TechDirt writes about another kid tracking scheme – or what I call a YAKTI (Yet Another Kid Tracking Idea).

These start-ups certainly seem to be flavour of the month and indeed, it’s rumoured that it’s another bandwagon the VC community is attempting to clamber on board.

I briefly flirted (for about 3 minutes) with a start-up along these lines in the aftermath of the high profile abduction and murder of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman back in August 2002. As a parent principally, I thought that it would be good to be able to keep a virtual eye on my kids like this.

But a few minutes thought exposes it as absurd.

Firstly, the mobile phone will be the first thing an abductor will get rid of. Actually, this is precisely what Ian Huntley, the murderer of the two girls, did in that case. Most people know about the possibility of tracking phones, in the same way as they know about tracing landlines.

Not wishing to be too gruesome, the same will apply to an embedded RFID tag in a kid’s arm or leg. It (the RFID tag) will be removed somehow and dumped. Remember the scene in The Matrix where Neo has his RFID tag removed when traveling in back of the car?

Could an RFID tag be disguised somehow? This would be pretty difficult as it’s designed to broadcast its location!

The other reason why you might want a kid tracking device is to make sure that they’re where they should be (school, for instance) and they don’t go where they shouldn’t (perhaps a pub or staying over night with their boyf). A kind of parental Big Brother.

I mean Big Brother in the Orwellian 1984 observational sense. Not that they’ll have develop scouse accents, loose 20 IQ points and be filmed faking sex on TV.

The trouble with this Geo-Fencing idea (buzz word du jour) is that it’s pretty easy to fool too. It’s simple – you leave your phone where you’re meant to be or give it to a friend to look after and they stay where you should be.

Having said that, to a kid, having to go out without their phone is a pretty powerful incentive to stay where they say they’ll be. Most simply can’t operate socially without one thse days. But I fully expect that most kids who have something to hide will have a second phone for when they want to get up to naughtiness.

Given that the two main reasons for tracking kids are invalid, I can’t see that these services will succeed.

In any event, call me quaint and old-fashioned, but how is a kid meant to grow a sense of responsibility and independence is she has to behave in a certain way because she’s being watched 24/7?

I’m pleased to say that TechDirt agrees with this point of view and writes that relying on tracking schemes mean “that the kids aren’t taught more important awareness/street smarts skills that would help them to avoid, prevent or escape any potential abduction”.

As with most parenting issues, your best chance of success is good communication. Not that that’s an easy answer either 🙂

It seems that in this case, technology isn’t solving any problem on the one hand and just providing another way (to paraphrase Larkin) for mums and dads to fuck up their kids, on the other.

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