Why Should Only Dogs Have Electric Fences? Think: Kids!

Hi Readers! As you probably know, for years you could buy an invisible electric fence to keep your pets in the yard. But now you can use one when you’re camping, too, to make sure your kids never wander off, thanks to a new device called  the Camp Guard. According to an article in the Herald Journal in Logan, Utah:

“The Camp Guard [is]a wireless perimeter security system that alerts campers of animals entering their campsite or kids wandering away. When the perimeter is breached, an alarm goes off, lights flash or both.

“The real value of the product is in child security,” [inventor Glenn] Whichard explained. “You can easily create a perimeter at the playground, or the lake, or your campsite, and the Camp Guard will alert you when your children wander outside the designated area.”

Not that there isn’t something vaguely sensible about this idea. I know there is. I, too, am scared of kids wandering off into the lake, by themselves. I’m also not a big fan of bears, though simply being alerted to the fact one was moseying near my tent wouldn’t give me a whole lot of options beyond, “Commence speechless terror.”

No, what’s disturbing about this product is what I”m going to call “security creep”: The idea that whenever and wherever we go, we can and should be busy protecting our children with security systems, be it  an alarm that beeps when they wander a few yards off at the mall, or a GPS in their backpack when they leave for school or, now, an electric fence between them and the world.

We are burdening ourselves with the notion that our kids are at high risk every second of the day — so high that we’re coming to believe any “good” parent should be protecting them the way the Secret Service protects the President.

I agree that every child is as precious as the President. I disagree that they are in the same kind of immediate, red alert, secure-the-perimeters peril. Especially if they’re not alone in a tent with a jar of honey and a pound of chuck. — Lenore

39 Responses

  1. Argh! I have a friend who would probably buy this. We went camping at the lake once when her daughter was about 2. She brought portable dog fencing, put layers of blankets down and then put the fencing on top of the blankets. She put her daughter inside the dog fencing, and announced “She is NOT getting dirty!”

    My son was also two. My hubby and I shook our heads, slathered our son with sunscreen, strapped on a life jacket and let him roam free. I felt sorry for her child, peering through the bars of the dog fencing as my son played in the sand.

  2. During class today a group presentation mentioned one use of GPS – you guessed it, tracking children. The presenter suggested that everyone would have a multi-function chip in their heads in a few decades, for communication, tracking, and information purposes.
    I muttered, “I certainly hope not” and got the most incredulous stares from my classmates. *sigh*

  3. It seems like all these gadgets are really an excuse for parents to not actually keep track of their kids, or in any way be hands on – What has happened to our society that parents no longer try to interact with their kids? I’m all for hanging out with the elders and having a beer or three on a camping trip, but be sure I still know which way my non-microchipped toddler is wandering…..and if it’s toward the lake, I’ll grab my beer, and a friend, and follow them down.

  4. Unbelievable, Marion. Has your friend never heard of soap and baths?

  5. Y’know what my kid is doing when the alarms and lights go off? Trying to see if he can make it go again. And again. And again. Until I turn it off, then he’ll figure out how to turn it back on so he can do it again. And again.

    Then, when he wants to get away, he’ll disable it somehow.

  6. A parent would be guilty of child abuse if this worked like most invisible fences. Usually the pet wears a collar that gives a mild electric shock if Rover roams past a buried wire. The pet learns to not go beyond the flags marking how far they can travel.
    The description sounds like it works like those automatic motion detectors that turn on a light when someone walks by. Almost no one knows how to aim and adjust the sensitivity of those things so that they only turn on when you have an intruder.

  7. What’s weird about this is that it’s currently being marketed for a sensible purpose (warning you of animals when you’re out in the wild) and the INVENTOR is the one who wants to go all hyper-security with it. Usually it works the other way around — someone invents something that has a sensible application, and somebody else runs with it as yet another control for your helicopter dashboard.

  8. Hahahaha, Karen. That would be my kids too!

  9. What Karen said.

    But thanks, Lenore, for this thoughtful two-sided portrayal of this issue. As someone who’s outside all the time (or so it often seems) with my 2 y.o., there are moments when I don’t see him and panic that he’s run into the (not busy, but it only takes 1 car) road. I can’t imagine myself using this sort of contraption (nor that it would work for this purpose) but I do sometimes wish our entire yard, and not just the backyard, were fenced.

