Parents use technology to track teens

Posted by Cody Holyoke - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - From the time they wake up to the time they go to bed, most parents agree that keeping tabs on their teenagers can be more than a full time job.

"I know there is a lot of people that don't and I know there are a lot of kids that do things they shouldn't," mother Tamara Chivalaer said.

"I guess there's some things I wouldn't want to know because I want to assume that he's doing the right thing," father William Grant said.

Blake Grant, 17, like most other teens, has grown up bombarded with technology and multimedia, most of it right at his fingertips.

"Do you think you text all day long?" Blake said." Basically! I think a lot of kids have gotten to that point now."

In fact, in one month Blake sent 13,000 texts from his cell phone.

"I think he spends a lot of time on his phone," Blake's father William Grant said. "Too much time texting on his phone. He texts everywhere we go."

Parents are now grappling with ways to keep tabs on their teens, in many instances turning to the same technological advances used by their kids.

It may be as simple as being friends with their child on Facebook or it can be sophisticated, using computer programs to monitor every keystroke and every website your teen visits on your home computer.

The same navigational power of GPS can track your child's every movement, just by tossing the little buddy tracker into a backpack or lunchbox.

"I guess we as parents really need to reformat our thinking," parent Stephanie Jerstad said.

That's just what Jerstad did last fall when she decided to pay for GPS tracking offered by her cell phone provider AT&T for her 14-year-old daughter's phone.

"She does walk home from the bus stop and it's not too far, but it's far enough that anything can happen," Jerstad said.

By pulling up an online map, Jerstad can see where her daughter's phone is currently and everywhere it's been but it doesn't stop there.

"I also shared with her that I did add parameters to her phone," Jerstad said."On who she's texting. I can block specific numbers, how many texts, I can set parameters for the times that she's texting."

Putting the responsibility of a car in the hands of a teen driver is enough to give many parents an ulcer.

"I believe that I can sleep better at night knowing that all I have to do is pickup my computer and see where my kids are," parent Jani Calvert said.

Calvert got even more sophisticated with the electronic monitoring of her teens.

"Basically, we started with a GPS unit that's hidden in the front of the car somewhere," Brian said. "We wanted it to be hidden so nobody could find it, override, disable or anything of that nature."

That's paired with three motion activated video cameras that capture everything happening in and around the vehicle all hooked up to a recording system in the back.

"It's really not much more than a hard drive that works just like a VCR," Brian said. "It's also got a mass storage device that you can take out and plug in and download that information."

Jani can track her teen's vehicle on a map in real time.   She even gets text alerts on her phone if certain user-set rules are broken.

"Notification," Calvert said. "Speed alert. Has exceeded 65 miles per hour."

She can even control parts of the vehicle remotely.

"So if they're at a party or somewhere you feel they wouldn't be safe driving, you can disable the vehicle," Lefler's Automotive owner Jimmy Lefler said. "You can also go in and hit a button that unlocks the car should they lock their keys or purse in the car."

Jani's daughter knows her mom can check up on her at any time.

"She wasn't too fond of it at the beginning but you know what?  That's not her car," Calvert said. "It's not sneakiness. It's not being nosey. It's protection."

Systems like the cell phone tracking can be added to your phone plan for about $15 a month.

That setup in the car cost between $1,200 and $1,500 plus a $30 a month subscription fee for that GPS.

Some insurance companies have now started a teen driving program where they'll install a similar system in your teen's car, which reduces their insurance rates.

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