Should You Use Apple AirTags to Keep an Eye on Your Kids?

In case you haven’t heard, there is a shortage of school bus drivers across the country . As millions of children return to full-time school – some for the first time in more than a year – this poses challenges for both school districts and parents.

In New York, where I decided to live with my two school-age children for some inexplicable reason, getting back to school by bus this year was even more chaotic than usual . While district officials have denied that there is a shortage of drivers, the New York Daily News reports that the private transport companies that the city ​​has actually contracted with to provide buses are arguing otherwise . Oddly enough, what it meant to me as a parent was to stand on the corner waiting for the bus one hour later than the scheduled arrival time. (For my 9-year-old daughter, this meant a lot of nagging about how endless and boring the trip was.) In an effort to ease my scheduling problems, I decided to buy a couple of Apple AirTags to stick my kids on. ‘backpacks (both too young for their own iPhones). I read about AirTags beforehand; I know they don’t have their own GPS trackers, but they work by talking to a network of Bluetooth-enabled Apple devices . But I live in one of the most populous cities on the planet. Of course, the school bus passes enough bluetooth devices in the given commute to provide at least reasonably accurate tracking, enough for me to be able to tell when the bus is roughly near a stop to the right, as it turns out, no: in practice, AirTags are unreliable (if not completely useless) for tracking fast moving objects. As Forbes recently pointed out:

Don’t assume that if you see your car being stolen off the road, you will be able to see a small dot moving across Apple Maps, showing the car’s route in real time. This is not a GPS tracker and updates provided by AirTag are sporadic.

Boy, I’ll tell you. While their performance varies from day to day, it is common for AirTags not to update for 15-20 minutes or more during the kids’ bus ride home, making them functionally incapable of performing the task for which I naively bought them. The results are slightly better for my son, who rides the bus with a lot of young children who are likely to be met at their stops by parents or babysitters who are on the phone, but still not accurate enough to be relied upon; sometimes my daughter’s whereabouts are not updated at all during the day, from the moment she leaves for school to the moment she stands by my side during the day. In addition, in what needs to be registered under the heading “I should have done more research beforehand,” AirTags can only be registered for one iCloud account , which means that my spouse and I cannot simultaneously check the whereabouts of children on our phones. In addition, at least for the time being, they cannot be tracked using the web-based Find Me tool .

So how can you track your kids accurately, whether on the bus or at soccer practice? Unfortunately, you need something that uses GPS. And if you don’t want to give them a phone, it will cost you money – most devices built solely for this purpose have a monthly subscriptionthat rises rapidly ; you can expect to pay around $ 9–20 per month for the device. Perhaps this is a small price to pay for peace of mind, or even for not standing outside for 35 minutes every day, hoping in vain that the bus will arrive on time today.


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