Risk assessment and the Nu M8 Child Tracker

A few weeks ago I allowed my 7 year old daughter to walk the last 400 yards from the bottom of the road to the school gate by herself. Off she trotted, full of her own independence, and away she went. About half an hour later the school headmistress called me “did you know that your daughter arrived at school by herself today?” You’d have thought some crime had been committed, or that I’d been negligent in my care. The expectation is that all children will be accompanied to the school and into the grounds by a parent. When I broached this subject at a friend’s party recently and expressed my view that most of the kids at the school are more than capable of walking the half a mile of so without needing to cling to a parent like a monkey with velcro arms, one mother of two particularly obnoxious offspring stated “well I’d be too worried to let mine go by themselves.” So, it’s no surprise that products such as the Nu M8 digital watch with child tracker are now on the market.

I really don’t see why anyone would want to buy one. If my kids are outside playing then I can usually hear them and if I can’t hear them my general attitude is “phew, some peace and quiet at last.” Either I’m unaware and ignorant of the fact that kids are being regularly picked off the streets, or perhaps I’m just old fashioned enough to remember that kids like to explore and enjoy some carefree freedom rather than being shackled to the house under constant supervision just in case they graze a knee and need hospital treatment.

Statistically, children are at more risk inside their own homes than out of it, from everything ranging from domestic violence to electric shocks. However, the hype that the press has put on the apparently ever increasing risk of child abduction (59 cases in 2002/2003 – see here) means that people do a quick risk assessment in their head where the formula used is something like risk = number of Daily Mail articles multiplied by mentions on GMTV. If result is a number greater than number of fingers on one hand then action equals throw protective blanket around child.

It’s this same principle that causes people to panic about getting on an aeroplane at the same time as they happily swerve from lane to lane at 90mph on the motorway. It’s also the reason why businesses have failed in the past to deal adequately with information security: hire an IT guy, call him the security dude, give him a firewall and a know-it-all attitude, and Bob’s your uncle: tick the box, we’re protected. It’s no different from buying a Nu M8 – you get the same soft, warm, squidgy feeling of security without having done anything to address the real risks. The system will break down the first time the child goes to cross a road and gets run over because these days nobody teaches them the Green Cross Code anymore.

For information security, we do the brain surgery but, as somebody recently said, end up dying from the common cold. Example: a nicely developed and well coded online CRM system that I recently saw. No obvious hacks, hosted on a decent infrastucture with firewall, IPS, and anti-malware . Even a good hacker would struggle to get in through the code and steal the data. Except that everyone with access to the system was, for ease of use and administration purposes, using the same, very simple, username and password combination.

Anyway, must go and make up the kids school packed lunches for the day: remember, nothing with nuts just in case there’s somebody with an allergy in the school, no sweets in case they get fat, but the crappy fake chemical cheese snacks that come in a plastic pot with some sticks of wood included for dipping are fine…

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Having read this article, I am somewhat confused by the thread. You seem to be suggesting that these devices do not warrant a place in today's society. In order to keep things simple, I think people should be left with a choice and if there is a demand for such a product then it should be introduced to the market. Whilst I agree, that children should be encouraged to be independent I can not see the harm in a young person wearing a watch that will give parents peace of mind. The Daily Mail article suggests that only 1 in 4, 7-10 year olds play out on their own. A device such as this might just readdress these figures. Parents may be more willing to nurture such independence and let their children play further afield. I think if your child had been one of the 59 reported in your article then you may have a completely different viewpoint on this. I for one do not see the need to take uneccesary risks, and welcome this latest advancement in technology. I think you might find that you are in the minority when it comes to opinions on this. You are discussing the relevance in relation to the green cross code. This watch is designed not to teach necessary life skills, but simply to track your child's location. You can teach a child how to cross the road, how to behave and you can encourage independence. You can do all of this whilst they wear a watch,and when they are out of sight and perhaps not home by their usual time, you can have peace of mind and check up on their whereabouts. What you can not do is stop kidnappers taking young people from the streets. If the figures for 2002/03 only showed 10 people that year, I would still buy one of these, better to be safe and not become one of the statistics.
Thanks Clint - sure, we all have a choice. Certainly not my place to object to anyone spending their hard earned cash on such a device. I just happen to think it's a waste of time. I also take the safety of my own children very seriously - more so than anything else - but I still wouldn't buy one. I wonder how many parents make their kids wear a crash helmut in the car, a snorkel in the bath, or - more practically - learn how to clear their airways when they start choking to death on a chicken mcnugget (around 200 die every year from choking on food). The first aid is one thing, of many, I did do.
I am seriously looking at one of these things. My kids (3 & 1) are in care all day. What if they were snatched from there? It could happen. When they're older they could be snatched from their grammar school. Imagine - I mean really imagine for a moment - getting a call from the school, police, whoever telling you that your child is missing. Still don't see why anyone would buy one? There is a case in my province going on right now. A little 8 y/o girl named Tori Stafford was snatched about 6 weeks ago. Two have just been arrested and charged with her murder. The search for her body is on now. If she were wearing something like a num8 the outcome would likely have been much different. I wonder if her parents would consider buying something like a num8 to be a "waste of time". I wonder if they're relieved to finally get some "peace and quiet." Don't get me wrong. I'm not about bubble wrapping kids - not at all. I just want to know that they're in a safe place when I can't be there to see that for myself.
Clint, I can see why you would believe the Nu M8 is a waste of cash, however, you're assuming everyone has a safe and secure life such as yourself. You do know most abductions are by parents, right? You are fortunate enough not to have an Algerian ex-husband who has threaten on several occasions to take our son to Algeria. Just this past Tuesday he hinted our son has an Algerian passport and wants to take our son to "France" in July, (mind you he already told us he was going to Algeria last month, why the sudden trip to "France" now is only making me more anxious). A passport of any type is of course a violation of our divorce decree, however, we would have to take him back to court to "enforce" the decree. The US passport agency can only do so much to stop a US passport from being issued, but that has nothing to do with the Algerian consulate issuing an Algerian passport. Yes, I would sleep a lot better at night if my son was wearing a watch which would alert me if he is anywhere near the airport when in the care of my ex-husband. If that is being over protective, I'm okay with that, just like I'd be okay with giving my son a lollipop when he gets a scraped knee from falling out of the neighbor's tree down the street.
I think these watches are an excellent safety precaution. My belief in their need is exactly the same as Ryan. I wonder what the McCann's would be doing now if Madeleine had been wearing one of these. My children are absolutely precious to me and if I can make use of modern day technology to ensure I don't lose either of my children to modern day horrors, I will. My only criticism of these devices is the price - the initial outlay for these devices is incredibly high and it isn't something that the average family can afford to buy easily. It therefore puts child security only in the hands of those in the 'higher tax bracket'