Before having kids, I assumed that they would be easy to keep in line at crowded restaurants, parks, or wherever else our family chose to wander. The people who used restraints like leashes were, obviously, very bad parents, resorting to treating the tiny humans in their care like animals. After having kids myself, my viewpoint shifted dramatically, and I now understand wholeheartedly why parents might choose this type of tool. However, our hyper-networked world is now providing a wide range of safety technologies (some which are so miniature that they come in the form of inconspicuous accessories) to help keep track of kids. This tracking technology can be great for everyday use, and it can be especially helpful on summer adventures, whether you’re at a crowded theme park or on a camping trip with no one else around.
The most important technology behind these child tracking or “child LoJack” systems is, of course, GPS, which is a program originally conceived by the US military and now widely available for civilian use. While it was originally less accurate for ordinary citizens, this so-called selective availability ended in 2000, and users can now achieve accurate readings within a few meters. When combined with our global cellular data transmission capabilities, these readings can provide a useful safeguard, if a child somehow makes it out of your watchful view.
One example of note is the Jiobit, a GPS-based tracker so compact that it can easily attach to a child’s belt loop or even shoelaces. This system functions with an iOS/Android smartphone app that updates the location of the child every 10 seconds, and it allows you to set up geofencing around the child’s school, home, or wherever he or she should be. In fact, you can even set up a moving geofence around yourself (using your smartphone’s GPS), so if your child wanders too far away, you can move in the appropriate direction.
For kids old enough to play in the neighborhood with friends or to go to a limited number of locations, the dokiWatch S is another interesting option. It’s designed for kids 6 to 12 years old and is something that would have been science fiction when parents of today were growing up. The watch acts as a cellular communication device, allowing calls to a limited number of people, and allows parents to track their kid’s location. Most impressively though, especially in its wrist-mounted form factor, is that it can do video calling, letting mom and dad see Junior’s smiling face. Kids can also use it to show their parents a discovery or to ask for help with a homework problem. The dokiWatch S also features an SOS button, allowing kids to send out a quick distress signal if they do need immediate help.
As would be, there are a wide variety of other trackers available with their own take on this concept. However good these tracking technologies are in theory, parents must also consider how strangers may track and store their child’s data and how the wrong people could use it if their hands got access to it. Jiobit, for their part, notes how they protect data and how their protection plan complies with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA). This certainly shows that they are at least thinking about this issue; nevertheless, parents must be careful to consider whether the services mesh with their personal standards. For that matter, there’s always the question of whether a company can keep a child’s data secure—a real concern given recent large-scale data breaches.
At some point, there is always the option to give kids a cell phone or simply let them borrow one of yours in certain situations. This, of course, opens a new line of communications, along with a whole new set of worries. You’re giving them the keys to the information kingdom—the Internet—and enabling a level of data tracking that few of us fully understand. The Internet can be an amazing learning resource, but as with all powerful tools, the person using it must be ready—or at least properly supervised! But, that’s an entirely different discussion. For now, just remember that there are a variety of new options you can discover to electronically track your kid’s location at any time and anywhere, which could offer an added peace of mind as your family leaps into that next big summer adventure.
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