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September 26, 2008

What Are The Right High Tech Systems For Parents to Keep Track of Their Kids?

My blogger buddy Michelle Lamar from White Trash Mom posted a disturbing story about a parent's struggle to get the GPS coordinates of their missing daughter:  "Verizon Wireless, Kelsey Smith: Help Me Send a Message".  Donna from SoCalMom commented on that post bringing up that their daughter was 18 (an adult) so privacy laws are an issue. Add to that the discussions around Homeland Security's access to data and the Washington Post article about the government asking cell phone companies to offer tracking information for criminals and the issues get even more complicated.

In the end, my question is what about parents access to that information? Standard cellphone plans do not have "monitoring" for children included. Child monitoring services are "add-ons"including Verizon Chaperone and Sprint Family Locator.

Maybe the solution is for cell phone companies to incorporate family locators into all family plans so emergency procedures would not be needed?  It seems that in 2006 the discussion was going on that government demands to cell phone networks to provide location information was the inspiration for creation of family locator services in the first place.

Engadget published a post titled: "Family Locator now accessible from all web-enabled Sprint phones". That is a great first step but not all families can afford web plans, so how can this be offered in a budget family way?

I have been looking into this myself because soon it will be time to purchase a cell phone for my older son. It is IMPORTANT for parents to realize that just purchasing a cell phone does not provide access to tracking systems. Obviously, there should be an immediate response from cell phone companies if a child is missing, but it may be worthwhile for parents to also look at having a tracking system for their own use. And one that only allows "parents" to track their children - and not open it up to strangers (security settings are an issue).

Here are some links to reviews of GPS tracking systems for Parents (other then the family locator plans):

I was interviewed for a video Tech reporter Kym McNicholas did for Forbes.com called "High Tech Babysitter". This is relevant because beyond the moral issues of a child's right to privacy, these days you can never be too safe. As part of the preparation for the conversation with Kym McNicholas (and what I learned from talking with her), a few products seemed the most interesting (but I have not tried yet):

Overall, I feel locator services should be standard in all family plans - but is that possible for reasonable prices? In any case, cell phone networks should be able to provide timely location information to any family that has called in an emergency. If upgrades to our networks need to be made to enable this, then that should be a priority. Or if privacy is an issue, let's resolve parent's access to their kids ahead of time - no matter what age their kids are.

And as parents we need to find the right balance for how we keep track of our kids, utilizing some high tech gadgets if needed with the good old low tech communication. That - or just injecting our kids with a GPS Tracking chip (when that is invented).


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I hope the GPS chip is ready before my girls grow up. We could make sure chips are taken out when kids are 18! LOL! Thanks for the good info Techmamas.

Some people feel like it's invading their childs privacy, but in the end it's about their safety.

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