Giving Your Child More Freedom Without Going Crazy with Worry: PING GPS

February 26, 2019

You can watch the video version of this post on my Facebook page.

I’ve had tonnes of questions about our topic today. I’ve talked about it in dribs and drabs- I’ve shared it with my BSBP members already- cause that’s one of the perks of being a member- they get first access to stuff. But now I’m ready to share it with Y’all. 

Last time I did an episode like this was on the Time Timer- and if you want to see that you can absolutely go back and watch it later- but afterward, it was so cool to see so many of you in the Posse and in BSPB posting with your wins and sharing how big of an impact this gadget you had no idea existed was having on your day to day lives. And I’m not a big “gadget” person when it comes to kids- I’m a huge believer in simpler is better for children. I think we overcomplicate so much in our kids’ lives. So I am very selective about the gadgets I use with my own kids, and obviously by extension what I recommend to you and my members. But I think an ideal “parenting gadget” is something that facilitates your ability to engage in the kind of parenting you want to be engaging in. The Time Timer is a perfect example of that. Yes, it’s a gadget, but it allows you to back off, give your kids more freedom, give them more responsibility, and nag and yell less. So tonight I wanted to share with you another gadget that has once again done that for me personally- and that’s the Ping GPS. 
We all know the benefits of outdoor play, of allowing our kids to roam more freely, of giving them the responsibility to do things on their own. It came up again in the Posse just over the weekend. And nobody knows these things better than I do. And yet- last summer when I was facing sending my youngest to kindergarten I was finding I was having a lot of anxiety around him being outside of my care and control. The concept of putting my 4-year-old on a bus and watching a stranger drive away with him was terrifying. I let him out of my sight frequently- I’m not what you would typically call a helicopter parent. My kids have been playing out in the backyard unsupervised since they were tiny. My oldest is five and has been playing freely in our front yard for two years now and last summer I started trusting him to walk to the park and back by himself. But even then… I always had this niggling fear in the back of my mind that he’d need help and wouldn’t be able to alert me, or that he’d wander and I wouldn’t know where he’d gone, or even just that he’d stop to talk to a neighbour or something and not be where I expected him to be. So I had this like- war inside my brain going on between the part of me that knows that independence and freedom and responsibility is important for children’s development and that the world is a safe place, and the part of me that was worried about keeping tabs on him. Not to mention the fear that others would feel like I wasn’t keeping sufficient tabs on him. And I’m one of those people- like, I have my Mom and my husband on Find Friends on my phone so I can see where they’re at. I use Bluetooth trackers to keep track of my keys and my wallet and my purse. It felt really odd that I wouldn’t have a way to find my child if I needed to. 
So I spent a lot of time researching GPS trackers. And… there weren’t many options out there. The options I found were either huge- like the size of a large cellphone- and bloated with features I didn’t need, or they were for like- cars. And I tried a few of them, but the data plans were expensive, I didn’t need all these features like two-way voice or minute by minute tracking, and as I said- they were massive. On my 50th percentile 4 years old it was glaringly obvious that he was wearing it and in many instances, it hindered his movement- which was the opposite of what I wanted to do. Finally, I stumbled upon the Ping and it fit the bill exactly- it’s small, it’s lightweight, the data plan is cheap and comes included, it’s rechargeable, and it doesn’t have all these crazy features that I didn’t want. It’s simple.
Okay- so let’s talk about the limitations right off the bat because there are some. Ping does not advertise this as a child tracker. They’re rather clear on that. Think of this as a Bluetooth tracker on steroids. It doesn’t track, and it’s location isn’t pinpoint accurate. They claim it’s accurate up to 20m. Personally, my experience has been that it’s pretty freaking accurate. And I’ll tell that story in a bit- but I think a 20-meter circumference is an entirely accurate representation of its abilities. It does not continuously send its location- it “checks in” whenever it stops moving, or when it starts moving if it’s been stagnant for a period of time. So it’s not going to show you your child’s exact bus route. But it does show me many stops along my son’s route- because it stops moving, so it updates the location. But it’s not a tracker. It’s just meant to show you where the device is at that moment. So that’s important to know- if you’re looking for something that’s going to show you every street your child walked down, this is not for you. There’s also no voice service- one or two way. It’s not a voice device. This little thing is- as I said- very simple. But that’s why it shines in my opinion. What it does, it does well. 
As I said, it’ll show you in the app on your phone its location within 20 meters. I’ve had to rely on this twice now- once when the school called to ask why my oldest was absent from school- and I’d put him on the bus so I was pretty darn sure he was at school. But his class wasn’t in their classroom so the receptionist was running all over trying to put eyes on him… but because of the Ping, I could see that at least his backpack made it to school which meant he was most likely there too. The Ping returned a location within 10 seconds. And that just gave me the peace of mind to not freak out while they found him. I could see the little dot on the map saying his bag was on school property. And it would have been helpful even if he hadn’t been! Like his bus picks him up and other than letting children on it goes straight to school. So if he’d like- fallen asleep on the bus and the driver had missed him, I would have seen that he was at the bus depot. So it just reassured me that my kid did make it to school. The second time I had to use it his bus didn’t show up to drop him off at the end of the day, and my husband was the one getting him off the bus that night and he called me and said “Hey, the bus was supposed to be here 20 minutes ago and there’s no sign of it.” So the first thing I did was pull up the Ping app and request his location- and it said he was on a