Tracking Kids on the School Bus?!

Readers: It seems like in ancient times — that is, pre-iPhone — nervous parents just had to suck it up. Now, they create apps. The latest is an, “I’m on board the school bus!” alert, the brainchild of Manhattan mom who, according to this article, went into a “panic” when her 10-year-old son’s school bus was half an hour late one day in the second week of school.

Now, I understand that not knowing your kid’s whereabouts can be a miserable moment in parenting. But if you’ve been around the block (or your kid has!), you know that at the beginning of the school year the bus drivers haven’t gotten the hang of the route yet. Some of them take the long way home. It’s annoying, but does that mean the kids on the bus are in danger? Or that this new app does anything more than give the worried parent a new GPS’d dot on a map to obsess about on a daily basis?

My worry is that this app will go from novelty to must-have in a matter of years, and once again we will have a new layer of parental supervision that will start to FEEL necessary, though in reality, it isn’t. It’s just a new twist on the current cultural notion that if a parent somehow has his or her eyes on a kid, that kid is magically protected from everything bad. And if the parents’ eyes are NOT on the kid at all times, well, that indicates a bad parent. I still believe you can be a perfectly good parent and not track your kid like a shipment of plutonium (that happens to ride the school bus). — L.

Do we really have to know where our kids are every second of the day?

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91 Responses to Tracking Kids on the School Bus?!

  1. Brian December 2, 2011 at 3:18 am #

    “I still believe you can be a perfectly good parent and not track your kid like a shipment of plutonium (that happens to ride the school bus).”

    I have to disagree, you are ONLY be a good parent if you do not track you kid like a shipment of plutonium.

    One of the most important challenges to being a parent is letting go. The definition of good parenting includes raising children who can becomes independent adults.

  2. Marlene December 2, 2011 at 3:22 am #

    How long before someone suggests we bar code the whole human race : ( . . . .

  3. Maggie Metzger Brazeau December 2, 2011 at 3:25 am #

    Oh, for the love of butt.

    One would assume that if you have the hubris to name your kid Neo – a super-badass Messiah figure – then you’d also at least treat him as if he has the potential to live up to that name and not need Mommy to be involved in every minute detail of his day.

    Yes, please, by all means, panic and try to force an entire district to panic with you, instead of trying the simple, common sense solution of giving your kid a cellie and instructions to call if the bus has been delayed.

    My 15 year-old was an hour late coming home from school the other day. He missed the bus, and decided the day was nice enough to walk. The text from him, sent half an hour after he started walking, read “Brain fart, missed the bus, riding the Sneaker Express instead.” Should I have lost my head and freaked out in that first half an hour, to show that I’m a good mother?

  4. Heather G December 2, 2011 at 3:31 am #

    “One of the most important challenges to being a parent is letting go. The definition of good parenting includes raising children who can becomes independent adults.”

    I absolutely agree with this statement. I love my children enough to want them to succeed at navigating this world even after I am gone. It is not only the here and now that I must protect, but also their future. Over-protecting hurts their future.

  5. Gunther December 2, 2011 at 3:38 am #

    On the other hand . . . where I am it gets to be -40°C in the winter, and the school board requires someone to meet the bus or they won’t drop your kid off. That is an entirely different problem that irks me to no end (it’s only half a block away! He has two feet! He can see the house and walk home on his own!) But, my son’s school bus is often 20 – 30 minutes late. I’m not worried about my son but I would totally use this to keep my own ass from freezing outside waiting for a late bus.

  6. James Deane December 2, 2011 at 3:59 am #

    She’s from Manhattan? Traffic much? Turn on radio, see how bad traffic is, make reasonable assumption.

  7. Steve K December 2, 2011 at 4:13 am #

    I totally agree with @Gunther. Although this wasn’t the initial impetus for this app, this is a most valid use of it– even in Manhattan! We have to meet our son’s bus which is 6 blocks from our home and it would be nice to know whether the bus is late (or early!) We shouldn’t eschew technology just because some parents may use it to hover.

  8. Heather G December 2, 2011 at 4:28 am #

    The problem is the way this app works forces the bus or school system to shell out the money. I understand the convenience factor if you are forced to meet your kids at the bus stop, but why should tax payers foot the bill for it, especially when so many parents will use it for helicoptering purposes. Also, not everyone wants their kids tracked and this would take that option away from them. Give your kids a cell phone or texting device and teach them to contact you themselves. Taking taxpayer money for the system and the extra time it will take for all the student checking in and out when schools are already cash strapped and not every parent wants their kid tracked isn’t right in my opinion.

  9. operasara December 2, 2011 at 4:38 am #

    These sorts of products are fantastic for parents with disabled children. A blessing when you have a kid who wanders and doesn’t have the ability to problem solve or ask for help.

    The problem is when parents of regular kids treat their kids like they’re special needs and don’t allow then to learn to become independent.

  10. Will December 2, 2011 at 4:43 am #

    I don’t *want* to know where my (normal, average) kids are every second of the day. If I have to know that, then I have to give over some amount of my time and attention to that.

    I’ve recently graduated to “in the backyard somewhere”. My eldest has moved on to “she walked out the front door, and told me she was going to a friend’s house to play.” In both cases, I have pretty approximate information, absolutely to the level of “they’re on the bus”. That’s all I need to know. Frankly, I’d like to know less, so that I have more time to read what I want, watch what I want, and drink what I want.

  11. Donna Hutchison Cicero December 2, 2011 at 4:45 am #

    Ok, will all the parents who live in constant fear for their children please open their own School of Neuroses and enroll their precious ones there? And leave our schools alone with the untraceable buses, soccer balls on the playgrounds, monkey bars and dirty dirt? Please?

  12. Jahn Ghalt December 2, 2011 at 5:04 am #

    MArlene – “bar code the human race”.

    I suspect that someone has already “chipped” his children (like chipping your dog or cat). Anyone seen any press accounts of this (I hope) rarity?

    I remember one of my favorite RWR stories *from the now defunct JFK Jr.’s now defunct George Magazine)

    It seems that early in Pres. Reagan’s first term there was a move afoot to issue national ID cards. Some in his staff/cabinet were in favor and the topic got some attention at a meeting. The President shut it down saying:

    “Why dont we just tattoo all infants at birth?”

