Two related press articles concerning the tracking of children recently caught my eye.
The first in the Guardian (23rd Oct 2007) covered the launch by Blade Runner UK of a GPS Tracker Jacket. This little technical gem tracks your child on Google Earth. For added comfort and safety you can add a slash-proof Kevlar lining. Cool and trendy, and no matter how many times your child 'gets lost', you clearly don't have to worry... or do you?
Last year our team tried (from a now defunct company) a kids mobile phone that did the same thing. It used GPS to track your child on a map, with a built-in panic button that rang a pre-arranged sequence of numbers. In reality the satellite must have been low on the horizon, as it didn't work anywhere near buildings and no matter how we tried, it kept mis-reporting the location. I took it to work in Maidstone, and according to the online map, I never strayed further than 200 metres from home, despite being 15 miles away all day! Worse then this, my daughter used it to her advantage ... she visited her friends as arranged and then left it whilst she nipped to town to shop! I have realised that a fake sense of security is no comfort at all.
The second story is related in that it is about tracking children, (perhaps we should now refer to them as 'biological assets'). It uses RFID assett tags, (the type of device used in the new passports and electronic dog tagging). The idea is that the tag is sewn into the clothing and when the biological asset passes a reader, it registers them for the lesson. The fact that they could swap the item of clothing and the same jumper could win awards for attendance is beside the point. The next logical step along this road is of course to chip the children like we do dogs, and embed it under their skin. (I hope this isn't what is meant by embeddiing ICT in schools. If the latter sounds absurd, and it does to me, why is chipping their clothes acceptable. The real question is why we think we have the right to compromise childhood and control our children to this level? Hungerhill School in Doncaster seems to believe its a great idea (Doncaster Free Press 18 Oct 2007). Just because something is technically possible doesn't not mean that it is desirable. I believe this crosses a line ... what do you think?