What Sounds Like Science Fiction Now May Be Coming Sooner Than You Think
By Erin Ryan Goodnow
It was a Sunday afternoon in a crowded department store, and my son was practicing his new skill, walking, with pride. For a second, I thought my husband was watching our little wanderer. He thought I was on watch duty. There is no blame in that moment. There is panic.
My husband and I both called out our son’s name in a tone and volume that was an attempt at staying calm. When there was no answer, the second calling of his name was a loud screech and the beginning of me crying. Someone just 10 feet away asked us if the little boy hidden behind the shoe display was our son.
The incident lasted probably 20 seconds with no damage done, except for the scarring fear left in me. In the aftermath, my husband and I have had a lot of conversations about keeping track of our children. We could have used some help that day.
As my children get older, I’m constantly reinforcing things like always staying next to me in a crowd, finding a police officer or security guard if they are lost, memorizing my name (which they were surprised to learn is not “Mommy”) and cell phone number, and more safety precautions. And they’ll probably get their own cell phones by the time they are in junior high. But will I put a chip in them, like a dog, to find them when they are lost?
Inserting a chip behind a person’s neck or inside their arm is still just science fiction, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens in the not-so-distant future. Today, there are multiple apps and bracelet-like gadgets to keep track of your kids, each with their own benefits and possible risks.
To me, the benefits of these tracking devices are pretty simple:
- Peace of mind
- Free or relatively low-cost
- Keeping your kids honest
- Simple to take immediate action if ever necessary
But one risk still worries me: dependence. Would I rely on a bracelet or app to keep track of my children? Would I be more lax in my reinforcing of the safety tips that have stood the test of time—don’t talk to strangers, hold my hand, and text me when you get to school/practice/your BFF’s house?
I would also fear that parents and children might disagree about when it would be time to retire these apps. This disagreement could damage a relationship that needs to include a certain level of trust in the teenage years (though I’m sure that’s easier said than done).
Finally, I wonder how secure these apps are from hackers and others who might use the information and location of children with bad intentions.
We may chip our dogs, but most of us also train our furry friends to come when they are called and not run away from us. The training element is key for our children as well. I am my child’s keeper, and I think it might be part of my job to teach them to be smart—not just to buy them smart technology and discharge my duty. If a battery dies or an app shuts down, I want to have the confidence that my kids can find their way back to me.