There’s an interesting debate over at the New York Times’ Motherlode Blog, which posted an article on a GPS-enabled watch that would allow the watch-wearers to be tracked. Commenters are debating the pros and cons of using such a surveillance device to track your children.
There are numerous examples of surveillance of children: WIth camera systems (in Washington, DC; the state of Washington; the United Kingdom; and, Sweden, among others) and with RFID tags (in California and Rhode Island, for example). Location-tracking devices are also nothing new; they are proliferating among mobile phones and in other areas of life.
The blogger, Lisa Belkin, has questions about why parents would want to use the watch, called Num8.
In other words, your child goes out into the world, wearing a watch that sends text messages telling you, within a few yards, where they are. It’s not the first device to do this — there are similar set-ups in cellphones. But those can be tossed, lost, stolen or turned off and this one sees the removal of the watch as literal cause for an alarm.
Talking to reporters at the CES, Steve Salmon, Lok8u’s chief executive presented it as a way to give children freedom. “As far as the child is concerned it’s a digital watch — for the parent it’s a child-locating product,” he said, “Only 20 percent of children are now allowed to go out and play. It’s my profound hope that Num8 will help parents feel more comfortable about letting their children go out to play.”
But to me it sounds a bit like a house arrest ankle bracelet, or, to use a more domestic and less criminal analogy, a nanny cam disguised as a teddy bear.
I never felt right about nanny cams. If you felt you needed one, that was probably your gut saying you had the wrong babysitter. Similarly, if you expect your child will be ditching your electronic surveillance, odds are you have problems that a watch can’t fix.