Free-Range Kids

Parents, Want to Attach GPS Monitors to Your Kids Every Time They Leave the House?

Paranoid parenting at its worst.



The paragraph below is from a press release about a GPS service parents can subscribe to. When would you need this service? How about when your kids are walking to school solo:

Sure, you only live a few blocks from school, but letting your kids make the journey alone seems terrifying.  Freedom is important, but before saying yes, show them how to send you a Glympse. You can ensure they make no stops or detours, and have peace of mind whether you are at home waiting for them, or at the office unable to concentrate until you know they are home safe.

But why is the walk to school so terrifying, so fear inducing for parents? Are the kids walking through a mountain lion preserve? Swimming through shark-infested waters? Or are normal people just supposed to be terrified every second their kids venture outside without them?

"Freedom is important," says the press release. But are kids truly free if their parents are tracking their every move?

This press release then has the gall to say that this service "can help keep parents sane, with limited helicoptering needed."

I resent the implication that this is not helicopter parenting. I resent any company trying to make it seem like this level of surveillance is just normal and necessary and not a big, childhood-changing deal. Imagine if your parents had constantly checked up on you as you walked home or played outside. I'm not talking about them requesting a call when you got to your friend's house. I'm talking about them checking in on you on your way to and from the friend's house, and at the friend's house, and everywhere else you went, all the time. "Are you safe now? Now? How about now?"

The idea that this helps keep parents sane is ridiculous.

I got a note this week from a guy who went back to his hometown after an absence of several years. The town, he said:

is lovingly preserved, so much so that about 90% of all the schoolboy haunts I remember are still remarkably intact.
In the entire weekend I was there, I counted exactly two small children playing in a yard adjacent to the back lane I used to take to school. That's it.

There was a kind of post-apocalyptic feel to the streets. A beautiful summer weekend –and nobody was out.

The apocalypse is fear.

A bomb of psychological terror has been dropped on our civilization, in part by "friendly" products and pitches like this, and its fallout means the kids have to stay inside. And now this conviction is seeping into law. Consider the Maryland Meitivs and Maria Hasankolli—investigated for letting their kids walk outside. Or consider all the parents harassed and even arrested for letting their kids wait in the car a short time. Society is becoming convinced that any unsupervised child is in immediate danger, which means that any parent permitting it is endangering their kid.

But let us remember this: The walk home from school, except in some truly sad neighborhoods, is no more dangerous than it was when we were kids. In fact,it's safer. The crime rate is at a 50-year low. Crimes against kids and adults are way down. Even childhood pedestrian deaths are a third of what they were in the early '90s. What has changed is our perception.

Stop peddling fear in the guise of reassurance.

NEXT: Puerto Rico Has Become America's Version of Greece

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  1. Old Man with Candy hardest hit.

    1. He’ll just take the devices and tie them to a squirrel.

      1. “It says Billy is at this tree, but there’s nothing here!”

        This is why we need to mandate more accurate vertical position estimation in our GPS monitors!

        1. No one takes the time to calibrate

      2. I’m wearing his devices right now!!! HOW did ya KNOW?!?!?!?

  2. You wanna know what’s worse than montoring what your kids are doing? Finding out.

    My niece got a little suspicious of what her teen-aged son was chatting on the phone with his little girl-friend about and decided to go snooping. Let’s just say that having a chat with your son about dick pics when it’s an abstract topic is bad enough but it’s far worse when the topic involves some hard evidence that your son knows all about dick pics. Nobody wants to be having that conversation.

    1. hard evidence

      Too easy.

    2. I would think teenagers would know more about dick pics than anyone. But denial is a strong impulse in parents.

  3. Stop peddling fear in the guise of reassurance.

    I respect the sentiment but at the same time I understand the demand for the product. I grew up in the idyllic era before cell phones and GPS, back when there was a much greater probability of bad things happening to kids and am glad such technology did not exist.

    But this is just a variation on Pascal’s Wager. The probability of something terrible happening to a child is infinitesimal but it is not zero. I can only imagine the pain of being a parent who experiences it. At the end this is a simple cost/benefit analysis some parents will consider worth the price, both in dollars and in depriving their children of some arguably trivial degree of liberty.