    Donna Hutchison Cicero: thumbs up for the “School of Neuroses” idea! I would love, love, love it if someone would try and start a charter school. Someone could do this in subtle manner, behind the scenes, with an innoccuous name, muster up some support, and then trot out the ridicule. Hold a Press Conference – declare the “new name” – and really play it with sarcasm.

    Finally, a bit of “nostalgia”. It seems Baby Monitors were once in vogue. Remember those? Guaranteed to turn a normally sleepless night into an abnormally sleepless night.

  13. robynheud December 2, 2011 at 5:16 am #

    I didn’t have people worried about where I was until one of my roommates, four years after I left home. She would call me if I wasn’t home when I said I would be, and one time, when I stepped out for an impromptu date after one of our classes, she told me she had considered calling the police when I didn’t come home. It was novel having people thinking I needed someone with constant knowledge of my whereabouts.

    Now that I’m married and have two kids, my husband and I constantly talk about the things we want to teach our kids so they can be more independent. As I told my husband after our first was born, I know our kids aren’t going to always be with us and I want them to be prepared for that time, because whether a parent wants it to or not, that time will come, possibly sooner than many of us may think.

  14. Cindy December 2, 2011 at 5:20 am #

    Of course they are on the bus. Geez! Instead of an app that monitors if your kid is simply on the bus, it would be smarter to create something that allows them to report if they are being bullied on the bus. School bus bullying is ~ and always has been ~ a big problem for many kids. If your child isn’t on the bus, that could be why.

  15. Katrina December 2, 2011 at 5:52 am #

    The school system has $3145 to spend on ipads? Checking everyone in and out of the system will probably make the ride take an extra half hour.

    If you are really worried about your child, give him a cell phone and have him call, it would save everyone else a lot of time, money and hassle.

  16. Lollipoplover December 2, 2011 at 5:59 am #

    Tracking and apps, and the “bar code the human race” imply that we are dealing with things, not people.
    Animals are microchiped because they lack the ability to talk. If you don’t teach your child basic communication skills like “you missed my stop, Mr. bus driver” to handle everday situations (people make mistakes), then don’t expect perfect outcomes. Bus rides are not certain. If a short delay sends you into a panic, refill the Zoloft and don’t subject the rest of us to your over parenting.

  17. EricS December 2, 2011 at 6:05 am #

    Sadly Lenore, it’s come sooner than you think. These apps aren’t novelty. Many parents who have access to it use it just for the purpose it was intended for…tracking. I know a couple of mothers who are upgrading to an iPhone, and getting their kids iPhones, just so they can download this app. I know several parents who already are using. I think they said it’s called Find My Kids. All I can do is laugh, shake my head and pat them on the shoulder. And many of these parents are friends of mine from back in the day when we were ALL free range kids. Oh how easily the mind gets twisted from fear.

  18. EricS December 2, 2011 at 6:08 am #

    @Katrina: the funny thing about that is some kids are only a 15 min walk home from the school. By the time they are checked and signed out and on the bus back home, a kid who just walks home would already be having an afternoon snack, kicked back and watching afternoon kid’s specials. AND he/she just got some exercise walking home. lol

  19. BPFH December 2, 2011 at 6:15 am #

    @Brian: The way I put that is, I’m not raising a child. “Raising a child” implies that the desired end result is a child. When my son and daughter turn 18, I want to know that I’ve successfully raised an *adult*.

  20. EricS December 2, 2011 at 6:18 am #

    True Steve K. But unfortunately, the reality of it is, it’s not some parents, it’s most parents who use these apps are using it to track their kid’s whereabouts. Not checking to see if their bus will be early or late. Only some parents use it for that purpose.

  21. backroadsem December 2, 2011 at 6:48 am #

    As a former teacher I can think of a 101 other places that money could go…

  22. Marcus Giron December 2, 2011 at 7:27 am #

    I don’t understand why the mother couldn’t just call the phone? If your child has a phone and you don’t know where they are wouldn’t you just call it?

  23. Cheryl W December 2, 2011 at 9:24 am #

    Might be handy when the really strange guys kidnap the whole bus and then bury it in the quarry, like what happened in CA in 1976. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chowchilla,_California ) But as most kidnappers now realize that many kids have cell phones, I doubt that will happen again any time soon. Kids would be texting the media before the kidnappers had a chance to ask for all the phones.

    In places where it is 40 below, they should be GIVING this to the parents if the parents have to wait for kids. I have a hell of a time getting my diesel started when it is cold even with a block heater, I am sure other people do to. I would just walk rather than drive it, putting me at risk.

    I do remember a couple of times in upstate NY when the bus got stuck in the snow and we got home later than we should. I don’t recall my mother being upset or anything. Some of the kids ended up going home on a tractor because the bus couldn’t make it up the hill. (After the tractor got the bus unstuck.)

  24. Mel December 2, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    Where is it that everyone has to meet the kids at the bus?? where
    I live the minimum age to drop off is 5. So kids in 3 &4 prekindergarten have to be met at the bus by an adult but kids aged 5 and up can get off the bus all by themselves…Strange how different it is across the country….

  25. Marie December 2, 2011 at 9:32 am #

    Seems much simpler for the mom to get her child a cell phone. It’s not that uncommon for a school bus to run late some days. I rode one to and from school all through high school. Late happens.

  26. Beth December 2, 2011 at 9:56 am #

    @Mel, I think THIS is what parents should fight against; the requirement to meet your kid(s) at the bus stop. I amazed that this is even logistically possible. Parents work, caregivers have other kids in the house that they just can’t run out on, most bus stops are set up so that they are centrally located near a grouping of nearby homes, and many older kids come home to an empty house. Many, if not most, kids ARE competent to go where they’re supposed to go after getting off the bus, and many, if not most, kids who are on their own are competent to care for themselves for a couple hours after school.

    It’s a parenting decision. So why is the school and/or bus company allowed to override it?

  27. Lollipoplover December 2, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    @Beth- We had the meet at the bus stop requirement with our school district. It was a pain in the ass! They cut our bus service last year, and now our kids were told to walk or bike to school (anyone within 1.5 miles of the school). So, my 5 year-old can sign herself out of school and walk home the 1.4 miles away, but they won’t let a 4th grader off the bus if a parent isn’t at the bus stop.

