Should You Track Your Kids via GPS?

Hi Readers — Tomorrow I’m on Fox & Friends at 8:20 a.m. Eastern Time talking about the Little Buddy Child Tracker — a device that allows parents to track their kids’ every move. What upsets me is the rationale behind the product: That children are in danger every second they step out the door, and that any GOOD parent keeps them under constant surveillance — either in person, or, now, by GPS.

Not only does this reinforce the notion that we are living among depraved monsters, it also reinforces the notion that if, God forbid, anything bad DOES happen to a child, it’s the parents’ fault. They should have been there. They should have expected the very worst. Every parent should treat every day as potentially their children’s last.

Ah, the carefree days of childhood!

It’s not that I don’t believe in preparing children for the world. I totally do. I believe in preparing them for the dangers they are LIKELY to face: Traffic. Bad weather. A confusing change in plans. I teach them to look both ways, to stand up for themselves if they feel threatened, to ask for help if they need it. I’ve talked to them so much about sex and drugs and HIV, I can’t say the word “condiment” without them rolling their eyes.

Preparation is good. Paranoia is not. We all know that stranger danger is ridiculously  exaggerated by the media and that children face far greater threats from people they know. Little Buddy (which sounds like Big Brother’s Gilligan-like sidekick) preys upon fears that all strangers are out to get our kids. Parents pass that fear along to their children when they give them this device along with the unspoken lesson: You are not safe unless we are there with you.

No one is saying there is no danger in the world, only that our fears are out of proportion, and misdirected at that. The Little Buddy is not a buddy. It’s a fear monger. But since it just may give some parents the peace of mind that lets them allow their kids to walk home, maybe there is some Free-Range value in it. Right? Maybe?

I really don’t know. So, before I head off to Fox,   I’d love to hear your thoughts on this device. Many thanks!  — Your buddy (but not your Little Buddy), Lenore

105 Responses

  1. I think the greatest risk in devices like this is their potential to be misused. When do you stop tracking your kids? When they’re 12? 18? 32? What about your spouse or girlfriend or that cool chick you met in the bar? Shouldn’t you be tracking them too?

  2. I’ve seen ads on TV for this, or something like it. Mr. Nonymous and I mock those ads relentlessly. “Fear-mongering” is right!

  3. NO. It’s creepy and disturbing, and if you trust your children that little, just lock them up in their rooms and throw away the keys.

  4. I might put it on a wayward teenager that couldn’t be trusted.😀

    I do have to say, though, that while I wouldn’t use it myself, I would rather see a parent use it to feel more comfortable about letting their child loose than to see a parent lock their child up in the house. It’s the lesser of 2 evils, imo.

  5. If it’s affordable and easy to wear (as in a bracelet, watch, etc.), I’m not _necessarily_ opposed to having a GPS on my kid. Not because I think there’s a likelihood she’ll be kidnapped, but because it could potentially come in handy if she got lost, defied parental directions and went somewhere she wasn’t supposed to, etc.

    There is, of course, an element of concern here – privacy issues, when do you stop tracking, people using them on you without your knowledge, etc. – but there’s a touch of paranoia in those fears too. Yes, people probably will, if they can get away with it, use them, for instance, on spouses they suspect of infidelity. Stalkers on those they are stalking. But the potential for misuse has never for me been a logical argument against use. Now, if you think it’s misuse to use it for peace of mind that your 8 year old gets to his friend’s house safely, then that’s a difference of opinion. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to make use of a device like this, and I’d probably let my kid go farther younger by herslef if I had it.

  6. (I say that as a young adult who was often locked up in the house as a child. Not because my parents didn’t trust me, but because my ER nurse mother didn’t trust the world.)

  7. I agree that GPS can be a tool to inspire fear, but I DO see the point of GPS child locators in a specific situation: I have many friends who have young children with special needs….Children who have Down syndrome and cannot communicate clearly but tend to wander. These devices DO serve a purpose, but in my eyes it’s to a very specific section of our community. Seeing them marketed to all parents (esp. through the familiar battery commercial….you know the one I’m talking about), just seems CRAZY.

  8. I can see the good side – particularly if you do let your kids roam. In fact, my (35 year old) sister has plans to do a pilgrimage through the mountains in Spain and we’re not letting her go without the adult version of the Little Buddy (I forget what it’s called but it’s at REI) because while we understand her need to commune with nature – it makes us all feel better to know that if she hits a single button, rescue squads will know exactly where she is and be able to swoop in before she bleeds out. I’ve considered getting it for my husband who regularly cycles in the mountains here.

    But I agree with Shannon – at what point do you *stop* monitoring?

  9. Oh Kym! That battery commercial makes me so mad! It makes every single person who isn’t that kid’s mom look like a pedophile!

  10. Of course, my question would be, who else has access to the information about where my child is every minute? Since this is obviously going through an e-mail alert system of some kind…(a different brand of paranoia there…)

  11. Heh. Sometimes I think docs and nurses shouldn’t be allowed to make judgments about what’s safe for their own kids. Their perspective is too skewed, if they’ve spent enough time in ERs or similar situations.

    I’m really just kidding, but I’ve seen medical parents who are otherwise pretty sensible get really uptight about certain potential dangers because they’ve seen too many bad things.

  12. I tried to explain to my 62 yo mother, why several children at a perfectly safe wading pool , with only one GATED way in or out with several lstaff stationed just outside of Boston, were wearing “baby Lo-jack’s” this summer. My mom was a cautious parent, especially after a girl we knew actually was kidnapped & killed by a stranger, but even she broke down in hysterical laughter when confronted with these devices.

    The only rationale I can support is if you have a severely developmentally delayed or maybe a mute/ autistic child who is unable to communicate verbally if they were separated from you.

    My mom also couldn’t understand why so many parents were in the wading pool shadowing their kids. (Not babies, but 5-7 yos) I couldn’t explain that one.

  13. I don’t actually have a problem with this largely because it would give some kids who can handle it more freedom. I don’t think wanting to be aware of your child’s general location, even into his teens, is hovering. However, a responsible and trustworthy teen likely won’t need one of these- he or she will be in touch with mom or dad regarding their plans for that day and go where he or she is supposed to. On the flip side, I’m concerned that the implied safety of this device will give some parents cause to exercise less discretion. Just because your 8 year old can navigate the subway doesn’t mean my 8 year old is ready for it, and a gps isn’t going to change that. As a useful device in case of abduction- it will only be useful if it’s practically invisible or undetectable. Otherwise, the captor will ditch it with the cell phone and any other electronic devises the child might be carrying that could be used to aid rescue.

  14. Of course, pentamom, it goes in reverse – some are so blase about injuries that they disregard what most of us would worry about because they know (or at least “know”) it’s probably nothing.

    Which is why doctors shouldn’t heal their own kids.

