January 8, 2002
4:36 AM   Subscribe

For Paranoid Parents everywhere. A global satellite positioning wristwatch, in happy-happy day-glo colours, that you can security-clamp onto your kid's wrist. Then, at your office terminal, you can find out exactlywhere they are. Love the 911 button. How about actually playing with your kids, rather than launching them out into the urban wilderness, on a wireless tether? "Latch-key" takes on a whole new dimension.
posted by theplayethic (28 comments total)
I wonder if there will be a model that will provide the capability to induce a mild electric shock for behavior modification.

Or one that secretes mild doses of ridilin for those children that need even more attention

And for your teenage daughter; the birth control model, just like A Brave New World !!

It just keeps getting easier to be a parent theses days.


(early morning sarcasm, not meant to offend parents)
posted by a3matrix at 5:14 AM on January 8, 2002

What does giving your kids a larger degree of independence have to do with playing with them? What is wrong with launching them out into the urban or, for that matter, rural wilderness? Keeping kids shut in and insulated from social exposure is borderline abuse.
posted by mischief at 5:24 AM on January 8, 2002

it's safer for kids to walk the streets now in england than ever before, yet mom still has to pack them into the range rover and drive them to the school gates 10 yards down the road, adding 20 minutes on to my journey to work, and turning the kids into lazy milksop future drug addicts who can't socially interact. Where's my GodGun? Time to issue justice !

(i was late for work today)
posted by Frasermoo at 5:28 AM on January 8, 2002

theplayethic, thanks for the link, but I don't buy your argument. I suspect that the parents who buy these watches will be the same parents who are already over-protective and hyper-aware of what their children are doing. The parents that don't care to spend time with their kids probably don't care to know where they are, either.
posted by pardonyou? at 6:02 AM on January 8, 2002

it's better than the leashes I've seen people attach to their kids.
posted by panopticon at 6:14 AM on January 8, 2002

Why not ear tags and radio collars? Not only can you track the kids, but they stand out in a crowd.

But seriously, this is truly frightening to me, because the watches cannot be removed by the wearer. Imagine if an abusive parent clamps one of these things on their kids to keep them from running away? What about hiding the watch in someone's car? This would be a great tool for a stalker.

The potential for the abuse of these things is very high, and I doubt (although I have no real clue) that there are any sort of laws regulating the use of such devices.
posted by thewittyname at 6:28 AM on January 8, 2002

As a parent, I hate to say it, but this is the kind of tech my wife and I dream about. It's not that we have an overarching desire to control our daughter's motions, we simply want her to be safe. As do the vast majority of parents who would be using such a device, I'd wager. It's the parents' job to know where their kids are and what they're doing so they can extricate them when they get in over their heads. Just think how difficult it would be to kidnap someone wearing one of these things.

When my little girl turns 18, she can have all the civil rights she wants. Until then, I'll do what i can to protect her from an increasingly screwed-up world. I know, I know, it sounds a tad orwellian. But a father's love for a daughter is desperate and all-encompassing.
posted by vraxoin at 7:05 AM on January 8, 2002

But a father's love for a daughter is desperate and all-encompassing.

You bastard!

j/k of course. Nothing entertains me more than the legions of childless metafiltians so eager to spread judgement and advice to those of us with kids. I too would be a potential customer for such a device.
posted by glenwood at 7:08 AM on January 8, 2002

What about hiding the watch in someone's car? This would be a great tool for a stalker.

Um, you know this techonology is already available, and has been so for some time, right? I mean, the makers of this watch didn't INVENT gsp.
posted by glenwood at 7:09 AM on January 8, 2002

This is just another product designed to prey on the inner-bogeyman of most parents, but I can see some useful applications. Right now, my kid heads out into the crowded public on a leash- aka, holding my hand, or my belt loops if my hands are occupied. He plays in wide open parks where I can sit and enjoy a book, but always hear or see him. He doesn't need a homing device, he already has one- me. However, if I decided for some reason that a two week hike in the Yukon was in order, I might want to get a temporary version of one of these, just to make sure that if he got lost, we could find him immediately.

Clamping one onto him permanently wouldn't make him any safer, it's only useful if something bad has already happened- and as afraid as parents are of stranger abductions, they're extremely rare. It'd be like buying life insurance to walk down to the mailbox- sure, you could fall and die from the front door to the end of the driveway, but the chances are so slim it's a waste of money to try to insure against it.
posted by headspace at 7:14 AM on January 8, 2002

Um, you know this techonology is already available, and has been so for some time, right? I mean, the makers of this watch didn't INVENT gsp.

I'm going to assume you ment GPS, and yes, the U.S. military invented it, not Wherify Wireless.

