Traveling with (Virtual) Mom

Summer beckons, with its eternal promise of freedom.

Unless you are Harry Wilder.

Harry is a 19-year-old British student who plans to travel across Australia, Thailand and South Africa this season…with a GPS tracking device called the “Traakit” in his pocket. The Traakit will let his mom pinpoint his location to within 15 feet and see him as a dolt…excuse me, dot on a map. For geeks, let me explain that the system seems to use co-ordinates from four satellite readings, which get fed into a computer program that also allows his mom to phone or text him no matter where he wanders.

For non-geeks and those of us just wondering what this world is coming to, let me say that the mom, Rachel Wilder, is only doing this because she believes that her high tech hovering will keep her son “safe.”

As she told The Daily Mail, “I can tell which street he is in so I can make sure he doesn’t wander into any dangerous areas.”

Because I’m sure she knows every single street on three different continents, right? “Oh he’s heading up Keet Street in Ekurhuleni province, is he? Place gives me the creeps!”

But anyway, say she does somehow “see” him going someplace “dangerous.” What can she do to “help”? Send a guided missile? Shake in her shoes? Pray?

She’ll probably do two out of three —  at least until we get iPhone -detonated long-range missiles. (Please don’t tell me there’s an app for that.) But the fact is, worrying from afar is still what it has always been: A great way to go gray without helping anyone one iota.

What’s different is that with the Traakit, this mom can have the ILLUSION that she is keeping her child safe, which just happens to be the mass parental delusion of this century: That we can and should watch our kids every second of every day, with whatever device we can afford (cell phones, anyone? Nannycams? ) and that people who do not do this are putting their kids in dire peril.

That’s a lot to ask of parents: 24 hour surveillance, for – well, I guess the new standard is 19 years.

The Traakit was invented by the boy’s uncle (see? I’m calling him a boy when he’s 19 years old –probably because he is still firmly tied to his mom’s GPS strings). This may explain why Harry himself professes to find it not at all annoying, or infantilizing, or babe-demagnetizing to have his mom watching his every move (from his pocket!) even though he is old enough to fight for his country.

Or at least rent an R movie.

Harry even defended the device by saying that his friend had died a few months earlier falling off a waterfall. As if the Traakit would have prevented that! Better his friend had been carrying a life preserver. Or rope! But the logic seems to be: If only that boy had stayed connected to his mother, he’d be alive today.

That’s not GPS. That’s magic.

Nothing wrong with magic, of course. I’d like some myself. I’d like it even more for my kids. But if Harry really wants to have a magical summer?

Time to give that Traakit to a nice, hungry dingo. (And run.)

– Lenore

73 Responses

  1. This is bizarre on so many levels. If she can’t trust him to journey across Australia by himself without Mommy watching his every move (and TBH, journeying across Australia ISN’T for everybody, Mama’s boy or not) why doesn’t she just TELL HIM NOT TO GO????

    It can’t be that he’s not willing to listen and do what she says, if he’s willing to have her virtually breathing down his neck every second from 10,000 miles away.

    Is it supposed to make her feel better if she sees him walk toward the waterfall and then lose contact? If it were me, I’d rather believe everything was okay until the police showed up at my door than helplessly wonder what the blank screen meant!

    And yeah, even if he NEEDED his Mommy to take care of him, this doesn’t accomplish that. Even if you believe in overprotection, how can you believe that this does any good? Are these people delusional, or what?

    Is this possibly a hoax, a spoof on overprotective parents?

  2. 19! Seriously? We can’t even let adults be adults anymore? Good lord! I lived in a ghetto apartment by myself as a 17 year old college student, and that wasn’t really all that long ago.

    I love my mom to pieces, but if she had suggested something like this I would have broken a rib laughing at her.

  3. Yes, it’s utter security theater. Speaking from the viewpoint of the kid, though, if the stupid GPS dongle gets his mother off his back so he can backpack across continents, that’s better than refusing and staying home.

    It would be good if more parents were deliberately free-range. To push for freedom as a young person, though, often means accepting measures that don’t matter in order to accomplish the things that do matter.