    1. Yeah, it’s worth noting that the parents aren’t going to know everything their kids are doing at those locations. They could be drinking, fucking, smoking cigarrettes, shoplifting, or whatever. All the GPS tracker does is tell the parents where the kids are, not who they are with or what they are doing.

    2. Fast forward 30 years.

      Hey mom and dad, just to be safe, I put a monitor on your front door so I know whenever you come and go. I also put a GPS on your car so i can monitor how you are driving. I know you think you can take care of yourself, but there are a lot of monsters out there looking to harm senior citizens. It helps to keep me sane and besides, I learned it from you.



      1. Go back any arbitrary amount of time;

        Dear Snowflake,

        You said you’d clean up your room and have your homework done before you ran out. I’m not your short-order cook, maid, handyman, and/or landlord. You live here and enjoy all these benefits rent free and if you’d like to continue to do so, you’ll tell me where you are so that when I need you back here to do the few small chores I ask, I can know how long it should take you to get here and where I can find you when you don’t show up on time.



        1. So we are in agreement. Teaching your kids accountability is the time honored and preferred method for keeping children safe.


          Common Sense vs 1984

          1. No. It’s not common sense vs. 1984; it’s one version of common sense vs. another version and, in a big part of Lenore’s article one version of 1984 vs. another version of 1984.

            You’ll wear your GPS so I don’t have to ask. If I ask, what you say had better match the GPS or you’re in trouble. If you’ve hacked the GPS so that it matches whatever you say, lemme know so I can put it on your kid brother and you can go get a job.

            1. All kidding aside, and for what it’s worth I don’t have children, but I don’t think it is crazy to worry about children being conditioned to accept 24 hour surveillance. It’s foreseeable those children will be much more accepting of all types of intrusions into their private lives.

              1. All kidding aside, and for what it’s worth I don’t have children, but I don’t think it is crazy to worry about children being conditioned to accept 24 hour surveillance.

                And how is this better than the hyper-paternalistic whackos who actually have kids that they should be taking care of?

                The 1A guarantees you a voice in the fight but, by the same 1A, I’m telling you, Lenore’s stance in this article is borderline Luddite and/or anti-parent. Fear is not the only reason to want to track something via GPS and acting like it is when it comes to parenting is just as irrational. Unlike 1984, Big Brother is going to set up shadow courts and secret surveillance without you or your kids knowing. Exposing your kids to it as a parent has its benefits and intrinsic differences with each kid/parent.

    3. The problem isn’t in the demand for the product from the parents. The problem will come from the demand for the product from the government. If you aren’t GPS-monitoring your kids, your kids will be taken away.

  4. I have no problem with this product being offered. It saddens me that there is a market for the product, but the state investigations and arrests are far more insidious.

    1. Yes, perhaps the GPS tracker could act as protection for the *parents* from state meddling. Give your kids a tracker and ignore it, but if the cops stop them tell them they can pull out the GPS tracker and show it to them to prove that their parents are monitoring them. Keeps the CPS agencies of their back.

  5. Meh. To me giving your kid a GPS tracker and letting them walk alone is a step up from holding their hand and walking them all the way, or not letting them walk at all. Plus you don’t necessarily HAVE TO monitor it. You could have it only in case of emergencies.

    1. Exactly right. You already have a feature called Share My Location in iPhone, and parents can have their kids enable that to know where they are at any given time. This can enable more freedom for a teenage child with a car, in that a parent may be more likely to let them go out as long as they can check on where they are. Vs making the kid stay home, it’s win-win.

      Sad to see Reason – erstwhile home of Virginia Postrel – jumping in with the Luddites on this one.

      1. It’s really nothing to do with Ludditism. It’s about parents going insane. Kids should be able to (at a certain level of maturity) go places and have their parents not know where they are. It’s good for the kids and the parents.

        Of course, this is my opinion and I fully support each parent’s right to make these deicisions as they see fit. But other people still get to have an opinion.

        1. It’s about parents going insane.

          Except it’s not. It starts out about advertisers preying on the instinctive fears of parents, which Lenore combats with just as much, if not more hyperbole. It then, meanders through a post-apocalyptic story where there are no children (outside) which has nothing to do with GPS (because all the kids are inside).