  28. Rachel Banzhaf December 2, 2011 at 10:13 am #

    In some secured facilities, employees must swipe their badge through a device that identifies them as authorized to enter. So clearly the next step is to set up something similar on school busses. The student must swipe his or her card when boarding and disembarking and the information is instantly uploaded to a secure database. Parents worried about their child’s whereabouts can call a help line, enter their PIN, and find out whether their kid’s on the bus and where the bus currently is on its route.

    To make sure nobody forgets their card, make it vital to other parts of school life. Swipe when entering or exiting the building. Swipe to pay for school lunch. Swipe at the nurse’s office to instantly bring up medical information. If a student somehow forgets their card, they’ll have to wait in the office until a parent can drop it off.

    Ridiculous, right? But at 90% of parenting websites this suggestion would be met with cheers.

  29. Cheryl W December 2, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    Rachel, yes, oh boy, just think if they had a fire, they could check to see if all the kids got out….that would be the excuse that they would use here. Meanwhile, they could also see if some teachers were letting more kids use the bathroom than would be considered appropriate.

  30. hineata December 2, 2011 at 10:41 am #

    I would have loved this app on one bus trip we did when I was a kid. The bus driver, whom we all hated, for some reason I forget now, hit the bridge going out of time, hit another bridge going into the town we were doing manual training in, and then hit the first bridge again coming back into our town- probably because by then we were giving the poor woman so much flack that I’m surprised she managed to keep the bus on the road as long as she did! If we’d had that app, and our parents had been the kind to pay any attention to it (which of course they weren’t) they might have all come along to shadow the bus, and probably abuse the poor soul even more, thus guaranteeing us even more fun!

    As for my own kids, I usually don’t even know what bus they’re taking (they have a choice), so it would be worse than useless…..Thank the good Lord they have common sense in place of an iphone. Now if we could invent an app for that, we might be getting somewhere.

  31. Mom December 2, 2011 at 10:42 am #

    For crying out loud, NYC’s Department of Ed has hardly a nickel to spend on educating our children, and some inane hipster mom wants to piss away what little money we have on buying iPads for school bus drivers? I do hope the powers that be in the DOE dismiss this idea immediately in favor of funding more teachers, smaller class size and an actual education!

  32. Heather December 2, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    Reminds me of a time when I fell asleep on the school bus (yes, it can happen!) I think I must have been about 6th grade. I should’ve been the 3rd or so stop on the route, getting me home around 3pm, I woke up in a panic in a neighborhood I didn’t recognize with the last person getting off the bus. I alerted the driver and he/she (can’t remember) dropped me back off at my house after first stopping by the depot to check-in. I got home around 5pm. My parents didn’t even realize I was late! (This would’ve been around 1985) I was more mad that they didn’t realize it was nearly 2 hours past when I was due home and they weren’t worried. I guess they were free-range too. Wait, no, they were just parents.

  33. pentamom December 2, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

    “It’s just a new twist on the current cultural notion that if a parent somehow has his or her eyes on a kid, that kid is magically protected from everything bad. ”

    This is it. They could sit in front of their computers (or smartphones, I guess) every single stinking day for the rest of the kid’s school life, but when the whatever-it-is they fear (terrorist-planted IED on a Manhattan street?) happens, how’s that going to help?

    Not that *I* believe “it” IS going to happen — but they apparently do, and somehow think that the link from their retinas to their screens will do something useful if it does.

  34. Tiffany December 2, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

    Apparently the person who wrote this article is not parent or is one & does not care about their child.

  35. Dolly December 2, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    Obviously in most situations this is not needed. However sometimes in my past it would have helped my mother. I had some odd bus experiences.

    In middle school I lived near some bad white trash neighborhoods. There were regular fist fights on the bus. The bus would then turn around and drive all the way back to school to drop the fighters off then continue the route. That put me way late getting home. My mother had to take me to dance and would make us late. She would also worry. They did not contact parents. I think that whole ordeal was stupid and unfair to the other kids. One time I was right at my house almost and they could have dropped me off, but nope.

    My mom complained and they told her that was the policy and nothing could be done about it. So I eventually stopped riding the bus because it was making me late to dance too much and I was also getting bullied on the bus and one time one of the fights almost got me hit as an innocent bystander when they fell into me. My mom had enough of it and started picking me up herself.

    When I was in elementary school we had a weird bus driver who would pull over if we were too loud and just sit there forever. Again one time it was right down the road from my house. My mom saw the bus sitting there and was wondering what was going on. One time she drove back to school too because we were too loud. I was tiny like in 2nd grade at the time. My mom worried why I was so late getting home as I was the first stop to drop off and it was way past time for me to be home.

    My mom complained on her and I think she got fired. I can sympathize if she was having trouble concentrating over noise, but you can’t just not drop kids off and make their parents worry either.

    So having said all that, an app to tell a parent something like this is happening could be useful. It would be better though if they just don’t do the above things as well.

  36. FrancesfromCanada December 2, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    EricS: are you sure “most parents” are using this technology to track their kids? Do you have data for that, or are you just assuming that “most parents” can’t be trusted to use an app sensibly?

    Isn’t that “worst first” thinking?

    Now, I might debate whether wanting a reliable way to check that your child actually got on the bus is always helicoptering (sure, you could call the kid, but no guarantee they’ll answer), particularly if you have some reason to think that might not be the case –special needs? behaviour problems? bullying? — but it does seem a questionable use of education dollars in an already strapped system.

  37. Ren Höek December 2, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

    Of course she should be worried she lives in Hell’s Kitchen (worried look on face). Actually, the neighborhood is fairly nice. She is worried over a late school bus? She should be lucky her kid even has that option. Everyday thousands of students in NYC use public transportation to get to and from school.

    I actually favor the MTA way as in my opinion it encourages free-range. Besides that, about 80% of students qualify for a free exclusive student Metrocard, with 15% having a half-fare option. God forbid her kid ride a bus or even a subway “full of creeps”.

  38. Dolly December 2, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

    I don’t think kids are allowed cell phones on the bus in some schools.

  39. J.T. Wenting December 2, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

    “How long before someone suggests we bar code the whole human race : ( . . . .”

