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Child tracking devices?

January 27, 2010

The mother of one of my elementary school friends has worked for a pretty wealthy family for quite a long time. Through that family, she got a dog named Holly that I wasn’t even really afraid of. (Did I mention my fear of dogs yet? Well, there that is.) I was fascinated by Holly because not only was she a very well-behaved, beautiful dog — sorry I don’t know breeds — but she was also pretty tech-savvy. Holly had something like puppy LoJack installed by her tail.

If you felt near her rear, you could feel a rather small computer chip that used GPS technology to track her down if she was ever stolen or ran away. At the time, it was unheard of and I thought that as long as it didn’t hurt the dogs then it was a really great idea. Now it is more commonly used, and has helped many sad pet owners to happily reunite with their furry friends.

The idea of embedding computer chips into humans has been around for some time. It was referenced in the 1995 film Johnny Mnemonic (Johnny was a data courier, with the information stored in a brain chip) and more recently in the television show Fringe (Walter Bishop implants a tracking chip into his neck so his son Peter can find him if he wanders off). A current Google search reveals more than a million results for articles, blog entries, etc., related to making this practice more common.

Why, you might ask, would I bring this random idea up? I read a piece recently discussing the pros and cons of using GPS technology to keep tabs on children (leaving a tracking device in their bag or something, not embedded in their skin).

Personally, I am not thrilled with this idea. Of course, I can understand parents’ fears about their child getting abducted, abused or worse. I watch SVU; I know what’s out there. But while it could provide some peace of mind in that sense, there are so many other things that could happen to kids that a GPS could never detect.

Really, my biggest issue with the whole kiddy GPS thing is that you are taking away your child’s privacy. A kindergarten student doesn’t need much alone time, and their parents or guardians should keep tabs on them. But as that child with a chip in their backpack grows up, they will know that they are being monitored. They may feel that they aren’t trusted, or that they need to act or live a certain way because they are being watched. It could dramatically affect their personality and inhibit them in a way that a lack of GPS technology wouldn’t. 

As I said, I do see both the benefits and the downsides to monitoring children in this way. However, I am definitely more con than pro.

What do you think about this technology? Would you ever consider planting a tracking device on your child?

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