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Location Lowdown

The hereO Watch: For High-Tech Helicopter Parents

Why you should care

Because a family that has an app together, stays together.

GPS trackers for kids have always seemed a bit creepy to me, a symptom of the helicopter parent age that, as The Atlantic recently pointed out, is not necessarily making our kids any safer. (Apparently what will help our kids? Letting them play with rebar and light fires in oil drums.)

That was until our urban neighborhood’s annual Easter egg hunt. To say it was a toddler version of The Hunger Games would be unfair, but as kids stampeded forward before all the eggs were all hidden, ignoring bunny-eared adults waving their arms and yelling stop, I thought how easy it would be for our 18-month-old to get lost in the churn.

There are plenty of GPS devices for kids out there already, but what’s interesting about the hereO watch, which is designed for ages three through grade school, is that it tries to thread the needle between safety device and family communication tool.

grid of colorful watches called HereO

From a safety perspective, parents can check their child’s location at any time using their phone and also receive alerts when their kid leaves or arrives at set locations, like home or school, or goes AWOL and wanders off at an unscheduled time. From a “let’s all meet up at the mall” perspective, family members can download hereO’s free Family Location App on their phone, so the entire clan can send messages and alert each other to their locations.

On top of that, the watch is pretty darn cute. Candy-colored and billed as the smallest GPS device for kids on the market, it’s something a toddler might actually be excited to wear (which is good, since it sends off a panic alert when it’s taken off at unauthorized times).

There are some kinks that might need to be worked out, too. Battery power only lasts about 50 hours, though the company is working to extend that, and right now panic alerts are set off if you tap the watch three times or shake it horizontally five times. Anyone who’s seen my son’s dance moves might wonder at how practical that is.

If your family runs on apps and gets TaskRabbit to deliver chicken fingers, the hereO is definitely worth a look. Starting in July, it will retail for $149, but right now, it can be preordered for $129, including a six-month GPS subscription, on Indiegogo. After that, the subscription costs $5 a month. The free Family Location App is available now for iOS and will be out this summer for Android.

But if you’re the kind of person who will always consider a “GPS tracker” too Orwellian, it’s probably not for you. Instead, I’d suggest doing what my friend does when she takes her two-year-old son to crowded locations: Dress him in very bright red pants.

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