Sprint Nextel Corp. on Thursday launched a new service that locates children through their cell phones, the first U.S. mobile carrier to offer tracking using standard hardware.
Dubbed "Family Locator Service," the $9.95 per month service relies on GPS (Global Positioning System) technology to pinpoint up to four cell phones, and then maps their locations on a PC or a parent's own cell phone.
Privacy safeguards, said Sprint, include parent-child permission to track phones, and text messages that are sent to the child's phone whenever the parent requests his or her location. Parents can also authorize others, such as a sitter, nanny, or other relative, to access a phone's location.
"We encourage parents and guardians to maintain open and frequent communication with their children," said Nancy McBride, the national safety director for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, in an accompanying statement.
The service also lets parents set up e-mail alerts which notify them when a child and his or her phone reaches a certain destination at a specified time. A parent away from home could set up an alert, for instance, that would ping when a child arrives home by a certain time.
Family Locator Service works on 17 phone models from Samsung, Sanyo, and Motorola, and can be used to locate 30 GPS-enabled cell phones. The Sprint Web site offers more information.