Halloween 2012: year of the trick and track

October 24, 2012

Forget Big Bird and Psy. If there was one getup that might best sum up Halloween 2012, it would be a giant tracker.

Companies are using the holiday to flaunt an array of tracking devices designed to allow parents to keep tabs on their trick-or-treaters.

Some allow parents to “follow” their kids remotely, others help them plot out an acceptable candy-begging route, and at least one is rigged to record how many steps a child has taken going door-to-door (presumably to figure out his evening’s candy allowance.)

Tracking gadgets have been available in cruder forms in Halloweens past. However, the embrace of smartphones has made them far more accessible — and rational — to many more parents.

Trackers were big back-to-school items this year. It’s Halloween, though, when they may take off, as more than 40 million children in the United States are expected to head out into the night to knock on doors.

One site that sells tracking devices called the holiday a parental “nightmare.”

One application developer has created a “Trick or Tracker” app. It uses GPS and links the phones of parent and child. The $5 app also allows parents to create a “geofence,” according to TechNewsDaily. If a child wanders beyond the “fence,” parents get a text message alert.

Another comes from a developer that released “SecureaFone” just in time for the holiday. Makers say that parents can use it to know where their child is at any given moment, promising some nocturnal peace of mind.

Then there’s the maker of a hand-held device that is pitching, “While parents can’t dictate the types of treats given out, they can use trick-or-treating to ensure their children get their daily dose of physical activity.”

MOVband is a wrist-worn monitor that tracks all movement and converts it into mileage. The company suggests that parents snap one on a child’s wrist on the 31st to “inject some fitness into trick-or-treating.”

My children are still too young to need anything other than physical tracking. These gadgets are intended for the slightly older, go-it-alone crowd.

As I recall, part of the fun of Halloween at that age was the adventurous aspects. The novelty of massive amounts of candy had worn off and the thrill came from trick-or-treating in the dark with a group of friends. Now, of course, that seems like a wildly naïve attitude, or at least wildly out-of-date.

It’s unclear whether the tracking will making kids safer, but it certainly will inhibit their fun. Who can feel like a menacing ghoul when you are only allowed to lurk within your “geofence?”

The scares are more likely to be on the other end of the tracking devices, where parents endure the heightened anxiety that comes with monitoring on a night that’s filled with contrived frights.

Do you plan to track your trick-or-treaters? Why or why not?

Related content:

Does tracking kids relieve anxiety or fuel it?

‘Dark Knight’ shootings and the curse of unrealistic worry

The constant state of parental anxiety

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