By Senior producer
msnbc.com
updated 8/17/2006 1:05:11 PM ET 2006-08-17T17:05:11
COMMENTARY

High profile child murders like the JonBenet Ramsey case strike a chord for all of us because they conjure up a nightmare no parent wants to face—losing a child to a predator.

It’s a fine line parents walk—being responsible and protective, or overprotective and smothering.  Everyone will choose his or her own way to parent, but it helps to know as much as you can about what resources are available to you nowadays.

RFID chips
For the smallest of children, radio frequency identification (RFID) is gaining popularity.  These little chips can be attached to clothing or pajamas, allowing a parent to have 24/7 knowledge of a child’s whereabouts.

The company SmartWear Technologies has an RFID tracking system that can pinpoint a child’s exact location in under one minute.  As we all know from listening to the experts on television, if a child is abducted those first few moments are crucial.

That company and others are reportedly in talks with big children’s clothiers like The Gap and Old Navy to possibly include the devices in some ready-to-wear clothes.  The technology already exists if you are willing to stitch the chip into the jacket yourself.

Also, consider RFID technology for anyone in your family who hikes, mountain climbs, or camps, as well.  It makes rescue operations so much easier and faster, as the authorities will know exactly where you are.

GPS phones

For preteens and tweens, the “must have” item is a cell phone.  You can use that to your advantage.  Choose a phone that includes GPS tracking technology, which enables you to pinpoint your child’s whereabouts at any time.

A company called Wherify Wireless makes a phone that includes an SOS button for emergencies and an online tracking tool.  It’s actually a great idea for senior citizens, as well.  The phone is really easy to use, and anyone can lose his way—at any age.

Mobile providers like Sprint also offer family locator services.  Be sure to ask your cell phone company.

Online tracking

Some high profile online predator cases have increased parental concerns about Internet safety for kids.  The best technology in this situation is really low tech—talking to your kids and knowing who their friends are, cyber or otherwise.

That said, teens do have lives of their own, and there are higher tech helpers for you.

The software program e-Blaster is controversial, but sales are rapidly increasing as parents become aware of it.  The program allows a parent to track a child’s every move online.  This includes instant messaging, emails, chat rooms—anywhere in cyberspace your kid has been.

The “history” function on your browser will tell you which websites a child has visited, but not necessarily who they spoke to or what they said.  The e-Blaster technology goes the extra mile.

Some perceive it as invasive, and some experts suggest you discuss the software with your child first.  It is not, however, illegal to use it and parents can make their own choices in the matter.

Web resources

Finally, there are free and easy-to-use websites if you want to learn more about keeping your kids safe.

We hear a lot about “registered sex offenders” but I doubt very many people know how to find out if a known sex offender lives nearby.  Start with the FBI Web site.  It contains links to all the sex offender lists around the country.

The laws about disclosure of names and addresses on the lists tend to be different state by state.  For example, Colorado asks for a written request and proof of identification before the list is released.  Other states are less complicated.  The FBI can help you navigate the system and ultimately get you the information that you need.

If you want to start at the very beginning, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has an impeccable website.  It includes resources, statistics, and tips, plus lots more.

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