  4. NINETEEN?

  5. I presume he isn;t going out into the great open wilderness but visiting shops and mjor tourist attractions instead. If he isn’t going someplace remote by himself, then a tracker is good if he gets hurt. Otherwise – get a grip mom.

  6. Imagine her surprise when she realizes he’s heading straight for each city’s red light district.

  7. When I first read this article, I almost thought that Track-it was a potentially useful tool that could act as a last resort if all else goes wrong (but that shouldn’t be forced on anyone, especially a 19 year old).
    Then I remember that’s pretty much my philosophy with cell phones too. I mean, why bother with a GPS when you could just buy your kid an iPhone? I’m sure you’d get better pictures that way too!

  8. So at 19 he is old enough to be sent to Iraq to peace-keep for his country, right? Think the military would let mom track his every move in a war zone?

  9. If Harry is smart, he’ll get “mugged” one week into his trip, and the “muggers” will take some petty cash and the Traakit.

    But I can see why he’d agree to take it along, if it cuts back on the fretting and arguments in advance. Unfortunately, it’s all too likely that he really doesn’t mind. And that itself is sad.

  10. If you bothered to visit their website, you’d learn that TrAAKiT is intended for keeping track of assets rather than teenagers. A perfectly valid use.

    When I had friends traveling around the world, they’d keep a blog to keep us updated on where they were going. If they had access to something that would keep track of their location automatically, you betcha they would have jumped at that opportunity. I mean, it’s not much different than everyone twittering about their going abouts all day long.

    So yeah, the mom seems to think it will make her feel saver, but the kids sounds pretty reasonable and able to take care of himself. It does sound like the device will get her off his back and allow him to travel (while providing some publicity for his uncle’s product).

    Of course, looking at the specs, the device will be pretty much useless in the outback. It’s basically a simple cell phone with a GPS. I rather doubt you get cell reception in the wilderness and that’s what the device depends on to report its location. :-)

  11. This is disgusting! If she’s raised him right, he should be able to make decisions for himself at 19. Two generations ago, 19 meant married, 1 or more kids and maybe even homeownership. When I was 18, I packed up my VW, left home and drove up and down the East Coast, exploring, no GPS no cell phone, not even a credit card in case of emergencies. I would have laughed in my mom’s face if she had asked me to carry a Traakit.

  12. Ok, a counterargument:
    Whileshe says this is about safety, I think it’s not about that in any way. Haven’t this device on him let’s his mother know she CAN contact him any time she wants. If she’s wise, that mere knowledge will be enough that she will actually pester him less, not freak out every hour wondering why he hasn’t called from his checkpoint in Italy yet. If she’s smart, that confidence can let her relax, and threfor let her newly adult son experience MORE independence. Likewise the tracking is obviously not going to let her protect him, she has no context for the places he’s going, she has no way to intervine if she did. What the tracking does do, if she’s smart, is give her a sense of connection, without impeding his freedom. When she glances at the meaningless dot, maybe she can think, “oh, my son is at a market today,” or “looks like he’s checking out the dock. How cool.”

    Maybe it’s because I’ve grown up part of the digital age, but I don’t find this all that creepy. I equate it to my mother insting I have a cell phone. Can it be abused? Absolutely. Would it freak me out if it were the government instead of his mom? Yup. Microchip implants? Still a horrible idea. I just think THIS example doesn’t have to be about what it sounds like it’s about.

    And of course, if he really does expect it to let Mommy pluck him out of thin air to save him from a waterfall or mugger, both kid and mom have got other problems.

  13. Sorry about early typos: editing comments on an iPhone is almost impossible.

  14. That is pretty funny. At 19 I was living on my own! I know kids in our n’hood elementary school whose parents have them on the phone tracking device. When they get to a pre-determined location the parents get an automatic message. AAAAHHH!!! I think it’ll be funny too when the trust is so lost that the kids as teens think nothing of giving their device to a friend and asking them to take it to a pre-determined location for them.

