New phones offer nifty ways to spy on your kids

From dumbed-down Wherifone to spiffy Disney Mobile, GPS-enabled phones offer a range of ways for parents to control, monitor their kids phone and physical activities.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor on

Want to know where your high schooler hangs after school? Thanks to satellite-based tracking based on Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, parents can now buy a cellphone with a tracking device for junior and feel reassured that they know his exact whereabouts, reports The New York Times.

Brand names such as Wherify Wireless, Guardian Angel Technology, Disney Mobile, Verizon Wireless and Sprint — all have built in G.P.S. tracking systems into their cellphones. Children carry them to school. But they aren't just for students. Families may want to track an elder who is prone to wander away from the house as well as to keep tabs on their teens.

Wherifone is a dumbed-down version of cellphone, easy enough for anyone to use. It's really small and has four speed dial buttons. More like a Star Trek communicator than a mobile phone, doesn't have any of the bells and whistles that an ordinary phone might have. The phone can receive call from anyone, but parents can restrict incoming calls using a website. All a parent has to do is log on to the website, punch in a password and a map comes up with the location of the cell phone.

Another cellphone is from Guardian Angel Technology, but is really a collaboration between Motorola , Nextel, Boost Mobile and Guardian Angel Technology. Along with the GPS service, the phone gives free 30 days' worth of "bread crumbs," (tracking history) and satellite-photo views, with the option of having street names superimposed on the satellite-photo view.

And for the style-conscious teen, there's the Disney Mobile. It's a flip-phone made by LG, which comes in silver and red and has camera, video capture, text messaging, Bluetooth, speakerphone and voice dialing, plus Disney-themed ring tones, wallpaper options and phone themes. The Disney phone also comes with parent controls.

The plans for these phones don't run cheap. Plans range from $60 a month to $250, more expensive than an average cellphone plan. Another less expensive option is to buy Sprint's Family Locator feature, offering 58 trackable phone models for your children. Or Verizon's Chaperone plan, offering four phones, including the Wherifone-like four-button Migo for younger children.

A parent has to ask, is it all worth so much just to spy on your children?

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