Would you microchip your child to keep them out of harm’s way? That’s the controversial question two dads are asking as they look to put a hi-tech spin on child safety.
Brothers Stephen and Darren Fern founded Lost Kidz after a discussion about the horrors of losing a child. They set up a smartphone app that parents can use to send out an alert to people nearby when their child goes missing.
But now they want to take that further. The brothers created a storm when they posted a message on their Lost Kidz Facebook page this month asking parents whether they’d be prepared to microchip their child so the app could give them an immediate location if their son or daughter went missing.
“Invasion of privacy or essential parenting tool? Lost Kidz is researching this right now and we are looking at available technologies,” the post says.
In an interview with the BBC, Stephen Fern says the technology would be similar to that used on pets – and likens microchipping to piercing ears or circumcision.
“When, as a parent, we feel the need to say, ‘We’re in trouble here, we don’t know where our child is’, panic has set in, we can press a button, it activates the chip to beam an alert out,” he says. “It’s a little bit science fiction-like, but we can see exactly where our child is.”
Mr Fern says wearable tracking devices help in “99 per cent” of cases of missing children, but a microchip would be vital in abduction incidents.
The Facebook post has quickly attracted more than 18,000 comments – including 5000 in its first five hours – but Mr Fern estimates 95 per cent of parents agree with microchipping.
In a follow-up post, Lost Kidz addresses the heated debate, including claims it would be too much like “Big Brother”. “It wouldn’t be compulsory. Nor would it necessarily be government controlled,” the post says.
Others fear the system would be hacked, to which Lost Kidz replies: “And do what with it? If a predator wants to find a child, why on earth would he attempt a sophisticated hacking attack to see where a child may be, when he can just go to a school, park or shopping centre? Think these comments through.”
It says finding kids quickly is the key to the best chance of survival if they go missing – for example, if they are near water. And it points out that even the most attentive parent can lose a child: “It takes seconds. Anyone who suggests that this is bad parenting may just have been lucky. It can happen to any of us.”
As for claims that kidnappers could just cut out the microchip with a knife, the post says: “Possibly yes … but if they have your child and they are prepared to chop an arm or leg off, the chances are your child is in a very desperate situation anyway. They are in the wrong hands. This may give you a clue as to where they are before the child is killed. Without it … no chance.”
So, with all that in mind – would you microchip your child? Tell us below.