    They’re already experimenting with affixing RFID tags and GPS locator beacons to all inmates in retirement homes…
    Officially it’s “so we can find them again if they get lost”, but in reality it’s of course nothing more than an experiment towards forcing the same on the entire population.

  40. Rebecca Menes December 2, 2011 at 11:53 pm #

    Two comments:
    First – this “solution” to a non-problem adds another task to the job of the BUS DRIVER, not the Mom. This will slow down the already too slow bus, as the driver has to enter and remove each kid from the system. So, 45 kids, say 30 seconds on each end of each trip for each kid, that’s 45 minutes added to the trip, morning and evening, or a full hour and a half. Even if he get it down to 15 seconds per entry and exit, that’s 45 minutes a day, 3.45 a week, or about 15 hours per month. This is like adding 2+ schooldays to the week, time during which NOTHING of VALUE happens.

    Second – what would this knowledge have done in case of any relevant danger? The mom reported that she “panicked” because the school bus was half an hour late. How would her i-phone App have helped? She checks, her kid shows up as “registered as on the bus.” Does this add anything to her current knowledge of her kid’s whereabouts? Did she have any reason to think he WASN’T on the bus? And what if something had happened to the bus – say a terrorist hijacking or (slightly more likely) a fender bender or breakdown. She checks the App – it shows her kid ON THE BUS. So?

    Now – a general App that tracked school buses so you could know the location might be useful. Then, if your kid’s bus is late, you know it, so you, the toddler, and the baby don’t stand around in a cold, sleety rain for 45 minutes waiting for the second grader. (Bus is ALWAYS late in a cold, sleety rain.) No extra work for bus driver, either.

  41. pentamom December 3, 2011 at 12:13 am #

    “Apparently the person who wrote this article is not parent or is one & does not care about their child.”

    Like all the non-parents and people who didn’t care about their children who managed to raise us without tracking devices and iPads on every school bus?

  42. pentamom December 3, 2011 at 12:15 am #

    Dolly — is the app going to tell parents about fist fights on the bus and drivers with attitude? Or is it going to give a non-useful piece of information like, “The bus is late because it’s sitting somewhere not moving,” and you still won’t know why?

    How is knowing that the bus is late going to relieve the mind of a mom who’s upset because the bus is late?

  43. Dolly December 3, 2011 at 1:36 am #

    Pentamom: I don’t know how it would work. I don’t even have apps because I don’t have a cell phone. I am just giving some very valid personal experiences that show that sometimes issues do come up that give a parent a valid reason to be annoyed and worried when they don’t know why the bus is very late.

  44. pentamom December 3, 2011 at 1:45 am #

    Of course there are valid reasons to be annoyed and upset — Lenore even said that. But that doesn’t mean that this solution is worth anything at all. And you said, “It would have helped my mother.” I can’t see how.

    I don’t have a cell phone that uses apps, either, but you just have to read the description of how the thing works to realize that it wouldn’t have. All it does is tell you whether your kid is on the bus, and where the bus is. Your mom already knew the bus was late, so she wasn’t likely to be worried about whether you were on it, and knowing where it was, but not why or when it was coming, wouldn’t have made her feel any better, I shouldn’t think.

  45. Cathy December 3, 2011 at 2:11 am #

    Things like this are why I don’t even want to send my kids to public schools. Education is the last thing on anyone’s mind. All the parents are obsessing over whether their kids are safe and creating stupid stuff like this rather than teaching their kids or focusing on what kind of education their kids are getting, administrators are too busy thinking about themselves and getting more money for their school to spend on anything *but* education, and the teachers are angry about not getting paid more to babysit kids and aggravated that they are no longer educating kids due to government laws and money/time/energy wasted elsewhere. The kids must be tracked every moment by their parents via apps/cell phones, tracked every step at school with metal detectors/cameras while at school and can’t leave without being buzzed in and out…they are on constant lock-down and surveillance the majority of their days. School is becoming more and more like prison than anything else. The similarities are nauseating. The thought of my kids being in an environment like that is scary. I’d rather have my kids be home/cyber schooled…so that maybe they can actually get an education that will serve them well in life AND keep their freedom as kids/human beings.

  46. Selby December 3, 2011 at 2:39 am #

    From the article, “Drivers stuck in traffic or encountering an emergency could use the app to easily notify the parents of every student on his or her bus.”

    Oh yeah, that’s what I want my kids’ school bus driver doing: driving and texting. Fabulous. Whoops, did we now just triple the cost of this little app to include hands-free, voice-response commands?

    Bus driver: “Siri, alert the Neurotica that the bus has a flat tire.”

    Siri: “OK, I’ve alerted the Neurotica. You now have 53 new voicemails and 29 new emails. Would you like me to read them?”

  47. Sharon December 3, 2011 at 3:05 am #

    I remember when my daughters kindergarten school bus broke down (fortunately in a parking lot not a street). Most of the kids were crying especially the little ones were crying. One of my neighbors checked in (she had just put her then first grader on the bus and saw it stall).
    I asked my daugther why didn’t you cry. “Because Mommy you told me another bus would come and bring us to school.” That is what happened. Apparently with the help of the bus driver, safety patrols, and a couple of parents the kids were led to the new bus which was right near the old bus. This story happened four years ago and most of the kids are now in middle school and remember this story.

  48. Drew December 3, 2011 at 3:30 am #

    So you’re going to put smart phones and iPads in the hands of bus drivers, who should have their eyes and hands on the road. I’d much rather the driver pay attention than enter updates about running five minutes late!

  49. Jen December 3, 2011 at 3:45 am #

    My children, ages 11 and 13, take the city bus home from school. Many of their friends’ parents are shocked that I would have them do that (it saves me around 2 hours of driving and a lot of gas every day. Plus, you know, independence and all.), and it has been suggested many times that I need to get them GPS trackable phones so I can keep track of them (one for each of them, because what if they get separated?!). They have an ancient cell phone they share, just to touch base with me if they need to after school so I know if they are staying late or held up somehow. If I need to know where they are or when they will be home, I, you know, just call them, and they tell me. I don’t need an app for that, and I certainly don’t need to GPS track them, or to put an additional burden on the bus driver.

