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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Where are you?

We recently did a family cell phone upgrade at chez treppenwitz. 

By this I mean that when my employer upgraded my cell phone, we decided to buy the same model for Zahava as well (so she could use the hands-free kit in our car). 

While we were negotiating speaking with the cellular provider's representative, we decided to purchase two additional phones... theoretically for Ariella and Gilad to use when they are out on school/ youth group activities or trips.  Of course, since we purchased the phones, the kids have practically slept with them.

Anyhoo... after I'd finally signed the reams of paperwork that this transaction generated, I experienced some serious buyer's remorse and started asking myself what the heck a 10 and 12 year old need with cell phones? 

Oh sure it will make it marginally easier to summon them home when we need them... and it'll allow them to call us (or G-d forbid an ambulance or policeman) in an emergency.  But despite the fact that I threatened them with bodily harm if they ever make any unauthorized calls to friends, I was already envisioning astronomical phone bills at the end of each month.

Amazingly, I'm OK with it now.  Really.

You see, I just visited the web site of our cellular provider and noticed an interesting service called 'Eyfoh Atah?' (translation: 'where are you?'), and suddenly the hidden possibilities of having the kids surgically attached to their cell phones came to light. 

This 'where are you?' service will allow me to send a quick SMS message to either of my progeny...  and immediately get a reply on my phone's screen with their exact physical location as computed by the positioning software in their phones and the cellular network. 

This is huge!  Within moments of 'pinging' either of the kids, I'll actually get a text message back with the nearest address to where they (well actually the phones) are located.  That's right... inside these little electronic money pits I've given my children is roughly the equivalent of the electronic ankle bracelet they lock onto Martha Stewart felons serving house arrest! 


Does the fact that I'm over here doing a little happy dance make me a bad person?!

Of course, for legal reasons the system doesn't allow me to receive the coordinates of my offspring without their consent... so when they receive my coded SMS message they have to approve the track-back.

But I'm not worried about that. 

I figure that since I've already threatening them with serious bodily harm if they make unauthorized calls to their friends... I can also explain the consequences of not approving my occasional attempts to 'ping' them.

At the moment, while they're still pretty young, I don't see myself making much use of this nifty service.  But as they progress further into their stupid years I can see this powerful tool becoming more valuable than the recipe for cold fusion.

Hypothetical future call to one of my kid's cell phones:

[cue inane ring-tone of the moment]

My future teenager:  [shouting over loud club music in background] Hello?

Me: Hi there... Mom and I were just wondering what time you're planning on coming home.

MFT:  Oh hi Abba... um, well I'm at Rachel's house and we have a big test tomorrow so it'll probably be pretty late.

Me:  OK, that's fine... you guys have fun with your studying.  Oh, by the way... when we get finished with this call I'm going to be sending you an SMS... and I hope that when you respond it tells me you're really at Rachel's house.  Love ya... bye.

MFT: [!!!]

Oh yeah... I anticipate that just the threat of this thing is going to keep them on the straight and narrow.  :-)


Posted by David Bogner on April 6, 2006 | Permalink


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Haha. Yeah. By the time this will happen, your future teenagers will have tweaked the system to their outmost convenience. Don't say no one warned you.

There, you're using your blog avatar as cell phone wall paper?? Okay. Mine has, err, shtripes.

Posted by: a | Apr 6, 2006 12:32:27 PM

wow, genius plan Mr B. i think just the threat will work though...

Posted by: Tonny | Apr 6, 2006 2:15:06 PM

Your kids sound like such smart, great kids, I can't forsee much problems you'll have with them. The feature is cool and I guess the fact that the person has to approve the text message makes it OK...you can't ping some random stranger. But parents should really attempt to cultivate the trust the normal, old fashioned way. It'll get them a lot farther in the long run.

Posted by: Essie | Apr 6, 2006 2:30:55 PM

I'm with Essie on this. You don't want the kids to feel like inmates, do ya?
Though I don't see an issue with Ari and therefore the amounts of pinging will be minimal. However, with Gilad, I see him 'losing/misplacing' his phone when he has 'errands' to run!!! So ping away! Can't touch that! (But again, he's innocent until proven guilty)

Posted by: val | Apr 6, 2006 2:50:02 PM

All I can say is this: you are a bad, bad, man. *Grins*

On another note, what do you want to bet that the cell company will start offering a competing service to teenagers in a few years? It will be something like this: If the teenagers pay a nominal monthly fee, they can have the cell company respond with one of a few pre-programmed cell locations to an 'eyfo ata' check... all without the parents being the wiser.

