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Last Updated:  Sunday, 23 March, 2003, 01:43 GMT
Mobiles to monitor children
Children testing the Guardian Angel system
Parents can contact children to see where they are
Parents could soon keep a much closer eye on what children are up on their way to and from school thanks to a mobile monitoring system.

Guardian Angel is a product which allows parents to map out the exact route a child takes to school.

It will send text alerts to their mobile phone if the child deviates too far from that route or takes too long getting there.

Made by French mobile firm Alcatel, the system takes advantage of the existing mobile phone network to locate a child's whereabouts rather than using global positioning systems like some location-based services.

Parents need simply follow the usual route a child takes to and from school and at three-minute intervals press a button to map out the route.

Policing kids

An average one mile walk will have around 10 checkpoints but the parent can have fewer if they wish.

They also need to programme in the time, within a 15 minute parameter, that the child should be at that point.

Guardian Angel monitoring system
Alerts will be sent to parents if there is a problem
Text alerts can be sent if the child fails to arrive at the agreed time or if she or he deviates too far from the route.

A message can also be sent to let parents know the child arrived safely at his or her destination.

Not all teenagers are happy about the system.

"There were negative reactions from kids saying they didn't want to be policed," said Jean-George Demathieu, business development manager at Alcatel.

For that reason Guardian Angel is aimed more at the eight to 12-year-old market.

"At that age children still enjoy the idea of being close to their parents," he said.

Parents too are divided over the system. Some are keen because of the peace of mind such a safety net would give them.

Others do not want to police their children to that extent, said Mr Demathieu.

And he admitted that the system is no silver bullet to the constant fear of parents that their children will be kidnapped.

It will only work if the phone is switched on and is being carried by the child.

There are no privacy worries however because the device is in the hands of a minor who is still under parental control.

Certain countries could be more receptive to the idea. Initially, Alcatel is looking to sell the system in Israel, where adults and children live in fear of suicide bombs and other terrorist attacks.

There are no commercial trials available yet but Alcatel said that it is talking to leading operators around the globe.

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