It may be difficult to remember now, but there was a time just a few short years ago where GPS devices were essentially synonymous with “turn-by-turn directions” and little else. People would go into a big box electronics retailer, slap down a few hundred dollars on a device for their car and never get lost on a road trip again.

GPS Tracking

My, what a difference a few years can make

Yes, GPS devices are still used to get people from Point A to Point B in one piece, but these days they’re also used for tasks that are far more important than that. Business leaders and entrepreneurs are using them to gain better insight into the management of their fleets, unlocking significant opportunities for cost savings and efficiency improvements along the way. Parents all over the world are even using them for the most important job of all: keeping their kids as safe as possible at all times.

How GPS Tracking Keeps Kids Safe

Often, parents don’t even need to purchase specialized GPS devices in order to help protect their kids—they can use the technology that is already built into the smartphones and tablets they currently own. According to one recent piece, for example, many parents are using “Find my Friends,” a popular and free iPhone application, in order to do just that.

Using the app, parents can always see the current location of their child—or at least, their child’s phone—down to a range of just a couple of meters. At any given moment all they have to do is pick up their own iPhone, open the app and get an instant visualization of where their child happens to be. It’s an extension of the system that allows iPhone owners to log into a computer and instantly find the current location of their device should it be lost or stolen. Parents don’t even have to use their own iPhones to get this information data—they can log into their account on the iCloud website and see it from any device with an active Internet connection.

None of this is to say that parents CAN’T purchase additional GPS tracking devices to monitor their kids, because they absolutely can. These techniques are quite popular, in fact, particularly among parents with younger children. If a child is too young to have an iPhone, you can still purchase a GPS-powered watch, bracelet or similar type of tracker that they can carry with them at all times. Once again, a parent would never be more than a few quick mouse clicks away from seeing exactly where their child is at all times.

Usually, these types of dedicated “kid protection” devices also include additional features like the ability to get notified if the subject moves outside a pre-defined geographic area. Many also include SOS alerts and other features designed to let the child instantly alert adults or even the local authorities if they feel like a stranger is trying to do them harm. All of this is technology that was still theoretical even a decade ago.

But while the technology itself is certainly beneficial in this situation, it will never be able to totally replace what is perhaps the number one asset in terms of keeping kids safe—good, old-fashioned parenting. Experts agree that parents should be teaching their kids about how to avoid dangerous situations in the first place. They need to sit down and have a raw, honest conversation with their children about the types of dangers they face, the types of people who might want to do them harm, and how to avoid falling into these and similar types of traps in the first place.

Yes, technology has come a long way in the last few years and it will absolutely go a long way in the not-too-distant future. But only by using GPS trackers to support parenting techniques, not replace them, will we be able to make sure that all of our children collectively stay as safe as possible all day, every day, no exceptions.