What is a Child Tracking Device?

Lindsay Kahl

Hundreds of thousands of children are reported missing every year. The vast majority of them are recovered quickly, but many parents greatly fear discovering that their child is missing. As technology advances, parents are taking greater measures to know where their children are at any given time. One of the resources available is a child tracking device. Some of these devices use a global positioning system (GPS) to ascertain a child’s location from long distance, and others use radio frequency for nearby locations.

A child tracking device can allow a parent to know where a child is.
A child tracking device can allow a parent to know where a child is.

Systems for tracking children typically include the child tracking device and a base unit, which is kept at home or with the parents. For long-distance tracking with some systems, a parent is able to monitor the child’s movement on the Internet, using GPS. Some devices can be configured to send automatic updates regarding where the device has been and how quickly it is moving. In some cases, a parent can set allowed parameters for travel; for instance, a parent might allow a child to go to a nearby park, but if he or she strays too far from the specified area, the parent will be alerted.

Child tracking devices can be attached to a child's clothing.
Child tracking devices can be attached to a child's clothing.

For indoor tracking, most devices utilize radio frequency. This type of device is suited for use at home or in public places such as grocery stores or shopping malls. These indoor systems often include a base unit for the parent and one or more homing tags for the children. Some of these systems allow the parents to specify how far a child is allowed to wander before an alert sounds at the base unit.

One type of child tracking device is worn by the child and might be in the form of a watch or attached to a shoe. Typically, these devices can be removed only by using a specific key or electronic pass code. If someone attempts to remove it without the key or code, an alarm will sound at the base unit. With most of these devices, children also can press a button to call 911 or their parents if they are in danger. There also are handheld devices which can be placed in a backpack or purse and offer many of the same features.

The cost for a child tracking device varies greatly, depending on the features offered with the system. Some devices require a monthly fee in addition to the purchase price. With many systems costing several hundred US dollars, child tracking devices might be prohibitively expensive for some parents.

Child tracking devices may help prevent kidnappings.
Child tracking devices may help prevent kidnappings.

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Discussion Comments


@umbra21 - I would argue that it's all a moot point. Personal tracking devices are common now, and really you can track someone off their cell phone anyway.

When a technology exists, there will always be people who take advantage of it. You can argue that people shouldn't be tracking their kids in a bad way, but if they are the kind of people to do that, they'll use whatever they have at their disposal to do it.

That shouldn't stop the people who just want to keep their kids safe from using the technology as well.


@KoiwiGal - I would argue that it's worth it. I mean, parents don't have to track their child's every move, and yes some people might abuse the device, but I don't think they would be any better without it. Strict parents have always found ways of keeping tabs on their children.

And the idea of a missing child is just terrifying. I would go to a lot of trouble to make sure that didn't happen.

Now, I think if you just explain to your older kids what the device is for and have a good relationship with them, it isn't an issue. I mean, I'd just promise never to look at where they had gone unless I was scared for them.

Kids sometimes go behind the bleachers and have a smoke, or go into the local porn shop so they can giggle with their friends.

I don't think having a GPS tracking their movements will change that.


I can see why a parent would want to do this, but I would be very concerned with the ethics of it.

At some point your children should be able to feel like they have some kind of privacy. Knowing that they are being tracked all the time might stop them from doing things they would prefer to do.

And I can see all kinds of ways in which it might be misused.

An abusive parent might track a child and punish them for stepping out of bounds. Parents could use these GPS tracking devices to control every movement of a kid. Which is not so bad when the kid is ten maybe, but what about when they are seventeen?

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