Chloe Hickey was in 6th class when she received her first smartphone two years ago, a post-Confirmation gift from her parents. Before giving Chloe the phone, her parents installed the KidControl GPS tracker app on each of their phones. Mum, Cliona, had researched the various options online, and chose KidControl as it also allowed Chloe to track her parents' location.
"We didn't want Chloe to see it as very one-sided," she said.
For the Hickeys, who live in the Dublin suburbs, the decision to give Chloe the phone was contingent on the installation of GPS tracking for a number of reasons:
"You trust your children when they tell you where they are going but there are so many other external threats, whether it be peer pressure from other groups, adults or other people doing what they shouldn't be doing, or even kids getting lost" says Cliona.
"You are letting them out and they are going into the world where there are so many other external factors that possibly weren't there when we were growing up. We sat her down and we had a chat with her and we explained that it wasn't that we didn't trust her, it was that we wanted to keep her safe."
As Chloe and her friends moved through first year and into second year, they were no longer happy to be chaperoned, and this is where Cliona really saw the value of the tracker.
"They are stepping out, they are doing stuff, and rightly so. You can't shadow-parent every step of the way and you do have to trust them. So that's why we said, 'You are stepping out now, but we have to have peace of mind that if anything happens or you get lost or something happens to you - I mean you do hear of people getting kidnapped and mad stuff happening - we know where you are.' And to be honest with you we forget about it. I very rarely look at it. The only time I would ever look at it is if Chloe is late home, if something unusual happened and she wasn't communicating."
When asked if her friends have similar tracking on their phones, Chloe says they don't. And Cliona admits that there were a few raised eyebrows when she told other parents about the tracking, but she remains firm in her decision.
"We are the type of parents that don't succumb to group-think, we do our own thing. Some parents were a bit, 'You what?', and I just said I don't care, Chloe knows (about the tracking) and those are the rules in our house."
The GPS tracker market is growing and is expected to be worth $2.9bn globally by 2023. Trackers are marketed to parents of very young children as an everyday safety tool - to deal with bolters or those who wander off in a crowd, for older kids to allow them to walk to school safely and even as part of your holiday kit, to keep track of your brood at busy tourist destinations.
We all want our kids to be safe, but some experts have raised concerns about the effect on children and teenagers of being monitored in such a way, particularly at a time when they are becoming more independent. Child psychologist Malie Coyne, herself a mum of two girls, isn't convinced they are a good idea.
"As a parent, I can see how a GPS tracking tool could be useful in monitoring my children's whereabouts as they sometimes head out to meet their friends in the green nearby, given that they don't have their own phones yet.
"However, I feel that the negatives may outweigh the positives, as I want my kids to feel an increasing level of independence and empowerment as they grow older without me checking up on their every move.
"When they are out, I give them a watch and our rule is that they check in with me at regular intervals, and that they ask me before moving to a different location (like a neighbour's house). If they don't stick to the rule, then there is a consequence of them not being allowed out for a period of time. It is only by allowing our children to face small risks independently that we enable their growing ability to trust and regulate themselves out in the big world.
"Kids don't learn basic life skills by being tracked by their parents 24 hours of the day. They learn basic life skills by being given independence, by making mistakes, by living through consequences, by learning to regulate their own emotions, by encountering small risks, by problem-solving, by playing freely with their peers, and by being trusted by their parents, all skills which I believe may be hindered by a GPS tracking app.
"I fear that these apps may contribute to parental anxiety and over-control to the detriment of children developing their own resilience skills. Also, I think they carry a false promise that if you can track your child's whereabouts, that you can then presume they are safe. You can't."
Laura Erskine, owner of consultancy firm The Parenting Experts, disagrees.
"As a parent of three children, one infant and a tech-savvy 10- and eight-year-old, the ability to not only be able to monitor my children's movements, but to be able to communicate with them too, is vital for me.
"My older children both wear a touchscreen watch that allows two-way voice communication through a speaker on the watch. It also tracks their location and allows me to set geo-fences at specific locations to keep them safe within an agreed perimeter. Most importantly, they can send me an SOS message with their exact location if something was to happen to them.
"Some might say this is another form of 'helicopter parenting', I don't believe this to be the case. Rather than wrap them up in cotton wool, I am giving my children the independence to show levels of responsibility and maturity within agreed safe limits.
"I can track their journey from school to the agreed pick-up point. I can call them if I am running late, or they can call me or any one of 16 preset numbers.
"They may need to alert me to a change in plans, ask for permission to do an activity or give me an important message.
"School-runs, playing in the neighbourhood without constant supervision, and indeed safety in unfamiliar parks or holiday destinations is all so much easier with their GPS watch-phone."
But while some parents may feel that tracking apps are giving them peace of mind, not everyone is convinced. Psychotherapist Stella O'Malley believes they might actually feed parental anxiety instead.
"I find parents tend to underplay the use of tracking apps and they are more intent and anxious about where the children are than they admit to themselves.
"Tracking apps buy into the illusion that we can control our lives through controlling our environment. We can't. In a counter-intuitive way, seeking and failing to achieve total control of our environment actually triggers deep feelings of anxiety within us.
"Tracking apps create a false sense of security that their children are safe as long as their parents know where they are. It also teaches children that they are not safe unless they are supervised. None of this is accurate.
"Not only that, but tracking apps kill any spontaneity that might arrive into the child's life. The natural spontaneous joy that is a hallmark of children's lives needs to be carefully protected."