    Sky, if your kid is deliberately going where she’s not supposed to, she probably is smart enough to pass her GPS bracelet to a friend who is going where she IS supposed to. I envision a poor kid loaded down with bracelets from all her friends while her friends cut school that day.

  15. Generally true, Uly.

  16. i’ve never even considered one of those things … just another battery eater in my view. however, we have a cell phone that the kids often take on their wanderings around the block so i don’t have to scream myself hoarse when it’s time for dinner. i’ve thought about activating the GPS option on it so that i could just go directly to them, but i’ve resisted this urge … note that i want it for my convenience, not because i’m afraid someone will kidnap them.

    the other thing that stops me … the knowledge that my kids lose anything that’s not irreparably attached to their bodies.

  17. Got cut off – I was thinking more along the lines of things like this: telling my five year old she can walk down the block go play at friend X’s house, but then she stops off on the way and hangs out in the nieghbour’s yard and plays with their outdoor toys, which she’s not supposed to do, since she hasn’t been invited, and which she’s been told not to do, and which she is disciplined for doing, if I happen to know she’s doing it.

    She could ditch the GPS, if she knew that’s what it was, of course, and if she was thinking that far ahead, but I don’t think so.

    At any rate, I don’t know that I’d use one, but I can certainly see purposes for it that do not involve extreme paranoia.

  18. Uly, you are right.

  19. I kinda wish they had GPS locators like that when I was a kid, my mother might have let me out of the house and not demanded I call her when I left in the morning AND when I arrived at school, then when I left the school and again when I got home. I was a junior in high school.

    We do have family locator (GPS through Sprint) on the cell phone our teenager has. Not because she is untrustworthy, or even that there are creeps out there. Its because shes a total dork who can never find the stupid thing. So far in the last two weeks we have needed to use the GPS locate to find it: between the couch cushions at a friends house, at the park, a different park and I really wish it were more accurate so we could locate her phone in her room.

    BTW Did you know that porta potties block gps? When my daughter and her friend were searching the park for her phone, her friend entirely vanished from the GPS locate- we were all trying to triangulate based on where their phones pinged near each other to help find her phone while us moms are here at work. He was in the porta potty when we tried to find him, and thus learned about the block so the kids looked around them for her phone. We later found her phone, someone had found it and walked off with it then dumped it when we had it shut off.🙂 Thank you sprint.

    *babble babble babble* I’m on lunch and apparently chatty today.

  20. I like the idea, but mainly so I can harass my children…. “Now why did it take 10 minutes for you to cross the park area? You weren’t playing were you? Who do you think you are?”

    It’d be great fun…

  21. “Should You Track Your Kids via GPS?”

    Of course! How else will you know when they’re getting close to finding you!😉

  22. How is this supposed to keep kids safer? Like so many other things, it can’t PREVENT any harm, just tell you where it’s happening. And that’s only IF the kid carries the thing – it looks like it has to go in a pocket or backpack, and my kids frequently have neither. I guess you could duct-tape it to them.😉

    I think this is more of a fear-marketing issue than a free-range issue. I don’t think electronically knowing where kids are limits their freedom – they can still go wherever they want. I do think it’s unnecessary and could send the message of not trusting them to actually be where they say they’re going.

  23. I think a far more insidious and dangerous side effect of this technology, is that it will tend to desensitize kids to surveillance.

    They’ll be so used to being monitored by someone, every minute of every day, that they may well end up becoming total basket cases whenever they think there’s *not* somebody there pretending to be a safety net for them.

    If parents start buying into this GPS tracker thing as “early adopters”, how long do you think it will be before the authoritarians in government (who think they know how to live your life better than you do) try to make it mandatory? And not just for kids, but for YOU, too!

  24. OK, you love your spouse, right? OK, give them this device! Oh wait, they don’t like it? It represents distrust? It is Big Brother? Oh, now I understand.

    In regards to efficacy, does anyone really think any kidnapper worth a hoot would not get rid of the device right after the kidnapping?

    In regards to the psychological effects of carrying this around, unlike a cell phone which is a means for people to communicate, this is a passive tracker as if your child is a migrating tuna. This directly teaches kids a lesson in safety at all costs, something that would no doubt lead to either their outright rebellion or voting for politicians who will offer safety and no risk. You figure it out.

  25. I’ve thought about using this device for my tween daughter. Let me explain. I really do work to be a free-range parent, and in many ways she is a free-range child. I love the neighbourhood gaggle of girls that roams the streets, biking and roller-blading and otherwise exploring. But she is a very complicated human being (aren’t we all?) and is full of contradictions. While in some aspects, she’s very free-range, in other ways, she’s very frightened of the world. I do think she’s a victim of the ‘stranger-danger’ barrage of thinking, because she seriously believes that she is constantly in high danger of being kidnapped.

    I have pondered getting her a GPS-monitoring device, not for me, but for her own peace of mind. If she knew that her parents could track her down, she might have more confidence in situations which presently frighten her. I think the security of it would allow her more confidence. However, the flip-side of this is that buying her a GPS-monitor validates the dangers and nightmares, and suggests that we the parents believe they are looming over her, and that we do need to take steps to ward them off.

    I certainly have a lot better things to spend $100 on.

  26. Well I as a high school child lied to my parents all the time about where I was going. The only thing was I was very responsible. Now you might think well at that age a child’s trust in themselves is not to be trusted. Well honestly I did not drink in high school or do any drugs, I was also a virgin and was not at all planning to not be a virgin during my HS time, not because of religious reasons, but because I was definitely not in love and not wanting to be in love or be serious with a boy, and I knew I was not ready to have sex for sex sake. So why did I lie then? Well I thought my curfew was too early, I also thought my parents were too conservative with not letting me go out in a group that had boys in it and also my parents were a bit prejudice and did not want me to go out with certain of my friends that were boys and african american and pick them up in their neighborhood(I grew up in Miami) which was a low income “ghetto” type neighborhood. So I lied all the time about where I was going and who I was going with. But I can tell you know, I did not drink, I did not have sex or fool around at all barely beyond making out and still barely at all, me going out was with literally a group of friends, boys and girls like myself, creative artsy types who was very ethnically diverse although not really socially diverse, we pretty much were all the same types of people.

    So that GPS tracking device would have tortured me, and I think uneccessarily so.

  27. Now you can frenetically mash your F5 key on your keyboard to watch your child get on with their life while you should be getting on with yours.

    As a parent, you’d either have to sneak this thing into your kids clothes or backpack which I’m sure will promote greater trust between parent and child when they find out, or you’d have to tell them. I know if my parents did this to me and told me about it, I’d have that thing on a town bus in a matter of minutes.

    Since it’s online I’m sure someone will do a google maps mashup to point out dangerous things your child could be straying near. Sex offenders (sex offenders), Streets (cars, windowless white vans), open fields (snakes, pollen, homeless sex offenders), playgrounds (climbing, swinging, falling, child predator home base) and malls (food court haunting child predators).