On the bright side, it'll keep kids out of drug money. Er... not that your kids would *use* drugs, but that's besides the point. (Back a few years ago, a study in the Netherlands found that kids were having to decide between paying for text messaging and cigarettes, and were choosing texting. Heh.)

Posted by: matlabfreak | Apr 6, 2006 3:29:28 PM

Ahh, you have a lot of joy coming in the future. Teenagers and cell phones seem to be a natural mix. I didn't think it were possible for my son(19) to spend 7,000 minutes(all free!) on his cell phone. But he manages some how.

The SMS and ping seem like a great idea. But like some of the other commenters have stated, the kids will probably find some way to work around it.

Posted by: seawitch | Apr 6, 2006 3:48:04 PM

"Sorry Abba, my phone was turned off."

"Sorry Abba, for security reasons the IDF blocks all calls within this vicinity"

"Sorry Abba, the train was late, the dog ate my homework, I fell asleep, I was looking for a gift for your birthday..."

Sounds like this could be a lot of fun.

Posted by: Jack | Apr 6, 2006 4:01:48 PM

Sending my son to dormitory yeshiva was a painful transition for this American mother, since I was not used to it from the "old country". His having his own phone and being able to call whenever he wanted (and my being able to talk to him whenever I wanted) made it much easier. Except for the time when he forgot to call me one Sunday after traveling back from a weekend at home, and my imagination went into overdrive. After a few nervous hours I tracked down his dorm counselor and he made him call me. Sometimes you can depend too much on the cell phone.

Posted by: westbankmama | Apr 6, 2006 4:02:34 PM

Dude, the raging party with the beer keg is at Rachel's. Oh, and Rachel's topless.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Apr 6, 2006 4:25:11 PM

love love your post and photos why so long to see you site??

Posted by: siley greenblatt | Apr 6, 2006 4:36:07 PM

You seem to forget where from Trep ... SIM Cloning was developed there... It's still under R&D so you can imagine what MFT will be able to do by that time. [!!!] :)

Posted by: kakarizz | Apr 6, 2006 5:12:54 PM

A humorous post like this always attracts some d***head who responds seriously, instead of just taking it with the grain of salt that was intended.

I have decided to be that d***head.

Let me just sum up my feelings on this post with (imagine Summer from The O.C. here):


What a horrible concept for child-raising. Do you think that you are going to raise responsible trustworthy children by intimating continusously that they are irresponsible and untrustworthy? Or that applying force to children to do what you want will instill good values?

Children will reach an age where you can't force them to do things. By that time they have to have learned that they do things that you want them to do, not because they are forced, but because it is right. Otherwise, you are going to have Hell to deal with.

And children have to be able to make decisions. What is the point of removing from them the capacity to make these decisions?

Anyway, aside from leaving the phone behind and buying a new one or borrowing one from their friends, or forgetting to turn it on, and so on, undoubtedly by the time they are older they will have learned to hack the phone signals and tracing technology, anyway.

So, ew.

I feel the same way about baby halters/leashes. That is not what we became civilized for. That is regressing to become animals.

Children have to be taught to be human beings, not restrained animals.


Posted by: Yehuda | Apr 6, 2006 6:25:33 PM

Why don't you get them prepaid cards?

Posted by: Maria | Apr 6, 2006 6:49:13 PM

Funny post. My fourteen year old has a cell phone, but even though we could get a "way-cool" family plan if we got him one like ours (mom and dad's) I, personally, couldn't live with the fear he WOULD use up all his minutes and then some. So we got him a pay-as-you-go phone from VirginMobile and it has worked out great.

Honestly, though, your kids are young. Technology and their abilities will outstrip all of us year after year. I suspect the phones our kids will be using a few years from now will be able to do so much more than now.

Good luck, dad!

Posted by: Tracey | Apr 6, 2006 7:25:11 PM

As the mother of a teen who has had a cell phone since age 13 (for medical reasons at first) I applaud!

