We all know cell phones are here to stay. You can’t walk 10 feet in any public place without seeing some parent, child, or teen talking on their cell phone. You can even go to ‘poor’ countries and find that many people have access to this type of wireless communication. But have you ever heard of a kids GPS phone that is designed specifically to help parents keep tabs on their children?
A few years ago, cellular phone companies found out that busy parents needed a solution to their business problem. With the pressures of work and the need to get things done around the house, get kids to their activities, make dinner, and be sure that they have money for their future parents realized that they weren’t giving their children the time that they deserved. As a result of this they developed types of cell phones that have been labeled ‘kid phones’ for the functionality made specific for children of a young age.
These phones generally have certain features that make them particularly useful for small children. One of them is that they often have the regular number pad removed. This is replaced by a speed dial pad. This helps your child on two levels:
- They do not have to memorize telephone numbers at all. While most children are very good at memorization as early as the age of 4, so you are not having them memorize your cell phone number because they are not able too. But in the heat of an emergency a child’s brain might not be able to hand the recalling the seven digits that make up your phone number. By reducing it to a simple speed dial you are giving your child’s mind the ability to remember that “One equals Mommy” or that “The red button equals the police man.”
- By keeping your child’s phone to the simple speed dial options you reduce the risk of them using the cellular device for non-necessary reasons. You don’t your child to have access to all the internet, text messaging, and camera features that a regular cell phone might have. They simply don’t need all of that. You want them to be able to give you call in case of an emergency or if they need to be picked up from school. That is all.
The speed dial feature on kids phone seems to be the focal point of most the phone design. The screens are often just big enough to display who you are calling and if the call is connecting or not. Then there is the are the ‘send’ and ‘end’ buttons. These are generally large and obvious for your child.
For many years these types of devices have been being utilized by parents to help ‘keep in touch’ with their children while parents go about their busy lives. During this same period of time, we have also seen an explosion in GPS technology in consumer electronics. The trickle down effect has finally made its way into cell phones and specifically created a new class of phone: the kids GPS phone.
Understanding Kids GPS Phones
Cell phones and GPS technology are very similar in nature. With GPS, a signal containing relevant position information is transmitted from a satellite in geosynchronous orbit. As more and more signals reach a GPS receiver, the computer inside the device is able to calculate the position of the receiver using the information provided by the satellites and a mathematical process called trilateration. (For more information see our article on how GPS tracking watches work.)
Cell phones are very similar. They receive signals from cell towers that often dot the urban landscape in a type honeycomb pattern. These signals tell the cell phone that they are in service, how strong that cellular service is (i.e. how many ‘bars’ do you have?), and whether or not you are accepting calls at the moment (is the phone on or off?). When you talk with your phone, it is really acting like a very complex walkie-talkie where what you hear is being transmitted to you on one channel while what you say is being broadcast over another channel.
One interesting side effect that this has is that phones can be used as a tracking device even if they don’t have GPS enabled. This is because the cell towers can measure how long it takes to get a response back from your cell phone between the different towers in your area. Once it has this information, it can use it in conjunction with the known position of all the cell towers to find your general location. Now this is probably not as accurate as a GPS phone, but it is still pretty accurate.
This similarity between the workings of GPS and cell phones made them obvious candidates for integration into a single device: thus the GPS phone was born. The most common application of this type of phone is found in the ubiquitously necessary navigation system. Turn by turn direction and road maps seem to be all the rave these days and cell phone companies saw a market that they wanted to tap into. This was definitely the first use of GPS in cell phones. (Though it is important to note that not all phones with navigation capabilities have GPS enabled on them – the simply might have it available because of the location information available from cell towers.)
Eventually some executive or engineer decided to implement the GPS feature on the kids phones that they were already developing. Perhaps it could be a good way to upsell some parents and get them to subscribe to more services while offering them an improved experience and more functionality. Either way, parents might want it and cell phone providers were going to give them kids GPS phones.
These devices take advantage of both the cell phone and GPS technology that their small plastic cases contain. Unlike a kids GPS tracking watch, kids GPS phones are able to penetrate areas that can often be hidden from the watchful eye of the Global Positioning Satellites orbiting overhead. These areas often have some type of obstructed view of the sky overhead – such as a heavily wooded area or building – but can have access to a cell signal. While the location information is significantly less accurate when based on information provided from the cell portion of the kids GPS cell phone, it is still better than nothing all.
Another key feature of these GPS devices is that they are also cell phones. While some GPS watches for children also have this capability as well, many child locators do not. There is something powerful in knowing that you can reach out and call your child whenever you are concerned about their whereabouts or safety. It is also nice to know that they can turn around and call you as well if ever they are worried or concerned. You are never more than a phone call away.
Plans and prices for the kids GPS cell phone are fairly reasonable if you are serious about having this type of capability in something that you already have your child using anyway. You probably will not have to use it very often (most parents never need to), but if you feel like it will give you some peace of mind and supplement the safety of your family there is certainly some quality providers out there who can provide a kids GPS phone to meet your needs.
Parents also have the option of leveraging current cell phones and turning them into tracking devices for free. Just download one of the many cell phone trackers out on the market and you can instantly turn a normal cell phone into a power tracking device. Just be sure that you have the data plan to cover it since this type of activity can be data heavy. But if you are already paying for a data plan why not make the most of it and install a tracker on your kids cell phone?