  15. the trakkit could be cool. “Hey world, I’m going to go backpacking across three continents, and you can dial me up on google maps and see where I am at any time! It’s on my blog!”

    Because that would be fun. it doesn’t help anything, it just makes a potentially interesting datapoint.

  16. Well, sure, the problem is not with the kid using the device, or with the Mom being curious about where he is. Or even with her wanting it for the purposes of personal security — she’ll worry less if she has some connection. Hey some of us recognize that rightly or wrongly, we’re worriers, and things that help us let go are good.

    The problem is with bizarre statements like this:

    “I can tell which street he is in so I can make sure he doesn’t wander into any dangerous areas.”

    “I can make sure” of what he’s doing. 1) If he’s 19 and capable of traveling halfway across the world without her, then obviously it’s not her job to “make sure” of stuff for him and 2) there’s no way this enables her to do that.

    That’s what’s nuts.

  17. I have heard stories of hikers/campers in wilderness areas getting in trouble BECAUSE they had a cell phone/gps. Because they assumed “people will know where I am so I will get rescued”, they took more risks than they would have otherwise. Unfortunately, some of them found out the hard way that knowing someone is in trouble is not the same as being able to get to some remote area to help someone in trouble. At that point, all the rescuers can do is listen to you die on the phone.

  18. My first trip to Europe was the summer I turned 21. My parents were completely worried about it. I had a job in Switzerland, but I left 3 weeks before it started and was just going to travel with a friend (whom I was meeting in London) for part of that time.

    This was in the days before cell phones and even regular phone calls from Europe to the US were pretty pricey. I was to check in every few days just to ease their worry. Well, I missed one call due to a miscommunication and my dad was almost frantic. But, I was completely fine and they couldn’t have done anything anyway. Would I have come home as confident if they had been a phone call away anytime I had a problem? No way!

    It is amazing that parents think they can protect as much as they do. I have told the story many times of standing in the kitchen with my 2-year-old son when he took a lemon juice bottle out of the fridge, dropped it, broke it, and cut his foot stepping on it. All while I was less than 5 feet away and still wasn’t able to stop him, it all happened so fast.

  19. What if he meets a girl in his travels and wants to, you know, get to know her better?

  20. @Stepan and Meagan- if you bothered to read (to borrow your phrase) Lenore’s original post and the Daily Mail article she references, you plainly see that Mom wants to be able to “keep an eye on Harry ” and make sure he doesn’t wander into any dangerous areas.” Simple tracking or travelogueing wasn’t the intent.

    GPS isn’t new, nor at this point is twittering, facebooking, or blogging about a journey. If this guy or others want to do both simultaneously using a Traakit or other means, fine.

    The point I believe Lenore and others are making in response is the Mom’s intent to actively participate in the journey to keep her son “safe”, and the son’s apparent acceptance of this. Could there be a better example of over-the-top helicopter-parenting? Maybe we need a new term, GPS-parenting by Big Mother.

    It’s not even worth discussing because it is so painfully obvious & farcical that she thinks she will have any power to keep him safe….but yet we discuss it because just as painfully it is obviously NOT obvious to many people.

    As many have mentioned here, at 19 you can serve your country and be deployed into hot zones far, far away from mommy. I did.

  21. “The Traakit will let his mom pinpoint his location to within 15 feet and see him as a dolt…excuse me, dot on a map.”

    No, it will allow her to see his Traakit as a dot, not him. She’s assuming the thing will be on him. If he actually gets snatched by space aliens, they’ll surely put the Traakit on a bus headed across the country.

  22. @Meagan:

    I’m really sorry for you if you don’t see the problem with this simply because you’ve grown up in the digital age. The problem with *that* is that others just like you won’t find it nearly as horrifying when the government “suggests” that you take reasonable precautions to carry a certain device so they can ensure your safety (or better yet, to ensure they can keep you safe from the criminals they’re tracking via text message ‘UR getting close 2 Gary Ridgeway!’)

    What that means is your children will not be nearly as worried about implanting a device since they grew up in the age of their parents actually having to *carry* a device.

