Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Safety Devices for Kids: Helpful or Going Too Far?

Amber Alert GPS

Nervous about sending your young child off to school? Afraid your child might get lost in a crowded amusement park? There are products that can help you track your child and theoretically buy you peace of mind.

A Canadian technology news source,, published a "tech survival guide" for parents sending their children off to school for the first time. These devices include:
  • QR Code Tattoos by SafetyTat which customizes waterproof, temporary tattoos for kids. Stick them on your child, and when scanned by a smart phone, the tattoo will display information that you provide, like your address and telephone number.
  • Kid-Friendly Mobile Phones by Firefly let kids dial "Mom" or "Dad" with a push of a button. Incoming and outgoing calls are controlled by a "parental password."
  • GPS Tracking Devices lets parents program a "safe zone." If the child wanders outside of that zone, the parents are alerted. The article points out that parents should be aware that the device can be easily removed. Amber Alert GPS and Lok8u GPS Child Locator are two such GPS devices.
  • Free GPS tracking apps for those kids who already have mobile phones. Moby and Life360 are two such apps.
The spin of the article - surviving the first day of kindergarten - wasn't appreciated by all readers. One reader, likely an experienced teacher, pointed out:
Articles like this one create worries that are unreasonable...To create a great first day of kindergarten, parents need to give their child the message “You are safe at school. You are going to have a great day. I know you can handle it. I’ll want to hear all about it when I pick you up. I love you.” Walk them to the line up, and let go.

The most crucial thing a parent can do to ensure their child’s safety at school is to make sure that the school has thorough and accurate information to help us contact you or another trusted adult should their be a problem. We don’t lose students but half the class will pee their pants before Christmas. If you haven’t sent a change of clothes – we’ll call you…on the school phone.
The writer of the article, Rhonda Callow, wrote in a follow-up article that schools can and do lose kids; her own son became lost on a field trip. Callow writes that preschools in Sweden are using the technology, causing concern for some parents:
Some parents are worried day care centres will use the technology to replace staff. Others wonder whether getting children used to being under surveillance could affect their idea of privacy when they grow older.
Safety tattoos, kid-friendly mobile phone and GPS trackers for kids are new and perhaps controversial option for parents. Some of this may be a overkill. Still, there may be circumstances that warrant a parent's need for additional safety measures to protect their child, and used in the right way, may at least give a parent peace of mind.


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