GPS Tracking For Kids

by Joe Mueller on February 9, 2009

Check out one of the smallest and most powerful GPS trackers for children: AmberAlert GPS

If you have ever found yourself wishing that you knew at any moment where your child was with an accuracy of up to 3 meters, then GPS tracking for kids might be something that you want to take a look at.  GPS has been around since the 80s when it was released for public use (before the Global Positioning Satellite system had been reserved solely for the military), but has only recently been made available for use by private persons for the tracking of the people closest to them – their children.

Before GPS tracking devices were simply too bulky to be of much use on a child – they were either too heavy to be safely and continuously carried, too large to be of much use for covert, safety oriented tracking, or they were too inaccurate to be of much help to consumers or their kids.  All this has changed in the last 5-10 years as technology has become increasingly smaller and more efficient.

Let me explain this with a similar bit of technological breakthrough that we have had in the same amount of time – namely that of computer storage. 10 years ago it would have a pipe dream to have a desktop computer with 160 GB of storage space – now iPods come with that much memory.  In the same way that computer technology in general has advanced so rapidly, GPS tracking technology has made leaps and bounds as well – becoming increasingly smaller, more power, more efficient, and more accurate.

All of these changes have been good for parents looking to keep tabs on their children with a technological solution.  But this begs the question, why should any child be tracked with GPS?

Reasons to Choose GPS Tracking For Kids

As far as I can tell, there are three main reasons to use GPS tracking for your kids: safety concerns, behavior problems, and paranoia.

Safety is probably the main reason most parents are going to want to use GPS to keep tabs on their children.  They want something that will quickly and accurately locate their child at a moments notice.  Is the child supposed to be at home but hasn’t been heard from in over an hour?  Are they supposed to be at Tim’s house to hang out after school and do some homework but a call to Tim’s parents reveals that your child never arrived?  Do you worry that something could happen to your child as they wait for you after baseball practice in the park by the canyon?  If any of these situations have happened to you then you know that you wish there was some way to find out where you child is right away.  GPS tracking for kids can provide accurate and reliable information for you in a way that is actionable and useful.

Take a moment and imagine that your child did not come home on time like you were expecting, fear is gripping you as you wait by the window for their arrival.  It could be that they simply hung around too long after school playing tether ball with their friends or took too long in the park as they cut across it on their way home.  You want to find out where your daughter is right now.  You run to your computer and you log in to your child’s GPS tracking watch provider to get a look at their position.  Your heart breathes a sigh of relief as you see that they are on their way home traveling at 2 mph about 2 blocks from home – they must have lingered too long at the park.

Now imagine that same situation where you find that your child is traveling 65 mph on a major highway heading away from home?  You’d dial 911 in an instant and you could be able to give the police some seriously useful information that would likely lead to the recovery of your child – all thanks to a GPS tracking device in your child’s backpack.

Another important reason to use GPS tracking for kids in some circumstance is behavioral problems or mental disabilities.  A child that is prone to wander because they suffer from some sort of behavioral or mental disorder is someone that you want to find and find quickly.  Short trips to the supermarket, or family vacations, or even simple trips to the park can become living nightmares as you search frantically for the child that has wandered off and slipped out of your site.  Child locators, a certain type of GPS tracking device, work great in this situation where quick feedback without the use of computer is necessary.  They are not always the best solution for families since they do have some issues and cell phones are becoming internet capable in a big way – making the obstacle of internet access to use location information much smaller.

And the final reason to get a GPS device to track your child is because you are paranoid and need to find someway to calm your own fears just a little bit.  The fact is that the vast majority of children have no need for GPS tracking.  They will go through their lives and never need the safety of always having their location just a moment away from being known by their parent.  Running a little late, being alone at a park after baseball practice, and playing hooky with a friend instead of being where they are supposed to be are all  normal activities for kids to be doing at some point in their life.  You probably did the same thing and your parents didn’t need a GPS device to keep tabs on you.

However, if you are person who works in Mexico City or some other place that routinely has kidnappings then it might be a good idea to get a GPS tracking device for your children so that when Man on Fire happens to you and your family, your Denzel Washington will be able to kick the crap out of the bad kidnappers who stole your Dakota Fanning.

Now that we have established three legitimate reasons to go out and purchase some sort of GPS tracking device for your child, it  begs the question, “What devices can I get that will provide GPS tracking for kids?”

Device That Use GPS Tracking For Kids

There are three main devices that you are going to find around the web and in stores that will assist you in keeping tabs on your child: gps tracking watches, covert GPS trackers, and kids GPS phones.

GPS tracking watches are a small, reliable, and kid friendly option for parents seeking to use GPS tracking with their children.  These devices are exactly what their name sounds like – they are a GPS tracking device that fits on the wrist of your child.  There are a couple of different brands available, but none of them are household names (certainly not Garmin, TomTom, or Magellan if that is what you were hoping for – though Garmin does offer a fitness GPS watch).  Some of the watches look a little funky, but in general they do provide you with what you are expecting.

In general, a GPS watch for kids is going to look a little bulky on their wrist, have some extravagantly ugly colors, and will probably throw up warning signals to any would be villain to get rid of the watch ASAP.  These devices are probably not as easy at GPS phones to get your child to use, but being attached at the wrist may make them less likely to be randomly lost.

The next option for parents to consider is covert GPS tracking for kids.  Again, there are a variety of different implementations to consider when going the covert route.  Do I go with a GPS in the shoe, teddy bear, coat, or backpack?  Do I go with a build in device or do I find something that I sew or attach myself?  How you answer these questions will determine what product you purchase.

The amount of information that you are going to get with a more covert approach to tracking is the same as what you would find with a a tracking watch, but the idea is that these covert trackers will escape detection for a very significant period of time.  If the device is hidden well enough in a “necessary” piece of equipment or apparel then you are almost certain that you will be able to find your child in any and all circumstances.

And finally, we have kids GPS phones.  These are kids cell phones that have integrated GPS technology so that they can get an accurate read on the phones position under almost any circumstance provided that the phone is on.

This combination of cell phone and GPS technology is very powerful.  A GPS signal will be able to give position information if the phone cannot use cell towers to establish a location, and cell towers can establish a location when a direct line of site with the sky has been obstructed by a car trunk, cement wall, or mound of dirt.  The cell phones power is in its usability in almost every circumstance.

This power is also its greatest weakness when considering it as a GPS tracking device for kids.  Everyone and there mother knows that cell phones can be used to communicate position information to the authorities.  This means that it is often the first thing to go if your child is in an emergency situation.  Kids GPS cell phones must be kept quiet and used very wisely by your child if it is to be effective at recovering them from something horrible.

In most normal conditions, kids GPS phones are great because they also let you talk directly with your child.  If they are late coming home, simply call them and ask them where they are – if what they tell you is different from what you computer is saying then you can deal with your child as you see fit.  The power to do so is now in your hands.

A Final Word On GPS Tracking For Kids

One thing that I haven’t mentioned yet but is very pertinent to our discussion here is the GPS tracking for kids costs money.  You are going to have to go in up front for a tracking device (whether it is a GPS tracking watch, covert GPS tracking device, or a kids GPS phone) and you are probably going to be hit with a reoccurring service charge every month to be able to use the tracking capability on the device.  This can add up to big money for a family already strapped for cash.

My advice is to think very carefully about using GPS tracking for kids and to only use it if it makes real sense given your family’s unique set of circumstances.

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