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Monitoring our kids – new software closes the loop

One of the hot topics at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is child tracking technology – gadgets and software that allow parents to keep close tabs on their kids.

Although monitoring devices, and more recently GPS-driven locators, are nothing new, they have mostly been confined to spy movies and extreme skiers. That is until now. This year, we can expect a slew of devices aimed at parents of young children and teens, anxious to know where their kids are and what they are up to.

Companies like Lok8u are producing wrist watches for kids that can pinpoint the location of the wearer within 10 feet, using a combination of cellular identification technology and GPS. Parents are able to set boundaries and instantly access the location of the wearer through text messaging or the Lok8u web site. They even get a notification if the device is taken off.

Other companies like txtBlocker and Taser (yes, the same company that produces those stun guns) have developed tools that give parents the ability to monitor their child's cell phone use and even their driving behavior. Taser's Protector device can be programmed to limit phone functionality when a young driver is behind the wheel.  "Auto accidents are the leading cause of death among American teenagers and distracted driving is becoming a major factor in these accidents," said Rick Smith, CEO and founder of Taser International.

But it's not just driving behavior. These devices can monitor calls, texts, emails, photos and video; in fact, they can report on pretty much any activity the phone is used for. Parents can get real-time, web-based reports and have the opportunity to modify the settings or controls at any time.

Suddenly, after reading about the dangers of unfiltered Internet access and sexting, it looks like parents are back in charge. They will have all the tools they need to lock down cell phones and mobile devices the way parental controls can lock down the desktop!

But wait a second. This may be perfectly OK for tweens who just got their first cell phone for Christmas but what about the high school crowd? If you feel a little queasy about reading your teen's e-mail on the family computer, how are going to feel when it comes to monitoring their cell phone texts?

And how are they going to feel? Most teens regard their cell phone as the last bastion of parent-free independence and will be horrified to have that taken away.

As always, it will come down to knowing your child. If you think you might have a problem, then these new devices are a great way to dig deeper and make sure your child is safe. If you have a happy, well-adjusted kid without a care in the world, then you might want to leave the spyware to the real spies!

Are you ready to monitor your child's cell phone activity? How about setting up no-text zones in cars and schools? Let us know your thought in the comment box below.           

Comment by Robyn's Online World, posted 1/8/2010, 12:31 AM:

It is harder for us with teens already to start imposing new limits/rules/locks/etc. from what they already had.
Comment by Travis Barlow, posted 1/8/2010, 7:53 AM:

I am a grandfather who raised two wonderful children who are now raising six of their own. My wife and I viewed our family as a "benevolent dictatorship" and our children knew they had no expectation of privacy from our searches and enquiries as to their locations, possessions, bedrooms, automobiles, etc. We kept them safe because we were aware of who their friends were and what their activities were. We let them know we loved and cared for them. that's why we did it.
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