x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Home is most risky for a child

A whole industry of gadgets has grown up to ensure we don't lose our children while we're away. This fear is unfounded.

I've mislaid the children. I know they're somewhere close, but I'm not exactly sure where. Occasionally, I can hear the youngest - seven-year-old River - shrieking, in delight not danger. I'm neither worried nor rushing off to locate him. I think it's good for all of us to have a little bit of distance from each other. But apparently I should feel afraid. Because we're on holiday, I ought to be concerned about them wandering off.

A whole industry of gadgets has grown up to ensure we don't lose our children while we're away. This fear is unfounded. Statistics quite clearly demonstrate - as far as statistics can demonstrate anything - that home is the most dangerous place for a child. The seven-year-old twins are far more likely to fall down the stairs between their bedroom and the sitting room, or burn their hand on the cooker while helping their big sister prepare supper, than injure themselves when away. Yet still we're repeatedly told that the minute we leave home turf we're somehow putting them in greater peril. And most of all, we're placing them at real risk of getting lost.

Perhaps my kids come from another planet, but they seem to quite enjoy becoming unexpectedly separated from their parents. Isn't that part of growing up? Not according to some. We should know where children are at all times, as if they were remote control cars and we held the control in our wringing hands. The Snooper Tracker is a homing device designed to "put parents' minds at rest". Personally, I find that such gadgets induce rather than allay anxiety, especially when they have such terrifying names. "The Snooper Tracker uses a combination of GPS, GPRS and GSM technology to provide you with the exact position of your child," says the blurb, as if these abbreviations would comfort me. It sounds like I'd be launching a whole arsenal of weaponry against my child because they happened to have idled off to the kids' club all on their own. But there's not only the Snooper Tracker, there's also the Loc8tor Lite to help track any possessions you've attached a homing tag to. I admit it's intended for keys, cameras, wallets, passports and mobile phones - but why not kids too? To find them, you just have to turn around in a full circle and walk in the direction of the strongest signal shown on your hand-held device. At least it's ordered through the Royal National Institute for the Deaf website, so some of the cost goes towards charity.

I don't believe for a moment any of these or other devices mean my kids won't wander while we're away or that they'll be any safer. And I'm not sure I want them to be so tied to my swimsuit strings. I believe there's really only one relatively primitive kit - admittedly a bit shaky - that's of any use in keeping them safe and sound. Me. Do you have family travel tips that you'd like to share? E-mail Dea at dbirkett@thenational.ae