Excuse Me? You Need a “Family Locator” To Track Your Tween at the Mall?

Hi Readers — Well, here it is. The ad that a bunch of you alerted me to this week. It shows a mom and daughter in a mall, near an escalator. The mom is letting her daughter shop “on her own” for the first time.  (“On her own” turns out to mean with two friends, who are waiting right at the bottom of the escalator.)  The girl is 3.

No, I jest. The girl looks to be 11 or 12. That’s what makes this ad so ridiculous. Because by the time the girl is at the bottom of the escalator, greeting her friends, her mother has already activated her phone’s “Family Locator” to make sure she can track her baby’s every move.

Why? Does she really need to know when her daughter dips into The Gap, or moseys over to The Body Shop? Or is she worried that her daughter and friends are going to be kidnapped in plain sight, in one of those rare triple snatchings? Or maybe mom fears they’re just pretending to shop, but really auditioning for a strip club? Or taking drugs? Or selling drugs? (And if so: How would that look any different from going to the bathroom on the Family Locator?)

The ad gushes that mom is lucky to have such reliable Verizon service, because this is “when it matters the most.”

Really? If this is when it matters most — when your kid is in plain sight, with friends, in a public place — then the service must not matter at all, because in this situation it is completely unnecessary.  The girl is safe. The only thing in danger is mom’s monthly paycheck, being deftly plucked from her pocket by Verizon.  — Lenore

94 Responses

  1. So glad you posted this! That ad has been driving me nuts, especially since when they show the screenshot, all that appears is a block with the word “Mall” and then the surrounding streets and buildings. I think they’re being very careful to not say outright that you can tell which stores she’s going into, while making you think it might.

  2. I totally agree. I was a “free range kid”. Mind you there was no name for it back then (I’m 39 now). My parents domesticized me and my siblings at a very early age. Because both parents worked full-time jobs, it was up to me and my sister (1 year older) to watch over our little brother while our parents were still at work. We went to school and back by ourselves, at times made dinner for ourselves, did dishes, laundry, and cleaned the house. Don’t get me wrong, in hind sight, these weren’t abuse. I’m actually very thankful that our parents taught us these things early. Dang, my cousins would call me up when we were in our 20s, and ask me how to do laundry. We played till the lights came on, at times even long after, we rode public transit to downtown at 10 years old and back. We learned to be street smart and self-sufficient in all the things we did. I don’t think those times were any different than now. Just back then, child abductions, molestations, gangs, drugs, etc… were just not so public news as it is now. Now, parents react and teach things to their children based on fear, rather than trust and common sense. It’s really not that hard; just think of when you were a teen (or younger), we were all rebellious one way or the other because of restrictions set upon by our parents. Doesn’t that sound very familiar with kids these days? Now, what did you wish your parents’ did to make life easier for you? Why wouldn’t you compromise to do something for your own kids.

    In our case, we didn’t have a curfew, we never really got grounded (we did but it never stuck), our parent’s taught right and wrong, and let us learn for ourselves what happens when we chose wrong. But was always there for us when we messed up. Boy did we learn quick. In time, we learned that because we had very little restriction, we didn’t feel the need to rebel, and abuse the privilege and trust given to us by our parents. I know that I will be raising my kids the same way. Shielding them isn’t protecting them. Preparing them with knowledge, understanding and trust protects them. It’s hard enough being a teen, they don’t need it at home either. Home should be the haven that they look to go to, and parents are the people they should have the most trust in. At least these days, technology has made it easier for kids to protect themselves when they are on their own. But it doesn’t mean we should be constantly on their case.

  3. We saw that ad, my husband wondered if she stalked her husband that way too.

  4. Maybe I’m behind the times, but does a cellphone GPS locator really show a person’s position with SUCH accuracy that mom knows which store the daughter is in? I mean, wouldn’t it just show the address of the mall? Is it really like Harry Potter’s freaking Marauder’s Map?? Magic, I say!

  5. What’s next? Surgically implanting GPS devices into our kids?

  6. you’ve…got…to…be…kidding…me….

  7. What does she do when her child goes to….to….to….(I can hardly say it) SCHOOL? And she’s out of her sight SIX OR SEVEN HOURS A DAY?????????


  8. Andy – that’s coming. I heard a talk by the guy who predicted, back in the early 80’s, that the internet would have hundreds of millions of users within 20 years (e.g. 5 years ago). His latest prediction, which has pretty solid scientific backing, is that the computing power that used to take up a city block, but now fits in an iphone, will, within 25 years or so, fit into something the size of a blood cell.

    So implanting a chip won’t be necessary, they’ll just have to swallow a pill and you’ll know where they are and what they’re eating.

  9. Okay, I do have to say there is one plus for the GPS tracking device on the cell phone. Recently, my 16 year old daughter had her wallet and phone stolen during lunch. She set it down next to her, turned to talk to one of her friends and someone walked off with it. I was able to provide the police with an address (and within 35 feet according to Sprint) of where her phone was. The police were able to locate and retrieve her wallet, and phone within an hour.

    Now, I know having an active GPS tracking and free-range is not compatible but it was a comprise between her father and me. Her father recently had a patient of his threaten our family and hubby went into panic mode. I’m slowly weaning him back to a more relaxed standard since she’s captain of the soccer team and has a 3.9 GPA. Although in this case, it saved us a lot of time and headaches in the replacements of IDs, phone, check card, etc.

  10. Hah! That totally is stalking. I wonder how many moms or dads out there are doing this to their children without the children’s knowledge. Can you be charged with stalking if you are the intended’s parent? Yikes. Thanks for sharing.


  11. I wish my phone had GPS in it. I lost it yesterday and no one’s turned it in anywhere near where I lost it or called (at my home number, listed in the contacts) to say they have it. I had it set so GPS was automatically activated if the phone dialed 911, not for all calls, so there’s no way to track it. 😦

    But that’s a different ball of wax. THIS is ridiculous.