  10. Ok I can see some of my family members thinking this might be a good idea. They are very free range, their kids get dirty and have a blast. Camping can be a problem because about 1/2 the kids in our extended family sleepwalk.

    Our Great Uncle slept walk out of camp before. He was on some small island in the Pacific – during WWII.

  11. Hmmmm, one good use I can see for this would be to monitor the perimeter of a swimming pool. We’ve all heard stories of little kids (or even animals, for that matter), that hop in the pool unsupervised and end up drowning.

    But for camping, yeah, that seems completely contrary to the point of camping. Part of the experience is the freedom and responsibility of being in the woods and learning to respect the wilderness. Putting up an invisible wall seems to cheapen the experience.

  12. As a parent of two children with Autism and two children without, this is the type of device that would enable us to go camping. Does this mean that it would be on 24/7? Not at all, but it would be on at night so that there was a slim chance that I would get some sleep without worrying that my boys had got up and gone for a wander.

  13. Hi Uly! My friend invented helicopter parenting. Dirt is evil. LOL

  14. Alison Hlady hit the nail on the head IMO! Apparently I must have missed the memo on what is cool in parenting these days. I’m sure my daughter will remind me of it when she’s older: “Jeez, Ma, why couldn’t you keep me cleaner and in a cage?! Now I’m screwed up for life because you let me get dirty and roam free! Prepare to pay for my therapy and rehabilitation!”

    In all seriousness, Kylie & kherbert both bring up valid points. At first thought on reading about this device I wondered why anyone who would purchase this would go camping in the first place, but you’re comments made me think otherwise and understand that there could be some very useful applications for this device. Overall though, parents need to use wise judgment and be parents when in outdoor situations…how else will our children learn what’s safe and unsafe if we make all those decisions for them ahead of time?

  15. Three Words
    Radio tracking Collars.

    Three more words
    Training with Shock Collars.
    Okay, that was 4 wrds, but I have long wondered when we will be putting up shock fences with shock collars on them to keep our children at home.
    (huge shudder).

    Is there anyone on your blog that could create the “Helicopter Mom Ideal Home and Child of the Future”?
    Environment:
    Perimeter fencing
    alarms at windows,
    toilet lid alarm
    hot water bathtub and sink alarm
    Intruder alerts and inside/outside movement detectors
    Yard that is completely artificial with soft rubber rocks and no sharp pointy things
    Padding on all sharp corners and edges in the house and yard.

    Clothing:
    Bulletproof Backpack (yes, they have them – but you have to be running away and not get shot in the head, so you would need
    Bullet-proof underwear
    Bulletproof helmet/goggles
    GPS radio transmitter clothing and backpack
    Microchipped locater beacon in head with audio capabilities to listen in on conversations (think Blue-tooth meets COS)
    Tattoos with phone numbers or locator number like they have for purebred dogs hooked into a central database
    Padded knees, elbows, shins, chin, nose, head, arms, legs, bottom, and shoulders – a padded suit. Don’t forget the hat
    The padded suit could have an alarm system that could be activated by the child or radiowave (via the GPS tracker) if a suspected predator comes near, giving off alarms, electrical shocks, and knockout gas (with the child being immediately snapped into a protective, self contained ball like a hjamster rolly ball).

    Anything else?

    I would love to see a picture of that.

  16. Worried about kids sleepwalking when camping?
    Zip-tie their tent flaps shut.
    Caution: Be sure that they are sleeping in a separate tent than you.

  17. We put bells on the tent zipper so if somebody tries to get up at night, we hear them. But actually, even the bells aren’t necessary. Tent zippers are really loud in the dead quiet of night.

    How obscenely rude this camping motion sensor device is.! Alarms and lights going off in the middle of the night show no courtesy to other campers.

