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Monday, August 26, 2013

Comparing Cell Phone Carriers and the Family Safety Services They Provide

A cell phone can be a tremendous asset for parents if used properly. Put simply, you no longer have to worry where your son or daughter may be. Gone are the days of having to call a fellow parent's house with the hopes that your son or daughter is there. With cell phones now ever-present, you can reach your children at any time, nearly any place (obviously, kids are savvy and can always fall back on the “But I was driving” excuse, but once they reach that age, you're kind of out of luck anyway!). And yet, cell phones can also present risk.

Modern cell phones, especially smartphones, can expose your children to unsuitable material, including web content, apps, in-app products; prove to be a dangerous distraction while driving; and enable direct communication with a wide range of individuals, pre-screened and not, all without you noticing. That is unless you have a telephone plan that includes parental controls. The following options can help you mitigate these risks and protect your child's best interests.  

Get To Know Your Options and Make an Informed Decision  

There are a multitude of carriers available for individuals in need of a plan – and a multitude of different service options. Knowing what those options are can enable you to make an informed decision so that you are taking advantage of a service plan that best suits your needs. Below are some of the more popular parental control plans.  


America's largest telephone service provider, AT&T can be found on phones throughout the country. In fact, there's a good chance that you have an AT&T contract. If you do, and you are seeking a parental control plan, you may want to look into getting one or all of AT&T's options, including: Smart Limits, Data Blocker, and FamilyMap. These various service plan add-ons can allow you to:
  • Limit the time of day your child can use his or her cell phone
  • Limit the number of texts your child receives per billing cycle
  • Control the amount of web browsing that your child does, and the dollar amounts for download purchases
  • Block inappropriate web content as well as specific phone numbers
  • Block picture and video messaging from your son or daughter's phone
  • And track your child’s phone using built-in GPS technology
These services can be bundled or purchased separately. Prices range from $4.99 to $9.99 per month.

T Mobile

Among T-Mobile's cell phone plans are a range of parental control options, including FamilyWhere, Message Blocking, Web Guard, Family Allowances, and DriveSmart. Ranging in price from $4.99 to $9.99 per month, these cell phone plans, which can be added on separately or as a bundle, provide for a number of attractive functions, including: 
  • Track your children via GPS 
  • Block and manage incoming and outgoing text messages 
  • Filter inappropriate Web content, including all 18+ content (on Web-enabled phones) 
  • Block and manage data, text, and phone usage 
  • Block and manage allowable phone numbers for outgoing and incoming calls and texts 
  • Block phone usage while moving above 10mph (for Android devices)
    With these various cell phone plans, parents can ensure that their children are safe and free from unsuitable materials, including Web content and picture messages. It also allows parents to keep track of their son or daughter's exact whereabouts. 


    Offering similar plans to T-Mobile and AT&T, users can find the parental controls that they are seeking through Verizon Wireless as well. These plan add-ons, which are available from $4.99 - $9.99 per month, include Usage Controls, Family Locator, and Content Filters. With these parental controls installed on their son or daughter's phone, parents can:
    • Set limits on texting, phone, and data usage 
    • Set limits on the purchase of VZ-branded content, including games and apps 
    • Blocks texts, phone calls, and picture messages 
    • Block certain telephone numbers 
    • Track their children’s phone via the built-in GPS locator 
    • Be alerted when a child leaves a designated area 
    • Filter Web content based on four separate categories: 7+, 13+, 17+ and no filter 
    With these various add-ons, parents can essentially “parent” without actually being with their son or daughter. 


    Like the other carriers discussed above, Sprint also offers parental controls for the phones within its network. Its parental control plan, simply named Parental Controls, provides for a number of different features, including: 
    • Block text messages, picture messages and phone calls from specific (blocked) numbers, as well as unknown numbers
    • Deactivate the camera function on your son or daughter's phone, to help prevent sexting and cyberbullying
    • Track your child through the built-in GPS function on his or her phone
    • Receive text and email alerts when your son or daughter leaves designated areas

    If you are a parent interested in securing your son or daughter's cell phone, Sprint has options for you. You don't have to stop looking out for your child's best interests simply because he or she is out of the house. 

