Tracking Kids with Technology

Does Technology Keep Our Kids Safe or Create Minions?

If you’re a parent chances are you have had that heart-stopping moment when you couldn’t find Billy in the grocery store aisle or he didn’t return your call out the backdoor for lunchtime. My first memory of this as a mom came when my distracted toddler was following the square tiles on the floor of the department store instead of following in our heels. We veered left, she veered right, and what ensued was her shrill shriek: Mmmmoooommmmm!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Where are youuuuuuuu???????

Immediately we knew where she was, and for an instant we feared she was being attacked by store mannequins by the fear in her voice. But she simply lost sight of us, planted her feet firmly in the location where she realized she was without us, and began flailing her arms above her head, less than 3 feet away from us. This was an unintended test – she passed with flying colors. Don’t be quiet, don’t worry about creating a scene, let everyone know your situation.

GPS and Monitoring Devices for Kids – Necessary Evil?

For any parent who has experienced this panic, for themselves or their kids, a GPS and flashing beacon sometimes seems like a welcomed option. And sadly for some parents, the reality is that monitoring systems might have reduced dangers or eased pain when their kids didn’t innocently go missing for moments. However, as technology seeps into everything we do, we have to stop and ask how much we want it to replace common sense.

The Benefits of Monitoring Devices

Products like Amber Alert GPS tracking systems allow parents to monitor the movements of their kids from their own smart phones or computers. For some families the added protection and assurance is worth the invasion of privacy and expense.

  • Children with developmental disabilities who are more prone to wandering and poor decisions
  • Children with behavioral issues that make trust difficult
  • Families who live in environments where 3rd party monitoring is a reassurance and not an intrusion

The Dangers of Tracking Our Kids

Yes – there are days when I wish I knew a little bit clearer picture of precisely where my children went that day, but then I remind myself that I am not raising minions. I am raising children who learn to stand on floor tile and scream, flail their arms, and do so with confidence that they understand safety rules. Turning to technology to keep our kids safe poses the danger that we – our kids and us as parents – will become reliant on technology and skip the “stranger danger” conversations. We risk moving from communication and skill building to charts and maps of our kids’ lives.

Tracking Devices and Schools

A federal judge recently ruled that a Texas school can legally require students to wear locator chips while they are inside the school building. At first I read this and thought this must be in response to concerns over school safety issues in light of the tragedy in Connecticut. But it turns out that money, so many times over, is the responsible party for this tracking travesty.

School officials claim that the tracking is not being used to spy on children, but instead to locate students who are in the building and late to classes. Why would the district care so much and want to implement this technology plan? Because Texas law distributes education funding based on attendance records of students who are present in their first-hour classrooms. The school district using the tracking plan, Northside, claims that it is losing $1.7 million each year because students are tardy to classes.

So instead of implementing incentives for these students – perhaps that $1.7 million for tardiness results in no field trips, school dances, ect., or higher taxes for parents who then do something about their children’s tardiness – the school district has chosen to track and attack. Find the kids who are late and get them to their classes so the school can get its money.

What lesson does this type of tracking teach children?

  • Responsibility for attendance?
  • Responsibility for academic progress?
  • Responsibility for the money parents pay in taxes for educational purposes?
  • That the school will track kids who are making bad decisions instead of helping them learn to make better ones?

Tracking children and therefore “fixing” the funding problem doesn’t teach children the responsibility and skills needed to succeed in life. It teaches them to be minions. Would you want your employer tracking you if he suspected you of spending a few too many minutes at the water cooler? Or would you expect that your behaviors at work (both good and bad) will have their own rewards and consequences? Tracking our children for safety might be one thing, but tracking them for an easier way out of funding crises creates drones.

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