  50. Cheryl W December 3, 2011 at 4:18 am #

    This might help in a few cases. But overall, is the cost of time worth the effort? Most people here have said that they had one or two times that it would have been helpful. Out of a school career. Of 180 days a year. In my opinion, not worth the cost. As someone mentioned, if you have an ongoing issue, get your kid their own phone so they can call you to tell you what is going on. THEN mom or dad can call and complain.

    What are they going to do when the kid loses the card – not let them on the bus because then they can’t be tracked? Input manually and then notify that they will be late because Johnny lost his card? I can tell you that I lost my lunch money way more times than the bus had issues. Most kids would be the same way. And yes, I rode the bus every day, from the 1st day of kinder until the last day of 12th grade, aside from a very few when my mom took me in or picked me up for an appointment.

  51. Dolly December 3, 2011 at 4:29 am #

    I personally think this is overkill and it probably would be easier to just let kids carry and use their personal cell phones. Most kids have one and would let a friend borrow theirs if they didn’t have one. But like I said earlier, schools act pissy about letting kids carry and use cell phones on the bus or in the school building.

    The way I see it as long as they are getting to class on time, not on the phone in class, then they should be able to have phones and just put them on silent in class. But, no one listened to me when I was in school and said that and from what I heard they still don’t allow it. Most kids carry them but if they get caught with them they get confiscated.

  52. BMS December 3, 2011 at 4:40 am #

    Ok, I admit that I am weird. But I don’t have a cell phone. At all. I have no intention of getting one, nor do I intend to give one to my kids (ages 11 and 9) at any time before they can afford to pay for it. I don’t need to know where they are every second of every day. And because we are not in the habit of calling each other every time anyone is 30 seconds overdue, we learn that hey, sometimes people are late, and yet they are fine. The kids come home after school and let themselves in. Sometimes Dad is home, sometimes they are on their own for up to an hour. But they don’t even notice – more time to play with legos before Dad makes them do their chores. If my train is late or delayed, my husband figures it out, because I am not there. He doesn’t instantly assume I was murdered at the train station. If my kids’ bus is late, I assume it is because the bus was delayed, and they’ll get there eventually. I just don’t get this feeling that a)I need to know where my kid is at every moment of every day and b)if I don’t, I’m a terrible parent.

  53. pentamom December 3, 2011 at 5:07 am #

    LOL, “the Neurotica.”

  54. Dolly December 3, 2011 at 6:05 am #

    BMS, I don’t have a cell phone either. I have one on my mother’s plan that I use only for emergencies since it uses her minutes and I don’t give out the number.

    I won’t get my kids cell phones until they are at least high school. But I could totally seeing myself letting them carry the emergency cell phone or a prepaid phone to use just in case something crazy happens. They would know they only use it for something important. I will probably let them have a credit card too that they can use to call a cab or get gas if they have an emergency. If they abuse said things, they lose them.

    I think there can be a happy medium.

  55. KD December 3, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    The only time I met the bus was the first week of school last year and only because we had moved to a new neighborhood just a few days before school started and the kids really hadn’t had a chance to meet others in the area. After that, they walk out the door in the am and in the door in the pm. The bus stops two house and a street from ours and if I want to, I can see it from my front door. I can’t see using an app like this at all. If I have concerns that a bus is late (once in 16 years of parenting) I know I can call the school to get an update
    My teenagers have cell phones, but not my younger to. In the previous school district we were several of the 5 and 6 year olds had cell phones and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why, everyone was a helicopter parent! To me, cell phones are strictly to let me know where you will be and what time you will be home and if you are going to be late, having a good reason to do so as the older two have curfews. My younger two are out in the neighborhood with their friends and I can yell if its time to come home (it also helps that each of my kids is required to wear a watch when they leave the house and be responsible to be home when they were told).

  56. Chris December 4, 2011 at 2:40 am #

    If the kid has a phone with an app, why not just call or text him and ask him where he is…..

  57. pentamom December 4, 2011 at 5:25 am #

    “If the kid has a phone with an app, why not just call or text him and ask him where he is…..”

    If the kid has a phone WITHOUT an app, why not just call or text him and ask him where he is…..????

  58. Jon December 4, 2011 at 5:32 am #

    In the Philippines, children of Expats are routinely kidnapped for ransom, and who hasn’t heard of Jaycee Dugard, or Elizabeth Smart? The idea that someone would write these articles when we live in a polarized world where kids are victimized because their parents give them free range and adults take advantage of them, is mind boggling.
    I get the feeling that some people just like to argue against common sense and state/federal law just for attention.

    I grew up in the 70’s and was approached numerous times by adults who I now realize did not have good intentions. I was not alone, but when my parents were busy talking, they might motion for me to come to talk to them in a restaurant, or outdoors. Had I been alone, I doubt I’d be typing this. Free Range sounds like some sort of Sarah Palin induced maniacal stupidity. Trust the children? What about Jerry Sandusky? Parents trusted their kids, and we still have no idea what the end result will be.

    I have an idea. Take your kids to remote Alaska, and let them roam where you know there are Grizzly Bears. Do the kids have the maturity to make the decisions or to choose to not so something? Children’s maturity and brains have not fully developed until they are older, so just because one cautions children does not mean that the children will abide by that desire. I would challenge the author to live in an aprtment complex with child predators and exercise her free range philosophy. As a victim of a abuse I am enraged that someone would even entertain leaving immature kids alone just is also endangering many kids and parents who might make decisions that might be the last decisions they make. I am dumbfounded that someone would choose an ignorant argument just for attention.

  59. Cheryl W December 4, 2011 at 8:11 am #

    Wow Jon, please, feel free to overprotect your child(ren). But also, please don’t make my tax dollar pay for it. Give your kids a phone with a GPS tracker, make sure they know that everyone they don’t know (and don’t forget the school lunch lady) is a potential threat to their well being. (Like those other cases you mentioned, those people were not on a list – background checks would not have helped.)

    I don’t live in the Philappines. I grew up in the 70s. I tell my kids to trust their gut, and I do make sure they are mature enough to handle the things that I let them do. I prefer to have my kids trust in strangers, so that if they truly need help they can get it.

    Heh, heh. Your comparison to Sarah Palin is funny. My political leanings are actually the opposite of hers. When it comes to Free Range kids, I suspect there are two camps (which join in the middle.) The hippie dippy ones who want kids to experience nature without getting hassled by the man, and the traditionalists, who just want a childhood like their own, playing ball with the friends, riding bikes and such.

