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Child tracking devices: Do they work?

Tiernan McKay is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. Her writing has appeared in magazines such as Alive!, Occupational Health and Safety, Restaurants and Institutions, Tampa Bay and Arizona Woman. Right now, she is either ridi...

How to keep kids safe

There's just something about being a parent that makes you fear the worst. Even those of us who were once carefree and easy going become a touch paranoid once our own children are introduced to the world. In response to this parental concern, the child tracking device market has boomed in recent years.

Child lost in crowd

When it comes to our children's safety, it's hard to put a price tag on peace of mind which is why many parents will dish out lots of money on high-tech child tracking devices. Are they worth it?

Loc8tor PlusThe Options

The number of child tracking devices on the market continues to grow each year.

There are two main types of devices available: those using Assisted-GPA (A-GPS) technology and those using Radio Frequency (RF) technology.

A-GPS devices require a service fee (usually monthly) and often utilize cellular technology to communicate the information. WorldTracker GPRS is a highly-rated A-GPS locator. It is pricey (upwards of $700) and requires a set-up fee and a regular service charge.

RF devices, on the other hand, are less expensive and best suited for short-range tracking. Loc8tor Plus is closer to $200 and uses audio and visual cues to direct you to the homing tag placed in a child's pocket.

The Concern

You've probably seen an ad for a tracking device in which a frantic parent hurriedly checks a monitor to locate a lost child. Parents are left wondering what they would do in the same situation.

According to Kim Estes, Director of Education and Outreach for P.E.A.C.E. of Mind Parenting Education and Child Empowerment parents regularly ask her opinion on tracking devices. "We acknowledge each parents concern but also help them to understand the limitations of the devices, while deciphering the statistics that these companies use to market their products," she says. "In the end, most parents realize that proactive safety conversations with their children are more powerful than a tracking device."

The Truth

Although the fear of losing your child in the mall or at an amusement park is real, most parents opt for a tracking device to protect their kids in case of abduction. "According to statistics, the chances of your child being 'snatched by a stranger' are about 1 in a million," says Estes. "Child tracking devices can create a false sense of security for parents and many are not reliable." Many parents don't consider that weather, battery life, limited range, buildings and other interference can make the devices less effective than expected.

The Best Protection

Estes urges parents to consider the most powerful tool in keeping your kids safe: Talking to your child about safety. "Education, empowerment and reducing your family's risk are the keys to safety," she says. "Talk to your child about safety throughout their childhood, updating the conversation to meet your child's changing safety needs."

Keep these conversations short and simple, without relying on scare tactics. "Educate your child on what to do if they get lost and practice how to seek help if they need it..." Also, be sure your kids know to check in with you before they go anywhere or accept a ride, even from someone they know.

EmFinders EMSeeQThe Exception

There are some situations when a child tracking device is worth the cost. The EmFinders EMSeeQ is a tracking device specifically designed for people with medical impairments who may wander off.

"I would recommend these devices to parents who are you are traveling abroad with young children, parents with a high needs-child," Estes says, "such as a child with autism who 'escapes' from the care of a parent -- Alzheimer's patients, or families who are camping in remote areas."

Also see: Keeping your autistic child safe: Practical, everyday tips for parents

For more information, check out missingkids.com.

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