More Parents want Child-Tracking Devices in Wake of Madeleine Abduction

More parents in the UK are demanding child-tracking devices in the wake of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann and the abduction of the three-year-old Margaret Hill in Nigeria.

Published 12 July 2007

More parents in the UK are demanding child-tracking devices in the wake of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann and the abduction of the three-year-old Margaret Hill in Nigeria.

Holidays have already arrived in some schools for children, and parents are considering tagging their young ones.

The UK market offers tags to ensure children do not stray too far and mobile phones such as Teddyfone, which allows parents to listen-in with an SOS button for emergencies.

Connect Software, which offers child-tracking device ToddlerTag, initially only supplied childcare providers.

Chris Reid, from Connect Software, says: "We never anticipated selling it to the general public but what with events in Portugal, our website hits have gone through the roof."

In April, it received just 2,607 hits compared to 16,661 in May and 24,699 in June.
"We have been inundated with queries from parents, particularly those whose children have special needs, where they have a tendency to wander off or have no sense of danger."

He continued: "We are not saying our devices are an alternative to good parenting but if people want a safety net, then it is there."

Children's charities, however, say that using child-tracking devices may fill children with fear and suspicion.

Dr Michele Elliott, from Kidscape, says: "The dilemma is why are we tracking children?

"This kind of technology gives the illusion of freedom but the child is tied to the device and a parent is tied to a computer."

Dr Elliott said she could see a "limited use" in certain circumstances for some children but also the pitfalls.

"There's the expense, then kids are always losing things and a kidnapper will simply throw the device away," she said.

"I would much rather teach kids practical responses in times of emergency such as screaming and running towards shops or people."

She is also wary of parents becoming too complacent relying solely on technology.
"What parents are worried about is kids being abducted," she said. "But for the past 28 years, between five to nine children have been abducted and killed by a stranger each year, and that has not changed.

"It's still horrendous but you have to keep it in perspective. Thirty to 60 people a year in the UK are hit by lightning and we don't put lightning rods on the top of children's heads."

Meanwhile, Psychologist Dr Nadja Reissland says there is no substitute for "human watchfulness", especially with small children.

She warned that putting teenagers under surveillance can make them feel like "criminals" and destroy trust between parents and children.

Children, she says, can pick up on a parent's stress which in turn may lead to an "irrational fear" of crime.

"I can understand parents being worried," she adds, "but that comes with the job."

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