With the advancing technology, especially in the area of navigation and the development of compact and powerful terminals, a relatively large market of personal GPS tracking devices, so-called “trackers,” has emerged. These make it possible to reliably locate the wearer of such a device via a location app. As a result, parents can track their loved ones movements with their own smartphones at any time.
Previously, such devices were mainly used to find runaway dogs again. Today, many parents use such GPS trackers in order to be up-to-date on the whereabouts of their children in everyday life.
These have been made more attractive and equipped with additional functions: It is available, for example, as a cute pendant for the satchel or as a small clock for the wrist. Equipped with an alarm button, the parents can be informed immediately about an emergency or receive a message immediately when the son or daughter leaves a predetermined area – the garden or the schoolyard – (geo-fencing). Some trackers can also have one built-in microphone which can be used to talk through, or be used as a way of acoustic monitoring.
The concerns, fears and worries of many parents are served by different providers, so that in the meantime, a relatively large and for the providers’ lucrative market for these specific GPS devices has emerged, although many smartphones already offer similar features.
What about privacy?
Data protectors see a problem in the fact that the geodata are stored distributed on servers around the world and you even as a producer of just this movement data has no access to it. This loss of control over your own data can be scary for some. According to the experts on GPS at AIBLUE, many users are currently voluntarily uploading vast amounts of personal information online, whether through social networking or GPS tracking when using some apps. Here everyone has to decide for themselves how important their own data is to him and whether this problem is not trumped by the advantage of the feeling of security.
An educational assessment of the pros and cons
From a pedagogical point of view, reference is first made to the Basic Law (GG) and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: children and adolescents, like adults, have a right to privacy and an uncontrolled secret and private sphere. Due to their educational privilege (Article 6 (2) of the Basic Law), parents may limit this right to a reasonable extent in justified cases. With regard to the permanent location and possibly also acoustic monitoring of minors by GPS devices and tracking apps, it should, therefore, be carefully considered whether the use of this technology is really meaningful and takes into account the well-being of the minors.
The tracker facilitates the duty of care on the one hand…
At first glance, these devices seem ideal for parents to facilitate their oversight and care. After all, with their help they are always informed about where the son or daughter is currently, whether they deviate from the agreed daily routine or whether intervention (emergency) is necessary.
… but does not replace encouraging discussions
Parents, however, should not get a false sense of security according to the motto: It’s all good, nothing will happen, it has the transmitter is on and I can see at any time, where he or she is staying. Technology alone cannot adequately protect loved ones. Rather, kids need a good discussion in which appropriate attention is drawn to risks, issues of insecurity, meaningful rules and agreements are made. They benefit from this trust given and the preparation much more than the device which can be removed, run out of battery or it could be damaged.
Because all the experience in the area of prevention shows that it is best to protect one’s children by strengthening them. This includes the admission of age-appropriate open spaces that allow them to develop into independent and self-confident personalities. Overprotection and constant control do not strengthen this development.
The opposite is the case: the kids can feel that they are not trusted, that only mom and dad know what’s best for them. In the long term, this can lead to a feeling of inferiority. After all, how should kids develop the necessary self-reliance and the necessary self-confidence to make their own decisions as well, if parents can always sit behind their necks and follow every step?
On the other hand, children experience a false understanding of the dangers that lurk everywhere. They get the feeling that only constant monitoring by the parents with the help of the GPS tracker can protect them properly. A highly emotional climate of anxiety is created, in which the children do not feel safe, even though they necessarily have their own, the age-appropriate, free space.
Parents, on the other hand, may find themselves in a kind of unhealthy control compulsion to poll the child’s location every few minutes, and in a need to be permanently energized, they can lose all composure and the confidence in their child.
All in all
Parents need to weigh up the need for protection and the need for children to have unrestricted experiential spaces. On the one hand, there is the (parental) duty of supervision, a duty of care, on the other hand, especially older kids can see spying as an excessive intervention in their privacy. This can lead to a rebellion or raise children who do not dare and trust anything.
However one decides, parents should never secretly track their kids without their knowledge, because the highest good of the parent-child relationship is and remains mutual trust.