Vodafone have this week proudly displayed two new wearables, their latest technology offering. They include a band and a watch which Vodafone say will enable parents to stay in contact with their offspring, particularly ‘when parents start to give them more independence.’
In both the band and watch is a V-Sim – a physical SIM card embedded in the V-SOS Band – which provides connectivity to the network and is pre-programmed by parents to include important contacts.
Entitled the V-Kids Watch by Vodafone, it has a 450mAh battery that provides up to three days power. Messaging and games are included as well as the SOS code signal of distress and location functions.
The smaller band provides a month of power and fall detection and has a less fine-grained geolocation features.
In a boon for parents, Vodafone said kids no longer needed to own a smartphone as the watch, in particular provides the important functionality of an expensive smartphone. And, of course it is less likely to get broken or stolen.
These new technologies follow on from Vodafone’s V-Pet that tracks your pet, V-Bag that tracks your luggage and MOVETRACK which does the same for your car.
Vodafone is entering an increasingly crowded marketplace. The proliferation of GPS on many devices means keeping track has become ever easier. Some now offer geo-fencing an electronic barrier drawn on a digital map, which when crossed, immediately alerts the parent.
Of course, losing a child is a parent’s worst nightmare and at face value these devices seem to offer the parents a high-tech solution. But is it healthy to turn to technology to monitor the whereabouts of our kids?
It is understandable that parents want to do anything they can to keep their children safe, but they need to ask themselves whether tracking technology is really necessary and whether it will actually protect their children.
Parents need to teach their children to be independent and to be able to cope with risks and dangers.
A big concern is that it becomes normal for children to be tracked all of the time. Children have a right to privacy as much as anyone else. They need private spaces to be able to play and grow without feeling they are constantly watched.- Pam Cowburn: Communications Director, Open Rights Group
Adrian Harmel, founder of Weenect, a company that produces GPS trackers for children disagrees. He said trackers should not be seen necessarily as a spying device. He asserts their devices give children independence while at the same time reassuring parents.
He does say though that parents should fully explain to their children the purpose of the tracker and that they still need to be careful when out and about.
The NSPCC argues that these gadgets can never be a replacement for parental attention. For them no technology can completely protect a child and in the end talking to them about dangers and responsibilities is the best way to educate them.