    What I really want to know is why no one is afraid because this thing reports on your kids via the web. Surely there are hackers out there hovering over their keyboards just waiting for a chance to track all those children who are now easy to find, thanks to the wonders of the web and modern science.

    -Ben

  28. We need traffic controllers for all of these parents trying to stalk their own children. Geez, when you have too many helicopters flying in the same path, they have a possibility of crashing. You like my analogy of helicopter parents. Anyway, what happened to a thing such as a “carefree childhood”. Letting them enjoy themselves while they are young!!!

    This all gives me a great big headache.

  29. I’m up for anything that can actually prevent a bad thing from happening. GPS can’t. It can’t even tell you IF something bad is happening.

    All it can do is passively track the location of the bad thing that’s happening. And that’s assuming that the person doing the bad thing isn’t smart enough to remove it.

    At best it’s a waste of time. At worst it’ll give parents a false sense of security so they feel like they don’t need to prepare their kids, or communicate with them personally about where they plan to be/what they plan to do.

  30. I can see the use for it, in certain situations. Some kids are a bit more adventurous than others, and *want* to go explore that creepy looking part of the woods. There’s also the potential for adventure in big, crowded, unfamiliar public areas (I’m thinking the Washington Mall/Smithsonian in DC, which is almost always packed with adults AND kids). Of course, for these kids, I’d imagine that they’ve already been given some kind of guidance (ie, “you can explore the woods by yourself, but make sure you’re back home by whatever time”) as well as basic safety guidelines — like if you’re lost and scared, find a museum employee or an adult with any school group, because they can help you. It can also be very helpful for parents of special needs children who tend to wander away. Of course, it could be useful for the more…”adventurous” teenagers, but they probably wouldn’t wear it (which would defeat the purpose of using a GPS system).

    I think something like a GPS bracelet can be used to supplement free-ranging, rather than to watch a child’s every breath. Especially with younger kids (between five and seven — old enough for school but not quite as independent yet), who might be hesitant to just go off alone, but feel a bit bolder knowing that this bracelet will help Mom find them if they get lost. It just depends on how and when it’s used.

  31. I hate that commercial.

    V, I think that’s an entirely different reason for its use, not “omgmychildwillbetakenatanymoment” that it’s marketed for.

    I’d more likely use this on an elderly parent or grandparent who have dementia and tend to wander off. Not every senior – just those who are confused and prone to wander.

  32. And then we can chip them like our pets too!

    I think if I used it at all I would ask my teen if they wanted to have it on them. If it would give THEM piece of mind.

    This would be good for alzheimer’s patients though.

  33. When my kids are older (they’re only 1 and 2 right now) I can imagine giving them a GPS device that *they* could use to track *themselves* if they were ever lost.

    I would never buy a device that *I* would use to track them.

  34. Bad idea for three reasons – you are shifting your parental responsibility to a gadget. Your child is gone, and when the police come you tell them “but the GPS told me they were in the park for those three hours!” while for those three hours the GPS was buried in the sand or stuck on a branch in the tree; if your child is old enough to wander on his/her own, he/she is old enough to follow the rules that come with the freedom he/she is given, be it check in every 1/2 hour, come home when the streetlights are on, or don’t wander past landmarks A B and C. Finally, the potential for a government mandate just scares me. I can see it now “your child’s GPS shows he was in the car while you CLEARLY were walking to the preschool and were NOT in the car….”

  35. The only case I could see this for is as others said – mentally challenged/autistic kids with a tendency to wander and a lack of communication skills.

    For all other kids, you are either sending the message “The world is so dangerous that I have to monitor your every step.” or “I don’t trust you.” Neither of these seems like a healthy way to relate to your kid. As others also pointed out – this all assumes that it is perpetually on the kid and functioning. If the kid loses it, or the axe murderer on the corner removes it, or the batteries die, or whatever, and the only means you have for keeping tabs on your kid is this device, then you are screwed.

  36. So when do we break off the umbilical cord?

    If they’re mature enough to go some places by themselves, I assume they would know how to use a cell phone by that point in time, so what’s the point of a tracker?

  37. While I understand the rational ideas behind something like that (getting lost in the woods/in the city), why not get them a real pocket GPS system so that they can figure out their own way back? The same goes for those that can’t communicate (mute/autistic) but are mentally capable of doing such things as following a map.

    The kid’s end of the Little Buddy is nothing more than a signal transmitter. It’s only purpose is to transmit a signal that can be picked up by someone (ideally, the set receiver) to find the source of the signal. How do you know the kid’s lost or been kidnapped? You could guess they are if you’re tracking them and find them in an area they shouldn’t be in, but that doesn’t do any good if you’ve told your kid they can explore the neighborhood. At least many of the GPS systems the cell phone companies offer include making use of the GPS map and directions on the phone.

    This, in my opinion, is just another device to reaffirm the stranger danger paranoia.

  38. Personally, I doubt I’d spend $100 bucks on something like this arbitrarily, although I can say I’d use it if one were given to me. Not because I’m petrified of my child being taken every second of every day and ohmigodpedophilesareeverywhere, but because at only a year old my child is already very headstrong, and later on it would be nice to know where he’s wandered off to (cuz I know it’s gonna happen). My dad put a couple of little christmas bells on my shoes after I scared the crap out of my mom by running off and hiding in Fred Meyer’s once…I called them my jingle-feet, and as far as I can tell I wasn’t emotionally scarred by it.

    So, I guess, bottom line is that using this to try to stem the tide of pedo-phobia is probably pretty useless, but for tracking down wayward kids, yeah, I’d use it.

  39. I have to say, I can’t really imagine that any parents who would seriously consider purchasing this kind of device for their children making the rational decision to then allow them greater freedom. I’d think that anyone who made that decision is probably already pretty Free Range to begin with, or Free Range with reservations, at any rate. And I agree wholeheartedly with the concerns that something like this could desensitize the next generation to surveillance. I find it sad that my generation has lost its sense of outrage over the level of surveillance we’re already subjected to and I weep for our loss of privacy.

    A surveillance story: My husband and I went fishing at the dock that belongs to the retirement community his parents live in. Once our lines were in the water, we decided to enjoy the beautiful night and the time alone without our 7yo DS to…well…enjoy the night. Little did we know that there was a surveillance camera on the dock…and the CCTV is broadcast to every home in the community (should anyone chose to watch it. It shows up as channel 2 on their cable boxes). His parents checked the camera at one point with an eye to joining us for a while and let me tell you, when we came back from fishing for breakfast, the giggles (on their part) and blushes (on my part) abounded.

  40. “Now you can frenetically mash your F5 key on your keyboard to watch your child get on with their life while you should be getting on with yours.” Whereas previously all I could do (to avoid getting on with mine) was hang out reading comments on FRK ;)!