    Their children will be perfectly comfortable not only being implanted, but being barcoded as well – since those nifty barcodes give you access to places like bars without ever even having to show an ID…

    Sure, overly dramatic, but the point is that if you don’t keep your sense of individuality about you (and by individuality I don’t mean what kind of clothes you wear – but the ability to be alone sometimes without your phone/GPS/etc), then you run the risk of being complacent and the minute you are is when the sh** hits the fan.

    If you don’t believe me, there have been studies done on the “younger” generation and they’ve found that the younger people of today are LESS inclined to go against what the government says – considering the entity “right” against all else. But you won’t see it until it blindsides you that slowly you give up your freedom until you wonder… “hey wait… where did it go?”

  23. I hope that after staying up three nights in a row to check his whereabouts she loses interest. :-)

  24. Additionally:

    This is from the Trakkit site and it just about makes me want to vomit. What is this, slave days? ‘Prized Possession’?!?!?!?! WTF Mate???
    ———————–
    “The Concept

    The concept is straightforward. The TRAAKiT Service keeps watch over whatever you want, (well almost whatever you want), and we alert you when the situation changes.

    To help explain, let us call whatever you want us to watch your ‘prized possession’. You decide the boundaries where you want your ‘prized possession’ to be. Tell us, and we then watch your ‘prized possession’ periodically. If your ‘prized possession’ strays outside the boundaries, then we let you know. You set the parameters and we take care of the rest.”

  25. @Nicola, good catch! Prized possensions, if what is being tracked are people, make it sound like people as property. Uh uh. No way. Reminds me of my distaste in business for the term “human capital”. I’m not “capital”, like money or equipment, I’m a person. F off. Human resources is marginally more tolerable.

    @Mer and Shewhopicksuptoys. You two hit it right. Just interesting datapoints for a travelogue or something. And right, what is mommy gonna do from across the world? Nothing.

  26. Let’s see some of the examples of “prized possessions” they list:farm equipment, vans, toolboxes, transportation containers, briefcases, cars, motorbikes, ATVs, trailers, livestock. In my business we use the term “asset” rather than “prized possession”, but the idea is the same.

    From what I can tell, they only mention tracking people in their FAQ and state that “… there is nothing to stop you … However, we do not support this …”

    Looks like a UK version of LoJack and, an overenthusiastic mom not withstanding, not really a sign of the end of times. IMO.

  27. So it’s really meant for livestock and motorcycles? I’m attempting to picture a cow with a GPS device and I’m more convinced than ever that this is a harbinger of the end times. :)

    When did teenagers lose their spine? All this talk of his mom “allowing” him to go kind of creeps me out. He’s an adult. My husband and I were married when he was a year older than this kid and he was a dad the year after that. Yes, 19 is a young adult but it’s still an adult.

  28. He could be in a war at 19! Imagine sending your kid to fight in Afghanistan with the Traakit – ya, he’d be sooooo much safer that way!!

  29. Wow! When I was 19, I got married and packed everything I owned into my car and moved (by myself) from Georgia to Texas in a horrible rain storm. The kind that shuts everything down. Pre-cell phone!

  30. The Parent needs a hobby and to become free range from her kid.

  31. While I find pretty much everything about this tracking device patently ridiculous for a 19 year old child, I can see that this deluded mom actually believes that she’s going to be able to DO something if her kid has a problem. And from my own personal experience, she is not going to be able to do a damn thing, because he’s 19, of legal age, and nobody is going to phone her for permission to operate or resuscitate him. It’s just NOT going to happen.

    When I graduated high school way way way back in the stone age (1970) I took two years off and traveled extensively. I got hepatitis in Fez Morocco and ended up in a hospital for several weeks. I spoke neither French or Arabic, the two languages they DID speak. Nobody ever contacted my parents, even the American Embassy didn’t call them. And remarkably, I traveled without an ipod, iphone, GPS, laptop, or cell phone. Amazing I made it out alive.