  12. Ha! My 13 year old daughter just watched this over my shoulder and responded, “that’s creepy, and weird….and a little bit gross!” This is from my daughter that will go babysitting tonight to earn her own money because I don’t pay for all of her wants. She probably thought that add was “gross” because she automatically assumed that the girl had been implanted with a microchip instead of assuming the girl had her own cell phone. Both ideas are equally far fetched in my daughters world. 🙂

  13. My family is cursed… we lose our cells all the time. A GPS would really come in handy. So if my mom would put one on my cell I wouldn’t object; but if was for the purpose for spying I would be upset. It’s the intent that matters. Put a GPS device on a cell if its for something like that; however if you use it for spying, you are in the wrong.

  14. I think this is where I get to tell my “NOT Lost in a Foriegn City” story, right?

    “How my daughter came to be NOT lost in a foreign city…

    In June 2009, just after her 15th birthday, we were in Seattle together for a shopping trip. We only had 46 hours in Seattle and then we had to leave, and we each had a “must do list” that was FAR longer than 46 hours, and the lists didn’t exactly overlap. The “teen” stores that she wanted to spend time in held no interest for me, and the stores I wanted to spend time in held no interest for her (surprise! LOL).

    Our first day in Seattle we walked from our downtown hotel into the shopping area of downtown together. We went to all the places where we both had an interest to be, and in the process re-familiarized ourselves with the layout of the city, who to ask for help, areas to avoid, etc. And then with our joint errands out of the way, we agreed to meet up in three hours at a specific location. No problem. This is a common enough occurrence for our family. We travel a lot and know our way around a number of cities well enough to feel comfortable. And as expected, three hours later, there she was. She had a great time, bought some great things for the next school year, and enjoyed herself. And she was back, safe and sound.

    The next day we walked downtown together again and at 10 in the morning, on the corner of 5th and Pike, I said “Ok, have fun, I’ll see you at the hotel at suppertime” and I turned right and she turned left.

    It wasn’t until some hours later that I realized that “suppertime” isn’t an exact time… it could be 4:30, or 5:00, or 7:00… and I started wondering. Playing it safe, I headed for the hotel at about 4:00, and spent the next hour convincing myself that 5:00 is a perfectly reasonable supper time. That she would show up at 5:00 and “everything would be fine”, and if she didn’t I’d call her cell phone and she would head back and that would be that.

    So at 5:00 when I called her cell I got her voice mail. I left a message asking her to call me. And then I spent the next half hour thinking that 5:30 would still be ok, and that she would call me back and “everything would be FINE”.

    And at 5:30 I called again and again got her voice mail. Then I spent the next half hour running through in my mind how I was going to explain this “disappearance” to the Seattle Police:

    “Hi, Yes, I’d like to report my daughter missing, she’s been gone since 10AM”
    “No, I don’t know what she is wearing, she tends to change into the clothing that she buys as she shops”
    “Our home? Oh, well, no she didn’t run away from home… we are staying at a hotel… no, we aren’t from here, we’re from Canada”
    “Yes, I did let my 15 year old wander around a foreign city alone…”
    “Yes, I do understand why you have to involve Child Protective Services…”

    And then I spent seventeen minutes convincing myself that I could wait JUST one more minute before I made that call.

    And then… she walked through the door. Safe. Happy. Flush with success.

    She apologized for not coming back sooner, and for not realizing her cell phone’s battery had died. She was having such a great time that she lost track of time, and as soon as she realized the time she had almost run all the way back to the hotel so I wouldn’t worry anymore.

    Even though I had spent over 2 hours worried about her, I was so proud of her that day. She finished all the “must do’s” on her list, she was safe, she realized that she had worried me and had apologized for it. All signs to me that she is well on her way to being a grown-up who can handle herself in our world.

    And that is the goal, isn’t it?

    I KNOW I don’t have to worry about what will happen when she is 18 and legally an adult. I already know that she is going to be just fine because I have spent the last 15 years, and will spend the next 3 letting her learn step by step how to be an adult and take care of herself not just on our block, or in our city, but in our world. “

  15. I would estimate the girl’s age as older 13 – 14 yo. I started shopping with my friends at about 9 or 10. A parent would drop us off at the mall with change for the pay phone. We would shop. I had a budget from my parents. My friends and I would put clothes on hold. Then our parents, usually Moms, would meet us and go back and approve or disapprove the clothes.

    As we proved responsible we were given limited amounts of cash, or credit cards with limits. We knew what was allowed and if we bought something with our parents money that was outside the boundaries we lost the privlilage and had to earn it back.

    There were two circles of boundaries. The most restrictive was what our parents would pay for. Then a more liberal you can spend your own money but I’m not buying it category. Then there was the NOT WHILE YOU ARE LIVING UNDER MY ROOF AND EATING AT MY TABLE rule that involved showing to much skin or underwear.

    That said I do think kids this age out and about on their own need a cell phone. Maybe not their phone but access to shared family cell phone. It would be different if pay phones were still common or we had public transportation in Houston.

    I’ve helped out a couple of tweens who needed to phone home.

  16. “Her father recently had a patient of his threaten our family and hubby went into panic mode. I’m slowly weaning him back to a more relaxed standard since she’s captain of the soccer team and has a 3.9 GPA”

    And this will stop his crazy patient from stalking her because…he only stalks kids with GPA’s below 3.7? Your husband is reasonable to be cautious given the circumstances.

    Personally, I think the GPS locator is a handy tool. I don’t think it’s NECESSARY. It’s just convenient, for all sorts of things – if your kid gets lost and you need to pick her up, if your phone gets stolen, and, yeah, in that rare million to one instance she gets kidnapped and the kidnapper doesn’t, for some odd reason, think to ditch the phone. But, yes, the commercial inspires eye-rolling.

    To say that even having a GPS locator in a phone is crazy overportectivieness, however – I don’t agree with that. We might as well say you shouldn’t send a kid out with a cell phone, because in our day, darn it, we never went anywhere with a cell phone, we walked three miles to the pay phone if our car broke down – you overprotective parents – sending your kids out on the road with a cell phone! Technology changes. I see no reason not to have a GPS locator on the cell phone of one’s child. Now, if you are checking it every ten minutes, you have a problem. But there may be a time it proves useful.