    Cricket and Boost

    If parental controls are important to you, you are encouraged to check with your service provider to see if such plans are available. Though parental control cell phone plans are becoming increasingly popular, particularly with larger service providers such as AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, not all cell phone service providers offer such plans. Neither Cricket Wireless or Boost Mobile currently offer parental controls for cell phones in their network; should you be seeking this service, this may factor into your decision when it comes time to choose a provider.


    About the Author: Jessica Oaks is a freelance journalist who loves to cover technology and the ways that technology can make life easier. Jessica also blogs at 

    Edited by Anthony Gonzalez for Child Quest International

    Wednesday, August 21, 2013

    Oakland, CA: Daphne Webb Missing 6 Weeks, New Tactic in Search Effort

    Critical Reach Alert
    Courtesy of Oakland
    Police Department
    OAKLAND, CA: Today marks six weeks since 21-month-old Daphne Webb was reported missing on July 10, 2013 in Oakland, CA. Daphne, who disappeared from her dads SUV while he left her in her car seat to get a beverage at the local corner market, has been the subject of extensive search efforts by both her family and law enforcement.

    An active AMBER Alert, initially broadcasted July 15, 2013, still remains in effect for baby Daphne. And now, Oakland police are taking a new initiative to aid in the search for the missing girl last seen in orange pajamas with pink hearts. In the latest search effort, Oakland police will place Daphne's picture on a billboard outside of the Oakland Coliseum, a high visibility location frequently seen by event goers and travelers using Interstate 880.

    Daphne’s case has generated some questions and speculation from those following the case pertaining to her dad, John Anthony Webb, who was arrested and released on suspicion of child endangerment charges.

    “It just seems pretty convenient that Daphne was left in the car with her elderly grandmother who has dementia? Just too convenient to me, ya know,” said a local resident who didn’t want to contribute her name. “Especially when the news is saying some family members haven’t seen the girl since June 27th?”

    As time winds on with no answers or signs of Daphne Webb, family members are beginning to question John Webb’s account of her disappearance according to reports from the San Jose Mercury News

    Hasanni Campbell
    Missing Since 2009
    "I've had complete strangers tell me they don't buy the story, and I know no one is buying the story." said the Daphne's maternal grandfather, Kevin Davis. "I believe there is more to this than meets the eye. Obviously there is something fishy and I'm going to leave it to that."

    Daphne’s case has generated a close comparison to another missing toddler case out of Oakland, 5 year-old Hasanni Campbell. Hasanni (pictured to right) was reported missing in August of 2009 by his foster father, Louis Ross. Ross told police he'd left the boy in the car briefly while parked behind a shoe store where Ross' fiancĂ©e worked. When Ross returned to the car moments later, he told police that the boy was gone.

    Hasanni has not been seen since August 10, 2009 in Oakland, CA.

    Anyone with information on either of these cases is asked to contact the Oakland (CA) Police Department’s Major Crimes Division 1-510-238-3821 or 1-510-238-3822. 

    Written & Edited by Anthony Gonzalez for Child Quest International

    Friday, August 16, 2013

    Online Safety: Identity Thieves Increasingly Target Children – Here's Help

    Is your child’s identity secure? Or does your 4-year old already have a driver’s license, a mortgage and a pile of credit card debt?

    The rate of identity theft is 51 times higher for children than it is for adults, according to a new study from Carnegie Mellon’s CyLab. And while 76 percent of parents worry about childhood identity theft, only 14 percent use a monitoring service to watch for fraudulent activity. This disconnect in parent awareness and action could be leaving millions of children vulnerable to identity theft.

    Identity Theft Can Happen to Any Child

    Identity thieves are increasingly stealing children's social security numbers to secure credit cards and loans. Because children are the targets, these thefts can go unnoticed for years, causing logistical nightmares once discovered.

    Consider the story of 5-year-old Carter Andrushko, as relayed by NPR. While Carter is not be old enough to even hold a job, the U.S. government thought he’s been working since he was born. When Carter’s mother applied for Medicaid benefits in 2009, she discovered that her son had been the victim of identity theft. She’s been working to sort out the negative ramifications ever since.

