Spying On Your Teens Via Satellite For $600
Tracking units to monitor children and teenagers - disguised as watches, mobile phones and belts - have hit Australia to the outrage of civil libertarians and parent groups.
The latest in spy gadgets available in Australia are being marketed to anxious parents.
They include a computer device and software that can record email and chatroom conversations and a clothing spray that can tell if teens are having sex.
Australian company Internav's mobile phone-sized Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking device has emergency alarm button and software so parents can zoom in on a child's whereabouts using a home computer. It costs $895.
Managing director Graham Thomas said he expected the main buyers to be parents of teenage girls.
"Teenage girls going out at night who go home on a bus or by taxi - this is really for the peace of mind of their parents," he said.
Geoff Day from Kid Safe System Locators, said his GPS devices, which will be in stores by Christmas, would help find children in cases of abduction or accidents such as drowning. They can be hidden in watches, belts and jewellery and cost from $600 to $700.
Mr Day, who founded the Hug-Ur-Kids Organisation after his stepchildren were abducted by their biological father, said: "Parents can rest assured that, if their child goes missing, they will be able to pinpoint where they are straight away."
Mr Day said Australia was not vigilant enough about child predators and that widespread acceptance of the devices could prove a deterrent to would-be abductors.
Parents are also the targets for a new computer gadget, the KeyKatcher, which records emails, chatroom conversations and websites.
The $199 battery-sized device is being marketed as an "extra set of eyes" to give parents "peace of mind".
But NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Cameron Murphy said the tracking devices and other gadgets designed to spy on children were "expensive gimmicks" that would break down trust in families.
"Part of a child's growth is learning responsibility," he said.
"I don't think anyone should be spying on anyone else."
NSW Commissioner for Children and Young People Gillian Calvert said parents had a false perception that Australia was dangerous. But the number of children abducted each year was small.
In 2002, she said, 39 reports were made to the police about abducted children under the age of nine, many of them involving custody disputes.
"I think parents are more fearful of the community," she said. "We see that in the declining number of children walking to school. But the fact is, Australia is very safe."
Superintendent Kim McKay, commander of the Child Protection and Sex Crimes Squad, said statistics showed that children were more likely to be assaulted by someone they knew than a stranger.
"The chance of being hurt by a stranger is quite low," she said. "The problem is at home. That's the reality."
She said it was more important for parents to check who their child was with, rather than tracking their every movement.
NSW Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations president Sharryn Brownlee said the tracking devices played on parental anxiety.
She said busy parents who worked were often worried about their children because they could not monitor them as closely as parents who were full-time carers.
"There is no evidence to show our country is less safe," she said.
"But there is more money, and there are more cars around.
"Parents worry about binge drinking, driving and partying."
Concern about safety has also led the drive for mobile phone ownership among children and teens.
Quantum Market Research's YouthSCAN survey shows 31 per cent of 10- to 14-year-olds have a mobile.
And a report by market research company RedSheriff on youth and technology found 89 per cent of parents felt safer knowing their child had a mobile phone; while 90 per cent were paying for their child's mobile phone.