Legal Issues in Tracking Children

Tracking children is now easier with GPS devices. This means, you as a parent can monitor your child’s every movement, their whereabouts—but the question is, do you have the right? Are there legal issues in tracking children?

Parents, no matter how hands-on they are when it comes to caring for their children, may not be able to watch them 24/7. Thanks to GPS technology, they can do so now. Tracking children when they are lost in a large crowd, keeping track of teenagers’ driving behavior, or finding their location when they don’t return home by the agreed time are now possible.

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Family Day

Chicago Tribune

For little children, there are wearable GPS devices that can track their movements. These kids tracker devices are useful especially when the family goes to the mall or crowded places where there is a higher possibility that children might get lost. Some children trackers have SOS buttons, which allow kids to contact their parents the moment they get separated, while other GPS child tracking devices accept calls from parents to enable them to locate the whereabouts of their child. It’s the same technology that is being used to track pets, by the way.

There are legal issues in tracking children. If yours are still young, it may not be a problem. But if you are tracking teenagers, they may raise an issue about their rights to privacy. But what’s the law about a child’s right to privacy against parents using GPS in tracking children?

Legal Issues in Tracking Children

Children also have privacy rights just like adults. But because they are still minors, parents are given the option to raise their kids as long as there will be no neglect or abuse that will happen. There was no mention about using GPS tracking system for kids. It’s the same with other countries in Europe, they have legal issues in tracking children but in a different area. They worry about identity cards containing information about the child especially health information. In the United States, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) restricts Web sites from collecting and using children information.

Child Tracking Issue

The Guardian

But those restrictions are only applicable to outsiders invading children’s privacy. This kind of legal issues in tracking children does not include parents. GPS mainly raises issues in the domain for parent-child relationships. In short, there are no clear rules set for the use of GPS device. There is not even a guideline from GPS makers for parents. Without any official legislation, we have to go back to basics.

Parental Rights vs. Children’s Rights

Traditionally, a person is considered an adult when he or she reaches the age of 21. But the states have the right to change it to 18 or to any age. In an era where children are more technologically knowledgeable than their parents, such laws seem to belong to another period of time. Still, it’s important for everyone to be aware of the rules in the state where the child lives to avoid legal issues in tracking children.

There is no rule that explicitly prohibits parents from tracking children using child monitoring devices. In fact, parents have the legal authority to govern their children and that would include the right to know their whereabouts. Children, on the other hand, have the legal duty to obey their parents. This is binding as long as children are not neglected or subjected to abuse.

In the United States, courts recognize that the rights of children are different than that of adults. For example, in 1979 case Bellotti vs. Baird,  the Supreme Court said,

“We have recognized three reasons justifying the conclusion that the constitutional rights of children cannot be equated with those of adults: the peculiar vulnerability of children; their inability to make critical decisions in an informed, mature manner; and the importance of the parental role in child rearing.”

This statement from the Supreme Court leads to the development of a tradition in the United States acknowledging the authority of parents over their children except in rare situations. Abortion is one of the areas where parents are given limited control over their kids. Another is location. While courts allow curfew regulations on youth, this doesn’t prevent parents from tracking the whereabouts of their children. Parents believe that children should have limited locational rights.

The Conclusion

There may not be a clear law on the subject, but parents wanting to monitor their children’s whereabouts for their safety or to prevent them from getting lost should not be tagged as an invasion of privacy for the courts to meddle. Regarding the legal issues in tracking children, courts should not be asked to stop parents from tracking their kids. If teens don’t want their parents to use child location tracker, they will have to earn their trust or negotiate with them.



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Amanda Thomas