By Nur Dianah Suhaimi
Madam Toh Siew Hui, an IT trainer, used to get worried sick whenever her son Jasper did not reach home from school by 5pm.
His schoolday ends by 1pm and it usually takes him 15 minutes to walk home.
Several times, she had to call her husband at his Woodlands workplace to ask him to rush to their son's school in West Coast to look for Jasper, 11.
'Mostly, we'd find that he had some extra class or school activity which he had forgotten to tell us about,' said Madam Toh, 37, a mother of two.
But four weeks ago, she was able to breathe easier whenever Jasper was late. That was when she started using SingTel's Locator service.
Launched last month, the service, which costs $5.35 a month, allows subscribers to track family members or friends via their mobile phones.
The telco said it can locate a person accurately within a 50m to 500m range, depending on the number of mobile base stations in the person's area.
Information on the person being tracked will be displayed on a map on the tracker's mobile phone.
But the person being tracked - spouse, child, employee or whoever - must have given prior consent and must be a SingTel subscriber.
A text message will be sent to the person being tracked to seek consent the first time the service is activated.
To further ensure that there is no breach of privacy, the telco will also send a reminder text message every month to the person being tracked.
SingTel, which gave no take-up figures, said response to the service has been 'encouraging'. It believes the service will be a hit among parents with young children.
Madam Toh uses it once to twice daily to track her son and maid, who sends her four-year-old daughter to preschool.
Once, with Locator, she tracked Jasper to Orchard Road when he was supposed to be home. He was given a good talking to that evening.
One other telco has also come up with a new service to help parents monitor their children's social life.
This month, MobileOne (M1) rolled out its KidSAFE service which lets parents decide who their children can hook up with on their mobile phones.
For $3 a month, parents can programme up to 40 phone numbers that their children can make and receive calls or messages from.
Calls from and to unauthorised numbers are made void. All numbers, authorised or unauthorised, are recorded by the phone and can be checked by the parents.
Parents must own the accounts linked to their children's phones.
M1 declined to reveal take-up figures for KidSAFE, saying only that it has had many inquiries.
The service seeks to rule out the risk of children talking to strangers or falling prey to phone scams. It could not have been more timely.
A recent Sunday Times report noted that Singapore's young are not averse to sending or receiving naked pictures of themselves or their friends through their mobile phones.
Ten parents interviewed said they provide their children with mobile phones so that they can be reached easily.
But they admitted that, most times, they are not aware who their children chat with on the phone.
Madam Toh has meanwhile been telling other parents about the Locator service.
She said: 'Children may feel that we are infringing on their privacy. But as parents, we just want to make sure that our children are safe at all times.'
This story was first published in The Straits Times on 28 December 2008.
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