    @Emily there was an interesting report on NPR (All Things Considered) last Friday (at least in my area) about how these kinds of devices (used by adults, as you describe) are actually creating problems/dangers because people who have them go into more dangerous situations than they otherwise would — figuring that if they need rescuing, it’s available. As the interviewee (someone who coordinates wilderness rescues) described, even with such a contraption, that’s not necessarily true — rescuers cannot necessarily reach people, and even if they can (i.e. conditions aren’t so bad/dangerous as to prevent travel), it still takes them time to get there (that’s why we call it wilderness). Not to say that I’m opposed to adults heading into the wilderness using such devices, just that it may be worth talking about this issue with your sister before she goes.

  41. GPS can be useful with teenagers.
    Good kids will most likely be where you expect them.
    Rebellious teens would not want to carry a device only meant to track them.
    They’ll either leave it home or at the place they said they are going to before leaving for where they want to go.
    The only way they wouldn’t forget it is if it was included as part something such as a phone.

    Aimless Youth,
    GPS in hat.
    Only way he knows,
    where head is at !
    (Daneo Video – 7/19/02)

  42. I understand the obvious concern over paranoid parents using this as a way to reinforce fear in their poor kids, but is there ANY way this could be used to enhance free range parenting? I’m going to consider this option if I think it can be a basic level of safety that doesn’t interfere with free range goals

    My 2 boys are ages 4 and 2, and I’m looking forward to letting them roam the neighborhood as they attain maturity in the next few years. As a free range parent, if I approach using the GPS device properly when they are 6-10 year old, is there a way to make it work? After age 10 or so they will have a cell phone that takes it’s place, like everyone else has. We agree that free range kids can have cell phones if used properly, right?

    We agree that it’s okay to force free range kids to use simple hassle free safety devices like bike helmets and car seats. For a free range family, a GPS monitor could be a simple hassle free device that gives a basic level of safety.

    I’m not too concerned about myself becoming paranoid and constantly checking in on them. For me it’s a basic layer of safety in that extremely rare case they get lost for an extended period or are abducted. At the very least it will give police a baseline of where to start looking. It’s not much different from my perspective then giving them a bike helmet in the rare case they get hit by a car.

    My biggest concern then is my kid’s free range development being stifled because they know they are constantly being monitored, and are desensitized to the feeling. They won’t ever get to experience the thrill of getting lost and finding your way back. But again, don’t many free range parents already encourage cell phones, if used properly? Don’t we encourage community involvement to constantly monitor each other’s kids for safety? When I was a free range kid in the 80s, I knew that the stay at home moms scattered throughout the neighborhood were monitoring me, and would call my mom at home if something happened to me while I was on their block.

    I’ll monitor this debate closely from the free range perspective. I know that the paranoid anti-free range crowd will be all over using this, but there should be a separate debate for free range parents who want to use it properly and are conscious of the ramifications.

  43. Wow! Good luck. I think they have a problem with a grasp on reality, but they do try to be polite.
    I dunno. Ask them why they hate America. America=freedom, so to hate FREErange is to hate FREEDOM is to hate AMERICA.;)

  44. OK, serious help. Use the stuff about cars, use the stuff about how kids are most likely to be hurt/murdered/abducted by those they know. Following the line of thinking about concerns over other things all children should be removed from their homes and raised by robots or a different person every week and all cars should be outlawed.

  45. I have been surviving life with my kids as a mobile device luddite. I cringe when I see 3rd grade students standing at the school corner, texting the parent who is late picking them up. And by late, I mean that by the time I walk past the kids, the parent’s car pulls up.

    These devices are becoming relied upon, taken for granted, and therefore being used in unnecessary situations. Gosh, what would those kids do if they didn’t have the smart phone? Wait another agonizing 30 seconds? How is having one of these devices preparing them for relying upon their own good, common sense? They are not learning how to navigate their world. The phone is navigating for them.

    While I agree that this GPS device might be useful in specific situations, I feel that this is just another tool telling parents that they need to be on top of their kids every minute of every day. And we don’t. We need to teach kids to be responsible and to think for themselves. These devices are crutches rather than enablers.

  46. For the same reason I don’t always have my cell phone on me when I go to stores or on walks – people aren’t robots or machines – we’re not meant to be on leashes or tracked or even be able to be reached at any given moment.

    Taking a GPS device with you into the mountains – I don’t know. I enjoy going on my hikes knowing I don’t have a safety net – maybe that means if I fall I will never leave the mountain and might cry about my fate as I lay dying – but in truth – I enjoy knowing that it’s me and nature and that’s it… no one else. So, Self, don’t fall.

    The problem I see more than anything else is that people are less able to differentiate between our capitalist nature attempting to sell you something you want and that same capitalist nature trying to sell you something by making a fear even bigger – making it a reality and thus, making their product a necessity.

    I will never forget when one of my friends, who I considered a reasonably smart person, had her first child and Lysol had just started the commercials with those wonderfully CG germs on kids hands as they touch things. She started washing her hands so frantically, she chapped the skin til it bled. I never looked at her the same way again, sadly.

    When we let companies that want to sell us something begin to tell us “facts” – we lose the ability to choose and we lose logic. This – GPSing our kids is beyond ignorant. We microchip our pets because they can’t speak when they get lost. Children don’t require microchips, nor should they require GPS for PARENTAL supervision. If you kids want a GPS for their own selves – great! Other than that… it’s ignorance.

  47. We have a locator on my 8 yo daughter’s phone- and it allows her MORE freedom than if she didn’t have it. We give her the liberty to roam the neighborhood, ride her bike down to the playground, play out of direct eye sight without us constantly bugging her by checking in. Now, when the worrys & “stranger danger” that the media has planted flare up, we simply log online, see she is exactly where she said she was going to be & we go about our business. She does not know she has the locator, or that we monitor her.
    I think this is a much better system than asking her to constantly check in. She gains the independence of managing her own time & exploring, while we still have a safety net.

  48. I think it’s important for kids to do things outside of their parents’ direct control. Isn’t that part of growing up?

    I agree that this device might be appropriate for kids with developmental disabilities–i.e., kids who may never be able to be fully self-sufficient–but NOT for children who we would like to be able to take care of themselves one day.

    Uly, I love your point about any intelligent kid who wanted to fool Mom just ditching the GPS. That’s certainly what I would have done. Heck, her ability to see a little dot on a screen that she was sure was me would just keep her from calling!

