Parents will be able to track their teenagers 24 hours a day using secret bounce-back SMS messages.
Parents using the “text track” technology get a return SMS instantly revealing their child’s location.
Teens will have no idea when their parents have done a check-up.
Child tracking will be within the budget of average parents.
In the UK, setting it up costs less than $100.
But privacy experts warn pedophiles and stalkers could hack the system and engage in clandestine tracking.
Users need only a standard mobile phone.
Each check will cost parents about 55 cents.
Previous tracking systems used GPS satellites costing up to $1000, and parents refused to pay.
Suppliers expect a boom in the use of text track because of its affordability.
Truant children and secret teenage lovers are being put on notice.
Parents can set up a zone around their wayward child’s school or banned boyfriend’s house. If the teenager leaves or enters the zone, an alarm is triggered and an SMS alert is instantly sent to parents.
Parents can also set up regular location checks at set times and view their child’s movements at the end of a day, week, or month.
Tracked teens must give permission before the private operator can follow their every move, but once given it is open-slather surveillance for parents.
Unlike GPS tracking, the system can track mobile phones indoors.
Phones will also have a one-touch alarm button for emergencies.
Australian software company Internav will introduce the Findafone service in March after the success of a similar service in Britain.
But Australia’s federal privacy commissioner Malcolm Crompton said yesterday the British service initially was not encrypting information safely, leaving children open to abuse.
“A pedophile can begin to track people, or the estranged parent from an abusive household,” he said.
He said that gung-ho operators were too quick to release controversial products.
“If you have technology as sensitive as this, you don’t need to rush into the market,” he said.
Adolescent psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg said text track was an electronic leash.
“It doesn’t say a lot about trust and respect. In a good family that is functioning well, there is no need for electronic surveillance,” he said.
“Enterprising kids worth their salt will get around this with ease.”
Internav director Graham Thomas said he expected the service to be a hit among teenagers.
“I’ve got a 13-year-old daughter. She is going to be able to SMS her friend and find out if she is in Queen St or sitting on the beach.”
Text track will not be able to locate a phone that is switched off.
Parents will also be able to check their child’s location via the internet and home phone.
The technology can also be used by employers to track workers.