    I also drove from Lisbon Portugal to Kabul Afghanistan. I was in Iran during the initial protests about the Shah. I traveled in Israel during the Jordanian civil war and heard and saw the war every night from my kibbutz in the Golan Heights. I was at the bus station in Tel Aviv when it was bombed. Guess what? NOBODY called my parents. It was my responsibility as an 18 year old girl to get on the phone and notify them. In most cases I did NOT want to notify them because they would say “Come home NOW” and I was unwilling to leave such an adventure for the boring southern California life.

    I find it sad that this mother hen is such a helicopter parent that she can’t trust her kid for even a day without checking in and following his every move. I do know that my almost 17 year old twins would KILL me if I ever tried to do the same, and they think I’m over protective because I ask where they are going and who they are with.

    OY, that poor kid!

  32. [...] Traveling with (Virtual) Mom Summer beckons, with its eternal promise of freedom. Unless you are Harry Wilder. Harry is a 19-year-old British [...] [...]

  33. I can see this being a publicity stunt by the uncle, to raise awareness of the product, & that’s worked VERY well! I can also see the concept being explained to a non-tech-literate mother in a way that makes sense to her, & “able to track him by GPS” being the phrase that she retains, expands on & confusingly/confusedly “repeats” to the media. It sounds like the sort of “explanation” my mum would give, a sort of one-person version of Chinese Whispers.

  34. Oh, I am SO planting one of these in my ex’s car!

  35. for crying out loud! at 19 I ran away from a contorolling mother who, if had things her way, would still shop with me and pick my clothes for me. that kid needs to open his eyes and understand that mom will infantilize him until she dies. the kid needs to work up the courage, tell mom “I can do this on my own. i don’t need you hovering over me,” and withstand the guaranteed guilt trip she will use. Been there, done that. It is so sad to see that in the mind of that woman, that kid is no older that 9.

  36. 19 :P ?

    I am even belongs to a third world country call Bangladesh, and I have been living alone since 16… Just wondering; I’m still not dead and fix all my problem myself :)

  37. What kind of a product is that anyway…how do you even pronounce it? Who makes a product that people don’t know how to say?

    In addition…some people have gone way too far with their comments…honestly, what does the government have to do with any of this. Wow.

    Wouldn’t it be great to have a chip so you didn’t have to lug around your i.d.? Haha, just kidding:-)

  38. The purpose of leaving home at 19 to travel is to get away form mom for the sake of the young adult and the parent. It’s time to break the ties and move on with life as an adult. We raise our children to leave. What happens when this 19 year old wants to get his on apartment. Does mom set up a baby monitor so she can keep taps on her little darling. Life is worth living because it has risks. If the 19 year old wants to play it safe he should go to Disney World.

  39. Sad, really, to see what should be a young man finding his place in the world acting like a pre-teen.

    One hopes he’ll come to his senses and, say, tape the device to the side of a container ship. Or drop it into the handbag of a “worker” in the seedy parts of Bangkok. Tie it to a kangaroo. Mail it to a random address in China. Anything to stop his mum from being so silly.

  40. I don’t think that the 19 year old boy in this story is the only “victim” here. We have to also look at how the mom is also a “victim” of the social expectations that she must protect her child at all times from all things.

    Let’s face it, every time anything “bad” happens to a child the first question that is asked is “where was the mother?” or “why wasn’t the mother there?” or “what’s wrong with that mother?” Yes, the helicopter moms are being created by fear mongering, but let’s take a minute to also feel sorry for the mother that feels driven to this in order to not get slapped with the label of “bad mother”. Because we know that if something happened to this 19 year old while traveling across three continents the media would put up a picture of the mother with a caption reading “Negligent Mom!”

    Of course the teenager should be allowed to go on his trip without a tracking device in his pocket. But my gosh realize the brainwashing this mother has undergone to want the tracking device in the first place!

