It’s a parent’s
worst nightmare. Their child doesn’t come home one evening and is missing for
several days.


When a 14-year-old
boy from Atlanta, Georgia disappeared earlier this year, his mother turned to
her smartphone for clues using an app called Family Tracker that helped track
his location.
It is one of
several apps that allow parents to track the whereabouts of their children.
“You can see
where your loved ones are without having to call or bother them,” said
Roberto Franceschetti of LogSat, the creators of the Family Tracker, which has
more than 100,000 users and is available worldwide.
Parents can track
the location of their child on a map, send messages, and even activate an alarm
on the phone remotely.
“We have an
option for the sender to make a very nasty, noisy sound. It’s a loud siren and
we repeat that sound every two minutes until the person picks up,” he
said.
Parents don’t need
to own a smartphone to track their children. The service is also accessible via
the web, as long as the phone that is being tracked is running the app, which
runs on an iPhone or Android devices.
Family Tracker has
an additional service that keeps a log of all data generated by the app for a
two-week period, which the company calls GPS breadcrumbs.
The service was
used to find the missing boy in Atlanta.
“With a
subscription, we keep all the locations where people have been on our servers.
You can see where your kid has been for the past two weeks. You can find out
where someone was at a certain time, or when that person was at a specific
place,” Franceschetti explained.
“When somebody
gets abducted, usually whoever does this throws the phone away or takes the
battery out. We were hoping that our app would at least provide information on
where the person was abducted or where they had been in the past, that way the
police would have a history or some clues as to who they may have been
seeing.”
But are these types
of apps an invasion of privacy?
“The
advantages are huge compared to the disadvantages. Let’s not forget that the
person always has to give initial permission — no one can be tracked unless
they allow someone to do it,” said Franceschetti.
A similar app called
Life360 is credited with helping families stay connected during last year’s
tsunami in Japan.
The mother of the
missing boy, who preferred to remain anonymous, said she will continue to use
the app to track her son.
“My advice to
any parent is not to be shy about keeping tabs on your children,” she
said. “Technology cannot replace pro-active communication and healthy
parent child relationships but I have found that it is one more tool in a good
parents arsenal.”

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