How do you feel about tracking your kids' every move?
Lori Getz: Ever since GPS technology got into the hands of private business, it has been applied everywhere and in every way it can be sold. It guides planes to their destination, helps environmentalists locate sources of pollution, predicts the weather, and gives us that British robot voice to direct our cars on road trips.
Finally, GPS has entered the field of parenting. Products are now available that give parents the power to know exactly where their children are and where they are going, in real time. Parents can be alerted if their child leaves a certain area at a certain time of the day, and some more advanced products can even send a measure of a child's heart rate and body temperature back home. These devices in phones, armbands, watches, backpacks, or shoes can be monitored by parents via computers and now from cell phones. The recent popularity of smart phones like iPhones and BlackBerries has spiked consumers' interest in child location GPS. Everyone's parenting bone is at least tickled at the prospect of never having to wonder if their son or daughter is sleeping at their friend's house, or going crazy at a punk rock concert somewhere in the desert.
Moms are using GPS child tracking to make sure their younger children are safe at school during school hours or on their way home if they take the bus or walk. Parents can check to make sure older kids, especially teens with driver's licenses, are where they say they are. Moms can even use GPS to make sure they're driving safely -- many products measure how fast someone is going and can display the speed limit of the road the car is on.
The most commonly used products are cell-phone-supported programs like Loopt and Glympse, which aren't actually made specifically for parents and children (but more for suspicious mates). Loopt, which can be used from a computer or smart phone, is a sort of GPS social networking program. Members can post where they are and what they're doing. They might as well be honest, as their true location will immediately pop up on a map for others who are tracking them to see. It can also be set to simply follow the phone's location in real time 24 hours a day.
Loopt allows you to choose privacy settings allowing only those you know to track your location. But not privatized, a public posting of your location in real time could be disseminated to the masses!
Glympse enables you to send a message to specific people to let them know where you are in real time, for a certain period of time. To make sure your child gets to their destination safely, you could ask them to "glimpse you." You'll be able to watch on a road map their exact path, how fast they're going on the road, and where they are headed.
You can even record their motion for a certain period of time to show your teen how fast they were actually going if they don't believe you.
Some parents argue that the constant supervision that child-tracking GPS offers ruins a child's or teen's sense of self-accountability. When they make a mistake while being supervised, the fault is partially on them, but also still on the supervising parents. An important part of maturing is making your own mistakes and then having to right your own wrongs. Marissa Signer, an 18-year-old in her last year of high school, has said on the topic, "I think cell phone GPS programs are good for kids when they're younger to make sure they're safe, but not for older teens. If you treat teenagers like little kids, they're never going to grow up."
It's important to understand what technology is available and how it can be utilized. Now it's up to you to decide ... to track or not to track? That's the real question.
|Lori Getz is the founder of Cyber Education Consultants and speaks to students, parents and educators about Internet safety, security and ethics. She has a Master of Arts in Educational Technology from San Diego State University and is certified by isafe.org as an Internet Safety Specialist. Her mission is to help bridge the gap between a young generation of digital natives and their parents and teachers. She is the mother of one and lives in Los Angeles with her husband.|