  17. I thought of you as soon as I saw that ad, and wondered when I’d see it up here! I remember when my mom used to DROP ME OFF at the mall with friends, and come pick us up a few hours later. Yes, she LEFT THE PREMISES. Terrible!

  18. You know, I didn’t see anywhere in Lenore’s post where she said that having GPS locators or cell phones was bad. What was being criticized was the commercial, and the product being marketed as though it’s normal/desirable to track your teen-aged kid minute by minute around the mall. IT”S NOT. That has nothing to do with whether kids should have access to cell phones in a world where payphones are functionally extinct, or whether GPS tracking chips are good in case phones get lost.

    Not only is it crazy to track your kid around like this, it’s weird logic. IF the world is really SO DANGEROUS a place that your kid shouldn’t be out without being tracked, they should probably just stay home (and your probably should, too.) Having a little digital signal that tells you where they are doesn’t actually protect them from ANYTHING.

  19. “I’m slowly weaning him back to a more relaxed standard since she’s captain of the soccer team and has a 3.9 GPA”

    “And this will stop his crazy patient from stalking her because…he only stalks kids with GPA’s below 3.7?”

    Maybe, maybe not. Maybe the captaincy and the grades do reflect a level of responsibility that show she’s not going to get herself into dangerous situations, especially since she’s presumably aware of the fact that someone has threatened her family (most likely, someone who doesn’t know anything about the family and was just spouting off.) People don’t drag kids off the street in the middle of crowds in broad daylight, even totally insane people. And maybe her point was that the dad was reacting in ways that don’t really protect her, just from the fear of the threat.

  20. When my brother and I were kids (I was probably around 8) at the mall there was the arcade. Other than listening to us begging for more quarters, my parents never gave them a second thought. And they certainly didn’t escort us and stand guard while I was playing Street Fight 2! G-d forbid. We would have been mortified and my parents would have had migraines from the noise. We had our fun and they had a break at the food court. Or they dropped us off and picked us up at a designated time (this was way in the 80’s, before cell phones). Or we rode our bikes or even took the bus! By ourselves no less. I’m amazed that we made it through our childhoods intact.

  21. I saw this ad and immediately thought of you. I kind of just ROLLED MY EYES and told my 13 yo…. “I expect you to pay attention to your surroundings, and have fun with your friends, and be back on time.”

    There. That wasn’t so hard, was it? And as far as a GPS in the phone goes, it’s only going to show where the PHONE is. Not where your kid is.

  22. Yet another variation of “give us your money or your child will DIE!”.

  23. It’s not as creepy as it is overly anxious. It’s normal for moms to be a little anxious about releasing their child into the wild. It’s not normal for them to track their child using the latest gadget. Relationships are based on trust and communication. The mom in the commercial should have had a good little talk on the ride over and just let her daughter go a little.

    We used to spy on our enemies. Now we spy on our family. So much for trust.

  24. I find stalking by cell phone rather creepy. Not only can her mom track her, but anyone else, say, an overbearing boyfriend or mean girl can track her, too. My mom, who raised us pretty much free range, loves it and routinely tracks my father’s whereabouts. (can’t figure that one out!) I, on the other hand, have a cell phone that makes phone calls. That’s it.

    This ad drives me nuts, too.

  25. This ad is all about selling fear. What they are saying without saying it is “You’d better have this device for when your kid is kidnapped by a sex offender.” Really.

  26. This commercial reminds me of a trip I took over 20 years ago to West Edmonton mall. We had visited as a family when I was about 10 and my brother and I had a blast when our parents let us run free to explore the place (after making sure we could read the mall maps of course since it was the biggest mall in the world at the time).
    Three years later, my mom and her friend decided to return with myself and her 13 year old daughter. Imagine our shock when we discovered that this before-her-time helicopter mom had no intention of letting her daughter roam free in the mall, even with a friend! That put my mom in the awkward situation of not knowing whether to let me go on my own, or insist I stay with them to keep the other girl company. In the end we did a bit of both, but nobody had much fun.
    On the third day, the friend’s daughter had a tiny case of the sniffles, so helicopter mom insisted she stay in bed, and of course she couldn’t be left in the hotel room alone for the day (even though the hotel was attached to the mall!), so mom and I finally got to spend a day at the mall, doing our own thing and actually enjoying ourselves. Mom’s summary of the holiday? “Never again!”
    The real irony here though is that after spending my 20’s traveling the world, I now live 15 minutes away from my parents and see them at least once a week. Mom’s friend’s daughter got a degree in linguistics, married a fellow linguist and now lives in a remote town in west Africa, about as far from her mom’s influence as you can get and still be on planet earth. So I guess there’s hope for even the most over-protected kids out there after all!

  27. […] Excuse Me? You Need a “Family Locator” To Track Your Tween at the Mall? Hi Readers — Well, here it is. The ad that a bunch of you alerted me to this week. It shows a mom and daughter in […] […]

  28. The whole phone/GPS thing is especially dumb in this commercial since it appears that the mom is going to stand there on the top floor and watch her daughter and her friends as they shop anyway.

    Not only did my friend and I roam the mall by ourselves when were as young as 10 years old, but we used to take the bus there, and having walked the half a mile or so to the bus stop, which was under a freeway overpass. My parents pretty much assumed I was safe going about my business in our safe suburb.

  29. My husband and I burst into giggle fits every time that commercial comes on. Not only is the girl about 13 years old, and with friends, but she also has her own cell phone! Leave the poor kid alone already!

  30. Both my 14 year old daughter and I thought this was a stupid idea. How would it keep her safe? All it gives you is a false sense of security.
    I don’t know if you saw the story about the little girl who was accosted in the ladies room at a mall in NJ a few months ago – by a man, incidently, while her father and brother were waiting outside the rest room. How would this feature have helped her? Truthfully how would anything have helped her? I don’t mean to be cavelier, but they do.

