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Latch Key Kids Go High Tech: Five “Smart” Solutions to Common After-School Problems

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Making a mix tape. Hanging up your phone. What do those phrases even mean anymore? And here’s another phrase that will soon become obsolete: “Latch key kid.”

The main reason? Smart homes have eliminated the need for keys. While your kid was at school getting smart, the “Internet of Things” was making everything in your house that much smarter, too.

Here are our five tech answers to eliminate the biggest after-school issues working parents face:

Why didn’t he call to tell me he’s home? No more wondering whether your child got home, or if he lost his keys (again). A smart lock allows you to assign a specific code to each member of your family, so you never have to wonder who’s coming and going. And even if your child forgets the code, an app will allow you to unlock the door remotely.

Are they studying, or having a dance party with uninvited guests? It’s hard to know exactly what’s going on in the house unless you’re there. But with a Wi-Fi video monitoring service, you’ll receive activity alerts for motion or sound on your smartphone, tablet or computer. Choosing one with a two-way talk feature lets you pop in to have a quick chat about the day…and check out just exactly what she’s snacking on. (Yep, the orange hands are a dead Cheetos give way!)

What are they really watching? The days of a steady diet of Gilligan’s Island reruns are over. We all know that kids can get their hands on just about anything unless you set parental controls that restrict what they can watch. Most TVs come with built-in parental controls, and you can download software (often free) that allows you to track and monitor what your kids are doing on the computer (were they really researching ancient Egypt, or just feeding their Candy Crush habit?). You also can set time limits for each site, giving them just 10 minutes or so to do a feed speed read on Instagram.

How could he have forgotten to turn on the oven? Hoping your child will turn on the oven at 5:30 to cook your Tuna Surprise casserole? Many a child has figured out that “accidentally” forgetting to turn on the oven can result in pizza for dinner. Take matters into your own hands by using an app that will let you control the temperature on your smart oven yourself.

We can’t always be with our kids after school, even though we wish we could. But new tech features for the home can help restore your peace of mind, allowing you to concentrate on your own work—and get home that much faster.

Article written by: Cathie Ericson