Here's the latest salvo in the battle for ultimate control over our children. Best Buy is selling a GPS device that will tell you where your child is every minute of the day.
In a sign that child-tracking devices have gone mass-market, it's the first store brand with such an offer. Best Buy is marketing it under its house brand name, Insignia.
It is designed to fit into a backpack and will send a text message back to parents whenever the child has moved outside a "designated" area, such as their school, after-school program, or babysitter's backyard.
The device surely is being aimed at parents with school aged and older kids, since they're the ones presumably who can wander out of eyesight. I can't imagine there being much of a concern of babies escaping, although you never know with parents these days.
The price for this false sense of control? Only $99. Cheap, considering some of the other options out there. That's a house brand for you.
Child-tracking devices are fast becoming what you'd expect when you're expecting. Best Buy's product joins a list of similar tracking devices, from Google's offering to the $600 Worldtracker GPRS. The Amber Alert GPS 2G costs $380, not including monthly texting plan. GPS Magazine has a review -- albeit more than a year old now -- of many child-tracking devices.
I suppose if you're the sort of parent who lives in fear that your child is certain to be kidnapped, or if you feel your teen isn't to be trusted on their own to walk straight home after school, this kind of device might be something you'd pop for. But considering the actual rarity of violent child-abductions of the sort we see in the movies, this seems to me more a case of "Parenting by gizmo."
This is just another in a long line of products meant to protect our kids from themselves, along the lines of shellacking your oven with protective gear so your toddler won't touch it, instead of teaching your toddler why he shouldn't touch the oven.
If you do the actual work of parenting, teaching values and safety and responsibility, you''ll find that normal kids are, in fact, teachable. Even toddlers. And by they time they're in school and gaining more independence, you should be able to trust them to be where they say they are and to be home when you've agreed for them to be. If you feel you need to track their every movement via satellite, I'd say you've got more serious issues than an electronic device will be able to fix.
And let's admit it: if for some reason you can't trust your teenager, no electronic device short of a locked ankle monitor is going to stop them from thwarting your attempts at controlling them. Just watch any spy movie for a laundry list of how to throw the coppers, er, Mom and Pop, off your trail.
Sadly, though, I fear this is just the sort of device that will continue to sell well to America's terrified parents. We'll be able to pinpoint their location at any time, day or night, keeping them safe from psycho predators, but we still might not be able to pay the doctor's bill if they fall off their bikes and break their arm.
It's 10 p.m. Do you know where your kid is? Check your GPS