Westsidedad

Friday, May 05, 2006

Surveillance of teens. A recent New York Times article discussed a new service, available through Verizon, that can theoretically let parents track the location of their children. Priced at $9.99 a month, the new "Chaperone" service allows parents to program their child's cell phone for certain geographic regions. The Verizon service spot-checks the child's cell phone and alerts the parents if the kid has left a certain region (e.g. the high school) and entered a new one. The company says it is selling "peace of mind." There are all sorts of privacy, trust and parent responsibility issues raised by this new service. Let's go to the bottom line: will it really make your child safer? I don't think so. According to the web site of the CDC (Center for Disease Control), the leading cause of death for adolescents is car accidents:

In the United States, 70.8% of all deaths among persons aged 10--24 years result from only four causes: motor-vehicle crashes, other unintentional injuries, homicide, and suicide. Results from the 2003 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey demonstrated that, during the 30 days preceding the survey, numerous high school students engage in behaviors that increase their likelihood of death from these four causes: 30.2% had ridden with a driver who had been drinking alcohol; 17.1% had carried a weapon; 44.9% had drunk alcohol; and 22.4% had used marijuana.

So the leading cause of death among teenagers is drinking and driving (i.e. being a driver or passenger). Where is your child most likely to drink? Within a few miles of home, at a friend's house. Clearly it makes sense to educate your child about the dangers of drinking and driving. You can give him a cell phone and say "Call me anytime, anywhere if you're with a driver who has been drinking and I will come and pick you up, no questions asked." I don't see how the tracking service is going to make teenagers any safer. I understand why Verizon is selling it. It taps into a mentality that technology will make us safer, that a parent can buy peace of mind. What really makes your child safer is the self-awareness and sense of responsibility that you instill in your child with responsible parenting.

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