    And Alexicographer, I like your reference to the NPR story about kids equipped with GPS going into dangerous situations more often with an illusion of greater safety. There’s a playground in St. Louis called Monstro. It’s made out of welded iron rebar, World War II planes and tons of rusty junk. It goes fifty feet in the air, and is full of dangerous-looking stuff. The ball crawl is probably five feet deep. Children play on the thing all day. To my surprise, when I asked the museum how many kids had gotten hurt on it, they said zero–ever! Nobody’s ever even fallen. I’m not sure that could be said about the super safety-pimped playground equipment down the block. Monstro looks dangerous, so kids are careful on it. They use common sense and caution, and they don’t go where they’re uncomfortable.

    Let’s please put some trust in our kids and let them exercise their common sense.

  49. I think it’s super creepy.

  50. Don’t you believe it. It’s nothing to do with kids being in constant danger, it’s all about conditioning the adults of tomorrow by monitoring them today.
    I’m up for a new passport this month, and lo and behold; I have to give my fingerprints for a freaking passport!! Used to be that only criminals got their prints taken, but noooo…! Honorable citizins are all potential criminals, so we all have to give our prints. ‘For our own safety’ or course. Or so they say. They claim that a terrorist could fake his id so because of the potential danger of one imaginary criminal using a fake passport we must all give up a piece of our civil liberties. Of course this is bull because the EU was toying with this idea long before 9/11, but I digress.

    Honestly, I grew up in a time where we all agreed that communist regimes such as in East Germany were evil, but we now willingly accept, yes even willingly apply them to our own children, things that the Stasi would’ve drooled over having. Things such as MICROCHIPPING human beings so they can be traced wherever they are. And why? Because of some imaginary fear.

    Have we all gone mad?

  51. Some called it “stalking your kids”. Yep.

    I can understand if you have a DD child who is unable to communicate.

    For kids old enough to know what it is, the good ones are where they should be anyway, the bad ones have already taken it off and attached it to the dog.

  52. Love the site, been reading a while. First comment though.

    One thing that hasn’t come up is access: How to view the tracking. Let’s assume the data is account / password restricted. Most people tend to pick easy passwords, and hackers LOVE to break into systems. It’ll be pretty easy to access tracking data for whoever has the device.

    So, the parents know where their kid is? So does everyone else who can guess their password.

  53. I say, do it the other way around: the parent wears the Little Buddy, the kid is able to track them. Then, if they get lost, they have the ability to find their parent again. Creating independence rather than creepy stalking.

  54. @darklyndsea: ooh, I like that idea🙂

  55. Lenore –

    I have a different take on this, one that you might not expect. I’m pro-GPS for kids *if* they’re given more than a tracking device for their parents. There’s a whole new genre of electronic games emerging that is based on GPS for smart phone devices like iPhones.

    I strongly recommend that parents advocate them to their kids because it represents a chance for parents to be pro-technology to their kids in a way that promotes face-to-face socializing and outdoor play. See the following article I wrote on this:

    Video Games That Make You Run, Talk Face-to-Face, and Explore the Environment

    So, in sum, if parents successfully encourage their kids to play these GPS-based games, they can look “cool” to their tech-hungry kids, and get them outside playing and face-fo-face socializing more at the same time.

    If, in the meantime, these parents want to track their kids via GPS, I’m not thrilled, but that’s a necessary evil that I think is well worth it.

  56. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.

    NO.

    Not good, not “ok in some circumstances”, not helpful. This is one step away from chipping kids like people do to their dogs. YUCK.

  57. I can see using it with a child who can’t communicate and is a runner. I thinking of maybe a non verbal or non verbal to strangers child with autism.

    We also has something similar that we used with an elderly relative who had dementia. Since the “home” she would give strangers would be 2 – 4 decades out of date depending “when” she was, we used something like this when we took her out in public. It was a just in case thing. We never had to use it.

    Normal kids – no.

  58. You might feel differently if you had an autistic child, Katie.

    My autistic daughter is what’s referred to as a “flight risk.” She loves nothing more than figuring a way out of our house and taking off at top speed to parts unknown. Fortunately we live in the country and the nearest busy street is miles away, but trying to find a fleeing child in the open country is no picnic. I have one on her for good reason (she’s also non-verbal.)

    I don’t have one on my NT child — he’s free-range all the way.

  59. I would absolutely use this with my Autistic child if I thought he would wear it. He is 7 years old with the language (if calm) of an 18 month old. It is worse if he is under stress and/or in an unfamiliar place. He is also fascinated with water. It would give me immense peace of mind if he ran off (which he has, on several occasions) to know where he was and that he wasn’t in the lake that is within walking distance of our home. Parenting a child with like him can be very stressful, and something like this could help.

    I wouldn’t put it on my other kids in a heartbeat.

  60. @Jacqui, just to be clear, the NPR story was specifically about adults, not kids, taking extra/inappropriate risks. I’d guess the same basic issue would apply to kids, but it wasn’t addressed.

    I could see one of these devices being useful for my dogs. Or my horse (in principle, not so much for our current situation).

    And yes, to what darklyndsea said.

  61. You’re brave, going on FOX.

    I think I read an article a few years ago about people having GPS chips implanted in their kids, so that they could be found if they were abducted.

    Several parents interviewed were all, “What loving parent could possibly refuse to do with this for their babies?”

    The only dissent came from one CREEPY CREEPY dude who pointed out that an implanted GPS device would only serve as an incentive to mutilate or murder the child immediately, because they’d want to, for instance, cut off the hand the chip was implanted in.

    Which is to say, no, you should not track your children with technology. You might try communicating with them instead.

    A useful middle-path I came across: my mom gave me a few home fingerprinting kits for our kids when they were born. You can fingerprint the kids and then keep the prints in your personal records with their birth certificates. In the unlikely event they ever need to be found or identified, you have them, but otherwise they remain private and off-the-record.

  62. I have one of these. For my dog. My bear hunting dog. When my kid is old enough to go bear hunting, he will get one, too. FOR BEAR HUNTING.

    Anything less dangerous than bear hunting, he is on his own. And once he gets old enough, he can have the OTHER unit – so he can find the truck instead of the truck finding him.

  63. * it’s not actually the Little Buddy, its a hunting-dog-specific version, made by Garmin*

  64. “Preparation is good. Paranoia is not. ”

    Let’s make this a minivan bumper sticker, shall we?

    **sighs**

    About two years ago now I talked about this coming…the GPS tracking ability for our spawn. Do we **really** need this? Of course not. ONLY in the rare event that your kid is snatched and housed in a basement for the next 20 years.

    IN THAT case, I would be all about “rah rah” for the GPS tracking ability; but let’s be real, the “odds” of that actually happening are what? Nearly nil, read the book readers, read the book.

    We are FAR better off equipping our kids with the knowledge they need to not only thwart some bad person’s intentions (notice I did not use “man” here) as well as teaching them the tools they need to get out of any hairy situation.

    We are microchipping our pets and that is fine and good; should we be doing the same for our kids? I am not so sure.

  65. Lenore: This is from NPR’s Morning Edition 9/29/06

    (I know the MA General Hospital doc quoted below, our kids went to the same preschool.)