  18. I, of course, use a similar psychological system on my dogs. What you do is let them acquaint themselves with the boss’s wrath using the 20,000V white tape around a friend’s temporary paddock once or twice. Then, just like magic, the very same white tape appears along the top of the front fence where they used to leap so as to visit their mates up the street. Ahhh, but is it live? Who will test it? They stand and look at it. They turn and look at you. Needless to say you don’t give them a copy of the exalted Gromit’s (Wallace and Gromit, “The Wrong Trousers”, “A Close Shave” etc) seminal tome, “Electronics for Dogs” so they are not too sure about how to approach the issue. They are only too well aware of how the boss can catch them out, even when out on his bike or sound asleep in his bed!
    Limited experimentation, (it has been hard to get the correct ethics committee permits) indicates that the same approach works a treat on the ‘ferrets’ (AKA The Boys). Much less expensive than the option presented here on your venerable blog.
    There are of course a number of other fine and inovative products designed oestensibly for agricultural application, that use an electronically zoned and delineated field and a small collar with a battery and small car coil that delivers a well rememberable electric shock to bovine transgressors and keeps them within the straight and narrow. Saves on fences. I see a lucrative opening here!
    There may also be an openng for watch towers, 5000W search lights and loud speakers on posts.
    Hmm. Get back to me and we could organise some cheap package deals.
    pw

  19. I too could see this device making this and other outings possible for families that include a member with autism. Although our son, who is pretty high-functioning, wouldn’t wander off because of the myriad of potential hazards that would keep him in the tent the entire trip!

    Kids learn by testing the boundaries. It is our job as parents to keep an eye on them…from an appropriate distance. It is good for them. And it is good for us.

  20. Every kid as precious as the president? Obama sounds like a nice person, but there’s no way he’s in the same league as a kid on that count…

    By the way, if some parent on a nearby campsite had a constant alarm going off, I’d report them to the police for disturbing the peace. On a campsite, I’m on holiday expecting some form of rest.

  21. Please, no offence to be taken by those souls with autistic kids etc. I was adding to pyromomma…
    pw

  22. Lenore, you’ve probably seen this, but in case you haven’t it’s the Other Side from your CNN interview:

    http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/nurtureshock/archive/2009/11/27/what-are-good-risks-for-maturing-children.aspx

  23. You are right on again. At first glance the idea seems to have merit. The problem is that the foundation is cracked. Our children are not in constant danger. Therefore the do not need over protection. Families have been camping for years and we have survived as a people. Like with everything there are different levels of camping one can do. There are family friendly campsites with activities appropriate for young children. My son, an avid camper puts his clothes on his back and walks into the wood for a few weeks each year. That is not an activity for young children. Parents who know their children, should pick the right campsite. As I always tell people if you are that afraid of what you are doing do something else. Life is always a risk but one worth taking.

  24. Pyromomma- I’m currently designing just such a home- a guide for concerned parents, really. Fully illustrated. Innovations galore! No contact with the outside world! Books with foam pages to prevent papercuts! YIPPEE, FUN!
    😉

  25. I like these systems for kids with special needs (autism, etc). I would think (hope?) that these circumstances would be the limited market for these systems.

    I have looked at various “child finder” products for C- he is autistic and lacks that instinctual “thing” that keeps most kids from loosing their parents/caregivers. You know, when a child is walking towards the slide, and then turns back to see if their mom is still there? He doesn’t have that, and thus has gotten lost in some very scary situations in the past.

  26. I can see how the parents of special needs children may need to take extraordinary measures to keep them safe, but in ordinary circumstances, this is way ridicules.
    The whole point of going camping is to get away from the hustle and bustle of our overly- electronic lives. My group of friends includes 20 adults and about 20 kids, ranging from 2 to 18 years and 5 dogs. We go away into pretty wild places. Kids get their own tents and everyone gets to free range. We don’t even tie up the dogs at night. We never had a kid (or a dog for that matter) get lost or wonder off. Why? Both kids and dogs are ‘trained” not to wonder off at night. See, no electronic fence needed, just a bit of work on the part of the parents (or pet owners). During the day we let them roam the woods, swim in the river. Older kids watch the younger. The dogs watch over them also. We teach them how to find their way in the woods so they do not get lost. I always thought that what the parenting is all about, not leading them out of the woods but teaching them how to lead themselves out and than let the practice that skill.