    Childhood identity theft could haunt victims for decades to come, affecting their ability take out student loans, receive college scholarships or other financial aid, obtain a credit card, and even be approved for an apartment lease.

    Parents: Take Action

    Despite increased awareness about the dangers of childhood identity theft, it remains rampant because parents aren't taking preventative action. CyLab's recent study of 42,000 children found that more than 10 percent were already victims of identity theft, and their parents had no idea.

    Many people simply don't think to check their children's credit histories—after all, their kids don't use credit, right? It's a good idea to check your child's credit history just as you do your own.

    Enlist the help of an identity theft protection company to monitor your child’s social security number. Their services scan for identity thefts and send parents an alert if a child’s identity is compromised.

    Identity Theft Warning Signs

    How do you know if your child’s identity has been stolen? Warning signs include:
    • Unsolicited credit card offers in your child’s name. Credit card offers should never be intentionally sent to minors. Receiving one in your child’s name is a red flag.
    • Social Security account statement. These statements track annual contributions and anticipated benefits – receiving an earnings statement indicates someone else is using your child’s identity to illegal obtain employment.
    • Bills or collection agency calls for your child. A bill or collection agency call for your child is not a case of mistaken identity – it’s a sign that your child’s identity has been stolen.
    How to Protect Your Child from Online Identity Theft

    Children can unknowingly put their identities at risk when they are online.
    • Educate your child about online safety. Discuss the dangers of sharing personal information online. Help your children understand that anything they share, post or write online is recorded forever.
    • Use parental controls on the computer. Parental controls let you block objectionable content and even limit computer time.
    • Talk to your teen about social media. Tumblr and Instagram are teens’ favorite social media sites; talk to your teen about the dangers of sharing personal information on these sites.

    Tuesday, August 13, 2013

    Top Apps and Gadgets to Help Keep Children Safe

    Modern cell phones have evolved into incredibly capable devices; in fact, they are so prevalent that it can be hard to accept that the first version of the iPhone is only five years old. Though it seems like the venerable device has been with us forever, it was in fact launched in 2007. The worldwide adoption of so-called “smart” cell phones speaks volumes about their capabilities, the benefits they afford users, and their dominance of the market.

    An unintended result of this proliferation, however, is that smartphones are now so ubiquitous that they are used by most everyone – adults and children alike. Unfortunately, for children, smartphones can be dangerous distractions or provide a means of accessing unsuitable subject matter. Thankfully, there are ways to prevent such hazards – with smartphones themselves! T-Mobile, a leading cell phone service provider, offers several cell phone plans that come equipped with family tracking apps designed to keep your children and teens safe. FamilyWhere is a free app which allows users to track family and children by locating their phones on a map. Here are other gadgets and apps designed to keep your children safe.

    The Amber Alert device, named after California's law of the same name which alerts citizens to child abductions, includes a GPS tracking device and a smartphone app. The tracking device can be placed on your child, in his or her backpack, or any other suitable location, so that you can track his or her movement at all times. The device also includes a panic button that your child can push in the event of an emergency. Ideal for younger children, this device makes it easy for you to track your son or daughter's movement for greater peace of mind. 

    The Canary smartphone app gets its name from the famous “canary in the coal mine” - the early warning sign for the many boys and men working deep in the bowels of coal mines in the 19th century. So too is the Canary app an early warning device. By installing this app on your teenage son or daughter's smartphone, you can: keep track of their movement; receive alerts when they exceed the speed limit or use the phone when traveling above 12mph; be notified if they leave a designated “safe” area or enter into a prohibited area; and keep track of curfew violations. Your child's safety is important and with Canary, you can keep track of it. 

    Cell phones are incredibly convenient and useful devices. That being said, they should never be used while operating a motor vehicle, except in cases of emergency. The Drive First app currently offered by Sprint adopts this mentality and takes it one step further. If you have a family plan, you can implement the Drive First option to prevent your son or daughter from using his or her phone when traveling faster than 12mph. Incoming calls will automatically divert to voicemail (except those from a customizable list of allowed callers), incoming texts will automatically be responded to with a “This person is currently unavailable” message, and all alerts will be silenced. Texting and talking while driving can be deadly – eliminate this risk. This app is expected to be available on all carriers soon. 

