SALT LAKE CITY — Anytime a story like the recent attempted kidnapping of a 10-year-old girl in Roy surfaces, it can rattle parents to their core.
Parents want to be able to help protect their kids from this sort of attack. As it turns out, moms and dads have all sorts of gadget options that can help their peace of mind while keeping tabs on their kids.
Most of them come down to GPS, from smartphones to wearables like watches and GPS trackers. That's according to Rebecca Edwards, the lead safety and tech reporter for the Utah-based home and family security website, Safewise.
"There are some standalone trackers that it's really now just like a little tag, almost like a Tile or like an AirTag that you could pop in a backpack and in a pocket," Edwards said. "You could even sew it into the lining of a jacket they wear all the time or something like that. It wouldn't be detected."
GPS is the standard, but there are several features that parents may want to consider.
Some trackers let parents set up boundary alerts. If your kid crosses a certain street, you will get pinged right away with a message the device sends to you through a cellular network. It's called geofencing, which Edwards said was not always that reliable.
"The first time I used a kids' watch with geofencing it was crazy, and I just couldn't get it to work correctly," she recounted. "Now, so much improvement that you can actually rely on it."
Some trackers come with a panic or SOS button your kid can hit in case of trouble. It will send a text alert to designated contacts, or on some devices it will call 911.
You can activate it and listen to what's going on around your kid, and nobody there will know that you're doing that.
–Rebecca Edwards, SafeWise
Some higher-end gadgets include features like two-way calling for keeping in touch or a tool called "listen in."
"You can activate it and listen to what's going on around your kid, and nobody there will know that you're doing that," Edwards said. "It doesn't alert your kids or the people around them, so it can really give you either peace of mind or early detection of something going wrong.
There are smartwatches available with many of those GPS safeguards, as well as adding communication via video, voice and text to people only on the contacts list. There are also smartphones, such as the Gabb phone or the Relay Kids phone, that run on closed networks where the internet is not available on the phone at all. That means you get the GPS tracking and direct communication with your kids without the social media also known to keep parents awake at nights.
GPS trackers can run as low as $20 to well over $200.
"The bottom line is if you want to be able to know where they're at, where they're going, if they're where they're supposed to be, or if they're somewhere else, all you need is a GPS tracker for that," said Edwards. "You don't need a watch like that has FaceTalk and two-way talk and games and music and extra things like that."
Buying a tracker often means paying a subscription so that device can send those alerts to you via a cellular network. Those can run from $10 a month up to $40.