-time location for a specified amount of time so they can keep track of you while you walk home, for instance.
If you want a more dedicated solution, check out the KidsConnect GPS Tracker Phone, which is suitable for kids as young as age four. It's a super simple device with just three speed dial keys, an SOS button and no on-off switch that kids can access.
The phone is a GPS tracker so you can see where your kid is on a map and there's even a function that lets you secretly listen in to their surroundings without the phone ringing or lighting up.
The phone can only send and receive calls or texts from numbers you approve. The biggest downside is the confusing software parents must use to access their location on a map, set up the address book and send commands. Also, for a kids phone, it would be better if it was a bit more durable.
The KidsConnect GPS Tracker phone is $130 and service starts at $13 a month - you cannot add it to your existing cellular plan.
Keep in mind most of these apps are optimized so they take advantage of background location services so they don't immediately drain your battery. But, the more you check on someone's real-time location or share yours, the more you will notice an impact on your battery's percentage. My recommendation - if you have a large group that spans outside your household, go with Life360. Otherwise, if you're all on iPhone, start with Find My Friends and if you prefer the simplicity of no new logins, go with Google Trusted Contacts.
NOW WATCH: Hands-on with the KidsConnect GPS Tracker Phone