When you get down to basics, GPS is just a series of satellites broadcasting timed pulses. The system is one-way, and the only thing a GPS unit can do is give a user his/her present location (and local time) by interpreting said timed pulses. In order to track someone, you need a way to take data from a GPS reciever and broadcast it. Lo, and there was the Sprint PCS digital network. As far as I know, this company is the first to combine a GPS reciever and a PCS transmitter, not to mention shrinking it to a very small size. Add on top of this the fact that it provides the location data online, accessible from anywhere, and you have a new product with some scary possibilities.
posted by thewittyname at 7:44 AM on January 8, 2002

Well, the first time you spend 3½ frantic hours searching for an obstinate 12-year-old girl (my niece) with a Ritalin/Lithium timed drug regimen and a hankering for "innocently" hanging around with adult males (and just generally speaking to the strangest of strangers) ... something like this looks awfully attractive. She's physically and emotionally behind her peers, but when puberty kicks in ... I'm really worried.

(When her meds are adjusted, she can be a perfectly sweet, intelligent little girl. When they're not, or bad luck happens, she would be a handful for Nurse Ratched.)

I have no illusions that this would work for kids who already have communication issues, e.g. finding the neighborhood pot party. This may be lockable but it isn't as unremovable as handcuffs -- and there are probably other ways to disable it, from smashing to wrapping it in tinfoil. And kids with really good communication (this one is supposed to call home to say whose house she's ended up at, and sometimes she actually does) will not really need it, and it may be a means to damaging a shaky trust relationship. So it shouldn't be seen as a cure-all nor a risk-free path. But I suspect this may work just fine for certain families.

I agree with witty -- this product does represent a new synergy of technologies, and uses outside of the intended could well prove to be problematic. Is my wife spending her lunch hours with her boss at the strip motel? is just the first of many, not to mention is my trusted assistant delivering our company secrets to our competitor. You could conceal this under a car seat, or conceivably cut it up and put the working parts in between the lining of a bulky purse or briefcase.

I can also see a much wider spread of fleet monitoring with similar devices, now that they're easier (and ultimately cheaper) to make. My mother is a probation officer/social worker (and just imagine how that complicates the business with my niece, of whom she has custody); they had a problem last year with a now-fired employee who apparently falsified family visit records. There are a lot of jobs that trust people to be working while out and about the town with a company car. Maybe trust will no longer be part of that relationship.
posted by dhartung at 7:58 AM on January 8, 2002

Whoa, this is *exactly* what I have been looking for for ages now. Sincerely, thank you for this post.

You see, I am not an overprotective father or a lazy, neglectful one. Rather, I am the father of an autistic child who is incapable of asking for help if he gets lost (or really even of realizing that he needs help). I used to dread taking him anywhere with large crowds for fear that we would get separated and I would lose him in the crowd. He has gotten much better in the last year about staying close, but he really is a normal 8-year-old in most respects and wants to run off and explore things.

Criticise other parents if it makes you feel better, but there are legitimate cases where this kind of technology really makes sense (kids with neurodevelopmental disorders, Alzheimer's patients, etc.)
posted by Lokheed at 8:14 AM on January 8, 2002

Maybe trust will no longer be part of that relationship.

Trust is GONE baby. Thanks to lawyers and actuarial accountants and local news leading with blood every night.

Don't forget zero tolerance and the mindset that the general population should never escape sanctions for individual misdeeds. Cameras everywhere and the thought police.

Trust is GONE, GONE, GONE!!!
posted by Irontom at 8:20 AM on January 8, 2002

Ah, dhartung and Lokheed both have good, valid points in favor that never would have occurred to me. This could be truly useful for parents of children who don't have the ability to communicate the same way an average child does, or understand the dangers they might be in. If I had a kid that I knew couldn't ask for help if he got lost, or didn't know he needed to ask for help, one of these devices would be ideal. (And I'd still want one for that trip to the Yukon... my former negative opinion of people who leashed their kids in amusement parks changed drastically once I had a kid big enough to get swallowed up in a crowd at one.)
posted by headspace at 8:24 AM on January 8, 2002

Lokheed and others,

No doubt that there are quite a few scenarios where this product would be very beneficial. It sounds like it would be a great help in your own life. I don't want to come across as saying that this product is all bad, it's not. However, I guess what makes me nervous about this sort of thing is that there is probably no laws against abusing it. This technology makes personal tracking affordable to most everyone (that is the business plan after all). We are no longer talking about expensive, bulky units that can track fleet trucks like FedEx that cost thousands of dollars each.

I guess what it comes down to for me is, if I found out that someone slipped one of these things into my car and had been following me, and maybe he even shared his logon/password so that others could watch me as well, could I sue him? Do I have any legal standing? Also, could the use of this device be considered abuse? Do parents have the right to know where their children are 24/7, especially if the child does not wish the parents to know? Isn't constant monitoring something we reserve for prisoners (I'm no parent, so those of you who are can choose to disregard what I'm saying for this reason)

Something this Orwellian freaks me out. Technology like this screams for legal controls.
posted by thewittyname at 8:37 AM on January 8, 2002

There's no law against following people (unless you become a nuisance) that I know of- which is what allows private investigators to snap up all those dirty extramarital photos without going to jail. People can track cell phones, credit and debit card purchases, grocery purchases, license tags, or just do it the old fashioned way and drive around behind you.