  31. Yeah… this is disgusting.

    My dad dropped me and my siblings off at the mall when I was 12. I hated that I was responsible for them, but responsible I was! And that was a 6 and 4-year-old I was looking after.

    Not long after, my friends and I were CONSTANTLY dropped off at the mall by her father-in-law. We ate at the restaurants, we went into stores that carried “risque” things (like pinky-condoms and cards with male firefighters on them) and we even bought a few and showed them to her mom – and we all had a great big laugh. Wouldn’t you know, this was the same mom who KNEW we knew she got Playgirls, and rather than try to hide them from us – she tossed the magazine in our laps and said, “take a good look and then leave my magazines alone.” (I am telling you the truth when I say, seeing a man in full monty at 13 cured me from desiring a man for a good, long time – even with beautiful bulging muscles. I’m sorry guys, it’s not pretty!)

    It’s ridiculous to me that parents are so overbearing that they’re basically raising people who won’t be able to even think for themselves. Heaven forbid that girl brings home something “risque,” but then again, her mom wouldn’t know a thing about it because the girl would know that fun teen things have to be hidden from adults and that she couldn’t tell her mother anything outside of her getting a decent grade on a test.

    I am scared of the future foundation we are laying for this country. Literally.

  32. This seems to me a real violation of privacy. A new way to destroy trust and send kids the message they are incompetents. Ranks up there with reading your teen’s diary. If folks need a gps tracker for reasons other than intrusive spying, well fine, but let’s have the manufacturers put an on/off button on the teen’s phone so they can chose to have a private life. This ad is just plain spooky.

  33. That commercial is not very realistic as kids that age are not allowed to be by themselves in the mall by my house. We went to the mall to see a movie the other day and I had my 12 and 9 yo run some papers out to the car and I was right there watching. They were stopped by a security guard and they pointed me out to him, I waved at him and he still made the kids walk with him back to me to see if I was their mom and if I knew they were leaving the mall. I was then informed that kids have to be chaperoned in the mall. I won’t ever need a family locator because my kids aren’t allowed an arm’s length away from me.

  34. I thought this would be a source of contention with almost every one who reads you!

    This strikes me as well, I’ll say it. Insane.


    Verizon, I swear to lucifer…you’ve crossed the line!

  35. I thought she looked older too, around 14. I can’t see what could possibly happen to a kid that age in an enclosed mall with two friends – I’d be more worried about them annoying the other shoppers than anything else! No one can squeal and shriek louder than a trio of young teenage girls.

  36. MaeMae mentioned kids not being allowed to shop unchaperoned. I’ve never been in a mall that was that strict (except for the kids who had been caught shoplifting and had to hold mom or dad’s hand in the mall- HAHA!), but I know security guards must have wished for that rule when I was younger. For every kid like me who was just hanging out and looking at clothes, there were one or two who were shoplifting, vandalizing the washrooms or bothering other shoppers.

    My point isn’t that they should have to have chaperones. My point is that there’s more danger of kids causing trouble at the mall than there is of them getting kidnapped- and a GPS phone isn’t going to help mom or dad track what the kid’s doing at the mall, either, but there’s still that false sense of “I know where my kid is and what she’s doing”

    I don’t think a GPS is a bad idea for emergencies or theft- I just think it’s a bad idea to think you can protect your kid by using it if you (like the mom in the commercial) obviously can’t even trust them to shop in the mall you’re both in.

  37. Oh- just to clarify, I’m not suggesting that kids are all trouble-makers and shouldn’t be allowed to roam. I’m just saying it’s another possible source of trouble that the phone’s not going to help with if the kid’s parents haven’t already taught her to be mature and responsible.

  38. If you’re that uncomfortable, you shouldn’t be sending your kid off with a few friends with no supervision.

  39. I think sueg puts it all wonderfully into perspective: “If you’re that uncomfortable, you shouldn’t be sending your kid off with a few friends with no supervision.” Exactly!

    I really don’t feel there is an inbetween place for free-range-ness. I don’t mean you shove them out the door the minute they learn to walk and pay no attention after that, of course. What I mean is you decide as a parent when your child is ready for the next step of learning how to navigate the world (hopefully that happens before highschool is over). Then you stick with it. Sending your child off on her first trip to the mall “alone” while actually keeping tabs on her electronically is just not really letting her be in the mall alone! And kids know it…

    This has been said here already, but basically we have a glut of technological “advances” and companies like Verizon need to sell their products. They create the need for their products by scaring us. You know, the typical marketing ploy that’s been around for ages. However, I think the societal ramifications for not really letting our children grow up are more dangerous than convincing all Americans that we have bad breath, for example.

    But I must confess…When we first got cellphones for the children a few years ago, I had a tracking device-thingy added on. You were able to track the phone/child via the internet. When the salesperson told me that this tracking thing existed, I felt that I needed to have it because “what if”!

    But it quickly became apparent to me how stupid it was because I was just too lazy to figure out how to make it work! It finally came to me that I couldn’t control everything and make everything safe for them. Then my children started forgetting to charge their phones and/or leaving them at home–and I didn’t care. That’s because I had done my best to teach them how to navigate the world all by themselves…without an electronic navigator!

  40. I just saw this ad for the first time last night. I was watching with my husband and two sons (16&13). After the ad was over, I turned to them and said “I need to email the Freerange mom about this . . . it is ridiculous!” I guess I wasn’t the only one who feels this way.

  41. Has a tween girl shopping at a suburban mall with her friends EVER been abducted? I’d place good money on “no.”

  42. My family uses a stalker phone, but not to track the whereabouts of a child. My father-in-law has moderate Alzheimer’s and gets disoriented easily; however, he has always loved taking long walks. If he were in an institution, he’d be essentially imprisoned for his own safety. Right now, he lives with two family friends who act as caregivers. They make sure he carries a cell phone every day; if he doesn’t come back from a walk, they know right where to look for him.

