GPS in My Child?

Tragedy haunts a mother as her children seek independence

In Her Words

GPS in My Child?

Tragedy haunts a mother as her children seek independence

-Jennifer Trannon

The year I was 15, a 7-year-old girl in my brother’s class was bike riding with her friend when both girls were snatched by a stranger. The friend got away. Melissa’s body was found several days later. She had turned 8 in the days she was missing.

The town Melissa and I called home was a small town – smaller than most suburban high schools. This made her disappearance possibly more difficult for everyone who knew her. Small towns are like family, and a tragedy to one is a tragedy to all.

It has been almost 25 years since Melissa’s disappearance and subsequent death. I now have three young children of my own. And every time one of them wants to take a new step toward independence – going to the park alone, staying home alone, and especially bike riding alone – I am briefly thrown back to 1985, when an innocent little girl lost her life for doing exactly what my child is begging me to do.

And now I am asked the question “would you use a GPS to track your child’s whereabouts?”

There are products that now exist, not futuristic, cost-prohibitive, science fiction inventions, but real, live products which cost about the same as an iPod or a plane ride to Florida, which can be hidden on your child and will track his whereabouts at all times. That means if a bad person takes your child, you will know where that bad person takes your child, and you can go and get him.

So am I going to run out tomorrow and buy three?

I just don’t know.

The 15-year-old in me, who still cries for Melissa and the life that was stolen from her, thinks YES! Yes, give me three trackers now, so I will always know my babies are safe. Take away that feeling of panic I feel when I turn around in Target and my son has run off, or the tightening in my stomach when my daughter wants to ride her bike to her friend’s house all by herself.

But another part of me says no. I don’t really know why. Partly because, as soon as these battery-sized objects become commonplace, they will be the first thing a predator looks for on their prey, making the whole effort irrelevant. But also partly because being able to track a person, any person, is a slippery slope. Once we track our children in order to keep them safe, where will we draw the line? Will we decide that it’s OK to track our husbands and wives? How about our parents with Alzheimer’s? Maybe we should implant a tracker in the sex offender who lives down the street. And if him, then what about the other felons? If we know where people are, we can know what they’re doing. We can make sure they aren’t doing anything wrong. Maybe we should just track everyone – then if a crime is committed, we’ll know exactly who is responsible.

My final answer is … I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about it since I first heard of this amazing little contraption, and I just don’t know. It scares me to consider this option – to crack open the door and let Big Brother have a glimpse. But the ghost of a 7-year-old girl keeps telling me that if this device existed in 1985, she’d be 30 years old now. She’d probably have her own children now, who would be begging her to go for a bike ride on their own.

And she’d let them.

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15 thoughts on “GPS in My Child?

  1. Wow. This totally gave me goosebumps at the end. It’s a difficult concept, and Jennifer’s right–where do we draw the line–cheating husbands, felons, sex offenders, our children? Who gets the GPS? GREAT article! Would love to hear readers’ thoughts. I do like the idea of always knowing where my children are. I would let them have a bit more freedom if I could track them down at any moment!

  2. What? Where do we draw the line? That’s crazy — we don’t GPS our husbands; we do GPS our kids to keep them safe. I would LOVE one of these — but yes my fear would be that they become obvious and easily disposed of. A much harder question — would you get an invisible GPS implant in your kid if something like that existed? Because you know it will some day….

  3. I think about this all the time…with my two-year-old son, who’s already showing signs of independence and recklessness. We live near a busy road and a large, usually empty park, which we can access through an underground tunnel. Lots of places for a little boy to get into trouble–and possibly lost. I think: maybe a cell phone would help, but he could always lose or drop the phone. You’ve given us all a lot to think about, Jennifer.

  4. Kitty, what scares me about the implants, aside from the plain old scariness of implanting something into my children, is considering what a sexual predator might do to remove the implant if he discovered the child had one. Ever watch 24?

  5. so sad, but I think i would do it when my children are older and venturing off on their own … question is when they’re older would they be able to disable it so they could go where they want, and then it would be useless? Great story!

  6. personally i think having a GPS on your kid is kind of crazy. and more than likely, he or she isn’t a dummy and will figure out what’s going on eventually. they’ll then get told about it and freak out on you. i say teach your kids lessons by having the “what do you do in case a stranger tries to come up to you” talk and “who do you call if you’re in trouble” talk as well. gps is NOT the answer. what are you, hulk hogan putting a gps on his daughter brooke?

  7. This is a great article. I myself have 4 kids with the youngest just turning 18 and now in college (by herself), also I am the daughter of a retired State Trooper. Living in rural Alaska I understand this dilemma all too well. Kids can be taken in the blink of an eye… today I am sure parents such as Haleigh’s are wishing they had one. I believe we must learn to grow with our technology and use it wisely. As long as we have the power to control it and not big brother. I am NOT fond of the idea of implanted GPS but I do like the idea of GPS that I can hide on my child and would have used it when mine were little. While taking my elderly mother shopping I lose her frequently in large stores…sometimes taking 40 minutes to locate her…. aaaah to have a GPS I can give her while shopping is a thrilling idea! I think one of the main concerns with GPS is “control”… we MUST keep the control in our hands but we also must not avoid it if it is available to us.

  8. What? Where do we sketch the line? That's insane — we don't GPS our husbands; we do GPS our children to keep them secure. I would LOVE one of these — but yes my worry would be that they become apparent and quickly discarded. A much more complicated query — would you get an unseen GPS improvement in your kid if something like that existed? Because you know it will some day…

  9. So sad, but I think I'll do it when my kids are older and on their own adventure … The problem is that when they grow up, they will be able to disable it, so that they can go where they want want, then it would be useless? Great story!

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