    So, those child predators you live with….are they on the list? Are your children old enough to identify them and know that they are not the people they should associate with? Do you have people that they know are “safe” that they can go to if they/you need help? I read a sad story last weekend about guys wanting to rent a house. When they got there, the door was answered by a 4 year old. He said Daddy was asleep. Daddy was actually dead, and the boy had been there with him for several days. I feel bad that the kid hadn’t been taught who he could go to in case of something wrong happening. My kids all know who to go to in case I fall off a ladder or get hurt or such.

  60. Donna December 4, 2011 at 8:11 am #

    “In the Philippines, children of Expats are routinely kidnapped for ransom”

    Something to keep in mind should we ever go to the Philippines. Kinda has no impact on the 99.999999999999999% of the population who is not actually in the Philippines. Are you saying that we should all live as though some rouge Philippino kidnapper may decide to come to the US (Europe, South America) and kidnap our child?

    “who hasn’t heard of Jaycee Dugard, or Elizabeth Smart?”

    Psssssst, Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped out of her bed while her parents slept down the hall, and not while ranging anywhere. I always love how Elizabeth Smart gets thrown out by the helicopter proponents. It just proves the free-range point that these fears are not based on facts.

    “What about Jerry Sandusky?”

    Psssst, again, you’re still just proving Lenore’s point. Sandusky was well known to the kids he allegedly molested. He wasn’t a stranger and the kids were not roaming free when it occurred. They were at-risk kids taken advantage of by someone they trusted (if the allegations are true). This is where the vast majority of child molestations occur, not by strangers while kids are playing outside by themselves.

  61. Cheryl W December 4, 2011 at 8:13 am #

    Well, take that back, Dugard should have been found – I do blame the state for not taking an active walk around the place.

  62. Mel December 4, 2011 at 9:48 am #

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=is-child-sexual-abuse

    Even more proof that kids are safer then ever and we don’t need to track them with ridiculous apps!

  63. Heather December 4, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    I’m noticing a trend from some of these overprotective posters that they doubt our ability to parent our child if we are not within an arm’s length of said child (I’m extrapolating, forgive me). What I see happening as a result of not just overprotectiveness, but hyper-protectiveness is that we are cultivating a generation of kids that are crippled when left to their own devices. Contrary to popular believe, kids are smart and when offered a chance to prove themselves responsible they often surprise you by rising to the occasion. That being said, I’m not suggesting you dump a child that has been raised in a cocoon on the street corner and say “find your way home safely”. You need to raise them to think clearly and be mindful of their surroundings and develop instincts so they can recognize a bad situation brewing even when its among friends. But more importantly you need to know what your kid is capable of–if you never give them a chance to think for themselves how can you answer that accurately? If kids aren’t ever allowed to fail or make mistakes, how do you expect them to learn? I read a book called “Japanese Lessons” (I think) that said in Japan, schoolchildren are encouraged to solve their own problems early on and are not discouraged from fighting, because when they are little, they can inflict very little damage on one another and learn that their actions hurt others. If you wait until their are physically mature to start spreading their wings they could really get hurt because they haven’t internalized yet that they are strong enough to hurt each other. Food for thought.

  64. Lissa December 4, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    Regarding tattooing children with barcodes: http://www.safetytat.com/qr/

    Yes. That is real.

  65. Heather G December 4, 2011 at 10:53 pm #

    Jon, I refuse to fail my children by not teaching them age-appropriate independence and responsibility. I refuse to make them easy prey for all those boogeymen you fear because they were never taught how to navigate the world. I refuse to stunt their physical, emotional and intellectual development in the name of a false sense of security.

    Every example you listed actually argues in favor of free ranging. Instead of raging against it based on very limited headlines, you would do well to dig deeper. Learn what free-ranging really is (hint- it’s not blindly trusting kids but teaching them responsibility and independence as they are able to handle them without infanticizing them then expecting them to magically be able to handle themselves when the government says they are adults). Learn what really happened in those headline grabbing cases and how it relates to the REAL crime rates.

    As a victim of abuse it sounds like you still have a lot to work through. I hope you find the help you still need and wish you peace.

  66. Amy December 5, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    This article made me laugh. I’m an administrative assistant at an elementary school and work until 6:00, so I’m the only one answering phones after school. Just last week I had this conversation:

    Me: How can I help you?

    Parent: My kid never got off the bus!

    Me: The bus went by and your student didn’t get off it?

    Parent: No, the bus didn’t show up!

    Me: What time does your student normally get to the bus stop?

    Parent: 4:00

    Me: (looks at the time and sees it is 4:03) But it’s only a few minutes late.

    Parent: Can you call and see if they are okay?

    Me: ….

    A few days later, I had this conversation:

    Me: How can I help you?

    Other Parent: My kid never got off the bus!

    Me: (wiser now) Did you see the bus go by, or is it just late?

    Parent: It’s like 20 minutes late.

    Me: What bus number?

    Parent: 8.

    Me: That bus has a substitute driver.

    Parent: But I don’t understand why it is so late.

    Me: (confused) That bus has a substitute driver. (Isn’t the reason for the late bus obvious?)

    Parent: Can you call and see if they are okay?

    Me: …

  67. pentamom December 5, 2011 at 11:17 pm #

    I suppose a few more words might have helped, like “That bus has a substitute driver, and substitute drivers don’t make quite as good time because they’re not as used to the route.” Sometimes people don’t think things through.

  68. jim December 6, 2011 at 12:21 am #

    On a related topic – this weekend I saw an ad on TV that brought to mind the riff in one of Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker” books about the guy who, after seeing instructions printed on a box of toothpicks, named his home “Outside the Asylum” because the entire world had obviously gone nuts. The ad – just in time for Christmas! – was for a children’s backpack which has a ripcord on the shoulder strap that will sound a siren when pulled. Of course, the ad featured LOTS of clips of children being approached by nefarious strangers (darn those Nefairians, anyway!) whose evil plans were foiled by quick-witted kids pulling the ripcord. Of course, NO 8-year old would EVER sound the siren unless they were in danger. Or wanted to give the bus driver a thrill.

    Lenore – you should blog about this wonderful new product. It’s available from Amazon, among other sources.

