GPSing Your Kid is Crazy!

Filed under: Gadgets, Opinions

"You take the family to the food court. Your wife and Pete head for tacos. You and Danny want Chinese. You look up at the menu. You look down to see what Danny wants.
But you don't see Danny. Every parent knows that feeling. Imagine if he were actually abducted ..."

So goes one of the ads for the tsunami of new mobile devices, chips, apps and alerts that promise to keep track of our children's every move. (And that's not even the scariest ad, which ends with a guy pulling up his pants in a dark alley where a boy is cowering. Let's hear it for humanity!)

Leaving aside the bizarre proposition that in the time it takes dad to choose between the egg roll and wonton soup, his son has been abducted from a public place without anyone noticing, what else is this ad doing?

Lying. Like all these new surveillance technologies, it is promising "Peace of mind." Which is sort of like a shipment of mosquitoes promising "A good night's sleep."

Oh, it does sound reassuring at first: At last, here's an easy way to keep an electronic eye on our kids and make sure they're safe! But what really happens is this:

  • Now that we can track our children's every move, we start to think maybe we should. (Sort of like once we could buy our babies those black and white, brain-stimulating mobiles, it started to feel like it's just something a good parent does.)
  • Once we think we should track our kids, it means we also start think that this makes sense -- that our kids are quite possibly in danger any time we're not with them.
  • Once we start thinking that, we feel our job is to keep them under constant surveillance.
  • And once we buy into that, we begin living in a constant state of fear, only assuaged by a glance at the GPS tracker. Phew! He's still there!
The device is like a drug: Once addicted, we only feel good when we're mainlining it.

But what happens when we can't get our fix? When, somehow, our kid's cell phone loses its signal for a bit, or he wanders off his path home to buy a Gatorade, or he forgets his backpack on the bus and our signal shows him speeding to Pervert Town? We freak out! He isn't where he should be! We can't reach him!

Our minds leap exactly to where that ad about Danny did: "Imagine if he were actually abducted." So now we are nauseous with worry every time we are not in constant contact with our kids.

That's peace of mind?

Peace of mind comes when we pretty much believe in our kids and our community. These apps and trackers devices destroy that sense of trust.

And by the way -- they don't even prevent "the worst" from happening. They just go along for the ride. So the real point of them?

Not peace of mind. A piece of your wallet.

Related: Girl Let Off a Wrong Bus Stop NOT Molested and Left For Dead

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.