Mobile Tech

Verizon Launches Mobile Child Locator Service

In a move to keep pace with rival Sprint, Verizon Wireless on Monday launched a service that lets parents keep track of their kids.

Dubbed Chaperone, Verizon is marketing the new service as a way for busy families to keep their lines of communication open, while also helping parents give their children more freedom by giving them a tool to stay in touch.

Wireless Chaperone

The service is sort of like a wireless chaperone service. It’s compatible with LG Migo phones. Chaperone uses Global Positioning System (GPS) data to let parents know if their children have crossed the geographical boundaries they set.

In other words, the service sends a text alert to parents if their kids go too far from home. Chaperone also lets parents pinpoint exactly where their children are on a map on their cell phone or computer.

“Chaperone provides a connection between parents and their children when they aren’t physically together, and it gives parents an added tool for keeping in contact with their children. If the unexpected happens, a child carrying a Chaperone-enabled Migo phone will be able to quickly get in touch with parents or another responsible adult — and even emergency personnel — who can help,” said Lee Daniels, director of product development for Verizon Wireless.

Competing Location-Based Services

Verizon is following Sprint’s lead with its location-based service. Sprint launched its Family Locator feature in April to let parents use a phone or PC to pinpoint the location of a child on a map. While the Verizon service is only available on one phone model, Sprint offers Family Locator on 17 models.

For its part, Verizon has focused on making the compatible phone appealing to kids between five and nine years old. The Migo is a green handset with four programmable call buttons and one pre-programmed emergency call button. Parents can program the call buttons using the Chaperone Web site. The Migo phone is available from for US$49.99 with a new two-year customer agreement.

Sprint charges $9.99 a month to register up to four phones to locate, make unlimited location requests, and send 100 text messages to each phone. Verizon’s Chaperone Child Locator is $9.99 a month per line. Adding Child Zone, which gives parents the ability to designate areas in which their children can go, Verizon charges $19.99.

Big Brother Precautions

“Parents often remark that giving a cell phone to their kids is one of the best presents they can give themselves,” JupiterResearch analyst Michael Gartenberg told TechNewsWorld. “The ability to locate their child adds a comfort factor. It also differentiates wireless companies among the competition and adds another stream of revenue.”

Of course, there are thoughts of “Big Brother” with these types of services. As a protection against deliberate misuse, Chaperone is only available to Verizon customers on a Family Share Plan. In order to access Chaperone, a Verizon customer must subscribe to Chaperone and then activate the service through a secure, password-protected Web site.

“This obviously is not going too popular with older kids, but with younger kids and with parents it could resonate well. It’s the price you pay as an eight or nine year old to get a cell phone,” Gartenberg said.

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