Technology offers plenty of ways for parents to keep tabs on their kids — there are beacons you can pin to them, cameras you can point at them, drones that can follow them (literal helicopter parenting, coming soon). But parenting is a lot more like management than surveillance, and there aren't a whole lot of offerings out there that help families to function more like finely tuned machines than closely watched minions.
Enter Picniic : an app that I don't really want to call "Slack for families," but kind of is. Picniic operates like a tiny social network for the whole fam, centered around a shared dashboard of functions. Family members can link up, synch their calendars, collaborate on to-do lists, chat and share photos, plan group events, send reminders (it's garbage day!), assemble grocery lists, locate each other, manage sports schedules (it integrates with the popular TeamSnap platform), and even nail down what's for dinner.
PRO Picniic's all-in-one approach makes the app feel as tight-knit as the families it's designed for, and strikes the right balance between independence and co-dependence. It's simple, handy, and may even teach kids a thing or two about personal responsibility. (In this way, it's very old-fashioned.)
CON The free version gives you the basics, but for features like the Meal Planner, Family Locator, and web/tablet access (among others), you'll have to cough up $15 a month. (Hey, even apps deserve an allowance.)
MICHAEL ANDOR BRODEUR