As for teaching children the old fashioned values of trust and honesty, by 13 I submit you have done so---and from that age onward, since it is natural for teens to push the bounderies, all intelligent parents adopt the motto: "trust, but verify." This is just a high-tech version of verifying. ((-:

Posted by: aliyah06 | Apr 6, 2006 7:26:26 PM

If cop shows and Jack Bower have any bearing on what's actually what in the world of Hi Tech communications .... it is possible to know where any cell phone is without the phone owner consenting to the SMS. Maybe this can be accomplished by the average parent with a simple software hack. You know people in high tech, right?

Posted by: Scott | Apr 6, 2006 8:06:03 PM

My daughter got her first cell phone at 5. Yes, 5. It went to kindegarten in her backpack and when the babysitter picked her up in the afternoon, they turned it on so I could call them while they were out and about.

She's 12 now and if she didn't have a phone, I swear I'd go crazy. She calls me to check in after school and whenever she is out and about. She has a lot more autonomy than she would if we weren't able to reach each other so easily! Even when she travels down south or to Europe, she texts me from the airport to let me know she's arrived. It's wonderful.

For about 3 years now we haven't had a landline. We each just have our cells. It works out much better really.

Posted by: jg | Apr 6, 2006 8:31:22 PM

A few questions...first, if you're worried about big bills, wny not get them pre-paid plans or just tell them they have to pay for anything outside of parameters that you set? Second, did you actually pay money for those phones? Third, do you really think your kids will do those types of things when they're older? You don't seem like one to raise kids who do such things. Last, don't you worry about the message you're sending to your kids? If I was in you kids' position, I know I'd feel like there was a lack of trust in the relationship. I've had a cell phone since late 2002, and it's come in very handy- not absolutely essential, but very handy. Also nice to have, for social reasons. Seriously though, when I had a cell phone bill for almost $140 for a week in Israel over this past Chanukah, I was responsible for a certain (re: large) portion of the bill (all call and messages to friends, basically). If a similar situation ever occurs with your kids, then just hold them responsible. By allowing them to use the phones and holding them responsible for certain items, you're giving them the opportunity to further prove their maturity and responsibility, and to learn lessons from mistakes they might make. Whatever- I'm rambling here. One last question- how much is the bill going to be every month for you, assuming the kids don't use their phones too much?

Posted by: tnspr569 | Apr 6, 2006 8:35:48 PM

That's not fair!!!!!!!!!
I won't bring my cellphone with me!!!!
Besides I'm not like that!!!

Posted by: ariella | Apr 6, 2006 9:30:24 PM

When my daughter was into "forgetting" to tell me where she was, or, sometimes, to come home when she was supposed to, she always had her phone switched off. When I pointed out to her that this was both unreasonable and frustrating for callers, she said she always switched it on when she knew someone was going to call.

Does this "Efo Atah?" facility also function for spouses who want to check exactly where their significant other is? (As in, sorry darling, I'm having to stay late at the office tonight...) Could be interesting.....

Posted by: Judy | Apr 6, 2006 9:50:43 PM

But you seriously raised their social standing in phone happy Israel just for giving them each one so that earns you bonus points.

Dr. Bean - I am shocked, shocked.

Posted by: Lisoosh | Apr 6, 2006 10:05:25 PM

I didn't get my first cell phone till I started college... and now have developed an unhealthy love-hate relationship with it. My mother was perfectly fine until I got my cell phone... now that I have it, she seems a lot more worried1 : )

Posted by: Irina | Apr 6, 2006 10:30:34 PM

My first cellphone was the size of a small briefcase. It weighed about 17 pounds.

Not that this matters, I just wanted to share it.

Posted by: Jack | Apr 6, 2006 11:38:43 PM

I hope to be as humorous as you to my future teenagers children. I'm more military. But I also hope that my future child will be like Calvin, from Calvin and Hobbes. Try to be humorous to that kind of monster.

Posted by: Emanuel Ben-Zion | Apr 6, 2006 11:44:01 PM

When I began going out on my own, my dad forced me to take the family cell phone with me everywhere. When I began driving, he got me my own phone. When I went off to college, he got me a *better* phone.

I can't tell if he's paranoid because he's an retired police officer or if it's just because he's a dad.

To be honest, I feel safer with the phone. When I walk around campus at night, I have my Mace in one hand and the cell phone in the other. Recently, I broke my phone charger and had to leave the cell off for a week. Truly, these were the most irritating few days of the last few months.

