Thursday, December 24, 2009

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Remember Lenore Skenazy—the lady who allowed her nine-year-old child to ride the subway home alone with a quarter in his pocket?

She was recently on TV talking about overboard parents and a new safety device on the market called the Little Buddy Tracker.

The ads for the Tracker say it “keeps tabs on your child at all times, it combines GPS with cellular technology to provide parents with real-time location updates.”

Lenore said we were blowing our worries about our children way out of proportion and that keeping relentless tags on them through GPS reinforces the paranoia of both parents and children that is endemic in today’s culture.

That paranoia also warns us that if anything happens to our children, then we are at fault.

The commentator, who must have children, shot back something like, “But I report real-life tragedies every day.”

Maria Andreu of a New Jersey publication ( of the The Star-Ledger) debated the use of the Little Buddy Tracker in a recent article.

Maria is a proponent of the Free Range Kids movement, founded by Lenore. Free Range parents believe our kids should experience the same freedom kids did up through the 1970s. Maria said, “So when I first heard about the Little Buddy Tracker, I thought, “Wow, where do I get one of those?”

Her debate about whether to buy or not centered around her desire to allow her children to be more “grown-up.” Her 8- and 9-year-old children had been asking if they could walk 10 blocks to school.

Maria said that at 10 she was walking to and from school several miles away. She continued, also reported only six months later she was the official babysitter for her newborn brother. My story is similar. By the time I was 11, I rode my bike all over town. All the kids I knew did, too.

Still, my attention immediately turned to the sad story of the 7-year-old Florida girl who briefly ran ahead of her siblings as they were all walking home from school. She was abducted and killed. I think Lenora would say that was an isolated case.

A few years ago, I might have immediately purchased a Little Buddy Tracker. Sorry, Lenore.

There’s still a part of me that’s thinking for only 100.00 bucks, it certainly might be worth the investment, although I wouldn’t be using it the way it is advertised.

According to the product information, you can “establish specific times and locations where your child is supposed to be — for example, in school — causing the device to alert you with a text message if your child leaves the designated area during that time.” My use of it would be more for tracking—you know, if my child came up missing.

As I found myself considering the purchase of this new device, I realized it meant that I had allowed this big scary world to dictate how I approach child safety issues. This isn’t groundbreaking or earth-shattering news. What it is…is the truth.

According to the responses on Lenore’s website (, many parents struggle with how to foster their children’s independence in spite of the very scary news presented by the media.

The Little Buddy Tracker might help one parent relax and give her child a bit more leeway while turning another into a stalker mom. Maria finished her article by saying she’s was not sure if she would buy this device. Since my daughter is more teenager than not, I think I’ll pass. Hope I don’t live to regret this one.

Allyn Evans
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