Technology makes it possible to keep tabs on our kids in a way our parents couldn’t. We can put GPS trackers on them and in the vehicles they drive, get text messages automatically when they return home from school, get an audible alert when a toddler strays, and soon, even updates on whether or not they’ve brushed their teeth.
Each act of tracking has its health and/or safety benefits and it’s easy to see why parents would want to use these helpful products. Their use, though, raises questions. Are we using technology in instances when we should be parenting? And, are we raising a generation whose expectation of privacy that’s very different from ours?
Each family needs to assess their kids and their situation, and then weigh the benefits of tracking technology against the invasion of privacy.
For instance, I wouldn’t argue against using a proximity sensor that would alert me to when my toddler wanders more than 150 feet away. I’ve had a few heart-stopping moments when I realized I was watching the wrong blue jacket. But I also worry that using an alarm regularly might make me less vigilant, so I’d probably only use it in crowded places like Disneyland.
The bottom line is that technology is a tool that when used wisely can help. Check out the following devices and tell us which ones make sense and which have taken things a step too far.
Clip the Toddler Tag Child Locator to your child’s clothing or bag, and a 56dB alarm will sound if he wanders more than 30 feet from the parental locator unit. Or press a button at any time to trigger the alarm, if you lose sight of him.
Price: $39.95 on BrickhouseSecurity.com
GreenGoose Toothbrush Tracker
No more breath tests — sensors inside the Toothbrush Tracker register when your child has brushed her teeth. The device, which attaches to any toothbrush, sends a signal back to a receiver, called the GreenGoose Egg, which connects to your home’s Wi-Fi router. The Egg then sends a notification to the app you download to your iPhone (Android version coming later this year).
Also later this year, you’ll be able to purchase a kit to track how well you’re taking care of your pet. Inside you’ll find the Egg, a leash sensor to track when and how long you walk the dog, a collar sensor to measure when you play with him, a food sensor to note when you feed him and a treat sensor.
Price: $49 for the starter kit, $9 for additional sensors on GreenGoose.com
Schlage LiNK Wireless Keypad Deadbolt Starter Kit
With the Schlage LiNK Internet-enabled door lock, you can receive a text message alert each time your latch-key kid uses her unlock code, letting you know she arrived safely home. Or, if you prefer she use a physical key, you can use any computer, iPhone or Android phone to remotely unlock the door. If you cancel your subscription, the codes will continue to work and you can program new ones manually using the door lock.
Price: $213.17 on Amazon.com plus $8.99 per month subscription
Cellphone Tracking Services
When you give your child a cellphone, you can track their location — or at least the location of the phone. For $5 a month, Sprint will let you locate up to four phones with its Family Locator service. AT&T’s Family Map service locates two people for $9.99 a month, or five people for $14.99. With the Verizon Family Locator ($9.99 a month), you can set up location-based alerts so you know when your child gets home, in addition to locating anyone on your Family Share plan. And, T-Mobile just added its FamilyWhere service, which enables you to track up to 10 mobile devices.
You can’t always be in the car with your new teen driver, so Tiwi does the monitoring — and nagging — for you. It monitors speed, whether your child is wearing a seatbelt, how aggressively he’s driving and whether he’s traveled outside his designated SmartZone.
Any concerns and the device will tell your teen and send you a text message, voicemail or email. The device and plans are pricey, with a month-to-month contract costing $24.99 a month, plus $599 for the hardware; or a one-year contract costing $54.99 month plus $299 for the hardware. For an extra fee, you can add voice service ($2.99 a month plus $15 cents per minute) or roadside assistance and emergency support ($9.99 per month), which includes voice service.
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