  69. Library Diva December 6, 2011 at 1:22 am #

    Jon, no one on this site is arguing against reasonable precautions. Of course, none of us would allow a toddler to play in a grizzly den. Nor would we let a four-year-old play in traffic. This website is about the increasingly absurd OVERprotection that’s seen in our society, i.e. an item getting banned from schools because either one person got hurt, or someone saw a way someone could get hurt. No pencils, you might stab yourself…no running at recess, you might fall, etc. etc.

    And it’s about acknowleging that children are capable of learning things, exercising some common sense, and that they do have the protective instincts innate to every animal. You cite examples from your own childhood, when adults beckoned to you. Yet, you didn’t go. You were smart enough to know not to, even if you couldn’t have reasoned it out. You knew that it seemed like a bad idea, and you didn’t go where you were beckoned. You used your brain, whether it was the animal part or higher reasoning part, and you stayed safe.

    Society today seems to be about eliminating all risk, in everything, This site is here to say that’s not possible, and to point out what is lost when you insist on bubble-wrapping human beings and stifling their natural curiousity, sociability, and desire to be active indoors with a video game. You get 14-year-olds who never learned to tie their shoes because failing at it could be damaging. You get teens who don’t know how to light a match. You get college students who aren’t capable of registering for classes and buying their books on their own.

  70. oneburnedoutmama December 6, 2011 at 4:45 am #

    I’m raising my kids in the suburbs (God help us), so when the bus drops them off, they get off the bus (by themselves) and walk through our quiet neighborhood to get home (by themselves). They would lose it if I was standing there waiting for them – and hopefully one of their other friends would tease them mercilessly so they put a stop to it if I was. Honestly? Sometimes I lose myself in a project and forget it’s even time for them to come home. Suddenly I’ll hear the front door open and think, oh yeah, school’s over. They can handle getting themselves home from school.

    This mom has chosen to raise her kids in Manhattan. She has different environmental issues than me (traffic and crowds vs. our neighborhood which is so quiet that it’s typical for my kids to walk all the way home without seeing another human being or a passing car), but still – if her kids can’t deal with getting from school-to-bus-to-home on their own, no app is going to fix that. It is a parenting deficiency, plain and simple.

    Control doesn’t equal good parenting.

  71. pentamom December 6, 2011 at 4:52 am #

    “Lenore – you should blog about this wonderful new product. It’s available from Amazon, among other sources.”

    Unreal.

    Step one — these things get banned from schools because they’re a disruption on the school bus and in school.

    Step two — parents start complaining that the schools are endangering the kids by banning them.

  72. Michelle Potter December 6, 2011 at 6:10 am #

    Honestly, I do not even understand why a late bus would be “worrying.” What about “the bus is late” makes parents think “my child could be lost or in danger!” The kid isn’t lost — he’s on the bus, which is late. (Do people maybe think, “If my kid isn’t on the bus, the driver is going to re-route to go around my neighborhood and I will just never even know he drove by without dropping off my kid”??)

    The only reasonable concern I could see here — because a “Speed” style bus bomb is incredibly unlikely — is that the bus got into a traffic accident. An accident that injures kids still seems pretty unlikely to me, but if that happens someone is going to call you. You don’t need an app for that.

    When I was a teenager I used to routinely need to stay late for one reason or another. Sometimes I didn’t want to wait for the “late bus” (the one for kids who had detention or afterschool activities), and sometimes I was later than it. So I walked home. No big deal; I still got home before my parents!

    Now, I have a Sprint phone, and it comes standard with an app that lets me track the location of any phone on my account. If my kids have their phones with them (and yes, my kids have phones, because we are geeks and like toys and we can afford them!), I can pull up the app and see exactly where they are. I almost never use it. Of course, my kids are homeschooled, so I know for sure they AREN’T on the bus — they are in the next neighborhood over, playing with their friends, LOL.

    I have used the app to find out whether my husband was on his way home from work, because I wanted to know how much time I had to get the house tidied up before he got home, LOL. He got mad at me, because apparently it remotely turns on the GPS on his phone and runs the battery down! So now I don’t do that. 😛

  73. Dolly December 6, 2011 at 11:56 am #

    Michelle: Not all parents are away from home during the day. My mother was a stay at home mom so she would notice if my bus was running very late. Your comment about beating your parents home does not apply to all families. I stay at home and my husband works at home. It would be very easy for us to notice something like our kids not getting home on time. Because we are home and we have clocks. Has nothing to do with free range. Just common sense.

  74. Beth December 6, 2011 at 11:40 pm #

    The point isn’t being home or not home after school. The point is why is a late bus a reason to worry?

  75. Michelle Potter December 7, 2011 at 2:13 am #

    Yeah, Dolly, of course lots of parents *would* notice that their kid was late. I would notice since I am a stay-at-home-mom. That bit was just sort of an idle comment on the topic of kids getting home on their own. (Some other people had mentioned similar things, and I just wanted to throw in my 2 cents.) Feel free to ignore it.

    Like Beth said, the main jist of my comment was, “Why is a late bus a reason to worry?” I mean, it would be one thing if the bus came and your kid was not on it, but if the whole bus is running late, there is no reason to think that your kid is in some kind of danger.

    The most bizarre part, IMO, is the idea that if the bus is late then you don’t know where your kid is. Well, yeah, you do know where he is. He’s on the bus. Which is late.

  76. Dolly December 7, 2011 at 3:16 am #

    Some families have tight schedules and a late bus could throw off plans. I had to be a dance shortly after I got home from school. I had a small amount of time to eat and change clothes and get to dance. I didn’t eat crappy school food so I waited to eat till I got home. So a late bus could mean I don’t get to dance on time or I don’t get to eat till hours later that evening because I missed my chance to eat before dance.

    Sometimes we would leave for out of town right after I got home from school. A late bus could screw that up. I am not saying it is a reason to worry so much as it would be nice to know why and for how long a bus is delayed for many various reasons.

  77. Michelle Potter December 7, 2011 at 3:20 am #

    Honestly, I would say that it’s not a good idea to rely on communal transportation if you have a tight schedule. There are just too many things that can go wrong and make the bus late.

