What The Tech: College Gadgets For Parents
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Right now most of the thoughts about sending kids off to college are for things they might need, like headphones and Bluetooth speakers. But parents need some off-to-college gadgets too, for their peace of mind. If students are leaving home for the first time their parents may worry about their safety and security. The good news is many of those tech gadgets are much better and smaller than when parents were in college themselves. Some of these gadgets didn’t even exist 20 years ago. Here are some of my favorite tech gadgets every parent will want their students to take with them.
Everyone needs a flashlight. That used to mean something too large to keep in a backpack. Older flashlights are heavy and need large D-batteries to work. Today, the most powerful flashlights are small enough to keep in a backpack, purse, or glove compartment. Anker makes several rechargeable flashlights powerful enough to light up an entire area when they walk across campus, late night walks to their car, and if they’re ever stranded on the side of the road. The Anker Bolder flashlights (and there are several models available) are rechargeable and do not require big batteries.
Some flashlights serve double or even triple duty for safety. The JumpSmart flashlight also replaces the need for jumper cables. Keep it charged and under the car seat or in the trunk and they’ll be able to jump-start the car if the battery dies without needing someone else to connect their car battery with jumper cables. Portable jump starters also have a flashlight and USB charging ports for phones.
Speaking of their car, getting a phone call from your student saying their check-engine light is on usually means telling them to take it to a mechanic. This might be unnecessary and could cost $100 or more just to turn off the light. An OBD II reader will tell them and you what’s wrong. They simply need to plug the small device into the OBD II port (usually just underneath the steering wheel or near the emergency break and connect it to the companion smartphone app. The reader searches for what caused the error and displays a code. The app diagnoses the error and if it’s something minor, (and it usually is) they can use the diagnosis and trouble codes to clear the error to kill the light. It also keeps up with maintenance schedules and sends a notification when it’s time for an oil change.
You don’t want a phone call telling you they’ve lost something they need. Apple AirTags are handy to toss in their backpack to find it quickly. Even if someone steals that backpack and takes it across town, they’ll see precisely where their backpack is when the AirTag connects to other iPhones in the area. Tile Trackers are similar and a good option for non-iPhone users.
Leaving their belongings in a gym locker, they need a lock to protect them. The Tapplock doesn’t require a combination or key, just their fingerprint to open it. They can also unlock the Tapplock with its smartphone app.
You don’t want to take a phone call from a student far away at college and not be able to offer a solution. These gadgets make it easy for parents to feel a little better about leaving their students on campus.