The Internet and mobile GPS are incredible tools. Information like telephone numbers, opening hours, and train times are now at our fingertips. We can shop in a matter of moments and read the latest news. And what would we do without maps and directions at our fingertips on our phone? GPS has enabled us to get directions on the fly.
But apparently it has also created an ideal system for spying on kids. Or, for that matter, anyone else you choose to set it up to track.
Last week, a new application called Whereoscope, was launched - it lets you track your children on your own mobile phone via the location of their mobile phone. And which young person doesn’t have a mobile these days?
The Whereoscope takes advantage of a new iPhone OS4 feature which allows multiple applications to run simultaneously at once. To set up Whereoscope, the parent must designate a number of specific locations at which their child can be found like school, a best friend’s house, or the local playground. Once these locations are synched with the child’s mobile, the parent can choose to receive a push notification - like a text message - that tells them when the child has left a location or has arrived at another, unbeknownst to the child. All the child has to do is leave his or her mobile phone on so that a combination of mobile tower location analysis and GPS tracking can take place.
In theory, perhaps all this seems like a practical approach to ensure child safety - the cotton wool precautionary principle so well known to us. But is this actually really necessary? Isn't it bad enough that the government and others constantly lose your data, spy on your web traffic, and access your credit rating without your consent? Do we really want to do this to children too? Should we really be instilling this kind of big brother mentality into our kids when they (inevitably) find out that their parents are ‘spying’ on them via their mobile phone?
Being a teenager – or a young kid for that matter – is difficult enough, without having parents tracking every move. Most of us who are parents now grew up in an age where it was just fine to go out with our friends and call our parents from the cinema to tell them that we were going to be late or to say we were going to sleep over a friend’s house. We didn’t have the Internet or mobile phones, but we took responsibility (and learned from it), found our way, and did all the things that kids do – even get in trouble from time to time. That's all part of growing up.
Perhaps the best solution to all of this is to make sure, if you are kid and your parent has a new iPhone, that you turn off your mobile when you are out. But we all know that the iPhone’s battery lasts about 2 hours long with an application running in the background, so maybe we don’t have much to worry about anyway!