  27. I find that the best option for impending bear attack is a large-caliber (.45 or so), easily-reachable sidearm. It’s what I’m going to have by my side next time I go hunting (along with my rifle). Alert yourself to the bear, fire a warning shot into the ground, if the bear keeps coming, aim for its shoulder and fire. Bear spray is supposed to work pretty well, too. Oh, and call Fish and Wildlife Services to report the incident ASAP.

    You know… a similar technique might work on children. If they wander away and won’t listen to the command to come back, fire once. If they still won’t come, fire again and forcefully remove them back to you.

    Oh, use blanks, of course, so you don’t accidentally kill the little bugger.

  28. From my experiences with scouting, parents this paranoid rarely go camping. Their kids might get (gasp) dirty, bit by mosquitoes, trip over a branch and scrape their knee, attacked by rabid raccoons, etc. etc. etc. And most of the parents don’t really want to go camping either, as they might have to endure an entire night without cable, or the horror of a morning with no hairdryer. As far as I am concerned, most of these folks can just stay home. Leave the wilderness for those who appreciate it.

  29. All I can think is that I would have had a wonderful time driving my parents nuts by setting that thing off . . . .

  30. Hah! This reminds me of the time when my daughter was a baby, and our neighbours asked how we were going to manage without a fenced-in-yard when she was a toddler. My husband said (joking), easy, we’ll just get one of those electric dog collars for her. I think we narrowly escaped being reported to CPS…..

  31. Sounds like a high-tech version of what I was taught to do back in Young Marines (think co-ed military scouts). Tie a string with tin cans around the perimeter so that you can hear if an animal of some sort comes in the night. Pretty useless really (bears still steal my marshmallows), but same general idea.

  32. I could see this for those of you with autistic children if you were out camping in the wilderness and NOT on a campground.

    I would think on a campground with other campers who can hear these alarms and get pretty ticked off in the middle of the night that they were aroused from sleep because of the need for hyper-vigilance…. tie the tent shut.

    For the helicopter parents, however… who cares where you are, right? They’ll probably buy the things and set it up right next to your tent without a care in the world because it’s all about their little angel.

  33. Sorry Lenore, but the secret service could have used a perimeter alert recently. Aparently they had some strays wander in…:)

    Sonya – I had to lie about having a fence just to adopt a dog. Luckily they didn’t do a home inspection. And guess what, the previous owners must have trained her to stay in their yard because even left unattended (by accident, my husband forgets she’s outside with him) she just waits by the door.

  34. Nicola: Yes, an alert system might annoy other campers, but if the other option is your autistic (or sleep walking) child wandering into the unsupervised, easily accessed, 100+ foot deep lake…well, I’d go with annoying people. Now, I’m also cheap so I’d go for the tin cans and string method, but the result is the same.

    I look at it the same way I do my service dog. Yes, sometimes I irritate other people. I don’t like that, but I also don’t much like the idea of death. There are (rare, very specific) times when individual safety trumps group comfort.

  35. Very very interesting post..I like this one. gotta bookmark this one.

  36. Blake, I pray you never encounter a bear. If you’re shooting at a bear, you must shoot to kill, and you must hit the heart, spine, or brain on the first shot. Anything less, and you’ve just got several hundred pounds of enraged bear tearing you up before you get a second shot — bears move *fast*.

    A .45 handgun wouldn’t be my weapon of choice, either: it’s neither accurate enough nor powerful enough to reliably hit any of the kill zones.

  37. I am a big fan of free-range kids, and a big fan of ridding ourselves of unnecessary fears. So this jumps out at me:

    “I’m also not a big fan of bears”

    I will argue that fear of black bears is at least as unnecessary as fear of strangers. Check out this web site

    http://tinyurl.com/yjpywqq
    or
    http://www.bear.org and find the page “why we fear bears”

  38. Very informative post. I’m learning more about training my toddler to use the potty from reading the info on your website, then I’ve ever did from the advice given to me by my own grandma. Hope it’s ok that I share this post on Digg?

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