    The free-range philosophy is very different when applied to a child vs. an aging parent. Children increase in capability as they get older; if they could find their way to and from the park yesterday, you can safely assume they can do it today, too. The opposite is true with an Alzheimer’s patient. As a general rule, my husband and I recognize that we would prefer freedom to safety if we were the ones with a degenerative disease. The stalker phone is a way of allowing him freedom while still keeping track of him. (Simply calling him and asking him where he is, is not a reliable approach because some days he can’t remember how to answer the phone. He’s always had trouble with gadgets so it’s no surprise that was one of the first things to go.)

  43. I saw that ad the other day, thought of this site and chuckled to myself. To me the girl looks older – 13? 14? And I can’t help but think of my ownchildhood trips to the mall, by 4th grade (so, what – 10?). A girlfriend and I would walk 6 blocks to take the bus to the shopping center that we would spend all day at. By ourselves. Without GPS tracking.

    Do you think our parents would be arrested if the same had happened today?

  44. This is COMPLETELY unrelated, but in “Oliver & Company” the little girl’s primary care giver is the male butler. Not a female nanny.

    The End.

  45. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/27/opinion/27elkind.html

    Have you seen this editorial yet?

    Has a tween girl shopping at a suburban mall with her friends EVER been abducted? I’d place good money on “no.”

    Oh, it may have happened once or twice. And other bad things too. There are a lot of pre-teens and former pre-teens in the world, and a lot of malls, after all. But that doesn’t mean it’s really relevant to worry about.

  46. So funny that you posted this today as my husband and I joked about this commercial last night! He said we should do one better and get a GPS chip implanted in our son(he’s 9.5 months), because the cell phone can easily be discarded(he was joking). But it does make the notion of a cell phone keeping your child safe pretty far fetched and a little paranoid.

    I took the city bus and metro system to and from school every day from the age of 11. I started shopping with my friends around that time as well. There were no cell phones back then(late 80s) and we did surprisingly well.

  47. And the stench is strong from here.

    You have to feel sorry for any kid with parent(s) this nosy.

  48. I want one that provides a mild, yet attention getting, electric shock when they do something inappropriate.

  49. I thought of you as soon as I saw that ad. It is ridiculous!

    Great point above – it only shows where the phone is – not where the kid is!

  50. I am a childless 49 year old woman and was glad to find something on the internet about this ad.

    I find it a creepy representation of the level of paranoia advertising execs are willing to exploit. Just because you can electronically hover over your family members doesn’t mean you should.

    Thanks for making your comments, folks!

  51. I can hear the Verizon folks laughing all the way to the bank!

  52. Interesting dicscussions. During my last visit to my parents’ house in Savannah, GA, I noticed a nice sign on the door to the mall. It said no one under the age of 16(?) allowed without a parent or guardian. Funny, since you can legally work at the age of 14.

  53. So when should a parent ‘let go’ and not use this technology in such a paranoid manner? Well probably the answer is that a parent should never use it in this manner. My worry is that it is so hard to become financially independent as an adult, that parents will feel entitled to monitored 25 year olds this way.

  54. This makes me wonder how my mom’s brain operated. Both my parents worked, we were latchkey kids, and my parents never asked us to even tell them where we were planning to go. Somehow they communicated enough about what they expected from us. We never sat around and said “oh goody, mom & dad aren’t watching, what bad stuff can we do?” We weren’t saints, but we had the self-control to stay within certain limits. The kids I knew who came up with the most dangerous ideas were those whose parents treated them like criminals or idiots. You know, those ones who thought I was a “bad influence” because I was free to come visit their house alone.

    So back to my mom at work. Was she consumed with worry about what each of her 6 kids were doing during every moment of free movement? I don’t think so. I think she remembered what it was like to be a kid. Kids have survival instincts of their own.

    As for a GPS, I think this would really bug me. I like my freedom. To this day, I feel there ought to be some times and places where I answer to nobody. As a very creative person, I needed space to check out my ideas in order to keep getting more and better ideas. I think my brain development would have been stunted if I thought there was always someone taking note of where I was and what I was doing. Ugh.

    Cell phones which happen to have GPS? That is a different shade of gray. Fine if the user is free to turn the GPS on and off. Or for emergencies, but the user should be notified immediately (text message or whatever) if it’s been remotely activated, so they at least know they are being supervised.

  55. It’s natural for moms to feel nervous each time their child expands her independent horizons. What I don’t agree with is that this nervous feeling must be prevented/numbed by every available means. When a child is ready for a new step, this is a milestone for both the child and the parent. After my kid accomplishes some new independent errand, I feel like, “good job, Mom. Good job finding the strength to let her grow and become better able to leave you.”

  56. Maybe the mom is worried her daughter will go into Spencers. (they still have those don’t they? lol)

  57. The thing with free-range is that it is wider in scope then other ideas. I respect parents decisions in how to raise their own children in ways i may not. I guess I would label myself a social conservative here.

    I’m trying to find other options in dealing with things that simply as an adult I don’t like, example Spencers. As parents we should talk to our children how we see the world and how we value things. One thing I hated as a child was ‘because I(the parent) say so’.

    Whatever you value as a parent, I think in proper to be able defend them to your children fully.

    For example my husband and I don’t like a lot of violent/horror/sexual movies, it’s a preference of ours. But doesn’t all drama/conflict deals with violence/horror/sex? Example ABC’s Lost. Sure there is a big smokey evil monster and murder and torture, but the plot line has the context of dealing with right/wrong and redemption. If my children were teenagers I would have no problem watching it with them.

    Back to the Spencers at the mall.* Who doesn’t like a funny joke, even sexual in manner? At what point does it become objectification of a person or distorts a healthy relationship with another person. It’s these teachable moments to know when people are laughing with you or at you/someone else. It’s something more then getting good grades, staying out of detention, and being safe and healthy, that we as parents need to focus on.

    *I haven’t been in a Spencers in over 20 years.

  58. I remember when I was little, probably about 8, so my siblings and I were about 6, 8, 10, and 12. My brother had heard of “Spencer Gifts” which was quite a walking trek away from our house. One pleasant summer day we all walked there to see what all the fuss was about. We didn’t understand a lot of the stuff (even though we did know how babies are made). We bought some silly stuff like fake dog poo and walked back home. No big deal!