    Modern cell phones are much more than simple communication devices. They are cameras. They are multi-media platforms. They are gaming platforms. They are computers. And they are GPS devices. With the GPS Tracker app by FollowMee, you can track any phone that the app is installed on. If you have a teenage son or daughter, install this app on his or her phone and you'll never be in doubt as to your child's location. It's that simple. 

    With the Kid Mode app, you can deny your young son or daughter certain phone privileges and prevent them from accidentally purchasing in-app products, accessing unsuitable materials online, deleting texts or past phone calls, and clicking on pop-up ads. In essence, the Kid Mode app works just as described – put simply, it places your smartphone into a kid-friendly mode. All of the apps and games that they use most will still be available to them; the difference is that you won't have to constantly be looking over their shoulder or worrying that your son or daughter is doing something he or she shouldn't be. 

    About the Author: Jessica Oaks is a freelance journalist who loves to cover technology and the ways that technology can make life easier. Jessica also blogs at 

    Edited by Anthony Gonzalez for Child Quest International

    Friday, August 9, 2013

    LOCATED - San Jose, CA: Missing 12 Year-Old Girl

    Carmen Guerrero was LOCATED 8/20/2013. Recovery has been verified by SJPD Missing Persons Unit. Thank you for your assistance.

    Thursday, August 8, 2013

    AMBER Alert: California, Nevada, Oregon & Washington States

    James Lee DiMaggio (pictured).

    CANCEL AMBER ALERT 8/10/2013: Hannah Anderson has been rescued and is being reunited with her father and family. Kidnapping and murder suspect, James Lee DiMaggio, is deceased.

    Thank you for your attention and assistance in the rescue of Hannah Anderson.

    ALERT UPDATE 8/10/2013: The search for 16-year-old Hanna Anderson and suspected abductor, 40-year-old James Lee DiMaggio, has spread to Idaho. James Lee DiMaggio's blue Nissan Versa has been located in central Idaho as of Friday 8/9/2013.

    DiMaggio is suspected of killing Hannah's mother Christina Anderson, 44, and the girl's 8-year-old brother Ethan Anderson, whose bodies were found Sunday night in DiMaggio's burning house in California near the Mexico border.   

    ALERT UPDATE 8/9/2013: In follow up to previous reports that James DiMaggio may be armed with explosives. We are now reporting that DiMaggio may have abandoned his 2013 blue Nissan Versa and booby-trapped it with said explosives.

    According to Sheriff's spokeswoman Jan Caldwell, "If you see this car, don't go close to it. There is a possibility he may have rigged it … Memorize the car, memorize the license plate, the faces, and then don't do anything; don't approach them, call 9-1-1."

    Caldwell also shared that, "Jim DiMaggio is a camping enthusiast who might be trying to avoid capture by traveling through or hunkering down in wilderness areas."

    If you see James DiMaggio or his blue Nissan Versa CALL 9-1-1. DO NOT APPROACH SUSPECT OR VEHICLE.


    ALERT UPDATE 8/8/2013 - AMBER ALERT NOW IN EFFECT FOR NEVADA, OREGON & WASHINGTON STATES: Authorities say James DiMaggio might be armed with homemade explosives. Evidence recovered Thursday at DiMaggio's home in Boulevard, CA suggests he might have fled with explosives.



    (L) Suspect James Lee DiMaggio,
    40 & (R) kidnap victim Hannah
    Anderson, 16. Image of blue Nissan
    Versa (not actual suspect's vehicle)
    with CA Plate # 6WCU986.
    ALERT UPDATE 8/8/2013: AMBER ALERT NOW IN EFFECT FOR NEVADA, OREGON & WASHINGTON STATES. Amber Alert was widened after 2 car sightings. There's been an unconfirmed sighting in Washington of a car wanted in connection with two deaths and child abduction in Southern California.

