September 27th, 2021


Kids as Prisoners

Lenore Skenazy

By Lenore Skenazy

Published Dec. 26, 2018

 Kids as Prisoners
A company in Florida has started selling ankle bracelets — the electric kind felons wear on parole — to parents. The slogan on Tampa Bay Monitoring's website puts it bluntly: "When you need to keep track of your teenager at all times."

Unlike the other GPS monitors parents are using, which track a kid's phone, this one is unditchable. The "bracelet" cannot be removed. Company owner Frank Kopczynski bragged to the Miami Herald that the monitor is so secure that most people, including "hardened criminals," who have tried to cut it off "have ended up in the ER."

If your kids aren't hardened criminals yet — pfft! — they don't stand a chance.

Two different models are available. First is a "minimally intrusive" bracelet that is "lightweight, accurate (and) waterproof" and "provides instant alerts and evidence in the event of tampering, removal, loss of communication and entering or leaving set geographic zones."

Not quite sure how that qualifies as minimally intrusive, except that it is a little less San Quentin-like than the second model, which is bigger and bulkier and comes with an "optional, hardened steel encased security cuff."

"Honey, I got you a bracelet for Christmas!"

Kopczynski says that he gets about six orders a week from desperate parents. But he's no slouch at amping up the parental desperation himself. To anyone worried about, say, the humiliation a teen girl might feel wearing an electronic cuff, he says that's nothing compared with her "running off with a guy who's going to eventually take her to a motel and beat her a—."

He is good at depicting other scenarios that torment a parent's imagination, too: What about runaways? What about sex trafficking? "With the opioid epidemic and fentanyl, what's worse, a dead child or having them be embarrassed by wearing a bracelet?"

Those are the options he sees: death or monitoring. No wonder today's parents track their kids so much — GPS'ing their phones, checking their grades through online portals, reviewing their driving history and the websites they've visited, and even reading their personal texts through myriad new child surveillance apps.

All those are child-watching tools are legal, and so are the ankle monitors. Parents do not even need a court order to clamp one of these on their teen, though I'm guessing that if any kid knew that his parents were about to go this route, he would be tempted to run away — which is exactly what the bracelets are supposed to prevent.

The monitoring service costs $8 to $10 a day. One option includes a listening device that can hear whatever the wearer is saying, as well as what her friends (or kidnappers, I guess) are saying. It also allows a parent to suddenly announce through the speaker: "Sheldon, come home!"

Since time began, some parents have longed for a way to keep their kids completely safe — meaning completely captive. Until now, they had to lock them in the basement.

This was considered a crime.

But the ankle bracelets, for some reason, are perfectly legal.