    We are a pretty conservative family when it comes to “morals.” But Spencer Gifts isn’t about to bore a hole in a child’s brain and fill it with immorality.


    When I was about 10, my mom gave me bus fare and instructions for going to the optician to get my glasses repaired. (After that I always went to the eye doctor on my own.) I had to transfer at the coolest shopping mall around. Needless to say, I walked around the mall first and caught a later bus, each time I made that trip. My mom never asked about it. As long as I showed up at home that evening, no harm done. Knowing the bus transferred at the mall, there is no doubt she expected me to go into the mall because that is exactly what she (and anyone else) would have done.

  59. Good post – what gets me now is if my parents gave me some tracking device when I was a teen-ager I would have moved heaven and earth to find ways to beat it or manipulate it. I’d save some cash – buy a prepaid and leave my family plan phone in my locker at school while I skipped – hell you could even set t to forward your mom’s calls to my other phone in case she called.

  60. But Rev! Dontcha know? Kids are dumb and helpless and need to have their hands held and an eye on them at all times! They wouldn’t be able to figure out how to forward unless mummy or daddy were right there with them showing them, and then just doing it themselves, because Preshush Snowflake can’t POSSIBLY understand.

    /snarky on a Sunday

  61. SKL,

    Just as cookie monster says ‘cookie is a sometimes food’, fake-poo is fine as long as it is sometimes. We can easily have our children engulfed in a culture of fake-poo, and that’s when my prudishness sets in.

  62. Lenore-
    Here is a letter written to a local Central FL newspaper — I almost fell out of my seat when I read this!! Holy moly, NO- I would never microchip my child!
    The letter appeared here, near the bottom of the page (so you can see I didn’t make it up, LOL!) —


    Parents should have microchips for children

    Since they are able to mircochip an animal, which does help some in getting pets returned, why couldn’t they expand their technology on that idea?

    Let’s face it, with the large amount of children that are kidnapped all over the country, if you could put a chip in your child that could only be activated if they disappeared, and it would assist the police in finding your child, wouldn’t you do it?

    I know that in today’s world I would. Yes, some people would consider this more of “big brother” watching, but I see it as an opportunity for parents to have a better chance of protecting their children. Any parent knows that they cannot watch their children all of the time. They want to play at their friends’ houses and stuff. I would think that a chip would be a little extra security. It might even help to find the child while he or she is still alive. If it could do that I think it would be so much worth it.

  63. Renee, I think that as long as kids see their parents balance things appropriately, that is what they will emulate – eventually. My parents had a sense of humor, but they also had a sense of propriety and consideration, and they had responsible priorities. I think that is why I didn’t get too much into “stupid stuff.” Because due to my parents’ example, I always knew there was something a log bigger to strive for. Oh, and having chores, childcare responsibilities, and high standards probably didn’t hurt, either.

    Kids who have “nothing better to think about” will always find trouble to keep their mind stimulated. It’s more in their mind than in their environment. And it seems to me that sheltering them from the environment will only exacerbate that problem. However, I too have my limits. For example, I won’t have the TV on unless I’m convinced the program is of high value to my kids (which is rare). But, I personally don’t watch TV even when my kids are not around. So it’s more a statement to my kids that I consider TV to be dishonest and a waste of time. Do I take steps to disable the TV or any channel on it? No. Have my kids seen what TV is? Yes. Do they crave it? No.

  64. Most likely science is advanced enough – or close – to develop technologies to find missing people based on body heat, ultrasound and so forth. If they put some effort into it, they could probably develop a way to trace you by your DNA without a microchip. Here’s hoping nobody in any government thinks this is a good idea. But you never know, the way things are going.

  65. Have you been to a mall lately on a Friday night? My son’s 11 and has been begging to hang at the mall with his friends. I let him hang with his friends but I stayed at the mall (mostly at the bookstore) and I did call him twice. Did I track his every footstep? No. But I did call to make sure he was in the mall (lots of drinking going on in the parking lot outside one of the anchor stores) and that he was still with his friends. As we left, a kid walking by us dropped a joint out of his pocket. Do I trust my son? Absolutely. But, I also acknowledge that he is a child, not a particularly small adult, and is bound to goof up and do stupid things as kids will do. It’s my job to make sure those goof ups don’t cost him something precious like his life.

  66. Hello just watched you on bullshit, you know the tv show and i think what you said was so right// a swedish reader 🙂

  67. SKL: Very good point about the need to distinguish between two things: measures that genuinely make your kid (or yourself) safer, and measures that simply assuage your own anxiety without making anybody safer. For the former, you can have reasonable debates over how much gain in safety is worth how much loss in other areas. But for the latter, the downsides automatically exceed the upsides, because it really isn’t about your kid, it’s about you (that’s you in the generic sense, not you as SKL).

    As an example, checking twice that the burners on the stove are shut off before leaving on a trip is a perfectly reasonable safety measure. But turning around halfway through the trip to check the burners (after you already checked them before leaving) isn’t a safety measure at all; it’s a ritual to relieve a pathological level of anxiety. It doesn’t keep your house from burning down, it just ruins the trip for everyone.

  68. Kind of unrelated, but reading some of the comments made me think of this. Do you think the reason why the average child has more protective parents than 30 years ago is because the average child has older parents than 30 years ago?

    Many in my generation were born when our parents were in their teens and early twenties. (Some of what they now call “babies having babies.”) Whether our parents had more vivid memories of their own childhoods, or had more flexible minds, or just hadn’t seen enough to be conscious of all the remote risks parents worry about nowadays, age could explain a lot of this.

    That said, I’m 43 and I tend to be on the free-range side of the spectrum. But I always was a rebel.

  69. “It’s natural for moms to feel nervous each time their child expands her independent horizons. What I don’t agree with is that this nervous feeling must be prevented/numbed by every available means.”

    Bingo. This should become an official “Free Range Word of Wisdom,” or something like that. 🙂

  70. Let’s think like a kidnapper…

    What is the first thing you do after you grab a child? You TAKE AWAY THEIR CELL PHONE and either toss it somewhere, or turn it off and remove the sim card!! So this solution is pointless because the cell phone will be deactivated and therefore tracking will be deactivated.

