Thanks to advances in GPS technology, keeping track of children is becoming a doddle with new kids wearables.
Some trackers use simple radio waves and are excellent for short distance monitoring, like those moments in the supermarket where you turn round to find your little one missing. They usually work using a Bluetooth connection.
Digital parenting: The best wearables and new smart baby monitors
GPS tracking is a different kettle. With a GPS system you can pinpoint the exact position of the person you're looking for using a map on your smartphone or tablet. Some models also offer geo-fencing, an electronic barrier drawn on a digital map which, when breached, immediately alerts the parent or guardian.
So, where to begin? We've found the best child trackers you can buy right now....
Relatively new in the pantheon of child trackers, the excellent Weenect system is comprised of a 6cm water-resistant tracker, protective pouch and a USB charger.
It also comes with one month of free tracking (a 12-month top-up costs a reasonable £35). Tracking can be performed using a live map, a compass with distance countdown or, get this, augmented reality. Yup, just hold your smartphone up (iOS or Android) and, assuming you're pointing the phone's camera in the right direction, a little icon pops up on the screen showing you the child's whereabouts.
The Weenect Kids tracker also comes with an SOS button and, for older kids, a 'zone entry/exit' function that alerts the parent when he or she has returned home. It works in all of Europe plus a few outposts, including Korea, Madagascar, Australia, Ghana, India and Malaysia. Top choice.
The Tinitell is two things: a kids GPS tracker with live map monitoring using a smartphone app and a water-resistant, voice-recognition wrist phone.
Designed in Sweden, the rubberised watch works with any micro SIM card and in any country bar Japan, South Korea and North Korea.
The gist is simple… When a wandering sprog is lost or needs to make contact with someone, he or she simply pushes the front fascia button and speaks the name of the recipient. Voila, call connected. It is, to all intents and purposes, a genuine standalone phone, and arguably the smallest one on the planet. It's also a great Star Trek-style communication gizmo for adventurous kids.
Loc8tor GPS for Kids
Loc8tor is one of the most popular subscription-based GPS tracking devices on the market. Simply pop this small dongle in your child's pocket or attach it using the supplied belt pouch and you can keep tabs on their movements via your smartphone or browser.
You can set a safe-zone perimeter – very handy for those with gardens that border railway lines and open countryside – or use any internet-enabled mobile device to see the child's location on a map, in real time. What's more, its 2.45GHz frequency band means it can be used worldwide. Monthly tracking plans start at a rather hefty £40 per month. But what price peace of mind?
Amber Alert GPS Smart Locator
Amber Alert's pocket-sized GPS unit measures just 7cm and its rechargeable lithium battery runs for up to 40 hours on a single charge. Slip it into your child's pocket and you'll be able to check up on his/her location using either a browser or the accompanying iOS and Andoid app, communicate using the device's two-way voice function, even set up geo fencing boundaries.
But that's just the half of it. No one relishes the idea of living in the same neighbourhood as a sex offender so this clever gizmo also sends the parent or guardian a text or email alert if the child comes within 500 feet of a registered paedophile's home.
And if the little one ever has a panic attack, he or she simply hits the SOS button and a message is sent to the parent and up to ten authorised users. Subscription charges start at $15 per month.
This is not so much a tracker as a means of contacting the parent or guardian of a lost child. It's essentially a colourful silicone wristband with a printed QR code that contains the contact details of the child's parent or guardian. FlashMe works on the principal that most strangers are honest and that whoever finds the child will hopefully know what a QR code is.
As so many children under the age of four don't know their address or telephone number, a dirt cheap system like this could help save the day. A variety of other designs, including a pet version, are also available.
The Filip 2 - which is US only for now - offers two way communication; this time using a 2G connection, to five pre-assigned numbers. The stored numbers can also send messages to the device although there's no function for the user to reply.
With built in GPS, GSM and Wi-Fi, the Filip 2 also acts as a tracking device with parents able to locate their children using the companion iOS or Android app. If you have more than one kid, the revamped Filip app allows for multiple profiles to be created.
The GPS sensor extends to geo-fencing features, which Filip calls 'Safezones'. Up to five of these can be set up, meaning that you can be alerted everytime your little rascal strays away from a designated area.
SAFE Kids Paxie Band
These funky looking bracelets, which come in a number of different interchangeable styles to suit children's ever changing fashion needs, contain GPS connectivity - allowing parents to not only track their kids' locations but also letting them set boundaries of where there kids should be.
As well as the location features, the band also monitors ambient temperature to help prevent heat stroke and there are heart-rate and activity tracking sensors built in as well, making it easy to keep track of how active a child has been.
$175 plus monthly fees, oursafefamily.com
If your child already has his or her own phone, consider eschewing the pricy GPS unit approach and sign up to Lociloci instead. This online service works with all smartphones and standard GSM phones, and doesn't require any extra devices or apps.
The system doesn't need GPS to function as it works by obtaining data from the mobile phone transmission mast closest to the person you're tracking. Their whereabouts are then displayed on a smartphone map or any web browser. The service costs £4.99 per month which is about the going rate for most GPS-based trackers. However, initial start-up costs are less, simply because there's no need to purchase a GPS receiver.
Of course, iPhone users don't need a system like this as Apple's 'Find My Phone' and 'Find My Friends' apps do pretty much the same thing, only for free.
From £5 per month, lociloci.com
The soon-to-be-launched HereO is the first GPS tracking device cleverly disguised to look like a cute, colourful watch so little ones can show off and tell the time while you keep tabs on their whereabouts via your iOS or Android device.
Simply sync the watch with the free HereO app on your mobile device and a map pops up displaying your kid's precise location. If lost, the child can also send a panic alert using a series of simple commands.
HereO also allows you to set a geo-fenced safe zone so that when your child crosses the boundary, an alert is sent to your device. The HereO launches in December. Expect to pay a monthly subscription of around $5.
This is far and away the most sophisticated GPS-based tracking system on the market but it's also one of the most expensive. The slim 55 x 38mm tag itself is superbly designed and features a built in accelerometer and gyro, a Micro USB charging port and a pre-paid SIM that offers open roaming in over 30 countries. The Android/iOS app, too, is head and shoulders above the rest and includes real-time mapping, augmented reality for close proximity searches, geo-fencing and speed alerts.
Trax is free for the first two years; thereafter a reasonable monthly data subscription of €3.95 applies.