Keep track of your kid
Parents are snapping up child-locator alarms after the recent abduction scares
The child abduction scares last month have struck a nerve in Singapore parents, prompting some to err on the side of caution by buying child-locator alarms and GPS trackers for their young children.
Over the past three weeks, electronic retail store JustBuy has seen an almost 10 per cent increase in sales of personal GPS trackers, while Singapore-based online children's store Lamkins has had a 40 per cent spike in sales of wireless child-locator alarms.
One of the concerned parents is Ms Judy Aw, a 36-year-old business development manager who bought three wireless locator alarms for her son, nephew and godson, all between four and five years old, after learning of the alleged child-kidnapping scares in Ang Mo Kio Hub and Simei.
'I know the police have said that they're just rumours, but still it's better to be safe than sorry,' says Ms Aw.
Rumours of kidnapping bids surfaced in the middle of last month, when someone called Allison Goon said in a Facebook posting that a woman had tried to abduct her son in Ang Mo Kio Hub.
In the weeks that followed, at least six similar stories about abductions in Tampines, Simei, Pasir Ris, Yishun, Bukit Panjang and Ang Mo Kio circulated on the Internet and through phone text messages. The police have already exposed some of these as hoaxes.
Since the reports surfaced, Lamkins' Mommy I'm Here child-locator alarms that the store imported from the United States two years ago have proven popular.
The store's owner, 43-year-old Angela Lam, believes her namesake shop is the only Singapore retailer selling these 'kiddy-friendly' locators.
The plastic bear-shaped locators, measuring 6.4cm by 3.8cm and available in pink, brown and blue, can be clipped onto a child's shoes, belt or wrist band.
Blue-coloured locators, priced at $79.90 and the most expensive of the three, come equipped with an automatic alarm feature. When a child wanders more than 20m away from a transmitter carried by his parent, this triggers an 86-decibel beeping alarm - about as loud as a food blender.
'I thought it was an interesting item, one that couldn't be found in the Singapore market. Kids here need this kind of thing,' says British-Chinese Lam, who used to lose her six-year-old son in shopping malls but did not like the idea of using a child leash to rein him in.
This sentiment was echoed by 35-year-old design director Heng Shen Wui, who, finding a child leash 'too restrictive', decided to buy a wireless locator for his active two-year-old daughter after spotting one on eBay.
His daughter will wear the locator on her arm when the family travels to Bangkok for their upcoming holiday.
He added that he and his wife might also use the locator to safeguard their belongings after their daughter outgrows it.
But the device, which stops working beyond 50m, is not without its limitations. 'You still have to keep an eye on your child,' Ms Lam notes.
Retail store JustBuy, located in Suntec City Mall, is one of five companies in Singapore selling Unico GPS trackers (right), which were introduced to the local market two years ago.
These trackers, available in three different models which vary in size, battery life and memory space, are priced from $329 to $429. They are used by people who want to keep track of their vehicles, pets, elderly family members and, increasingly, young children.
According to sales manager Don Low, 33, about 30 per cent of the around 20 Unico personal GPS trackers sold each week are bought by parents who want to monitor their children, aged typically between five and eight years old.
Among them is mother-of-three Catherine Chua, who bought two such trackers for her five-year-old son and three-year-old daughter.
The 2cm-thick devices, measuring 7.8cm by 4.5cm, were secretly sewn into her children's school bags.
'If I let them know about the hidden trackers, they will dig them out and play with them,' the 29-year-old personal assistant says.
Her children carry the bags whenever they attend kindergarten or visit public places such as shopping malls or the playground.
When Ms Chua wants to find out where her children are, she simply sends a password from her iPhone to the GPS tracker via a text message, which in turn replies with a link to a Google Maps page pin- pointing their exact location.
The Unico trackers are also equipped with a 'geo-fencing' function, which can be set to send parents a text message alert whenever their children enter or leave an area such as a school compound.
Similar personal GPS trackers can be found in security store Saint Global, whose headquarters are in Singapore. A tamper-proof GPS bracelet is available at $350, while a wristwatch GPS tracker is priced at $300.
For parents who prefer something a bit less sophisticated, child leashes (right) - sold attached to wrist links, body harnesses or soft toy backpacks - are available for around $30 at children's stores such as Kiddy Palace, Toys 'R' Us, Mothercare and Motherswork.