Free-Range Kids

Florida Company Sells Ankle Monitors to Parents Who Want to Track Their Teens

"Most people-we're talking hardened criminals who try to cut it off-have ended up in the ER."


Jhandersen / Dreamstime

A company in Florida has started selling ankle bracelets—the electric kind felons wear on parole—to parents. The slogan on Tampa Bay Monitoring's website puts it bluntly: "When you need to keep track of your teen at all times."

Unlike the other GPS monitors parents are using, which track a kid's phone, this one is un-ditchable: The "bracelet" cannot be removed. Company owner Frank Kopczynski brags that the monitor is so secure, "most people—we're talking hardened criminals who try to cut it off—have ended up in the ER," he told the Miami Herald.

Two different models are available. First is a "minimally intrusive" bracelet that is "lightweight, accurate, waterproof, and provides instant alerts and evidence in the event of tampering, removal, loss of communication and entering or leaving set geographic zones."

Not quite sure how that qualifies as minimally intrusive, except that it is a little less San Quentin-like than the second model, which is bigger, bulkier and comes with an "optional, hardened steel encased security cuff."

Kopczynski says that he gets about six orders a week from desperate parents. But he's no slouch at amping up the parental desperation himself. To anyone worried about, say, the humiliation a teen girl might feel wearing an electronic cuff, he says that's nothing compared to her "running off with a guy who's going to eventually take her to a motel and beat her ass."

He is good at depicting other scenarios that torment a parent's imagination: What about runaways? What about sex trafficking? And, "With the opioid epidemic and fentanyl, what's worse: a dead child, or having them be embarrassed by wearing a bracelet?"

Parents do not need a court order to clamp one of these on their teen, though I'm guessing if any kid knew their parents were about to go this route, they would be tempted to run away, which is exactly what the bracelet is supposed to prevent.

The monitoring service costs $8 to $10 a day. One option includes a listening device that can hear whatever the wearer is saying—as well as what his friends (or kidnappers, I guess) are saying. It also allows the parents to speak to the teen demanding, "Sheldon, come home!"

This is all too reminiscent of the Black Mirror episode "Arkangel," in which a mom buys an iPad that allows her to monitor her daughter's activities. It doesn't end well. Neither will this.