          I appreciate the last two paragraphs, but the rest is Lenore’s tulpa vs. SJW tulpa.

    2. Meh.

      Agreed. This article from Lenore is, IMO, even a bit antithetic;

      But why is the walk to school so terrifying, so fear inducing for parents? Are the kids walking through a mountain lion preserve? Swimming through shark-infested waters? Or are normal people just supposed to be terrified every second their kids venture outside without them?

      I wanna put a GPS on my wife’s car keys or the TV remote so I can find them quickly when they’re needed (esp. at the last fucking minute). WTH are mountain lions involved when, instead of keys, it’s my children?

  6. Even childhood pedestrian deaths are a third of what they were in the early ’90s.

    Fox Butterfield, is that you?

  7. I kind of want to do this, but only because I’m a bit of a nerd, not because I care where they go. Most people plot their growth with marks on a door frame. I will plot it with travel speed and duration.

  8. I’m not talking about them requesting a call when you got to your friend’s house.

    “Why are you tying up the phone line for this, boy? Stop being a pest.” [click]

    1. “Remember to get home when the street lights come on and not a moment sooner.”

  9. Actually, a monitor that alarms when it detects its holder has been hit by a car is about 1000 times more useful than a monitor to detect kidnapping.

    1. Kind of like that tracker in Escape from New York.

    2. Meh, if the youngster gets hit somebody will eventually call anyway, either dead or in the hospital, knowing a few mins earlier won’t change anything…

  10. Okay, I’m guilty of this one (or something very similar). When my children were young, about 13 years ago, and when cell phones were still in their infancy, Disney tried to get into the cell phone game. A few of the features their phones offered was I could go on-line and schedule when my kids phones could and could not be operated and GPS tracking. I loved the GPS tracking not because I was worried for their safety, but because I did not want them lying to me about their location. But, ironically, the GPS tracking came in extremely handy. My daughter had her phone stolen from her purse by a classmate. As the other child did not turn the phone off, I was able to track it right to her front door. And even better, we did not involve the police or the school. The adults were able to sort things out all on our own.

    1. You’re guilty of being smart, and not a Luddite. Good for you. And another reason to enable Share My Location on your kids’ iPhones.

      1. So those of us who aren’t electronically tracking our kids are dumb Luddites? The parents of children for the last, oh, let’s say, 20,000 years or so are all wrong, but you are the smart one.
        Got it.
        I’ll take being a dumb Luddite over electronically tagging my kid like they are some kind of endangered animal.

  11. Not that my folks would have considered something like this, if they had…. It would be likely I would have said “l’m going to Timmies house now” Timmie would have said the same thing. I drop my lojack at his house he drops his at mine….and then we are free, but I was raised to be independent and being the 4th of 5 kids was usually only noticed when I fucked up… I had a great childhood. It may have been only a city of 150,000 but I knew every square corner of it by the time I was 16 and could drive. I really do feel sorry for kids now…

  12. You can already get this functionality with cell phones.

    And it will be circumvented the same way: Tell you kid not to go to the mall, and when their buddies are going to the mall, they give their gizmo to whoever is stuck in study hall, and pick it up later.

    1. WTF? The kid will just turn the phone off or take the battery out (if removable). Too much risk that whoever is stuck in study hall will prank/sabotage you if you give him to phone.

      When parent says “I tried calling/texting you. Why didn’t you pick up/text back?”, then kid goes with “Dead battery. And YOU wouldn’t let me go to the mall to get a battery pack!”

  13. If you absolutely cannot contemplate the possibility that your kid could get hurt, there’s really only way to make that happen.

    Don’t have kids.

  14. I worked with a company that did custom board design for lots of connected projects. They were insanely good at fitting efficient antennas into a given enclosure and getting the product through FCC licensing.

    One of their inside jokes was how many times they had helped a client develop a kid GPS tracking device. I guess tons of people have tried to get this type of device sold, but parents generally don’t buy it. I’d be interested with the plummeting cellular costs for IoT devices if maybe this company can succeed because the service is now cheap enough.

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