Trust me, your kids will thank you for the phones-- even if you do have to 'ping' them every once and a while.


Posted by: Kate | Apr 7, 2006 4:05:57 AM

I was actually getting a bit riled up on behalf of kids the world over until the part where they need to respond. Nevertheless, the point people above made about 'by then, your kids should have been raised by you to answer honestly' is a fair one, and from the descriptions of them on your blog, most likely (iyH). Of course, the "trust and verify" point is a good one too.

Anyways, cool feature. I'd be most interested in seeing if the IDF starts putting it on soldiers uniforms somewhere [in case of kidnapping], on terrorists being released from jail, and if it spreads to the US [oh, the liberal outcry!]. Actually, why hasn't the IDF done something like this? Not cost-effective?

Posted by: Ezzie | Apr 7, 2006 4:07:52 AM

Trep: Where are you? When are you going to come home and put up Photo Friday? Why aren't you answering your cell phone?

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Apr 7, 2006 8:55:29 AM

I have two young blond daughters. They are going to need all the help they can get to remain safe in society. Even at this early age, I have been light on discipline, but heavy on trust and communication. They love their daddy and want to please him. They are more motivated by love than by fear. I always keep my promises, and say what I mean. They trust me completely, and someday, I will use technology like this, to help them every way I can. I want to guide them in the right direction, but I will never crush their free will. I look out for there well-being in a dangerous world. If all goes well, they won't mind that I can track them, with their acceptance, because legitimately I am only looking out for them, and they will understand that. It is different than when I was young, there are so many new technologies. Certainly, I am hesitant to forge these new frontiers. I will use the technology, but not inappropriately. Fast forward a few years, and I'll be able to tell you if this is wildly unrealistic, or if it helped these two young girls grow up safely. :)

Posted by: Seattle | Apr 7, 2006 9:55:14 AM

Disney is rolling out a service here that is similar to the one you describe.

Posted by: Jack | Apr 7, 2006 10:04:41 AM

It must be the early morning. I just thought I saw Ariella commenting. ;)

Posted by: a | Apr 7, 2006 11:28:01 AM

oh wait, on another note -- any good cell phone can be locked, allowing only a row of numbers, and you can even set a fixed $ amount that can be phoned up.

Tracking soldiers in case of kidnapping...pinning a GPS pinger onto them actually invites the kidnappers.

Posted by: a | Apr 7, 2006 11:32:56 AM

You tell him, Ariella!!! :-)
I suspect phones will be "forgotten" or "misplaced" on occassions when YFT feels that autonomy and privacy are justified... Teenagers, even the good at the core ones, are pre-programed to test limits and try out their independence just like they did when they were toddlers and children. The methods just change a bit, and the stakes are a little higher. The fact remains that if you've done your job right, your kids will be basically good. They will also try your patience and nerves, break rules, think they can fool you every step of the way and will one day be amazed when you admit that you knew most of what was going on because although they will never believe you, you were once that age too. It's inevitable and GPS will never erase the ingenuity of a teen...or the wisdom of a parent.

Posted by: nrg | Apr 7, 2006 11:33:55 AM

I LOVE that Ariella is commenting... let's just see how THAT changes anything around Treppenwitz...!!!

Posted by: val | Apr 7, 2006 2:51:57 PM

while i may not agree entirely with the 'tracking device' concept... let me just advise - get the replacement insurance. we have had to replace Ferris' a couple of times now. the last time was because he was thrown into a pool at a party. (and like dr. bean's comment ...which i love...- we knew where he was ... just not what was going on ;o)

Posted by: weese | Apr 7, 2006 2:52:03 PM

what a brilliant invention, wanna bet though that some wisecrack will find a way to circumvent the real address given and replace it with a standard address .
The safest thing to do is and still will be to call Rachel's parents and verify.

Posted by: Jacky | Apr 7, 2006 3:22:20 PM

Totally cool feature. I love it!

Posted by: Stacey | Apr 8, 2006 1:13:43 AM

Yikes! I can't believe I haven't responded to any comments in this thread. Bad site owner!!!

a. ... Yes, I'm sure there will be an 'arms race' of sorts, but I'm not particularly worried about my kids. This is sort of like buying insurance.

