Children need their freedom in order to develop. Mastering the way to school alone, meeting friends on your own in the afternoon and sometimes fetching bread rolls without accompaniment: this is part of everyday life at some point and requires the trust of your parents.

Nevertheless, parents know their children best and know that some people don’t think it’s so important to come home straight after school so that nobody has to worry. And then some parents can have moments of panic. To prevent this from happening, there are GPS trackers for children. We explain what models and options are available, what you should pay attention to when using it and what your child should also know.

First of all: GPS trackers are useful gadgets that can, among other things, help you find a lost suitcase – or maybe even a stolen bike or even a lost pet. They usually work via the so-called Global Positioning System, or GPS for short. Sometimes it is also possible to locate the location via the mobile phone network or via Bluetooth. The device’s location data is then sent to an app, website or the device. This means that users usually need a SIM card or an app to connect to the device and track the GPS tracker’s location in real time.

The first disadvantage of using a GPS tracker for your child comes from this: both the device and the app or the transmission must work perfectly to be really helpful. In addition, an internet connection is usually required. The whole thing is associated with costs and inconveniences, because the device must always be with the child and should not be forgotten in the school cupboard or somewhere else. And most importantly: Experts even consider the use of a GPS tracker to be harmful for children.

It is often said that parents are becoming more careless when it comes to agreements. According to some experts, one would rely too much on the use of the tracker instead of briefing one’s own child about dangers, agreements and freedom. Daniel Süss, media psychologist at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), told the “Aargauer Zeitung” when GPS devices first appeared that it was important to “give children as much freedom as they are able to use.”

Martin Hermida, media expert at the child and youth welfare organization Pro Juventute, also said in an interview with the newspaper that parents should therefore always ask themselves whether they would have liked to have been monitored as a child. It is healthy and important that children stick to agreements but are also allowed to be independent. Children’s rights and privacy are important for young people. Your child should also know how to use the device and be informed about how to use the SOS button, for example – and that it should only be used in an emergency.

So it’s best if you trust your child that they can master paths on their own. Prepare it for this. He should know exactly who he is allowed to talk to and who he is not allowed to talk to, when he should become suspicious and which paths are unsafe. A GPS tracker is not a guarantee of safety, as a lot can go wrong technically. It should therefore at best be used as a communicative supplement and never for long-term monitoring of your child, out of compulsion to control or due to a lack of trust.

Anyone who uses a GPS tracker for their child for exactly this purpose can certainly benefit from the advantages. The small devices are not just a curse or the result of parents’ excessive fear. But there are well-founded concerns, especially when you hear about terrible incidents in which children have been abducted. Here it is particularly important that the children are found within the first few hours of the disappearance. And this is where a tracking device can help in an emergency. This gives parents a more reassuring feeling. Because sometimes parents trust their children completely – but other people trust them less. Then the GPS tracker can be helpful for the child, ideally with an emergency button that the child can press.

In the past, it was more difficult to let us know if you wanted to spontaneously meet up with a friend at the playground or football field after school. Today, children no longer have to rush home, give notice and then go back to the meeting point. For example, you can use a smartwatch that should be switched off during school hours, but can be used afterwards to make a quick call home. Some find this excessive, others practical. The fact is: There is even a place for rules about smartwatches in school regulations – so they certainly have a certain relevance in (primary) schools.

It is certainly interesting to know what the legal situation is regarding the use of GPS trackers. According to the Federal Network Agency, the devices do not violate the Telecommunications Act (TKG) if they are only used for location purposes. However, this only applies as long as the child is a minor. Surveillance of adults is prohibited by law. Tracking via smartphone also poses no problems under the law because the device legally belongs to the parent who bought it. So he can also track it.

An exception are GPS watches with a listening function: If it is possible to listen to the child’s surroundings (such as their teachers in class or conversations with friends), this is against the law. Before buying a GPS tracker, you should definitely find out whether such a function is available, as action will be taken against sellers of such devices.

If you now decide on a suitable smartwatch for your child, there are different models that you can choose – depending on the child’s age. The Xplora is often recommended for children of primary school age and above. It is precisely when children go on their first solo adventures that the smartwatch can give them and their parents a feeling of more security.

The Xplora smartwatch is particularly practical for children because – unlike a smartphone – it does not have access to the internet. It makes all functions and content compatible for all age groups. In addition to GPS tracking, it impresses with quick and easy calling as well as functions such as a calendar. The dangers that a smartphone and social media bring with them do not exist in this way. The Xplora is also the most recommended watch for children, impresses with its design, function, battery performance, handling and quality.

The Xplora Important to know: The watch cannot be located via GPS when it is switched off. It is therefore advisable that you choose a model that has a long battery life. This is where the Xplora scores. It is robust and can adapt to the child’s visual preferences. It is also a helpful start for children from primary school onwards to practice independence and learn how to use a smart device.

There are also other smartwatches for children that have fewer features but are equipped with a GPS tracker. They are cheaper. However, you should look at the reviews when buying: Some models are weak when it comes to battery performance. Or they are not robust enough, which is certainly a disadvantage in everyday life with children. According to customer reviews, the Bothergu model fulfills its purpose.

With this smartwatch, your child can call you, you can get their location in an emergency and it has an emergency button. So exactly the right thing for the purpose.

Another method of locating the child’s location in an emergency is to use a small, inconspicuous tracking device or tracking device. You can store this in your child’s (school) backpack or hang it around their neck on excursions. As a rule, it can only display the location and also has an emergency button that the child can press themselves.

The Winnes mini GPS tracker can be used, for example, if your child spends the night somewhere else. In addition, the device can later be used in a suitcase for vacation or for other occasions. Since it can be attached with a strong magnet, it is versatile and can also fit in your handbag or wallet, for example.

Good alternatives for using a GPS tracker for children are larger models such as the models from PAJ or Weenect. The Weenect model is similar in use to a smartwatch, but in comparison it offers many advantages such as longer battery life and Europe-wide GPS tracking. According to the manufacturer, its battery lasts for seven days. It resembles a smartphone in shape and size. The tracker on your cell phone rings when your child presses the SOS button so that you can ask what the child is missing. You can also define protection zones using the associated app and receive a notification when your child enters such a zone. It is important to discuss this with your child in advance so that they know where they are allowed to stay and where they are not. Unfortunately, you need a monthly subscription to use it.

Tip: When buying a GPS tracker, you can save money with an Otto voucher, for example.

If you purchase a GPS tracker in the form of an app or watch for your child, you should read the privacy policy and terms of use carefully. What the data is used for, how long it is stored and to whom it is passed on should be completely transparent. Otherwise, you should question the seriousness of the provider. And: The dangers of third-party access remain even if there is insight into the use of the data. So you should always be careful and think carefully about whether and when it really makes sense to use a GPS tracker for your child.

Sources: Federal Network Agency / AOK / “Aargauer Zeitung”

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