  41. The Traakit may in fact leave the son with a false sense of security. Thinking that “Mom is always watching”, he may not pay attention to his own instincts. When I travelled across Europe as a young adult, it was my instincts that kept me out of “dangerous” situations and places. I travelled WITHOUT a cell phone or other such device, and you can be sure I was constantly aware of my surroundings, especially when I was not in a group. I knew I was on my own and it was up to me to keep myself safe and protected. With his mother constantly hovering (even digitally), will he learn to trust his own instincts? “Hey, does that gang of hoodlums brandishing pocket knives look dangerous to you?” “No way…Mom says this is a great neighborhood.”

  42. If something bad happened to a 19 year old, the media would ask “where was his mother?” Seriously? The world could not possibly have gone that insane.

  43. KarenW, you see that attitude towards college students all the time. I live in a college town that, like many schools, has a gigantic drinking festival every year. Unsurprisingly, every year someone dies, sometimes two people, but usually never more. Invariably I hear things like “well if only their parents had talked to them about drinking” from the townies or the parents of the students who didn’t die. Heck, even the University has taken to sending letters home about this to “encourage conversation” about not being a flipping idiot.

  44. I think the kid’s acquiesce may be in exchange for funding. As another poster pointed out, he can tuck the thing safely in bed, then go party.

  45. When my kids are in college, I plan to help them out financially, but it will be minimal and no-strings-attached. I doubt that I will magically have hundreds of thousands of dollars to give them, so they are going to have to contribute the majority themselves out of finanical aid, scholarships and working. But if I did have the money and fully funded their college educations, I would feel that just about everything they did was my business – what classes they took, whether they drank and slept around, etc. It really isn’t a good trade-off. My parents hardly gave me anything for college (they also did not have it) so my life was my own business. I did some idiotic things, of course, but who doesn’t. This whole idea that people are not really adults until the late twenties is absurd. Soon it will be the thirties or forties.

  46. I was travelling cross province by myself at 12, meeting relatives in a downtown bus depot, and navigating to other meeting points.

    At 17 I moved out on my own.

    If my mom had given me a GPS, I’d have probably thrown it into the nearest open boxcar of a train, and gone on my merry way.

    She’s clueless if she thinks it gives her the power to intervene, unless there’s other undisclosed features of teleportation!

  47. I have a request. Elsewhere they’re talking about when you send kids into the (public) bathroom alone, and now the conversation is that there are sickos everywhere and little kids get raped in the bathroom, and one person said “once a child got assaulted in a bathroom near me” (love the *total* lack of details there – when was this? how old was the kid? which bathroom? did they catch the guy and was he a repeat offender?) and now I’m wondering.

    It’s useless to try to talk to them about it, believe me, I’ve tried in the past (and they’re all nice people, but when you see people patting themselves on the back for letting their ten year olds walk to the corner you know there’s no point, you know?), but for my own edification – where can I find the statistics for “crimes against children in public bathrooms”?

    Because it seems that you have to be very sick indeed to hang out in a *public bathroom* on the offchance that some parent is gonna send their unaccompanied child in there while you’re waiting.

  48. Oh goodness, will the military be handing these out to Army mom? Because really I just rather not know.

  49. I knew when I saw that article that it would have to appear here.

    I kind of could see doing that, but more because I’d have fun seeing where my child was going, not for the illusion of being able to protect anyone. But I could just as easily say “I want pictures when you get home” and have a far more interesting time of it.

    All that’s academic for me, since my kids are way too young to be tracking across any country or even the city on their own right now.

  50. Nicola: A few years back a study of American high school students found that over half of them thought that news media should have to get government approval before running stories. That’s an inevitable consequence of believing that the world is a super-dangerous place from which you need protection by the strong and powerful.

    Uly: I don’t have the statistics, but I do know that several “famous” cases of children being abducted, molested and mutilated in public washrooms are urban legends that never happened. One of the originators of the meme was a crackpot psychologist named Paul Cameron who, while testifying against the adoption of a gay-rights ordinance in some city, told a horrible story about a boy being abducted in a public washroom and having his penis cut off. His fearmongering managed to derail the ordinance (even though there’s no logical connection; the overwhelming majority of men who molest boys either engage in adult sexual relationships with women (often the boy’s mother) or no adult sexual relationships al all; men who engage in sexual relationships with other men have a lower rate of molesting boys than other people (again, probably due to the fact that the perpetrator of child sexual abuse is usually in a sexual relationship with the kid’s mother), but afterwards some news outlets tried to find out more about the story and couldn’t. Cameron eventually admitted that he made up the story as an example of what could have happened if the ordinance passed. Cameron has been kicked out of every professional organization he’s belonged to, mainly because of his tendency to “cite” other researchers as saying the opposite of what they actually said.