    Dumb dumb dumb.

    Once again we have a company making money off people’s insecurities and gullability when any logical person can see that it won’t make one iota of a difference.

  71. 🙂
    I actually saw that ad a couple of days ago (which is quite something, as I don’t watch tv! 🙂 ), and at first I didn’t know what was going on – what all the drama was about.
    Then she went down the escalator (the thirteen year old girl), and was with her friends…. and then I wondered what I was missing that I didn’t understand it!
    So here is you to tell me that the point was that they’re offering an implant with a spy camera just under her babes skin. How curious.
    ; )

  72. In San Diego we’re still shaken up by the recent murders of two teenagers. One disappeared on her way to school last year and the other one after school while running at a near by park. And of course the sad facts have been in everyone’s mind.

    Some of my friends said they would never let their teenagers go for a run alone; and I reminded them we go for runs all the time and before dawn. And having a teenager go for a run after school is a much better idea than many alternatives.

    At the end is not even about the statistics or the likelihood of being raped and murdered that scares us, but the randomness of it.

    The GPS in a cellphone would not have prevented anything from happening to either girl. They both were where they said they would be.

  73. Yes, I also saw the ad and thought “how creepy!” but as a parent coach and family therapist it got me wondering. Here’s why…I can’t tell you how many parents of tweens and teens have come to my office or phoned me regarding their kid caught for shop lifting in the mall. Kids dare each other…for fun…excitement…something to do. I don’t know the stats but I know that if you ask kids if they ever took something in a mall, they’ll tell you yes.

    So the question isn’t are they safe? But do they have good judgement. Just two days ago, I received a call from a mom who’s teen was caught stealing $26.00 worth of makeup- for sport. Well, now she has a court date at Juvenile Court and probably a year of probation.

    So yes…get rid of the creepy mom and her cell phone monitoring gps …and get this mom to talk to her daughter about proper behavior in the mall.

  74. Funny the first time I went shopping by myself the worst thing that happened was I bought a shirt that my mother hated. Pity they don’t make an app to prevent that.

  75. No wonder privacy seems less of a concern for the generations coming up. Perhaps all this parental and societal snooping has gotten them accustomed to living in a fishbowl?

  76. Couldn’t the kid just turn the phone off? This is completely creepy and an invasion of privacy IMO. And the article about the microchip in th kid? hell no what are people thinking? hello orwell.

  77. […] if you want to protect your kids from predators, don’t worry about tracking them at the mall, or leaving them alone for 3 minutes in the kids section of the library, just stop taking them to […]

  78. phone GPS sounds good to me right now. Today I had a child emergency and called my husband’s cell… no answer no answer no answer.

    FIgured he was in a meeting which was MUCH less important than the bleeding child who needed stitches.

    (unrelated to free-range, BTW; my three year old was within arm’s reach in the bathtub but fell down and split her chin on the edge anyway. argh)

    So I called his office landline, and the lady informed me that he was actually out on a gun range. Ugh. No wonder the phone was turned off… wish I’d known that before leaving five frantic messages on his phone. lol

    Anyway, I don’t worry much about privacy, either. Not within the immediate family.

    It seems to me that most human beings belong to family groupings, and we are also more mobile than ever, and some of this cell phone checking-in is a way to reconcile the two.

    Days gone by, maybe I could have called my husband in from the field. Now, I am only really linked to him by a cell phone number that he can choose (or be ordered) to ignore! Worse, there is really nobody else to call!

  79. […] gotten to the baby.” Hear that, Vixen? You’re a negligent mother. You left your child alone for two seconds, and see what […]

  80. This is a stalker app.
    If a parent can’t trust their child to be alone even in just a mall, just take your fucking child to a mental hospital. There’s cameras everywhere specifically so you don’t have to watch out for your child.

    What kind of relationship is that between the parent-child when the parent ends up using this app? Kids, if your mom downloads “Family Locator,” call child services – unless you’re a terrible kid.

  81. OMG-the first time I saw that commercial I rolled my eyes and thought of this site. I just caught it again last night and all I could think was “you have to lojack your kid so she can spend the day shopping at the mall with her friends?” Where do these people live?

    When I was 12 I was walking (or taking the bus or riding my bike) 2 1/2 miles to the nearest mall to spend the day…alone. If I was lucky I could convince my mom to give me a ride so I didn’t have to walk, lol.

    I’ve stopped keeping constant tabs of my kids at stores. We normally shop at Target and always go through the toy section. I just keep on going. Last time I didn’t even know what happened to the kids. My husband was looking in one section and I wandered off to look at baby stuff. 3 of the kids (9, 8 and 7) followed me but were driving me nuts (running in and out of aisles) and I told them if they weren’t going to behave to go back to their father and sit in the cart like a baby. So they said, “okay” and left. I just shrugged. I knew nothing bad was going to happen and they would eventually find their way back to my husband. It was a good 20 minutes later when I ran into all 5 of them (our 4yo was already in the cart because she was not behaving and being really whiny). It didn’t even phase my husband that the kids came wandering up to him. He had just asked them where I was and they told him and then they continued on their way.

    I tend to worry more about how they are behaving when I’m not around then to them being snatched up. I hate to think that as soon as I turn my back they are throwing stuff on the floor and I become one of those moms people talk about. I’ve taught my kids not to do that stuff but I can’t watch them 24/7 (despite what hovering mothers think). I would just hope if they were misbehaving an employee would find me so I could take care of it before calling the cops on unsupervised hooligans (the kids would rather the cops because they’d be in a whole lot more trouble if I found out they were being disruptive in a store).

