Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Why every child needs a GPS cell phone

Sony Ericsson W760 (GPS Handphone)

Overprotective parents are keeping kids indoors. Now technology can set them free.
By Mike Elgan August 22, 2009 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - The root of America's health crisis is bad habits formed in childhood. To protect children from harm, parents are keeping kids indoors, where they get sick, watch TV and form lifelong habits of screen addiction, inactivity and junk-food overeating.
It's time to tag and release the children. We have the technology.

The solution: 'Big Brother' mother
Cell phones with GPS capability designed for kids give parents the best of both worlds. Parents can let kids play outside instead of watching a screen indoors, but they can also monitor junior's every movement and protect them from harm. They let parents call to check in -- and allow the child to phone home. Some even have panic buttons, and automatic alerts when kids are in danger.

Wherify's GPS Child Locator is a rugged GPS and cell phone wrist watch that enables parents to track kids on an online map. Parents can set specific times of day when the watch sends the child's location, and send text messages that can be read by the wearer. Pressing two buttons on the watch simultaneously calls 911. The watch locks onto the wrist, so kids can't remove it. Parents, however, can remotely unlock it.

The Num8 watch from the U.K.-based Lok8u lets parents monitor their kids' locations on the Lok8u Web site. They can also check in via SMS. By texting the watch, the watch replies with location. Location service is turned on when the watch is placed on the wrist. If the watch is removed, the parent's cell phone gets an alert immediately telling where it happened.

A company called Hop-On makes a product called the ChitterChatter Phone. It provides location data, and also has a one-button preprogrammed calling feature. The ChitterChatter Phone can be lashed to the wrist as a watch, but can also be worn around the neck or placed in a backpack or pocket.

The Amber Alert GPS gives location to the parents, but it also has a kind of "panic button" that, when pressed, sends an alert to up to five parent-programmed cell phone numbers. It also enables parents to set up a zone where the child is allowed to go. If junior exits the zone, the device sends out constant alerts showing current location. It has other features too, such as the ability to send alerts when the child is in a speeding car, or is in a hot place (such as a car with windows rolled up) or a cold place (such as a walk-in freezer). offers a device that isn't wearable as a wristwatch, but goes in a pocket or backpack. It shows not only where your child is, but everywhere he's been. It allows alerts when kids leave parent-designated zones, and has three programmable speed-dial buttons. It even has what the company calls "Taxi mode" that requires the child to respond once per minute.
If you're a parent, having your child wear or carry a GPS cell phone device is a great idea. But what we need is a mass cultural movement to embrace them. GPS cell phones should be as common on kids as sneakers and backpacks. Safety is multiplied when your kids -- and your kids' friends -- all have them. Children gravitate toward each other and play in groups. If any child has an accident, or gets lost or abducted, all the other kids can immediately alert parents and police, complete with exact location data.

Cell phones with GPS designed for kids help overprotective parents protect their offspring not only from strangers, accidents and getting lost, but also the disastrous health affects they are sure to suffer if kept indoors.

Mike Elgan writes about technology and global tech culture. Contact Mike at,follow him on Twitter or his blog, The Raw Feed.

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