    Many experts believe such tracking devices will soon be as mainstream as cell phones themselves.

    “I think, over time, parents will feel if they don’t have this, they’re not being good parents,” says Jim Katz, Director of the Rutgers University Center for Mobile Communication Studies. He says that soon, tiny cameras — like the ones in most new cell phones — will enable parents to literally watch over their kids 24 hours a day, seven days a week– and even eavesdrop on their conversations. But, Katz says, all the new technology may give parents a false sense of security.

    After all, the technology is not infallible, and it doesn’t take kids long to figure out how to game the system. For example, if they don’t want to be tracked, they can simply turn off their cell phones — or “forget” them at a friend’s home. And, a teenager can still get into trouble in someone else’s car.

    Psychiatrists are also weighing in on the matter, citing many reasons they think the tracking devices are a bad idea. Massachusetts General Hospital child psychiatrist Steve Shlozman says as a father, he understands parents’ temptation. But, he says keeping too close an eye on kids, often backfires.

    “When kids feel crowded, they tend to do things that they otherwise would not do,” Shlozman says. “They take even greater risk because they have a desire to prove their independence and their individuality. There is something they need to get away with.”

    Shlozman says that tracking kids also undermines the trust that’s critical to their development. He says kids need enough slack to learn to make good choices on their own, not just because they know Mom and Dad are watching.

    “That’s the moment of growth — and you lose that if you monitor them, ” Shlozman says, “They won’t grow up; they’ll get stuck developmentally.”

  66. A cell phone carried by a child can also serve as a tracking device in an emergency. What more do people need? Humanity got along pretty well before the advent of all these gadgets, after all.

    I think that devices can serve as a crutch. They also feed OCD tendencies in parents. There’s something psychologically going on here with all this over compensation.

    I remember a few years back the schools instituted a website where parents could check daily on their kids homework and keep totally on top of everything that was happening day to day at school. I told them that on no uncertain terms would I be spending that much time obsessing over the minute details of their school careers. But for the OCD prone people out there, these types of things just feed their obsessions.

  67. april, on November 3rd, 2009 at 6:47 am Said: I think this is a much better system than asking her to constantly check in. She gains the independence of managing her own time & exploring, while we still have a safety net.”

    I disagree with april. I think that giving the child the responsibility to check in with their parents on a regular basis and/or whenever they change plans, build a sense of accountability. With a child that just assumes it is okay because they don’t have to check in, you are missing out on a fantastic teaching opportunity.

    I graduated from high school in 2000 as a three sport athlete, girl scout leader, coach, honors student and was counted on as a part time employee for our family business. I didn’t drive on my own till my senior year of high school. Therefore I depended on my parents and friends to get where I needed to be and was trusted with the responsibility of updating my parents on my plans.

  68. @April: Kristen said it. You’re missing the opportunity to make your child responsible for herself.

    My children are expected to take a watch outside and come back on time or face consequences. I give them freedom based on the fact (yep – fact) that kidnapping is a very low probability they face. I teach them that by coming home to check in, they get more freedom – thus grooming them for the time when they become teens and figure out the way to stay out of trouble with mom is to continue doing the responsible thing by coming home at an agreed to time or else they have freedoms and rewards taken away.

    GPS is nothing more than one step from chipping your kid. I mean, really, with the same logic – you could claim that you can let your kid go anywhere if she’s microchipped because she can never lose her chip! It’s not going to stop her from getting hit by a car. It’s not going to stop anyone from taking your child if you do happen to be on the wrong end of the tiny odds. If you can admit it’s only there to make **you** feel better – then perhaps you can begin to see why it’s an idea that could easily be expanded to make the rest of society feel better for one reason or another – and end up ripping the freedom we supposedly hold dear right out from under us.

  69. This came up on Bruce Schneier’s blog recently: http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2009/10/best_buy_sells.html

    Best suggestion I saw was for someone with Alzheimer’s.

  70. Sean….totally LOL at the ‘migrating tuna’ comment. So right on! These devices have a purpose in given situations, but I agree that the passive surveilance isn’t something I want my kids to get used to. This kind of device seems like it could foster a false sense of security as well, for parents and children. It won’t be going on my shopping list anytime soon.

  71. I was at the skating rink last night and I think my children were the only ones not on cell phones. I refuse to get my children a cell phone. When they get a job and can pay for a phone then they can have one.

    GPS tracking is another device aimed to give us a false sense of security. I wouldn’t consider it unless I had an autistic child as others have mentioned.

  72. Ahhh, the joys of watching technology perverted to cause more problems than it solves.

    This will be a great addition to those families that use technology inappropriately in every other aspect of their lives. Maybe they can package it with internet-filtering software at a reduced rate; the same parents who would buy this out of fear and an inability to teach their kids appropriate ways to communicate with adults need to avoid those painful conversations about appropriate computer use. This is just one more example of parents trying to modify the world to accommodate their child, instead of preparing their child to live in the world, and they’ll get exactly the kind of children they deserve because of it.

    The really funny (read: sad) thing is that these fear based technologies are mostly ineffective. Want to track your rebellious teenager? They’ll just hitch a ride with friends instead, or disable their tracking device. Or if it’s portable, they’ll give it to a friend for the day. Ditto with the filtering software: they’ll simply use a friend’s computer, buy their own, or discretely disable your filters and logs.

    What I want to know is why these parents even bother having kids in the first place. If you sacrifice all of the actual joys of having kids in favor of paranoia and suspicion, you’d be better off just buying a dog.

  73. You probably can already track your kids but don’t know it. It’s called a cell phone. All current phones have GPS embedded.
    If your child is truly in danger, and if the phone is on, the cops can track the phone.

  74. Dear Lord, it’s a wonder any of us that grew up in the 70’s is still alive.

    If I got lost or was going to be late, I found a (rotary)phone and called home. The TRAGEDY!

  75. Just watched the show. The look on Lenore’s face when the host gave the delivery guy example was priceless. I mean, the ‘example’ she used to posit danger existentially proved the opposite!

  76. I am so encouraged by hearing that there are other parents out there who don’t give their kids cell phones.

    Of course, I don’t have one myself, so I am biased. But I really don’t see that a 3rd grader needs a phone. Especially my 3rd grader – he would lose it in 5 minutes.

  77. Too bad that the segment was only 3:00. It ended just before Lenore could counter the statement by the host that the News reports on abductions all the time with statistics to put the danger in perspective.

  78. This device gives a false assurance of safety. If something tragic though unlikely happens to your child all this does is locate the body. If the child is a way from home it doesn’t tell you anything is happening only where the child is. If the child is supposed to be on the play ground and something takes place there the parent is not alarmed at all because the child is where they are supposed to be. A false sense of security is not security at all.

