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THURSDAY, APRIL 20, 2006
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EDITORIAL

GPS cell phone potentially great child-safety device

How did we ever survive without cellular telephones?

One can rarely go anywhere in public today without observing someone talking on a cell phone. A few years ago it was mostly businessmen. Today, pre-teens are as likely to possess a cell phone (but never at school, of course) as their parents are.

And the options on the devices are amazing. Ring tones. Text messaging. News alerts. Games. Video on demand. Cell phones have become portable entertainment centers.

Try purchasing a cell phone today that only sends and receives telephone calls. But a new service announced by Sprint has the potential to be more than just another entertaining toy for the upwardly mobile.

For $10 a month, users can track, via a global positioning system, up to four telephones from their handset. The service provides an interactive map display showing the location of the target device, including nearby addresses and local landmarks. Sprint says the service is accurate to within a few yards in an open setting, or within 100 yards when the targeted subject is indoors.

Sprint's "Family Locator" is potentially a great tool for parents to keep track of their children's whereabouts. They will no longer have to worry on a Friday night when their teen fails to pick up on the call.

The service is potentially a great safety feature as well. What if Natalee Holloway's parents had such a service when she disappeared in Aruba a year ago? What if 10-year-old Jamie Rose Bolin — who authorities say was killed by a neighbor who wanted to eat her flesh — could have been tracked in this manner?

Of course, teens who don't want their parents to know where they are will find ways to thwart the service, either by turning off their phones or by leaving them in one place before moving to another, forbidden area.

But the service has the potential to be an effective tool for parents who are concerned about their children's safety.

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