As babies get older, parents can worry less about them falling off the bed or shoving handfuls of poisonous dirt into their mouth. Now they get to fret about something even more terrifying: sexual predators! Of course, iPhone app-developers immediately capitalized on mothers' fears and have developed a couple of apps to freak us all out.
App: Offender Locator
What it does: Based on your GPS location, Offender Locator gives you a running list of all sex offenders in a five-mile radius. You can view their mugshots, see a map pinpointing their exact locations and of course read all about their offenses (although not in much detail).
Why it's better to go old-school: All of the information is available online here. Before sex offenders had to register, there was no way to determine who might be a potential threat on your street (other than via the local gossip).
Worth it? Unfortunately, there's barely a neighborhood that doesn't have someone who has been convicted of a sex crime. The information really doesn't help protect your kids from strangers, since most crimes against children are perpetrated by someone they already know. Also, "sexual offenses" often include such victimless crimes as having consensual sex in a public restroom (victimless unless you're in the next stall, that is). Better to not give yourself an aneurysm by constantly trying to ferret out the freaks. Instead, teach your kids basic rules of safety.
App: Watch Out
What it does: They could have also called this app "Witch Hunt," because you can actually type in the name of someone you think might be sex offender. The first person I typed in was my husband. I got a quick scare when Watch Out displayed several people with his name who had been convicted of "lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 years old." Yikes. Maybe my husband should change his name!
Why it's better to go old-school: Mother's intuition can only go so far. If you really want info, Watch Out is an easy way to access someone's criminal past. However, only convicted sexual offenders must register with the National Sex Offenders Registry. That leaves the door wide open for someone who hasn't been caught yet, or who hasn't yet perpetrated a crime against children.
Worth it? For parents who want to run background checks on everyone who comes in contact with their child, it's invaluable.