  79. “Too bad that the segment was only 3:00. It ended just before Lenore could counter the statement by the host that the News reports on abductions all the time with statistics to put the danger in perspective.”

    No they don’t! I can’t ever remember a news report about an abducted child that ended with some statement of “we know this is incredibly rare; only 1 in 10,000 kids will be the victim of an abduction and only 1 in a million the victim of an abduction by a stranger” or whatever the real and relevant statistics are.

  80. I might have used this with my Autistic boy because he gets lost in the house, let alone outside. Not my other kids though.

    One of the scary joys of childhood is being absent from the family. Being away. Being alone.
    It’s the fear of being alone in one’s own head that sparks the desire for products like this ,and the constant cell phone use, and tvs in cars etc etc etc.

    Personally I can’t think of a greater gift to my child than to let them be alone with themselves.

  81. Dot Khan: It’s not really in their best interest to let a realization like that go unchallenged. If it wasn’t for pandering to baseless fears there wouldn’t be much programming on Fox at all, news or otherwise. Lenore’s smart, she can handle herself in an argument, but I think a lot of these shows just put people like that on to give a perception of “balance,” not necessarily to actually let them make or respond to criticism.

    I just hope she is never given cause to go on that brain-dead show of Bill Oreilly’s. I can almost hear his sanctimonious pseudo-outrage now: “Tell that to or , Lenore… Your ‘free range’ notions are nothing but temptations for CHILD PREDATORS, and you are just as culpable! Well, that’s all we have time for here on the O’Reilly Derivative, tune in next week when I will pretentiously mock my critics!”

    Bleh, now I feel dirty. Something about Fox makes me want to bathe… and something about Bill O’Reilly makes me want to build suicide-vests.

  82. I don’t have TV (reception) so couldn’t watch the show. I’m glad there’s someone like Lenore out there countering all this mass hysteria.

  83. Dot Khan, I agree. It’s moves like that why I despise the mainstream media and prefer to get my news through other sources. I’m pretty certain the anchor did that pretty much intentionally, because she believes that kids really are in danger every second of every day (I mean, look at her example), and knew she held more weight with her audience than Lenore does.

    Sean, I agree, Lenore’s look is priceless. You can just see the “WTF?! Does not compute…” thought bubble over her head.

  84. Here’s the segment on FoxNews if anyone’s interested in watching it:

    http://www.foxnews.com/search-results/m/27231514/little-buddy-debate.htm

    I also found an article about the Little Buddy on Fox Nation. Some of the comments scare me.

    http://www.thefoxnation.com/culture/2009/10/27/little-buddy-gps-keeps-tabs-your-kid

  85. The problem I see with this device and technology in general is it takes away a lot of freedom. Technology has been so great in so many ways but it tends to tie people down and be tied to people at all times. When you start putting tracking devices on children such as the Little Buddy (or the chaparone device on cell phones for tweens and teens), they know that they can’t go anywhere and do anything without their parents knowing. Do I think that children should do bad things behind their parents backs? No not at all, but I do think a lot of learning about life comes from doing things on your own (and some of those things your parents wouldn’t aprove of!) I remember riding my bike a bit too far, walking to places with my friends that I probably shouldn’t have, walking through some bad neighborhoods, etc. The kids who are tracked and never do anything they aren’t supposed to will never really learn the life lessons that previous generations that were given more freedom learned. If that makes any sense lol.

  86. I have a feeling this product will do well. How sad is that. I agree, for kids with developmental issues or adults with issues, this could be a wonderful device. However, that is not the target market. Again, how sad is that.

    I agree, it is a false sense of security. Like others said, it is easy enough for an older child to leave it where they are supposed to be, or to pass it to someone who is going where they are suppose to be. That’s what I would have done.

    And for the younger crowd, if they are to stay in a playground and they put the device down. Then, they wander off and get lost. Device is of no help.

    And if some one DID actually grab them, that person would toss the backpack and cell phone first thing. Again, device is of no help.

    Then, there is the false alarms. What if they child has to detour while walking to school due to sidewalk construction. Do you get a message and freak out? What if they see their friend two blocks off and run across the field rather then staying on the approved path? How many false alarms will go in to the police?

    And, then, what if a neighbor is abusing them? The neighbor offers to watch your child. They stay within said GPS parameters. They are abused. GPS tracking does nothing to save them.

    My boys are 6 and 5. They do not have cell phones. Not sure they will before they are able to buy one for themselves. Glad to hear they are not the only ones.

    I am teaching them good old fashion safety. How to get somewhere safe. What to do if you are lost. How to deal with people who make you uncomfortable, and how to listen to those red flags. Worked well for me.

  87. I haven’t seen anyone post a link to the show:

    http://www.foxnews.com/video2/video08.html?maven_referralObject=11256710

  88. Spot on about the false alarms. The more saturated the police and others get with false alarms, the more useless the system becomes. Everyone has gone through the electronic alarm at the store only to find that store personnel neglected to remove the security tag when they got home. I hear them go off all the time when I’m at Fred Meyer. My daughter told me that she was talking to her sister, who was walking out of the store with her purchases, while she was absentmindedly holding an item of security tagged clothing, and no one noticed while she waited outside the store with the ‘stolen goods’. She, herself, finally noticed what she had done and rush back into the store.

    Police aren’t an infinite resource and would be better off spent patrolling around schools when they let out, and other places where children frequent.

  89. Although beware, your head might explode. I’m still picking up the pieces.

    “Maybe, but we report on a lot of child abduction cases.”

    Honestly Lenore, how do you keep from screaming?

  90. Thanks for the link to the show. Matt Berman looks like he’s one hamburger away from a coronary event. My advise to him, if he so concerned about ‘safety’? Matt Berman needs to improve his diet, and start an exercise program. He should have a thorough work up done, including an A1C, fasting lipids, triglycerides, the works.

    My prediction is that he will be needing a cardiac cath within the next 5-10 years, with an intervention, if he hasn’t already done so. Also, I suspect that his bubble wrapped offspring are already a little plump and will end up with type 2 diabetes with all that entails…

  91. Yeah, that’s the problem. Fox news and others are creating this hysteria with their over hyped reporting. Then they buy stock in this tracking device and give it free advertising on their show.😆

  92. Wow you really have to see Lenore’s reaction to that story – she goes from smiling agreeably to pure shocked bewilderment in an instant!

    First Lenore related the GPS tracker to treating our kids like delivery boxes. The Fox anchor responds with this story: “My 4 year old recently opened the door for the UPS driver, even though we tell him to never open the door for strangers! (Lenore smiles) We immediately had a family meeting (Lenore smiles and nods) I couldn’t believe it. He could have been gone in an instant, right Matt?” (Lenore cocks her head and gasps)

    Simply amazing. You are a brave woman.

  93. Thanks for the link. I don’t think Lenore needed to say anything about that story, her face said it all. That was great!