  51. Ebohlman:

    Seriously? I’m sure somebody stated that exact same story you just wrote down! You wouldn’t happen to have a convenient link (or even anything off the web), would you? I can do some of my own research, but a few more places to start would be *super* helpful.

    (Okay, maybe I’ll try talking to them after all. It’s futile, but what’s a heaven for?)

  52. One of my best friends recently put her just-graduated-from-college son on a plane with a one-way ticket to the Ukraine. His plan is to go to a blacksmithing conference there and then hang around Europe until he runs out of money or gets homesick. She’s mentioned a few times that it’s a little worrying, having him traveling alone in places where he doesn’t speak the language or know the culture. He’s not carrying a cell phone or a laptop, so she’s hears from him when he happens to stop into an Internet cafe once or twice a week.

    We were talking the other day about how much higher the expectations are on parents to keep in touch with their traveling kids. I went to Europe on a walkabout ten years ago, and I remember checking my e-mail once or twice a week as this HUGE leap forward in staying in touch. The first time I traveled abroad alone, I spoke to my mom twice in two months – the day I arrived and on my birthday.

  53. Sierra, the first time I went abroad without my parents I was six. My sister was nine. I skipped my kindergarten graduation and was put on a plane to Belgium for the summer. Two months with our grandparents.

    And sure, we were with our grandparents, but they (and we) only spoke to our parents maybe once a week. Long distance, it was expensive! We said hi, we said bye, and we were done.

    Of course, now my mother speaks to her mother (that’s the grandmother we were staying with) every day or so over the phone. But she can now, it doesn’t cost so much, and anyway my grandmother isn’t going to be with us that much longer. It’s different.

  54. Uly: see the Wikipedia entry for “Paul Cameron.” I also seem to remember something on snopes.com about bathroom abductions.

  55. When I think of poor Harry Wilder, delusional because he thinks he will be safer because Mommy knows where he is at all times, and his mother, also delusional because she thinks she can protect him from risky choices with a GPS, I think of my son who is a navy combat medical corpsman with the Marines in Iraq. Yes his mother and I think about him every day. Yes we cringe when the media report the deaths of our troops in his vicinity. But we are both happy that we helped him learn the ability to think for himself and to use his own judgement in difficult situations. (Some may think that personal judgement in the military is an oxymoron, but in combat survival depends on it.) The apron strings have long been cut. Even if I knew his GPS location every minute, I would not be there to help him survive.

  56. “Because it seems that you have to be very sick indeed to hang out in a *public bathroom* on the off chance that some parent is gonna send their unaccompanied child in there while you’re waiting.”

    AND that nobody else will be in the bathroom at the same time, or walk in on your nefarious doings, etc.

    There was a local instance several years ago of a teenage girl being assaulted in a movie theater bathroom by a mentally disturbed teenage male stranger who hung out in a stall waiting, but how do you prevent THAT? Your teenage daughter can’t go to the movies? Can’t use the toilet if she does?

  57. At least she’ll know the addresses of all the pubs he gets mashed at and the addresses of all the birds he shags while he’s down here.
    Better than a black book. “Mum – I remember a really fun redhead a few days ago – can you look up the address? 2am to about ten am… Cheers Mum, your a lovely duck, eh?.. Yes… Yes… I promise to wear one…’

  58. This sort of creepy tracking is rampant.

    Have you seen the battery commercial with the tracking unit on the six year-old in the park?

    “Thank heavens there were good batteries in the tracking device when little Davey wandered away for five minutes in the park. ”

    Then, they picture the happy reunion of the mommy with her balloon-toting wandering boy.