    Washington State Patrol Troopers released that a driver near Bremerton reported seeing a blue Nissan hatchback with a man driving and a woman passenger. The caller said the car was westbound at 7:45 a.m. Thursday on Highway 101 near the Jefferson-Clallam county line, which is about 40 miles northwest of Seattle.

    The trooper checked the area and was unable to locate the car.

    The car was also reportedly spotted in southern Oregon near Lakeview at 2 p.m. Wednesday, according to Oregon State Police, but that sighting is also unconfirmed.

    The California Amber Alert was expanded to Oregon and Washington on Wednesday as authorities searched for James Lee DiMaggio who is believed to be driving a blue Nissan Versa with 16-year-old Hannah Anderson.

    An autopsy was performed on the unidentified child's remains found at the burned down residence where Christina Anderson's body was found, but the autopsy results are sealed, according to officials. It will be Friday at the earliest before the identity of the child is announced.

    The body is believed to be 8-year-old Ethan Anderson, his family members have said in interviews with several news outlets.

    If sighted, CALL 9-1-1. Anyone with information on the case is asked to call the homicide detail at (858) 974-2321 or (858) 565-5200, or San Diego County Crime Stoppers, (888) 580-8477.


    ALERT UPDATE 8/7/2013: Dad of missing kids asks suspect, James DiMaggio, to turn self in. Nationwide hunt was under way now includes the FBI.

    There are unconfirmed reports that Ethan Anderson may have been killed during the house fire in Boulevard, CA along with his mother, Christina Anderson. It is also believed that James DiMaggio "had a crush" on Hannah Anderson. The nationwide AMBER Alert is still in effect for the two missing children. But be advised you may only see Hannah and her abductor James. It is still believed that they may be headed to (or in) Texas or Canada.

    Sources are reporting that DiMaggio "had a crush" on Hannah who saw him as an "uncle" type family friend.

    If sighted, CALL 9-1-1. Anyone with information on the case is asked to call the homicide detail at (858) 974-2321 or (858) 565-5200, or San Diego County Crime Stoppers, (888) 580-8477. 


    (L-R) Suspect James Lee DiMaggio, Kidnap Victim Ethan
    Anderson & Kidnap Victim Hannah Anderson.
    AMBER ALERT 8/6/2013 - SAN DIEGO (Boulevard), CA: A statewide Amber Alert is in effect Tuesday morning as authorities continued to hunt for a suspected killer from San Diego who may have abducted two children.

    James Lee DiMaggio is suspected of killing Christina Anderson, 40, of Lakeside and kidnapping one or both of her children: Hannah Anderson, 16, and Ethan Anderson, 8.

    Christina Anderson's body was found Sunday night in the burning rubble of a house and garage in the rural community of Boulevard in eastern San Diego County, authorities said. She had been killed, they said.

    The two children were likely abducted about 5 p.m. on Saturday, according to an Amber Alert notice on the California Highway Patrol website.

    The remains of a child were also found in the rubble, but the child's identity and cause of death have not been determined, said Lt. Glenn Giannantonio of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department's homicide detail.

    It is believed that DiMaggio has one or both of Anderson's children with him in his blue Nissan Versa, which has a California license plate: 6WCU986, Giannantonio said. Authorities said he may be trying to get to Canada.

    DiMaggio is the owner of the home in Boulevard and had a "close platonic relationship" with Christina Anderson, authorities said.

    Hannah Anderson is described as 5-foot-7, 115 pounds with blond hair, blue eyes, a belly button ring, nose stud and pierced ears.

    Ethan Anderson is described as 4-foot-11, 65 pounds with sandy blond hair.

    James Lee DiMaggio is described as 5-foot-9, 150 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. 

    Investigators believe James Lee DiMaggio may be driving a 2013 blue Nissan Versa, California license plate 6WCU986.

    If sighted, CALL 9-1-1. Anyone with information on the case is asked to call the homicide detail at (858) 974-2321 or (858) 565-5200, or San Diego County Crime Stoppers, (888) 580-8477. 

    Written & Edited by Anthony Gonzalez for Child Quest International