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App or Crapp? 'To Catch a Predator' Edition

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App or Crap: iPhone reviews

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.

iphone app: offender locator

App: Offender Locator

Cost: FREE 

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. 

iPhone app: Watch Out

App: Watch Out

Cost: FREE

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.

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1 comments so far | Post a comment now
Black Iris March 18, 2010, 8:15 AM

Good article. You should watch out for strangers and you should assume there are sex abusers in your neighborhood, but that’s not the most important way to protect your children.

The most important way to protect your children is to avoid family members, friends, or boyfriends who are pedophiles. They’re the most likely problem. If you know someone in your family abused a kid, don’t go to family reunions with them. It sounds obvious, but so many people don’t do this.

And talk to your kids. Let them know that it’s okay to tell grown-ups no sometimes. Encourage them to get help from your whenever they need to.

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