TechKnow: There’s An App For That

by John P. Dunker

Adults now access and employ the Internet using smart mobile devices more than half the time over using larger computers systems, and youth even more so. Smart devices even
have virtual assistants we can verbally ask questions and get answers. With that being said, an abundance of applications for these devices have been and are being created to do things we previously did on our home or business computers. There are apps to find coupons for shopping, locate the lowest gasoline prices in our area, watch the weather radar, and get the latest news reports. Even social media follows us wherever we go. The list of apps is endless, and I wouldn’t even try to address them all, but there are a few noteworthy examples and issues to point out.

For parents who are concerned for their children’s safety, there are apps and software that can help ease the fears by tracking online activities remotely. These apps are controversial when it comes to privacy, however, the threats online to the young and immature are real. There are free apps to help, but the cost for a paid service is well worth it for the increased features they provide. Here are examples:

• SecureTeen Parental Control has versions for iOS (Apple), Android, and Windows devices. Features common across all these operating systems (OS) include; Internet filtering, safe search, web history and call logging. It also has location tracking along with monitoring Face book and Instagram. There are more features depending upon which OS version you are us ing. There are two annual subscription fees to choose from, a $40 one and a an $80 one with additional features.
• Net Nanny is another mobile monitoring services for iOS, Android, and Windows devic es that will help block adult content. It also offers Net Nanny Social, which allows their software to screen for cyber bullying or unsafe activity. If anything unsafe is detected, parents receive an alert. Parents can also login and see all social media activity in a dashboard. An annual license for five devices will cost $60.
• TeenSafe is an online software program that allows parents to discreetly monitor their teen’s texts, phone calls, social media interactions, phone location, and more. There are apps for both iOS and Android smartphones with a $40 annual subscription fee. TeenSafe has been used by more than 500,000 parents to empower themselves with knowledge and to help keep their teens safe

When traveling, apps for smartphones or tablets can be helpful before you leave and while you’re traveling. All mobile devices are preloaded with apps that can come in handy on a trip such as an alarm clock, calculator, weather, and so on. But you can greatly extend your device’s usefulness by downloading additional app tools, such as restaurant review apps, flight or hotel booking apps, and apps that locate and rate medical services. Regardless which OS your device uses, there is an app available for the task. While on the road, you’ll need an Internet connection for these to work, either a WiFi hotspot or a data package with your phone service.
Mobile banking apps have become a reality and banks have made it convenient by providing us with the apps to get the job done. We can easily deposit a check with a snapshot and pay bills on the fly. Care should be taken though when using free Wi-Fi that are found in restaurants, coffee shops, airports and many other public places. When accessing free Wi-Fi, it is important to understand that activity you are conducting may be visible to others. Of course, there are other risks involved with mobile banking, including malware, corrupt apps, flawed authentication, lost or stolen devices and more. Research your bank’s app to make sure the institution addresses risks associated with mobile banking, and know what your responsibilities are as well.
On the subject of security, there are security apps on your smartphone for iOS and Android. The best mobile antivirus apps offer not only top-notch malware detection and prevention, but also a range of privacy and anti-theft features. These include the ability to back up your contacts and other data, track your phone or tablet using its internal GPS chip, and even snap a picture of a phone thief with the device’s camera. Research online and install a good security app for your phone’s operating system. Some are free, but I’d recommend a paid service for the best security.
My personal favorite apps provide me video telephone capability with my kids and grandchildren who do not live in our area. On my iPad I use the FaceTime app for those I’m calling who use iPhones. For people with Android or Windows systems I use a Skype app installed on my iPad. With either app I use, whether video or just voice, I don’t have to pay extra for the call since it uses the Internet.
There are many more useful apps out there. You can fly a drone and even file your taxes now using a smartphone. If you can think of it, there’s probably an app for the task. Search for and read reviews before choosing and installing an app. Remember to only download apps from a trusted source appropriate to your phone’s OS, i.e. Google Play for Android and iTunes/Apple store for iOS systems.