From my inbox:
Hey Lenore! I came across a product the other day in my Facebook feed and I was curious about your opinion and your readers’. It’s basically a wearable GPS device for tracking your kids. My first impression was a big eye roll. But then we had a situation this weekend that would have been so much easier if we had one!
Our 9 year old was out playing with her friends in our neighborhood. She told us she was going to bike to Friend #1’s house and they were going to bike to the school playground or the park. We said “great – have fun.” Then about an hour later we realized that it was almost dinner time, so we wanted her home.
It was at this point that we also realized that she doesn’t have either a watch or a cell phone. And that we hadn’t given her any directions as to what time she should be home. And so I had to walk down to the neighbor’s house to find her. I know , no big deal, but I was really tired! So, lazy me aside, this GPS device (with two-way calling) would have been awesome! She doesn’t need a cell phone yet, and this device is way smaller and easier to carry anyway. I particularly liked on their website that they seem to value giving children independence. “Give your kids the freedom to be kids.” I don’t like the “spying” aspect of it, but I do like the “I just need to find my kid quickly and conveniently” feature. Or, you know “I skinned my knee and my bike wheel is flat, can you come get me so I don’t have to walk it home” Your thoughts? Always a fan, Tannis
Dear Tannis: I feel the constant supervision (spying) part outweighs the positive aspects. Sure, it’s convenient and I know we’d all like (even LOVE) it at times — saves some anxious or annoying moments. BUT the overall message to kids is: You must be where I can see/reach/help you at all times, even when you feel you are ready to be on your own. This keeps the parent in control the same as when the child was truly a helpless baby. At some point, messy and sometimes worrying though it is, we have to realize that our kids can and should be part of the wider world. They can call us if they need to, or ask a stranger for help, or figure it out themselves (there’s pride in that!).
In terms of the effect on society: This ability to be technologically omnipresent is making us believe that if we AREN’T always present or connected, our kids are in danger. That is actually making society less Free-Range and less tolerant of Free-Rangers. It is also making the law insist that children always be supervised, either physically or electronically. That’s why I keep hearing from parents arrested for letting their kids wait in the car a few minutes, or walk around the neighborhood. Old-fashioned childhood — and parenting — is going from normal to negligent.
At the same time, technology is also turning moms and dads into all-seeing, all-knowing beings, a job hitherto filled by a supreme deity, or at least The Fates. (And, more recently, the NSA.)
If you liked having part of your life known only to you and perhaps your best friend, you are taking that away from your kids with this admittedly attractive option.
But that’s just my take, of course! Good luck, whatever you decide! L.