Protectiveness goes with the parenting territory. Tolstoy perhaps described this best in Anna Karenina when a main character, Levin, considered his newly born child:
What he felt for this small being was not at all what he had expected. There was nothing happy or joyful in this feeling; on the contrary, there was a new tormenting fear. There was an awareness of a new region of vulnerability. And this awareness was so tormenting at first, the fear lest this helpless being should suffer was so strong, that because of it he scarcely noticed the strange feeling of senseless joy and even pride he had experienced when the baby sneezed.
So for the Levins of today, the advent of new technological tracking tools has seemed, for some, a blessing. As the New York Times reported yesterday,
Most parents have experienced that feeling of fear when a young child wanders off at the playground or disappears during a trip to the supermarket. New technology, in the form of voice watches and miniature sensing devices, is aimed at thwarting such distress by keeping track of children who are too young to carry a smartphone.
The FiLIP smartwatch is enabled with all the latest location tracking tools for parents to be able to monitor their children wherever they may wander off to. The FiLIP connects to a smartphone app that allows the parent to either check their child’s location simply, or to set certain locations bounds. The parent can receive a notification when their kid gets to school, for instance, or can map out the boundaries of the local park and be notified if their child gets more adventurous than they are allowed to be. It also works as a pre-cell phone that can call or be called by up to five pre-approved numbers. The big red emergency button will, when pressed, begin calling those numbers in order while emitting an ambient sound and texting the primary parental phone.
Child-tracking has been more popular for the bigger, more mobile young drivers, for as NPR’s “All Tech Considered” recently put it, “Nowhere is the temptation to use technology to monitor a child greater than when that child is learning to drive.” Black boxes with basic location tracking have been around for years, but the increasing availability of cheap GPS and cell-internet have led to devices like the Drive Pulse. The Drive Pulse plugs into a car’s OBD-II diagnostic port to feed real-time information including rapid acceleration and braking and speed along with location back to, again, a smartphone app.
NPR reports that Giancarlo Daniele, the Drive Pulse’s creator, was conflicted about whether to include location tracking in the first place, as his product is primarily pitched at allowing parents to help their teens to become better drivers, and discourage dangerous driving, “but the parents they spoke to demanded it. ’That’s what they were willing to pay for,’ he said.” The kids are less enthusiastic. Kate Reardon, a Kenyon junior, defended her high school brother from the device’s introduction: “‘I actually thought that that was a really weird thing to want to put in a car,’ Kate said. ‘I think it just makes this antagonistic relationship between your parents and you. And it’s really not probably super-healthy for anyone. It reduces communication to someone stalking the other and I don’t think anybody really likes that.’”
One wonders, though, if the FiLIP kids will have the same reservations once they get tossed the keys.