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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

Checking in: learning to love location-based apps!



By Stacey Ross

I think of a particular colleague of mine who is always ahead of things tech-wise, and I am sure she is laughing inside when she sees me “checking-in” to my favorite venues. There was I time that I swore that I would never use a location-based app, let alone become a fan. I thought that sharing real-life, personal business was over-the-top, risky, and served as more of a bragging rite than anything else. Her “Just you wait!” response still resonates with me today!

So, time passed, and well, I did the unthinkable: I joined the Foursquare community!

Location-based apps are mobile phone applications that enable social interaction by allowing you to check-in at various places you visit, e.g. a local store, airport, mall, restaurant, gym, etc. This lets others know where you are and, if they are nearby, you are effectively inviting them to say hi or meet up. Checking in can be particularly helpful if you are meeting a group at a big event and you want to know who else has arrived.

Yelp and Foursquare are both popular location-based applications that allow you to discover nearby deals and businesses, then share with your friends that you are there. If you wish, you can integrate your status, tips and photos on your social media sites. TripAdvisor, compatible with all of your devices, is also a popular mobile app, and it is free and easy to use. At the touch of your finger, you can read millions of reviews and opinions written by other travelers and also book hotels, restaurants, and airfares.

Once I spent a little one-on-one time in the world of apps, I discovered that location-based apps are truly a useful form of networking, especially since one of my passions is supporting local businesses. I could now find out who was nearby (sometimes convenient, sometimes creepy), and what friends had to say review-wise about the place I was visiting. Best of all, I could start to benefit financially!

It did not take me long to earn a $25 store credit at my favorite sporting goods store (each time I visited!), and 20 percent off at a popular mall restaurant. Funny how saving money helps you appreciate a new concept! Soon, local businesses began networking with me, sending me various offers and incentives. Now in the location app groove, I enjoy taking a photo, leaving a comment, or reading what my friends have to say about particular venues, for example, what food they recommend or what the best deals are.

Online safety is still my greatest concern, so I take a few precautions. I make sure that I am always in a well-populated place, I check in when I am leaving rather than entering, I refrain from posting photos of my kids, and I make sure I am not indirectly announcing a vacant home.

Also, check your privacy settings and think twice about checking into places like a bank (makes sense), post office, or where you don’t wish to be found. And on the subject of kids: the only location-based apps we would allow our kids to use would be the ones telling their parents that they are on their way home. No ifs, buts, or “Just you wait!

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of SanDiegoBargainMama.com. A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.



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