  82. Ohh that is pretty sweeet. Thanks for sharing. Nice to see a cool site again in this industry.


  83. Wow, I thought I was the only one that thought this commercial was totally stupid.

  84. Can you send me the video? When I try to play the video it says that it is a private video and will not let me play it. thanks

  85. Honestly this day and age anything can happen, weather its on the way to the bus stop or in a shopping mall, people get kidnapped from both to often, what parents choice to do with the service such as stock her husband or make sure her child is in the mall is every right she has, if i want to get this on my kids phone to make sure my kid got to school okay, i find nothing wrong with that. If for some reason my kid didnt make it to school i would be one step ahead of the kidnapper. and i would be able to show the cops where my child is, so think this is a bad idea? welcome to 2010 where stuff like this is something people should have if they want to make sure there kids are safe. is 10.00 a month not much for your child’s safety?

  86. Cyrina, anything has *always* been *possible* to happen, no matter what “day and age.” That app only tells you where that phone is. Not where your kid is.


  87. Cell phones aren’t necessary to begin with; however, when teenagers have drug problems a cell phone is almost drug paraphernalia. Cell phones are used to set up drug deals especially via texting.

    If a teen is recovering or struggling with a drug problem, then for a parent to examine the phone regularly and/ or follow the location of the phone with the Family Locator is justified. While it only shows the location of the phone, this can be helpful, especially if a parent sees it as only one of the many tools a parent has to monitor the teenager. Of course, depending on the circumstances removing the phone may also be a wise thing to do.

    Like searching through the teenagers room: it’s not right unless the teen has given the parents reason- once the teen crosses that line and gets in trouble with drugs, new rules apply.

  88. @parkingspot: According to Wikipedia, GPS systems’ margin of error is about 6m (~18 ft) at the MOST. Usually less. Yes, you’d be able to see which store your kid was in— and yes, our technology does now parallel the magical Marauder’s Map from the Harry Potter series.

    Kinda profound, if you think about it.

  89. great, i like it

  90. I haven’t seen the commercial and it does sound extreme and rather lame but the majority here seems to think that GPS tracking is wrong. I beg to differ.

    What is wrong with a mom who needs to know where her kids are? What if the mom is prone to panic, just a bit, because she was never protected as a kid and ended up in a lot of bad situations and places but no one cared, or called, or asked, or came to the rescue?

    What kind of parents do the unprotected make? Ones who ended up at the mercy of whoever the hell was driving and their driver’s whims and unpredictability. Things can change in a flash. Could someone end up in a place where he or she could be abandoned, traumatized, raped, or worse? Do you think maybe these children would grow up to become over protective parents?

    And what kind of children do they raise? Overprotected children who so completely rebel that they let their kids wonder about unprotected and then what? The cycle continues. So, you have all of the answers, do you?

    I’m so glad to hear everyone’s teens and tweens act with such exemplary honesty and dependability and are always with who they say they will be with and where they are actually supposed to be. Unfortunately, that is not the case for all teens or tweens and indeed, even some adults.

    When I was 11, I ran away form home with a 15 year old gas sniffing professional runaway…so I wouldn’t get my ass kicked. I wish my mom had GPS and had tracked me down before I hitched a ride with a truckdriver. Then, I may not have jumped out of a truck geting on the interstate because I was petrified upon hearing that my 15 year old worldly neighbor was prepared to screw the driver for a friggin’ cigarette.

    Do I like the idea of GPS tracking a loved one? Not in the least. I would much rather be able to trust 100% but unfortunately, past experience has clouded my ability to accept everything that is said as truth and instead take what everyone says with a grain of salt and pepper spray.

    On the other hand, I have a teenager who has a bad habit of not letting us know his whereabouts at all times. Why is that important. Oh, I dunno, keep him safe maybe? And what if you have a depressed teenager or read things left behind that give you reason to wonder, “Is my kid (or are his friends) going to be okay?” What kind of parent would I be if I didn’t care? I have to allow some freedom though.

    I like to take my clues from guardian angels and GPS signals. A bird’s eye view. Kind of like being a bird without the funky legs. There is no 100% right way and there are no easy answers but there are ostriches and they are stupid looking birds who bury their heads in the sand and there are know-it-alls who prance about like peacocks and make stupid noises and claim to have all the goods. Then there are the ospreys, and the eagles, and a murder of Crows. The birds who watch over their offspring until their babies wings are completely developed and then, and only then, they must let go. Which kind of bird are you? Not a bird brain? You could learn a lot from a wise old bird. Quit your clucking.

  91. im glad everyones kids are so wonderful and that you live in perfect rainbow land and you dont need the family locator.

    try waking up one saturday morning to find your 16 year old son gone. try looking for him EVERYFREAKINGWHERE, calling the police, calling everyone he knows, panicking, crying, not sleeping all night, enduring a constant sense of fear, and not finding him or knowing if hes safe/alive until he wanders home on his own sunday night. talk to me after youve gone through that and tell me how you feel about the locator then.

    having the locator would have saved me a day and a half of pure torture. without fail, no matter where my son goes or what he does, he ALWAYS has his phone with him. he simply chooses to not make contact with me on it when hes being rebellious and selfish.

    i too roamed the neighborhood from dawn til dusk as a kid, but back then the world wasnt like it is today. neighborhood moms used to help look out for others’ kids. nowadays they dont even know where their own kids are, much less where yours are. its every man for himself .

    you “free range” freaks are a bunch of nuts. free range is for chickens, not children.

  92. Yeah but you are trying to make someone else use a family locater when they already have a family and another thing what would an irresponsible teen need one if they know how to go to their parents door

  93. Have you ever head of Dr Antogai the spell caster I almost lost my child and my wife about a year ago we had misunderstanding with each other which leads to the separation of me and my wife and after a month she was engage with another man and they both travel out of the country down to united kingdom and when I was searching for a help online I came across some fake spell caster which scam some money from me and I lose hope on getting her back still a friend of my that has receive a help from Antogaispelltemple@yahoo.com direct me to him and I never believe on the spell caster anymore because of the other fake spell caster that scam my money from me before but due to what my friend told my about the Antogai spell temple so I just say I should give him a Trier to see if they are all the same so after 24hours of casting the spell I receive a phone from my ex and was apologizing for her mistakes so it was very happy and it was just like a dream to me and now you are together again. Thanks to DR ANTOGAI.

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