    Admittedly, I did read your story farther up, and turning around to take misbehaving kids all the way back to school just sounds stupid to me. Especially since it was on a regular basis. Better to ban or suspend the offending kids from the bus (and hopefully the rest get the idea that they had better behave!)

  78. DH December 7, 2011 at 3:25 am #

    “My 15 year-old was an hour late coming home from school the other day. He missed the bus, and decided the day was nice enough to walk. The text from him, sent half an hour after he started walking, read “Brain fart, missed the bus, riding the Sneaker Express instead.” Should I have lost my head and freaked out in that first half an hour, to show that I’m a good mother?”

    Starting my freshman year of high school, I regularly walked the 3.5 miles home from school rather than taking the bus. It generally took me about an hour. I’m not even sure my mother ever knew I did that … but then again, the only house rule was “be home for dinner!”

  79. sonya December 7, 2011 at 6:01 am #

    The article states that the buses all have GPS tracking since 2007. So why do they need these apps anyway then? A much cheaper solution would be to show the GPS location to a parent subscriber list (the campus bus system does that at my work, and I really appreciate being able to wait indoors in winter until the bus is about to arrive).

    And regarding cellphones, my daughter’s middle school requires cellphones to be turned off and stored in lockers during the school day, and they can be turned on at dismissal. Seems a reasonable compromise (and my daughter has used her cellphone the few times she has missed the bus – we live too far away to walk home).

  80. pentamom December 8, 2011 at 10:21 pm #

    But Dolly,this thing *doesn’t* tell you *why* the bus is delayed, and knowing doesn’t* help you with your tight schedule. IT accomplishes nothing except giving people a false sense of control, if they associate being told useless information with a sense of control.

    I get that you understand why people would be concerned and have various reasons for wanting to know what’s going on, but *this doesn’t help with that!!!!!!!* Really! Being sympathetic for someone’s desire to know what’s going on still doesn’t justify an expensive, useless system.

  81. Marlene December 9, 2011 at 2:39 am #

    I have a golden rule for myself – if someone asks me to DO something or change a behavior so they won’t FEEL a certain way (worry, anxiety, etc) I never say yes. The problem with the scenario is even if I accommodate that person’s feelings by changing my behavior it doesn’t resolve the feeling. The feeling just gets projected on to something else that the person expects other people to change.

    The truth is we choose how we feel. We are all responsible for our own feelings. No one else can change my feelings but me.

    For me, someone’s feelings are not a REASON for me to change or accommodate. If there is a reason other than feelings then that is a different matter. If they articulate that reason then I am happy to entertain the request.

    I have had some people get very unhappy with me but in the end we are usually able to find peace together. Of course, it helps to deliver the message in a friendly, non-judgmental, compassionate way.

  82. Ann December 9, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    At the beginning of the year my second daughter started kindergarten, the bus was really late coming home one day. I wasn’t at all worried about the safety/whereabouts of my children. I was mostly concerned about the state of mind of my exhausted, worn-out new kindergartener being on the bus for so long. As it turns out, she was fine. She had no clue that anything was wrong or different. It was all an adventure. My third grader was furious about the long bus ride, however. I was relating this story to a coworker who had a first grader at the time. She said, “Your kids don’t have a cell phone so they can call you from the bus????” with complete shock. It was so puzzling to me. She said that her first grader calls her every day on the bus to let her know she is on the way home. Although there have been rare occassions when that might be nice, I was stunned that she thought it was an absolute necessity. I’m sure she’ll jump on the bus app bandwagon.

  83. BMS December 9, 2011 at 9:58 pm #

    I traveled an hour each way, via public transit (commuter rail to bus to school) for all 4 years of high school. This was in downtown Chicago. I did this all without cell phones. If I missed the train, I called my mom (using a payphone in the station) to let her know. Otherwise, I was on my own. Somehow, I lived. And for the record, the train stations still have pay phones, even today.

    If my kids can’t handle a simple school bus ride without my constant electronic presence, how am I going to send them out into the world?

  84. pentamom December 10, 2011 at 1:02 am #

    BTW, what I find interesting is the place in the district information packet we get every year that says,

    “By state law, public buses used for school transportation cannot display route information.” IOW, our city public transport buses, when some of them are being used strictly for school transportation in the morning and afternoon, can’t show where they’re going on the display screen.

    I’m racking my brains, and I can’t think of any reason for this law other than the idiotic one of “if people know where the buses are going and that there are kids on them, they’ll know where the kids live and go to school and will harm them.” Because people who want to harm children can’t figure out which neighborhoods have children in them, or where schools are, by looking.

    Am I missing something?

  85. Heather G December 10, 2011 at 1:36 am #

    Pentamom, that kind of thing has to do with custodial and/or protective order issues. Rare situations. Also gives blanket policy reason why it is pointless to call the school or transportation company to find out where your kid’s bus is when they are 10 minutes late. You know, a legal reason to tell the Neurotica to suck it up and deal.

  86. Beth December 10, 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    Surely non-custodial parents know where their kids go to school and where they live. How would knowing the bus route change anything about their behavior?

  87. pentamom December 11, 2011 at 12:11 am #

    Beth, I could see a situation where there’s a protective order and the family moves to avoid abuse.

  88. Tomi February 2, 2012 at 3:38 am #

    I wish to aapupld Shannon Palmer's Family in their willingness to fight back.. And I like many other's agree that Shannon should have never been placed in the same cell as jasper. Never should a non violent offender be placed with a violent offender, for any length of time and especially in the case of these 2 individuals. With Shannon's known mental illness and jasper's past (killing a man in his sleep). When jasper first received life in prison I honestly felt people would be safe from him. Never did it occur to me that he may be put in a situation where he could kill again.. You see. I, for a time was jasper's step sister. Then in January of 2001 he murdered my father while he slept..My father had never done any wrong to jasper, and surely never provoked jasper to murder him. When I found out jasper had murdered again I was absolutely horrified. I am so very sorry this family has had to feel this pain, and the things that jasper did to their loved one is just absolutely horrifying. I don't understand how people can make jokes, I seen a headline of a story that was in a newspaper about it, and even that writer took a crack at it. Please if possible pass along my condolences and praise for their willingness to fight back and to help see that this type of thing stops happening to Mr. Palmer's family. the justice system failed this family so many times, and had the system worked with them just once this would not have happened to them.

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