By Michael Leidig in Berlin
Last Updated: 2:09PM BST 19 Jun 2001
PARENTS in Germany will soon be able to keep track of their children with satellite-linked equipment that works on the same basis as devices used to locate stolen cars.
A device the size of a cigarette packet can be put in a child's satchel or clipped to a belt. Parents will be able to tell almost exactly where a child is, and will be alerted by a telephone call if the youngster strays beyond the limits of predefined areas fed into a computer.
Ingo Brunn, a German engineer who owns the Hamburg-based IBE Navigationssysteme company which devised the system, known as Kid Track, said it would stop parents worrying unnecessarily about their child's whereabouts. Mr Brunn explained: "Parents can tell Kid Track where their child is allowed, and they will know within 15 seconds if the child strays from that area.
"We have tested it with children and they liked it. It means they know where they can be and have the freedom to move around in that area. Parents know to within five metres where their child is. It gives them the street and house number of the location. If the tracker is taken outside a certain area, it sends an alarm signal to a mobile phone."
The system can be reprogrammed to scan new "permitted areas" when a family goes on holiday abroad. It will go into operation in October. Users will be charged a monthly fee of just under £15.
The idea has not met with universal approval, however. Some children's groups say it could give parents an excuse to pay less attention to their youngsters and not worry about teaching them to be wary of strangers.
Monika Bruhns, from a children's project, the Missing Children's Initiative in Kisdorf, northern Germany, said: "A device cannot give parents security. It will only make them feel they no longer have the responsibility to look out for their children themselves or bring them up to be careful."