Jonathan Peachey, chief executive of Filip Technologies, said the watch might well increase a child’s anxiety, “but I would question whether that’s a bad thing.” With the watch, children have a sense that they can always talk to their parents in threatening situations. “That’s a conversation, and a very positive one for parents to have with their child,” he said.
Another new tracking device, the tiny Trax, also pairs with a smart phone app to allow parents to find their children, particularly very young ones, said Tobias Stenberg, a co-founder of Wonder Technology Solutions, a company in Stockholm that makes the device.
The tracker is meant for those worrisome moments when parents trying to keep an eye on a child playing in the garden, for example, suddenly discover that he or she isn’t there.
“Your first reaction is a bit of panic, but if you look at your phone, you can see, ‘Oh, she’s returned to her room,’” Stenberg said.
The Trax, to be available later this month, costs $249 and includes a subscription for two years’ use in more than 30 countries, including the United States. After that, the company will charge a small monthly fee. Parents can draw boundaries on the screens of their smart phones, creating an electronic fence within which their child can roam. But if the child crosses the digital fence, the tracker alerts the parents, Stenberg said. And if the satellite signal is lost inside a building, for example, the Trax uses motion and direction sensors to determine the child’s position. (The device can also keep track of dogs, he said.)
For parents who opt for smart phones even for young children, many wireless services, like AT&T’s FamilyMap, offer programs that track the phones of family members, sending a text or email to parents telling them, for example, when their child’s phone arrives home after school.
Lynn Schofield Clark, an associate professor at the University of Denver and author of “The Parent App,” said parents who equip their young children with tracking devices still have to try to balance the parental instinct to protect their offspring with the need to nurture their sense of independence and responsibility.
Children can’t be protected by gadgets alone, she said - they also have to learn the basics of being a responsible family member: “We still have to remind them again and again that they have to let us know where they are and not wander off.”