There's nothing particularly Orwellian about your girlfriend tagging your car to figure out where you are- she's a private citizen, and while you might have serious relationship issues to discuss, that doesn't change the world around you. If you were very upset about it, you'd have a civil case for invasion of privacy, but it's not criminal for private citizens to keep tabs on where people go. It's when the government decides to clamp one of these buggers on everybody on the day they're born that you should worry.
posted by headspace at 9:18 AM on January 8, 2002

thewittyname: My guess is that the existing wiretapping, stalking, and breaking and entering laws could cover that kind of situation.

Nothing entertains me more than the legions of childless metafiltians so eager to spread judgement and advice to those of us with kids.

No kidding. It's amazing how much people know about parenting before they have any sprogs of their own.

I'm extremely overprotective, so of course I'd love to have one of these for my kids in elementary school who aren't around me 24-7 anymore.
posted by rcade at 9:24 AM on January 8, 2002

Bah soon we will all have bio-implants that will track at various census stations. Big brother is watching.

Actually I like this product, and I think till the kid is about 12 - 13, there is nothing wrong with the parents being a little extra cautious (as long as the child, well atleast when it's old enough, understands what the watch does).
posted by riffola at 9:24 AM on January 8, 2002

To quote myself from my very first contribution to Metafilter, in a thread about tracking children via GPS started by "extremely overprotective [parent]," rcade:
It was my first time riding in the 5 Boro Bike Tour. While we were resting in Astoria Park, I noticed this distressed middle aged couple. They had helmets which were wired with walkie-talkie head sets and a one-eye heads-up display that included a rear view mirror and a GPS status monitor flanked on the left side of the helmet. Their helmets looked like a gizmo from the CIA or special forces catalog. There were two wires which extended from the helmet and went into their back packs.

Cause of their distress?
They had lost their two teen-aged children. The children were also fitted with these gizmos. They had planned to keep in touch with each other incase anyone got lost during the 55 mile tour riding through the 5 boroughs of New York.

I chuckled. I think the kids just turned the systems off and took off for the day than ride around town looking like super-geek cyborgs.
I guess I have come full circle at MeFi.
posted by tamim at 10:21 AM on January 8, 2002

Ah, more fodder for therapy visits in 2032.
posted by Poagao at 8:19 PM on January 8, 2002

Sounds like a great idea to me. My son escaped once when he was about 4 years old. He was walking with me, then he was GONE. It was impossible - he was RIGHT THERE, then he was GONE. Took about 2 hours for him to be found (and of course I'm imagining his little crumpled body in a ditch somewhere). He had gone around a bush, not intending to get separated from us - then since we weren't there, he went and played in a puddle with a stick until he was found. Those of you who are childless, might think that made me a bad parent. Those of you who are parents will know how very many times it could have happened to them. I don't think this device was created for lazy parents. I think it was created for Lokheed's son, Alzheimers patients, and toddlers (many of whom are escape artists). The ability to abuse technology has certainly been possible for years if someone had wanted to look for it. I think that this device has potential for great good, which overshadows any other considerations.
posted by pragmatick at 12:19 AM on January 9, 2002

Ah, more fodder for therapy visits in 2032.

That's the nail on the head. I know the distress when you lose your kid for five minutes in the shopping mall, but instead of trying to find answers off the shelf you'll do better to talk to your kids like adults, explain why they need to be careful in certain situations, and nurture their little brains so they don't become incompetent bubble-heads and may actually be able to use their instinct in social situations.

I'm sorry vraxoin, but your final statement a father's love for a daughter is desperate and all-encompassing is like some 'get out of jail card' you are playing to justify keeping and blinkering your child from the real world.
posted by Frasermoo at 12:41 AM on January 9, 2002

I know the distress when you lose your kid for five minutes in the shopping mall, but instead of trying to find answers off the shelf you'll do better to talk to your kids like adults

Something tells me you are not a parent, Frasermoo.
posted by pragmatick at 2:35 AM on January 9, 2002

Yeah, well maybe I ranted a bit. I just despair a bit at the constant scare-mongering in the press for childrens safety and the subsequent isolation it creates in urban areas.

Oh for village life.
posted by Frasermoo at 6:23 AM on January 9, 2002

.......and a cigarette.
posted by Frasermoo at 6:49 AM on January 9, 2002

I imagine they're using cellular phone technology to transmit the coordinates back, in which case the gadget won't be useful outside of urban areas. As for it being "difficult" to kidnap a kid wearing one of these, the strap would probably succumb easily to bolt cutters.
posted by kindall at 9:19 AM on January 9, 2002

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