April 24, 2014 11:59AM
By Mary Ellen Godin
Thanks to smartphones, some parents will be using GPS tracking to keep tabs on their little ghosts, zombies and candy corn witches during Halloween tonight.
“Kids are out and about and their parents want to know where they are, so Halloween is a great use of a temporary location-sharing technology,” Bryan Trussel, CEO of technology developer Glympse, recently told Reuters.
A free iPhone app, Track n Treat, allows children to send a link of their location via a phone number or email. This allows parents to track their whereabouts on a web browser for the next four hours.
Stephanie Leavitt, of Southington, and her husband drive their two elementary school age children from house to house. But she also has a daughter in eighth grade, who likes to go off on her own.
“It might be something I would consider for her,” Leavitt said. “I would definitely take a look at it.”
Using GPS technology to track older children might be nothing unusual for parents of children with smartphones, but public safety experts have mixed opinions of the technology and don’t recommend it for younger children.
“These apps are good for certain things,” said Lt. Salvatore Nesci, spokesman for the Meriden Police Department. “Parents should take a few extra minutes to accompany their children.”
Nesci and others agree that children between the ages of 13 and 15 might be suitable for GPS monitoring if they are mature, cautious and responsible. But children younger than that should be with their parents.
“If they are 13, 14, and 15 and they understand what it is to be cautious,” Nesci said. “But whether we can monitor them from the safety of our own home is based on the child’s age and level of maturity.”
Cheshire police spokesman Lt. James Fasano said parents shouldn’t be fooled into a false sense of security because they can monitor their child’s location. Phones can get lost and batteries can die.
“It doesn’t take the place of keeping your two eyes on your kids,” Fasano said. “The phone isn’t there to say ‘that home isn’t safe,’ or ‘you’re doing something that isn’t safe.’ It’s not anything more than a locator.”
One suggestion for parents of older children without smartphones is to give them theirs and use the find phone app.
But for children already familiar with phones, some of the apps, such as Family GPS Tracker for iPhone and Android, let parents see where their children are and send an alert when a child strays outside of a set area.
Life 360 lets family members view each others’ location on a map and keep in touch via group messaging. One Wallingford parent reported difficulty using Life 360, and an informal test of Family GPS Tracker found it was also difficult. Track n Treat, which provides tracking for four hours, was the easiest and most reliable.
Wallingford parent Susanne Jordan said she had never heard of parents tracking their children with smartphones. The vice chairwoman of the PTA Advisory Council said her two children, 15 and 18, are too old for trick-or-treating, but she had advice for other parents. If the children are older go out with other parents and stay out of their way.
“Tracking them with a cellphone?” Jordan said. “That’s kind of silly.”