Parents putting tracking devices in their child's backpack raises concerns

'I think it's a good idea if you don’t know where they are,' Melissa Burns says
Posted at 5:48 PM, Aug 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-09 21:03:17-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Is using technology to track your child's whereabouts as they head back to school a good idea? It's a big issue among parents and it's something that is raising a lot of questions.

"It's good and bad," cybersecurity expert Alan Crowetz said. "It brings up a lot of ethical, philosophical questions."

Crowetz said this is new territory in the technology and security world.

"You are basically doing a chipping thing," he said. "Adding this to a person, tagging a person where they move or go is very Big Brother-ish."

When it comes to tracking your kids' whereabouts via technology, there are obvious pros and cons. He said it gives parents a lot more information.

"There are obvious perks on being able to track your child in a world we've seen problems with abductions and things of that nature," he said. "On the ethical question, there are ideas of trust, what age do you do this up to?"

During last-minute school shopping, purchasing a tracking device is not off the table.

Alan Crowetz cybersecurity expert August 2023
Cybersecurity expert Alan Crowetz explains the pros and cons of putting a tracking device on your child.

“A lot of parents are talking about it. Her dad, my other two daughters,” one grandmother said. "I kind of think it's a good idea because our worst fear is losing her and not knowing where she is. But I know everyone talks about privacy and other people being able to find out where she is."

It's a possible sign of the times.

"Well, the world is getting weird and crazy," Junie Isaac, a mother of two kids, said.

Some moms said tracking devices for those who drive and walk to school may be a good option. But for young kids, not so much.

"I think it's a good idea if you don't know where they are from point A to point B," Melissa Burns said. "But just to drop them off from school with an AirTag? I think that's a little too much for me."

Crowetz said security concerns are always a possibility.

"We know lots of cases of AirTags being used to do bad things," he said. "We know the bad guys use AirTags. Would they be able to use them in a case of tracking a child? You know, unlikely right now, but bad guys would be very open to trying to discover a vulnerability in the situation."

Mother Melissa Burns tracking device children August 2023
Melissa Burns says a tracking device for young children attending school may be a bit extreme.

Crowetz pointed to cases of stalking.

"We've seen cases where people, who are being spied on, didn't know someone put an Apple AirTag and that’s how they got caught,” he said. "The Apple AirTag starts beeping."

He said the devices use Bluetooth Low Energy.

"It looks for other Apple devices. It doesn't use cellular signals," he said. "People think it's looking for a cellular tower or satellite. It's not. It looks for a tablet, another iPhone, and it sends a message to that device that there is an AirTag in the room. So, even if it's not your AirTag, your phone can be used to transmit the data."

Crowetz said there are other options, like smartwatches.

"I'm sure you would find lots of tracking devices on Amazon or these spy stores that are real popular in big cities, but do you trust something made by a third party that's not vetted, overseas?" he said. "At least with Apple, you know it's getting vetted."