Tonny... You're just thanking your lucky stars that your parents don't have access to this technology. ;-)

Essie... Of course, of course. I think Zahava and I have cultivated a trusting relationship with our kids. But kids are kids and there have been occasions where they have innocently tested the boundaries of our awareness. That is their job. But we have ours. :-)

Val... That's what I explained to them when I mentioned this feature. I told them that this wasn't designed to get them into trouble. In fact if they always tell the truth there is no way this sort of thing can present a problem.

Matlabfreak.... I can only hope. :-)

Seawitch... I'm sure they will. Like I said to an earlier commenter, this is an arms race of sorts. :-)

Jack... I wasn't worried until I realized my daughter recently started reading my blog and is now open to certain commenter's suggestions. :-)

Westbankmama... My oldest is on a two day trip with her Ezra group and I'm very happy that she has her phone with her.

Doctor Bean... Did I mention that my kids now read my blog? :-)

Siley Greenblatt... I'm not sure I understand the question.

Kakarizz... Oy, another one giving my kids ideas.

Yehudah... Lighten up Francis. If I was really that worried about my kids I would never write about it here. :-)

Maria... HI THERE! Long time no hear!!! I actually considered the prepaid thing but I have friends whose kids have blown through the prepaid cards pretty quickly and had to take on a lot of part time jobs to support their phone habit. better to have them beholden to me. :-) Nice to hear from you!

Tracey... I think you're probably right. They'll probably be using Star Trek communicators in a year or two. :-)

Aliyah06... 'Trust but verify' is our motto here. :-)

Scott... I don't foresee the need for 'hacks' anytime in the near future. :-)

jg... It sounds like your daughter has a tremendous amount of autonomy for a NYC kid. You must be raising her right.

tnspr569... You've already made your opinion of my hardware clear in a previous post. Thanks. And when I can figure out how the amount I'm paying should somehow be made public I'll be sure to post it here. :-)

Ariella... Hi sweetie! Welcome to the realm. :-)

Judy... "she said she always switched it on when she knew someone was going to call. I wish someone in my family was born with the ability to see the future. :-)

Lisoosh... Yes, I am aware that they are no minor celebrities within their social groups as a result of their new hardware. and please don't encourage the good doctor. :-)

Irina... Yes, but admittedly your upbringing was not the typical American story. :-)

Jack... You mean one of those ones that had a big base that went into a shoulder bag and had a connected handset you'd talk on? Those were so cool! :-)

Emanuel Ben-Zion... Be careful what you wish for. :-)

Kate... Your dad's a retired police officer??? You must have been fun to date. Yikes! ;-)

Ezzie... The military technology for tracking is way ahead of the cellular industry. It is just expensive to deploy. Everything comes down to money.

Doctor Bean... Deep breaths... deep breaths.

Seattle... Two young blond daughters? The only thing from making a really bad joke here is my esteem for you. :-) Please don't tempt me like this again as I can't be held responsible.

a. ... Yes, for her Bat Mitzvah she got her own computer and is now a full-fledged netizen.

nrg... Nice. First you encourage Ariella to sass her dad and then you basically say I have no chance in keeping up with her. Remind me to send you some of the therapist bills. :-)

Val... I told her that she reads at her own risk. :-)

weese... Way ahead of you my friend. :-)

Jacky... I'm sure it has already been done and I just haven't heard about it... yet.

Stacey... thank you! You struck me as the law and order type. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Apr 9, 2006 1:33:46 PM

hey- I was only doing it so you wouldn't share the experience that I had. Nothing negative- I know people who love that phone- I'm just very pick when it comes to phones. Seriously, though, you rank up there on the coolness and generosity meter for getting your kids full fledged phones. It does show you trust them, though. Chag kasher v'sameach!

Posted by: tnspr569 | Apr 9, 2006 7:42:55 PM

"Please don't tempt me like this again as I can't be held responsible." ... I give you explicit permission to make merry over anything I write. Yup, I gave a perfect pitch there, just begging to be hit :)

Posted by: Seattle | Apr 10, 2006 4:32:43 AM

Trep - I mean that if cellphone companies have (cheaply) found a way to do this, shouldn't the military as well?

Posted by: Ezzie | Apr 10, 2006 12:13:38 PM

Muwahahahaahaha.... oh, the possibilities...

Posted by: Stephen | Apr 13, 2006 6:34:00 PM

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