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Child GPS Trackers: Yes or No For Your Brisbane Child?

Would you track your Brisbane child or teen?

Child GPS trackers are now so popular that many retailers just can’t keep up with the demand from panicked parents. Is this just a case of preying on every parents deepest darkest fears to sell a product or should every child be fitted with one before leaving the house?
You only have to log onto Facebook these days to see the cheeky cherubic faced William Tyrrell staring back at you to be reminded of the most unimaginable heart ache any parent could experience when a child goes missing. Anything that could prevent this tragedy from befalling your own family is surely a no brainer and well worth the $100 plus price tag that most child GPS trackers carry. But is it really protecting our children or just lulling us into a false sense of security?

How do GPS trackers for kids work?

Most child GPS trackers are either designed to look like a wrist watch or come as a compact device about the size of a small hard drive that can be carried in pockets, backpacks or clipped onto clothing. They all utilise global satellite positioning and cell phone technology to help you keep track of your child’s whereabouts. Most also have extra functions that will send you alerts via email or text when your child arrives home or enters areas that you designate as “no go zones” or leave “safe zones”. Many also have the equivalent of a panic button that they can press which will alert you and anyone else it’s been programmed to alert with details of their location. Some of the higher end models will also send out alerts if your child suddenly starts travelling at the same speed as a vehicle when they’re supposed to be safely at their desk in school.

Are they safe?

Wired Child, a registered UK based charity recommends minimising a child’s exposure to the type of radiation emitted by mobile phones and mobile enabled child GPS trackers. They offer some concerning statistics on their website <http://wiredchild.org/sciencealias/43-what-the-science-tells-us/69-health-effects-.html > linking increasing childhood exposure to the type of radiation and frequencies emitted by these devices to a whole host of short and long term health problems including the marked increase of brain tumours in children. Whilst the research on health effects of radiation from these electronic devices is hotly debated, keep in mind that much of the evidence used to promote their safety is industry funded. Once upon a time, cigarette companies ran aggressive advertising campaigns in a desperate attempt to discredit the mounting evidence linking cigarettes to lung cancer. There is an infamous ad from the time featuring the American Surgeon General recommending a cigarette a day to keep cancer away. What will the research say on childhood radiation exposure in another 10 years?

Are they effective?

There is no doubt that child GPS trackers are effective for keeping track of children who are prone to wandering off and would be a god send for travelling parents. The idea of being able to quickly track and find a lost child in a busy airport or a bustling foreign city is where this technology really shines. Will they protect your child from abduction? Possibly not. Predators are smart and with the increasing popularity of child GPS trackers they’ll be the first thing that a child abductor would search for and toss out the car window.

Are they ethical?

This is by far the hardest question to answer. Where do we draw the line with surveillance? At what age does your child’s privacy matter? Do we move towards implanting microchip GPS trackers in our children that cannot easily be detected and removed by an abductor? While many parents are purchasing trackers out of fear for their child’s safety, some are simply hoping to track their teen’s movements. Every parent of a teenager has wondered if they’re “really at the library” or if their erratic teen behaviour is symptomatic of drug use or other untoward behaviours. These devices could undermine the teen-parent relationship by destroying trust and hindering a teen’s independence. Some may argue that teens are also adept at circumnavigating parenting interference in their social lives! Mobile phone tracking software is pretty commonplace these days and parents have been known to opt for a few pre-installed apps on their teen’s Christmas device.

Do you use already use a child GPS tracker? Would you consider using one? Tell us your thoughts and feelings about child GPS trackers. We’d love to get a parent’s perspective on how effective these devices are.

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Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

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