Q: I've heard of devices on cell phones that can track the user's whereabouts. Should I get one for my teenager?
A: We've got a question for you: Who bought the cell phone and pays the monthly bill? We're guessing you, which means you have every right to know where they are. If you choose to add GPS (global positioning system) to your safety plan, explain why you're doing this -- not to be nosy or because you don't trust her, but because you care deeply about her safety. Some kids who object to this parental monitoring may turn the phone off if they don't want you tracing their steps. If you sense this is happening, make sure your kid knows the consequences. Explain that when he's not with you the phone is to remain on, unless they're at school and instructed to turn it off -- and if he turns it off, you'll take it away.
The fact is there have been several recent cases in which missing children were recovered because of their GPS-equipped cell phone and many safety experts feel this technology can be very useful in keeping kids safe. And it's not just to protect them from abduction. Let's say your son is going on a long bike ride with a friend. With a GPS-equipped phone, not only could they call you if necessary, but he could also be located easily if he called 911. Or if your daughter is driving herself and three friends to a concert, she could map out exactly how to locate the concert location and get back home with an equipped cell phone. And with an additional software package, you could track her whereabouts from your computer and help her get home if she became lost, minimizing the risk of her having to ask people she doesn't know for directions.