When 13-year-old Anchen Muller went missing in Cape Town last Friday, her parent expected the worst. Luckily for her parents, Anchen’s story had a happy ending… but not all of them do. If you could implant a GPS tracker in your child, would you?

To some, it might sound like something out of a dystopian Science Fiction movie: implanting GPS tracking devices into a person, tracking their movement and being able to find them wherever they go.

But for some parents, this isn’t only plausible, it’s necessary.

In South Africa, a child goes missing every 5 hours – that’s close to 2000 children each year. Of these missing children, almost a quarter are never found. Earlier this month, the #OneTooManySA pledge – a petition to fight violence against women and children – garnered thousands of votes. Unfortunately, for parents concerned about the dangerous conditions their children are exposed to every day, there isn’t much they can do.

But what if there was?

GPS tracking has been around for decades, and you can find your car if it’s stolen in a matter of hours. So why not your child? While you can get a number of tracking watches and other devices that can be hidden on your child’s person, those devices are in danger of being discovered and subsequently discarded in the event that your child is kidnapped.

So why not develop a tracking device that can be hidden inside your child?

Well, if you ask child psychology experts, there are plenty of ethical and moral issues surrounding the idea of GPS trackers in kids. As your child’s guardian, it’s your responsibility to look after them and make decisions that are in their best interest. While it may not seem that bad – after all, you’re charged with keeping your child safe, aren’t you? But as soon as you invade another person’s body without their expressed consent, you’re violating some of their most basic human rights. Implanting a tracker inside your child’s body prevents them from making the choice to not be tracked. That’s where the ethical objection comes from. You are taking away your child’s right to privacy as an individual.   

There is also a safety issue with GPS tracking your children. ‘But that seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? They’re meant to keep my child safe!’ While this is strictly true, consider what would happen if someone managed to hack into these tracking devices: your child’s movements could be tracked by whoever managed to break those security protocols. Your child could be put in danger of being followed and potentially harassed or even captured by someone with no way to escape.

These are just some of the objections that certain parties have to the practice of implanting tracking devices inside a child’s body – and some parents would argue that the reward is well worth the risk. This is a highly charged topic and, as with most morally grey areas, there are positives and negatives on both side of the arguments.

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