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Safety Report: Teen Tracking Devices

Posted: Updated: March 1, 2012 10:40 PM EST

New technology is allowing parents to track their teens – who they text, where they go, even how fast they drive.  Your kids will probably call it spying.  But one Central Virginia company that sells the tracking technology says it can actually teach teens responsibility.

Mourad Fahim owns Barboursville-based GPS 4 Teens.  He sells the black box-like devices that allow parents to follow their kids when they get behind the wheel.  He said, "If your kid is driving too fast, you will know."

Parents can set the tracker to alert them if the car gets above a certain speed, turns on after hours, or goes outside a distance from home or school.

Fahim stated, "When the car leaves that perimeter, it sends an email or an alert that says 'hey, the car has left'."

The tracker can even tell if the car is being towed, all followed from a laptop.  Fahim explained, "These are all the pings that we got back, the positions"

Fahim points out the minute-by-minute pings sent from the car tracker to his computer.  "If the car is moving, you actually see it here, then you'll see it here and then you'll see it here.  So you'll see the car moving on the map," he said.

The system automatically sends email or text alerts whenever teens break the rules.  Fahim says the tracker gives parents some peace of mind, since they can't be in the car with their teens at all times.

"They usually want it because their child is just starting to drive.  And they want to make sure that they're driving safely," stated Fahim.

Smartphone apps are also making it easier to track mobile teens.  They allow parents to find out who, when, and where kids are calling and texting.  A 2011 study by the Family Online Safety Institute finds 25 percent of parents admit to using some sort of parental control to monitor their teens by cellphone. 

But remember, your kids can probably outsmart smartphones and turn off the apps.  The car trackers will send an alert if they're disconnected.  But Fahim says honesty is the policy with any type of tracking device.

Fahim said, "It's best that the kid knows that the tracker is in the car, and it gives a chance for the child to prove that they can be trusted.

The GPS 4 Teens tracking devices start at $295.  Monthly plans start at $29 and go up from there depending on how often you want email and text alerts.