road heading out of town. Not where he was supposed to be by a stretch. So I called the bus company and was like hey- my son’s bus didn’t come down our street, he has a GPS in his bag and it says he’s on this road heading out of town- what’s going on? And because I was able to tell them what street my son was on they were able to narrow down what bus he was on really quickly, radio the bus driver. The bus driver pulled over and found him, and we got him back quickly. And that would have been a much scarier situation for me if I hadn’t been able to have that connection to him. It also really reassured him- he came home and he was pretty freaked out, so I showed him the screenshot of the map on my phone and he was like “Okay, you knew where I was even if I didn’t know where I was.” And that was really reassuring to me- he knows it’s there and it makes him feel secure knowing it is in his bag. So- this isn’t going to pinpoint his location exactly- but it gives you enough of an idea of where they are that you can tell if they’re where they should be. 
It also has check-in and an SOS feature. So the button on top is the only button on the device- depending on if they press and hold or if they triple click it’ll either send an SOS alert- so it will put a notification on the app and update the device’s location or it’ll just check in and update the devices’ location. We haven’t used that feature yet- we’ve tested it- I’ve sent my son and my husband to the park and had them try the SOS alert- but he’s a bit too young to understand how to triple click. I have practised with him to press and hold if he’s ever lost, but he hasn’t needed to use that yet. When he was on the wrong bus we did talk about how when he realized he wasn’t going home that he could have used the SOS button… but I think he was a bit panicked so it didn’t really occur to him. I do think that when he’s older and he’s going to friends houses and extra-curriculars that it will be useful to be able to have a rule that hey- when you get there, please check in. So I’ll be able to see he made it. I think it might actually allow me to be able to hold off getting him a cellphone for a bit longer than I otherwise might. 
It also has a Bluetooth radio- if you’re within 100m of it you can make it ring and on the app, there’s a display that will let you know if you’re getting closer or further away from it. Really good for if you’re trying to find your kid in a crowd. I’m hoping eventually they might update it so that you can make it ring over cellular too- I’d find that really useful for like- alerting kids that they need to come home from the park or whatever. But that’s not a current feature- but it’s a feature request I’ve put in. No idea if it’s in the cards or not. 
So that’s really it as far as features go. As I said- super simple. But super effective. On a day to day basis I keep this in my son’s backpack, but when he goes on a field trip or he’s going out to play in the community or whatever- I do attach it to his clothes and I’ll show you how I do that. 
I have a little velvet lined pouch- I think a cellphone microphone came in this at one point. But it was the perfect size for it so I co-opted it. You can find a similar one here, or if you have even the most basic sewing skills you can sew a pouch out of whatever fabric suits you- I suggest neoprene.And I put the charged Ping in the pouch.
And then I got a hard tag– these are those things that you have to have removed from clothing in a retail store when you pay- they’re anti-theft radio tags. I chose this particular one because it’s the smallest I could find that was still smooth. They can’t be removed without a magnetic detacher. Without the magnetic detacher– and this has a very specific magnet in it- these can’t come apart.
So I put the pin from the tag through the pouch, and then I put it through whatever it is I want to attach it to. On a day to day basis that’s inside a pocket on his backpack. If he’s going somewhere unfamiliar I usually put him in cargo pants and I attach it to the inside of the leg pocket. I have a friend who also has one for her daughter and she likes to wear skirts so they have one of those spandex running belts that they’ve altered so that it fits her, and she pops it in the belt and uses the tag to keep it shut.
So that does a few things- it makes sure that they aren’t going to lose it, it’s attached to them. It makes sure nobody can take it off of him. And because it’s an anti-theft tag- if someone were to bring him into a store it would set the alarms off and draw all sorts of attention. So that’s how I keep it on him and ensure that he doesn’t lose it. And you can get these tags online on ebay and Wish and retail supply stores. They’re super cheap. I think I paid a dollar for the tag and twelve dollars for the detacher. If you choose to purchase from the link above- just tell them you’re buying a sample. 
That’s how I use Ping to keep tabs on my kid. It made teaching him to walk to the park super easy last summer- our park is just 8 houses down from us. So it’s not far- but again, it just gave me that extra bit of security knowing that I could see that he got to the park and that he was still at the park- cause he’ll stay there and play for a couple of hours. So just being able to check in and see his little indicator still on the park property is comforting. And it allows me to give him way more freedom than I think I would be comfortable doing otherwise. 
So I love this little thing. I’ll admit, I felt a bit nuts when I got it- but for the price, you really can’t beat it. Currently, the pricing on this is $79.99 USD and you get 30 days of service with it, after that it’s $5.99/month to keep it running. Which is nothing- like what’s six bucks a month to be able to find your kid? You can’t get a cellphone plan for that price that’s for sure. And it all goes through Ping- I know when I was looking at their competitors they all required you to buy the device and then get a sim card and a cellular plan from a local cellular company and they all only supported a band of cellular service that’s slowly being sunsetted so it was really difficult to find. Especially for me, I live in a rural area so we really only have one feasible option for cell service. So it’s really nice that the plann part of it is all included- you don’t have to go get a pay as you go plan or an expensive post-pay plan. It’s just all in one. 
So if you’re like me and you know the importance of giving your kids freedom but having a general idea of where they’re at would make you more comfortable with actually following through on that- I highly suggest you check out the Ping GPS.
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