I had just been following the recent and tragic story of Jessica, the missing 10 year old from Colorado, whose body was found after she had been kidnapped. It made my heart sick. I can’t imagine what that little girl was going through, and what her family continues to go through. It’s horrible to know that the monster who did this is still out there. It’s horrible to know that there are people in the world who have desires to hurt children. Ugh, ugh, ugh….it’s so upsetting.
While following this story, I was shaken by just a brief incidence in my own neighborhood, a neighborhood that could easily be perceived as ‘nice.’ It’s one of those things that could have been ‘nothing at all,’ but it sure has made me amp up my caution. Last week, three of my kids were walking to the end of my road to meet their friend, who was coming from his house to ours. They were meeting half-way, both walking to the end of their road, have done it several times, and either myself or the other mom will contact each other, once they arrive. The friend was just two houses away from his own when a white work van drove past him, saw him and pulled over to the side of the road. He opened the door and leaned out, yelling, ‘Hey kid, come here!’ This little friend did exactly what we hoped, turned around and ran back home, with the guy yelling after him, ‘Come back here!’ The mom immediately called me and I ran up the road to bring my kids back. We reported it to the police, talked to all of our kids, and that was that. Now, who knows…maybe this guy was clueless and thought it was okay to ask a kid directions…or something. I don’t know. But, it seems a little strange. And, it’s extremely frustrating! It’s ridiculous to have to worry so much about my children being outdoors…in their own neighborhood, on their own street, in their own yard, even. I think I did a post similar to this a while ago, after I caught someone watching my little girl play, from across the street.
Anyway, it got me thinking…I wonder if there are any great products out there that would be helpful in situations like that. Helpful…along with intuition, screaming, running away, etc. Obviously, nothing would be fool-proof, but I started doing my research. I’m so happy to tell you that I found two things that I really, really love…bought them both (yes, with my own money…nobody is paying me to say anything.)
First up, the PocketFinder GPS Tracker. It’s a small circular, water-proof, sturdy device that you can throw in a backpack, hook on a belt loop, or wherever. In the unfortunate event that your child went missing, you would easily and instantly be able to track their exact location online or on with an app on your smart phone. You can see the history of where they’ve been, how fast they have been traveling, and even set up alerts to notify you if they leave a specific area.
To test it out, I attached it to my husband’s backpack while he went hunting over the weekend. It was really neat to be able to see it work. I could tell how fast his car was driving , and where he was. Even when he was up in the mountains, I had his exact location (latitude and longitude), and could tell if he was moving or stationary. I knew when he was walking (4 mph), and I knew when he was on the 4-wheeler (9 mph). And, I knew when he was on his way home. It was awesome! I know a lot of people like the PocketFinder to keep track of their pets, cars, and the elderly or handicapped. But, I love it for my kids (and my hunting-husband.) It’s fairly pricey, at $149 and their is a $12 dollar monthly service plan. However, I think it will come in so handy for those times where the kids walk to their friend’s house, visit an amusement park, walk the dog, whatever.
Second, I found the greatest kid’s cell phone, ever. I’ve been telling everyone about it! It’s called Just 5 and is the perfect emergency phone (it’s also been featured on CBS News, CNET, and Today.) Everything about it is super simple…from the big buttons, no frilly features, and a special button for calling mom or dad. But, the best part is the S.O.S. button on the back of the phone. If kids are in an emergency, all they have to do is push the S.O.S. button, and it will automatically dial 5 pre-programmed numbers. First, sending them a simultaneous text saying ‘I’m in an emergency, please call now!’ Then, it will call each one in the prioritized order, while signaling a loud alarm. The first person to answer or return a call will automatically be on speakerphone, making it easier for your child to explain the situation and have their hands available. Obviously, if they know it’s an emergency and feel like they should call 911, that’s easily done too. But, I love the emergency numbers feature so that a grown-up can handle the 911 call and the kid can think about getting safe after hearing direction from a trusted adult. I actually bought a lanyard so the kids can just wear it around their neck and it’s easily accessible in an emergency.
Although you can use most GSM SIM cards in the phone, their service plans are actually a pretty dang good deal. I signed up for one that is like $25 bucks for roughly160 minutes. The plan is good for 3 months, so the kids get to use just about 50 minutes a month, which is plenty for what I intend to use the phone for. Oh, and any unused minutes can be rolled over, and there’s no contract. You can read more about their calling plans, here. The phone also has basic features, like voicemail, texting, keypad lock, flashlight, and FM radio.
I actually think the phone is a pretty good deal, at $89.99…especially with the plan fees being so reasonable. Plus, having even an extra few ounces of peace of mind is worth a lot. I had to get the orange one…a favorite color of my boys. They’re trying to think of every excuse in the world to need to take the cell phone with them!