Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Geolocation

One of the latest trends on the scene has been termed "geolocation." This Mashable article provides a comprehensive explanation.  Geolocation and location-broadcasting applications are becoming more widely available all the time.  Any GPS-enabled cellular phone that can download "apps" is capable of broadcasting that cell phone's location. When I first heard of this technology, I thought that such services would be useful for concerned parents to keep tabs on their kids.  (They've been thought of as "check-in" services.)  Some cell phone companies market similar services with airtime packages for that very reason. 

After all, in this day & age, what kid would EVER leave a house without a cell phone?

As geolocation services & apps gain popularity, it was inevitable that businesses would try to cash in on them.  Apps are available that access your location within a franchise's store and send you product details, deals-of-the-day, and other marketing information to encourage you to purchase various products.  It's kind of like forced-impulse-buying. It seems like the psychology of product placement may become obsolete... well... almost.

Social networking sites, like Facebook Places, or a number of other stand-alone services like Foursquare, Gowalla, or Google Latitude, to name a few, also use this technology to allow users to broadcast their location and help them find their friends, nearby shops & services, etc.

Common Sense Media has posted an informational video for parents and has developed suggestions for responsible use of these services.  Common Sense Media advises against using these services at all for kids & teens, but if parents allow it the privacy settings should be set to the strictest options available.  However, this is no guarantee that a child's location information is 100% secure, as any of a child's friends might post that information for others to see as well. 


These sites all encourage parents to learn what apps are on a child's phone and talk with kids about the appropriate use of those apps - for geolocation or otherwise.  The key for educators is to encourage parents and students to talk about how to use the technology responsibly, and for parents to set appropriate limits or expectaions of use for this or any technology, regardless of age-range suggestions or ratings.

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