I have been using GPS to track my kids and dogs for a few years now. Well technically, I’m using Bluetooth and GPS across a couple of different devices but, for the sake of this article, I’ll call it GPS tracking, even if it isn’t… but I digress already…
I have mixed feelings about using trackers on children, so I use mine sparingly, when I feel it is appropriate, and I always pray that I never NEED to use it. As it goes, I have only ever had to use it to locate a child twice, and hope I never will have to again.
So Kay, what made you buy a Child Tracker?
Well, I didn’t. I bought a luggage tracker.
We had lost some luggage on a holiday once, and when I went to by some new suitcases, they had these great little gizmos on the shop counter that you could attach to your suitcase, and then I could track my suitcase via an App on my mobile phone. They were inexpensive, and I love a gadget, so I bought two.
Fast forward two weeks, and Mr Kay and I were setting up by the pool at our hotel in Costa Del Sol on the first day of our holiday. This was peak season, and the hotel had about 10,000 fully booked rooms, the pool was like a small ocean and there were kids everywhere. Hundreds of them. Everywhere. Screaming, shouting, tubing, laughing, sliding, splashing – we were in kiddie paradise!
Not so much paradise for Mum and Dad though. My youngest still couldn’t swim, and even with arm bands and float devices and promises from older siblings to stay with her all the time, I still did not feel comfortable letting her out of my sight for a minute as I realized the ‘lounging by the pool’ part of my holiday was only going to last long enough to blow those Disney princess armbands up. She was a bit scared of the big pool, and kept her distance, but enjoyed splashing in the toddler pool. It wasn’t so much the pool that was bothering me, but more the fact that crowds of people kept obscuring my view, and I just couldn’t see her unless I was right next to her.
It was my eldest son who suggested it. “Why don’t you just put that tracker thing from the suitcase on her Mom?”. Brilliant. That’s exactly what I did, I strung it on a necklace and set her free. Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t turn around and go and lie face down on the lounger, but it somehow made me feel a little more secure knowing that I wasn’t going to lose her in this huge pool complex. I set myself up by the toddler pool, pulled out my trashy Jackie Collins novel and started to relax. Every 30 seconds or so, I would glance up over the top of my sunglasses and clock my kids all playing together in the toddler pool. Ahhhh… bliss…
3 days into our holiday, and everyone was really beginning to relax and chill out. Mr Kay and I were taking turns on ‘pool watch’. The Eldest son comes racing over frantically needing emergency ice cream for the 3rd time that day. I tell him I only have a 50 euro note, so I’m going to have to come with him. We go for ice cream. He reports that he wants chocolate and little Eliza wants strawberry. We get back to loungers and Mr Kay asks where’s his. I go back to get Mr Kay an ice cream. Upon my return, the eldest son and Mr Kay are in heated conversation, while looking at a strawberry ice cream splattered on the ground. Mr Kay points out “At least Eliza didn’t see, just go get another one!”.
No. Little Eliza didn’t see.
Me: “Where’s Eliza?”
The Eldest Son: “She’s with Grace”
Grace: “No, I’m here. Can I have an Ice cream?”
Mr Kay: “Kay, weren’t you watching her?”
Me: “No. I was getting ice creams, you were meant to be watching her!”
Me & Mr Kay simultaneously: “OMG OMG OMG Eliza is lost! Everybody spread out!”
Me: ” The luggage tracker! Turn it on! Now! Quick!”
Mr Kay: “OK! BUT IT’S NO BLOODY GOOD IF SHE’S LYING AT THE BOTTOM OF THE POOL IS IT?”
Eliza was fine. She was playing with another child at the other child’s parents loungers. The luggage tracker did brilliantly and had her located within seconds, and I couldn’t fault it…. but I was shaking like a leaf. I realized that I had somehow slacked off, my protective maternal instinct had also decided to chill out and go on holiday when I put the tracker around her neck, and Mr Kay’s words rang in my ears – It’s no bloody good if she’s lying at the bottom of the pool, is it?
Wait, What? You’re Saying Child Trackers are Bad Now?
No. Not all at. In fact, I was really impressed at how fast and easy it was to track my kids location that day by the pool, in fact, so impressed that I went on to buy GPS dog Collars, Bluetooth cat tags, and a more child specific GPS kids tracking device in the months ahead. However, that day made me realize that tracking devices don’t protect your children, and they can lull you into a false sense of security. I’m just saying that being forewarned is forearmed, and that a tracker is no substitute for watching your kids. When you slip a GPS tracking device around your toddlers neck, or on their wrist, and you feel that peace of mind sweep over you, shoo it away… Just because your house is alarmed, doesn’t mean you go out with all the doors and windows open now, does it?
GPS Tracking YOUR Toddler
You may have used a baby monitor to listen out for your child’s cry when he or she was sleeping in a cot or a crib. You may have then gone on to use a nanny-cam to ensure that the babysitter was taking care of your child properly. When you collect little Billy from nursery school or playgroup, you are handed a list of everything Billy ate, drank, pooped, scribbled or burped. From the moment our children are born, as parents, we watch and take note of every move they make. We do this for two reasons – one, it’s our responsibility. That’s what parents do, we nurture, we protect and we keep them safe. It’s parental instinct. The second reason, is because we can’t help it… we love them, and if something happened to them when we weren’t watching… well, it’s unthinkable.
So to take what seems to be the next natural step, and slip a GPS watch or bracelet onto little Billy’s wrist, or a GPS tag to a belt loop while little Billy is playing on the slide at the park to keep him safe seems perfectly harmless, in fact it seems like good parenting, and it is, if you take it for what it is, continue to be aware of your environment and don’t let it lull you into this false peace of mind that seems to be the tagline for every GPS Child Tracker out there.
There are tons of different products specifically designed to track toddlers, but alongside that, there are tons of questions you need to ask yourself in order to determine which tracker is right for you and your child, the most important of which is, what purpose do you need it to fulfill?
So when should I use my Child Tracker?
I do believe there are many very valid reasons for using GPS location devices on toddlers. At that age, children are running off all the time, if it’s not at the park, it’s at the market or the mall. Crowded environments like a fair, circus, zoo, beach, pool or theme park are ideal locations for putting your kids tracking device to good use. Places like this, with large crowds, with bright flashing colorful lights and loud sounds can be a stressful environment for any parent, as waves of people push past and we cling for dear life to our wide-eyed toddler’s little hand, hoping he doesn’t get lost in the crowd. GPS tracking technology is ideal for a situation like this, that ‘just in case he gets lost’ scenario, where our tracking device can quickly reunite you with your temporarily wayward toddler.
You know your toddler best, and only you can decide when the right time to use your tracking device is. My personal rule of thumb is, if I would naturally be in a heightened state of concern and feel the need to hold my toddlers hand really, really tight, then that’s the time to add the backup of my GPS tracker, just in case I need to track my kids location.
Common sense usually rules the day. If you purchase a GPS device in order to locate your lost toddler, you should be doing it with the hope that you NEVER have to use it. Keep in mind that the main reason you are considering one is for your OWN peace of mind. Remember that it’s not a safety device or an electronic nanny, use it in moderation…. and never, ever take your eyes off your toddler when out in public!