Technology has created ripples and waves in the way we live our day to day life. It’s amazing the advancements that have taken place from when we were children to now when we are raising our own children. Think about it. When you were a kid, did you know how to research (in mere seconds) the answer to a curiosity that had been burning a hole in your brain? Did you have video at your fingertips to show you how to perform a kick-flip, tie 20 different kinds of knots, or teach yourself how to play guitar? Did you know how to organize your files to different folders and subfolders on the computer? Could you Google, Wiki, Bing, or poke someone on Facebook? Could you talk with 20 of your closest friends without picking up the phone? Could you play your video games in your own bedroom with a friend that lives halfway around the world? Could you master the QWERTY keyboard with just your thumbs? Could you find your way anywhere thanks to Mobile Maps?
And could your mom find you as well?
In the olden days when I was a little girl, my sisters and I would play with our friends in the neighborhood until it was dark out. That was the rule, since none of us wore a watch (yes they were invented). We would judge our time accordingly by the sun, leaving our friends and heading home when we could no longer comfortably see our way home – preferably sooner. Of course, our idea of dark and our parents’ idea were two completely different things. Many times, my mom would be calling every house in the neighborhood, searching us out so that we could hear her lecture over how long she spent on preparing our dinner that we weren’t even on time for. And the consequence, when we were especially late, would be to miss out on going out the next day.
What we didn’t realize was the worry that my mom went through when she couldn’t find us. We’d tell her that we were at one friend’s house. But eventually we’d migrate to another house. And then all of us would explore different things around the neighborhood – like the really cool barn on the hillside, the water in the creek that was overflowing into the neighbor’s driveway, how far we could travel on the busy road outside of our neighborhood, if we could make it all the way up the hill behind our house… In our minds we were just exploring the tiny area we lived in. In our mom’s mind – when she couldn’t find us – we were annoying the neighbors by overstaying our welcome. Or we were hit by a car, attacked by a wild animal, lost in the woods, kidnapped, or a million different events that would just about kill our parents if they happened to us.
The worry that our parents felt about us is no different than the worry we feel about our own children when they are on their own walking to and from school, outside playing with their friends, or hanging out in town without us nearby. Cell phones have minimized some of that fear, thankfully, by allowing our kids to be located through a phonecall. But sometimes they don’t pick up. Sometimes they forget their phones at home. Sometimes they are somewhere we don’t want them to be and won’t admit the truth to us. And sometimes, god forbid, the worst really does happen.
During a one year study conducted by the US Dept of Justice in 2002, 797,500 children in the US were reported missing. That averages out to 2,185 children missing each day. In 2009, over 105,000 children in California were reported missing for reasons that varied from running away to abduction.
The numbers are frightening.
Technology has not only created recreational and educational advances for us and our children, it has also created ways for us to find our children should they be staying out a little too late, suspected of being somewhere they shouldn’t…or not coming home at all. Several different companies have created GPS devices to help track our kids, like the one at Life360.com – offering a device parents place in their kids’ backpacks or on their person. The tracker allows parents to follow their child’s every move through a virtual map showing where their kids are at any moment. And there are also Apps through mobile companies, like LociMobile by GTX Corp, a GPS Tracking App that allows you to see where all your family members are by pinging their phones when you are looking for them. A parent that would otherwise be frantic in trying to locate their child would be reassured by these advances in technology, knowing where their children at any time of the day. This is vital for parents of wayward kids who just don’t have a concept of time when the sun is going down and dinner is on the table. And it is a lifeline for when the worst happens, locating the whereabouts of a child who has been abducted or has run away from home.
But advances like these aren’t without concerns. What if your child isn’t with their GPS tracker or phone? Just like any object, our children can forget the tracker at home – or they can place it where they are supposed to be and then take off to the very places they have been forbidden from visiting. This creates a false sense of security, thinking they may be safe when they really aren’t. And if we can see our children’s whereabouts, does that mean anyone else can as well? Furthermore, what about when monitoring our children or family member’s whereabouts crosses the line into obsession – stalking their every single move so that there is no sense of privacy whatsoever, and unnecessary suspicions arise about what they are doing in their free time? Will GPS tracking infringe on our children’s freedom so much that they will lose their ability to make choices since they are constantly being monitored by their parents? Will we hover over our children so much that they won’t know how to react once they truly are on their own?
How do you feel about tracking your family through GPS devices and phone Apps? Is this a brilliant new addition to the wave of the future? Or is this just another setback in Parenting 101?