    Good grief, what if the kid had actually learned a lesson about paying attention instead?

  59. Give the kid an iPhone and tell him to check in every now and again. The iPhone’s GPS, mapping and Googling could help him figure what places he should avoid.

    Or it could help him find a brothel….

  60. That is wicked, he can put the Traakit on a bus from Sydney to Perth and while his parents think he is travelling he can be living it up wild style.
    Ask the bus driver nicely to send the bag back once you get there and tell his parents “Perth was rubbish”, I came straight back :)

  61. Ok, so his mother has the completely wrong idea about the use of this idea, but do you dislike this technology altogether?

    I think it would have been cool to carry something like that when I went backpacking through Europe at the age of 20. Not because it would influence my decisions or allow anyone to provide guidance, but because it’s a neat way to share the experience. At 19 or 20 it’d certainly be MY choice to carry it.

    Technology is here to stay, are you against it or against the overbearing nature of select parents? I’d also be very glad to hear your thoughts on using this type of tracking on children under the age of 12.

  62. The local morning news show here in Brisbane interviewed the mother in the UK by phone, and later the son in Brisbane in person. Both seemed like normal, rational people, & he said she was the least controlling person ever. Without knowing the back story, I do feel that some commenters here are casting wild-verging-on-hysterical aspersions on both parties, & I suspect they have the wrong end of the stick.

    Brad: having grown up in a Third World country, where (for example) my 6yo brother & his 7yo friend were dropped at the wrong airstrip & spent 24 hours travelling around the island to the correct location – while NO ONE knew where they were – I can absolutely see where a GPS tracker would be useful. Not to watch obsessively, but in the same way as distress beacons. In normal day-to-day life in the First World? Would never occur to me.

  63. Is she going to stop him from drinking and having sex too? Does this GPS thingie tell her what sleazy hotel he’s in or with which weirdo he’s hitch hiking with?

  64. Stark,
    Big Mother!!! I love it! I’m so mad I didnt think of it first.

  65. Lenore,
    forgot to mention, (busy reading all the comments) I love the irony of the life preserver and the rope!
    Kids are taught to rely on things to get them through, but sometimes the wrong ones!
    The helmet won’t be the “thing” that saves you, your instincts and watching out for cars will!”, same as the GPS won’t, even though it’s a great tool!

  66. I really hope that at 19, The Man Beast and I have raised the Boy well enough that he can trek through a foreign land like a ‘big boy’.

    Wow…

  67. @Sunny1

    Thanks, though I’m sure I’m not the first to come up with it. Good term though, let’s all use it out there.

  68. Yes, because Australia is SOOOO dangerous! I had better put permanent tracking devices on my children seeing as we live in Australia.

  69. Actually, Catherine, a lot of people outside of your country *do* think it’s really dangerous. Spiders, snakes, fires, and desert.

    Of course, if he stays in cities or travels with people who know what they’re doing, or at least educates himself about surviving in… wherever he’s planning on going – then I don’t see how it’s likely to kill him unless he’s a fool.

  70. If I were him, I’d ‘accidentally’ leave it in the toilet at Heathrow.

  71. I can’t stop laughing.

    “Harry even defended the device by saying that his friend had died a few months earlier falling off a waterfall. ”

    Logic: He does not have it. I can only see the device being helpful if he was abducted and even then only if it was implanted or somehow hidden away on him so the abductor wouldn’t find it. And chances are so slim of all these happening that I still find it useless. *sigh*

  72. [...] to no signal to be sent.  It really isn’t hard to circumvent yet parents will be under a false sense of security, thinking their “innocent” children are safe at the desired [...]

  73. Hey interesting post.
    Conerning Volkswagen recalls, have you heard of the Volkswagen Phaeton? Did you realize it’s just a rebadged Bentley Continental GT? Sad, but true.
    The Volkswagen Phaeton was a massive disaster in my opinion, the worst thing VW ever made!

    Its In: VW Phaeton is a failure!

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