I recently touched on how the popular Netflix science-fiction series, Black Mirror, explores two possible, albeit potentially frightening, concepts stemming from artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML): virtual reality video gaming via personalization augmentation and the “revival” of a deceased loved one via ML emulation. These plotlines conform to a golden rule in science fiction: to hyperbolize a proven or prevailing truth in science or technology — with the hope of blurring the line between what we already know and what we fear and fantasize.

However, another episode explores a topic that is perhaps the closest to reality in its technological and societal predictions: the GPS tracking of children via connected devices. The plot in question (“Arkangel”) roots itself in the presence and impact of advanced parental surveillance technology, examining how such resources could provide both heightened safety and peace of mind.

Outside the confines of this episode, however, GPS child tracking has become a undeniable reality. There are now a variety of connected devices and apps aimed at keeping our children on our radars — literally — via a small screen, and while they may not exhibit the highly sophisticated perspectives and censorship capabilities portrayed in “Arkangel,” they do provide several resources that are no less stunning in their efficiency.

 

Keeping tabs

There continues to be a series of debates surrounding the morality and security of GPS tracking via smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. However, a straying child left to his or her own devices may warrant a different monitoring approach. These situations have given way to new technologies that allow parents to keep tabs on their children — whether this is enacted during a morning walk to school or during a weekend trip to the mall with friends. Brands such as AngelSense Kids and hereO make up a growing list of options for added surveillance.

 

The Implications

As of now, most of the aforementioned resources are marketed as effective, yet nonintrusive means of keeping children safe and connected to their parents. However, as this technology becomes increasingly advanced, it may eventually lead to subsequent discussions on child privacy vs. the right to parental oversight; this harkens back to a major theme explored in “Arkangel:” could this technology condition parents into always wanting insight to their offspring’s whereabouts — even after they have reached adolescence and beyond? After all, do these protective instincts necessarily have an expiration date?  Perhaps these situations could be balanced with age-related restrictions, or simply through the encouragement of familial discussions and agreements.

At the same time, some may argue that surveillance of loved ones and friends is an asset that transcends age and maturity, giving us the ability to mitigate missing person crises of all types. Regardless, it is fair to assume that GPS tracking via IoT-ready devices will occupy a significant discussion space in the future of technology.