  94. The only up-side I see to this is if it allows nervous parents to finally loosen up a bit. “Sure, Johnny, you can walk to school, as long as you carry your GPS.” It’s not logical and easily circumvented, but it might be reassuring (just like giving up your water bottle for the TSA). But the potential for false alarms is worrying.

  95. How long is it going to take people intent on doing harm to a child to figure out that the first thing they do is smash the thing or throw it away? Two seconds from when this madness first started, which is to say, THEY ALREADY HAVE!!!!!

    This is bad in general like pushing kids around in a wheelchair is bad in general (think Wall-E.) It’s appropriate and great for a small percentage of kids in particular circumstances, bad for everybody else.

  96. There are some folks at my father-in-law’s old-age home who could use one of these, because they are physically capable of wandering around but no longer able to recall where they are, where they came from, or where they wanted to go with any consistency.

    Similarly, it might be useful with certain categories of kids (the non-verbal “flight risk” mentioned by someone above, for example).

    For everyone else, it’s stupid and pointless and a bad idea. Either you sneak it into your kid’s clothing or belongings, in which case they (a) lose it within a week or (b) find it and accuse you, with perfect justification, of not trusting them; or you give it to them openly, in which case any kid who’s up to something you might want to know about will figure out a way to ditch it within minutes.

    Now, a rugged inexpensive active GPS device that could help kids figure out where they are, on the other hand … that I could get behind.

  97. Two things I’d like to say … aside from the autistic or alzeihmer’s application for this gps device, there is one more I would love to see. If they could only harness the tracking (making it more accurate however) along with an alarm when a toddler escapes the house, this could save the sanity of many a mother of Houdini! My poor sis has nearly lost her mind trying to keep track of her extremely adventurous 2yo. It would be excellent if an alarm sounded as soon as he got out the door and a map started blipping showing which way he had turned. I know they have variations of things like this, but none which is compatible with her life (a door alarm would go off when any age child went through and they only need to monitor the 2yo, for example).

    As far as the interview goes … I don’t think the reporter was saying her child was at risk from the UPS delivery person. The concern comes in if it is someone *other* than a UPS person. For example, the day my young ones opened the door while Mommy was in the shower. I heard a strange voice and zipped into clothes still sopping wet to find my young children (2, 4 and 6yo) entertaining a drunk con man at the front door. Lovely. Thankfully my teen beat me to the door. Getting rid of the guy was another story. Can you imagine if they’d answered the door on a different occasion when the violent drunk guy was on the other side insisting we were hiding his friend whom we’d never heard of?

    We have a strict policy that young ones do not answer the door in our neighborhood. Sadly, drunk/high individuals do wander the streets in our neighborhood. We do have many registered sex offenders who live nearby (most of whom are no risk to my children based on their previous offenses, but a few who are ~ one particularly notorious offender who received national attention w/ his most recent kidnapping/murder offense used to live 3 blocks from our home). So yes, we sat down and had a rather firm discussion about our door answering rules.

    But even with all that, I feel like my kids are SAFE. But they are safe because we empower them to make safe decisions and increase levels of independence as maturity allows. And I would never use anything as goofy as a GPS tracker on my kids!

  98. KW- You know, if you put one of those shock collars on a wandering kid they would learn to not leave the yard. (Oh, you do know that I am joking, I hope!)
    Seriously, though, they do have portable alarms that you can put on the door to alert you if it opens.
    My neighbor had a little girl that was a Houdini- used a forgotten ladder to scale a 6 foot board fence when she was 2 when her mom went inside to get a drink of water and answer the door – literally out of sight for less than 5 minutes in a fenced back yard, playing happily in a sand box. Jane came boiling out of her front door screaming “Angela!” just as a lady came down the street with Angela in hand- she was already a block away happliy waving at cars as they sped by.
    Angela (now a grown lady with 2 girls of her own) was always a wild child. She backed her granny’s car down the driveway at 5 and crashed it into a tree the day after hurricane Hugo. Grandma left it there for the adjuster to see and the looky loos that came through our neighborhood looking at the damage from the store always slowed down and loooookkked at that car- wondering how the wind could have blown it into the pines. Her neighborhood nickname after that was Hurricane Angela.
    No gps in the world would have helped curb her.

  99. I think the GPS is not terribly useful for most children, as others have pointed out, because 1) it is designed to protect against a very rare situation (abduction); 2) it can’t actually tell you if your child is in real danger (from oh, say, the coach, babysitter, stepfather, whomever.); and 3) I would think that it might provide parents with a false sense of security -and that they might then fail to actually work with their kids to help them be safer as they go out and about in the world.

    On one message thread about child safety, somebody endorsed these devices because they helped police locate the BODY of the child. Eeww.

  100. The device might help parents with such fears to let their kids be more freerange, but if they are so fearful of everything they buy this, that’s unlikely to happen to begin with.

    I’m waiting for the first case of someone getting arrested because they happened to have helped a lost GPS-kid…

  101. What a big surprise that Fox news might not let a sensible person get a word in edgewise.

  102. OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! Really?? Her poor 4-year old could have been snatched by the scary UPS man?? I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw the dumbfounded look on your face when she said that, Lenore. Rest assured that my own expression mirrored yours in that moment.

  103. We send our kids out to meet the postie. On their own. At the gate. Without watching. We even let them meander around the neighbourhood. They are not yet four, and not yet two.

  104. pentamom

    “How long is it going to take people intent on doing harm to a child to figure out that the first thing they do is smash the thing or throw it away?”

    My thoughts exactly…

  105. I just skipped a couple of dozen posts to ask why do you need a special device when a cell phone does the same thing? Phones are cheap (or free) to get and maintain and have the additional benefit of actually allowing the child to be responsible for themselves. Plus, if you’re so inclined they can be used as a tracking device. Or as a GPS device by the child so they can locate themselves. My 3 kids of different ages each have different ranges of freedom to walk around by themselves here in Brooklyn and the phones have been a great tool for them. Not to mention they can maintain their own social life on their own phone instead of mine.

    I know there is an argument that phones are infantilizing, but for us they’ve been a great extender of our free range policy. If you want to know where your child is you can call them. Or they can call you. Done.

    I’ve spent a lot of time kayaking in open water and considered one of the emergency wilderness tracking devices although at this point I just carry a radio because the trackers are very expensive. Any device like this has a range of ifs and buts that have to be answered to make it effective. It has to be actually on the user, be turned on, have working batteries, function in the current weather conditions, be within range of the sensing network etc etc etc. The only real problem solved by attaching one to your child is the spurious assuaging of the parent’s anxiety.

    Now for real safety let’s get implants! (I read about a guy tracking snakes with them) or one of those things they glue to whales to track their migrations. At least if we glue the devices to our kids or implant them they can’t take them off . . .

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