I’d convinced myself long ago that when I became a parent, I’d do everything in my power to avoid overly surveilling my child. But then I decided to go back to work full-time a bit sooner than I’d initially planned, so to help ease my anxieties about sending my toddler out into the world, I did what any loving and doting parent would do: I put a GPS tracker on her.
The Jiobit Next location monitor is a simple clip-on GPS tracker for humans and pets. It’s less conspicuous than a tracking watch like Lil Tracker 2G or a dedicated tracking collar like the Whistle Go Explore, and more foolproof than merely tracking through a maps app. The Jiobit is more affordable than setting up a separate device with your carrier, too, if all you want is location tracking. It’s also accurate enough that I’m finding the peace of mind of knowing exactly where my kid is at all times is worth the $9 monthly subscription.
Initially designed for children with special needs, the Jiobit is a simple gray and white tracker with no exterior buttons or switches. The outside casing is water-resistant and tough enough to weather the elements. At a mere 18 grams, the Jiobot is light enough that you’re liable to forget it’s there until bath time. The device itself is about 1.45 by 1.97 by 0.47 inches, or about the size of a Ritz cracker. We haven’t misplaced it yet.
For $130, the Jiobit comes with a charging dock and a set of swappable attachments, including a secure loop for binding the Jiobit to a belt loop, a strap clip for securing it to a pet collar, and an integrated loop for use with lanyards. My daughter wears the hem lock clip, specifically designed to latch onto her waistband. She hasn’t managed to shake it off or remove it herself. Additional attachments and accessories between $9 and $30 are available for purchase, like protective sleeves and pin-locking pouches for extra security.
Jiobit requires a monthly fee for data connection, though there’s no SIM card involved. It’s $9 a month with an annual contract, $13 a month with a six-month contract, or $15 per month for an off-contract subscription, which you can cancel any time. Altogether, it’s about as much as the cheapest feature phone at T-Mobile or related MVNO, plus the monthly connection fees, which are usually between $10 and $15. Not to mention, there’s no way for your child or pet to interact with the device and stop it from tracking.
The tracker is quick to set up. Once you sign up for the service, you can choose your care team (the folks watching your kid) and invite them to install the app. The Jiobit uses Bluetooth to measure the proximity between it and the nearest smartphone. I especially like this feature because it lets me see how close my kid is to the adult accompanying her. Not even Google Maps can offer that kind of accuracy. If she’s with me and we’re out and about, the Jiobit will also send me an alert when she strays too far—something I appreciate when we’re in crowded places like the farmer’s market.
The Jiobit app is relatively simple to use and appreciably bloat-free. The app sets up a geofence around any Trusted Places, including any residences and businesses where your child might regularly hang out. Jiobit pushes through a notification any time the device arrives or leaves one of those locations. If your child is in transit, the Jiobit app will launch into Live Mode, where you can see them move in real-time as a blue dot on a map—just as you would any other real-time maps app.
I was impressed with how precisely the Jiobit tracked my daughter’s whereabouts. Any time I’d hear the stroller get wheeled out the front door by her caregiver, the app would immediately shoot me a notification that she was out of bounds. I use the Jiobit Timeline feature to check on her throughout the workday to see whether she’s bouncing around or napping somewhere else. I can see exactly which playgrounds she’s been to with her caregivers and how long she was out. It also helps us avoid repeat park visits during our time together on the weekends.
The Jiobit connects to any available wifi, Bluetooth, cellular, and GPS network to pinpoint its coordinates. It’s compatible with LPWA CatM1 and NB-IoT. Unlike its first-generation counterpart, the Jiobit Next isn’t entirely compatible with overseas networks.
Security is a top concern when you’re dealing with a gadget that’s tracking a kid. Jiobit has an explainer that details its security protocols, the biggest of which is a dedicated security chip that makes it so “a device without this chip cannot communicate with our secure servers.” Data is encrypted both when sent to Jiobit’s servers and when the device is not in use. Jiobit also says that its devices’ software can’t be modified by physically cracking the device open. And Jiobit has been certified to be compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA). Researchers have found that other GPS kid trackers are a security nightmare, Jiobit’s products have not been included in those lists.
When she’s older and more focused, I’ll teach my daughter to use Jiobit’s Alert Me, an optional feature that’s still in the pilot phase. When a person double-clicks the front of the tracker, the app immediately alerts the entire care team that help is needed. I would like to see a future update connect this feature to emergency dispatch or something akin to how a security company calls to follow up after an alarm is triggered. For grandparents and other caregivers not on duty, you can turn off these notifications for their smartphones.
One major caveat to note about the Jiobit, which I imagine could be fixed with a software update. Currently, only one parent is the primary caregiver, while the other parent will get lumped into the general care team. Since my husband set up the Jiobit with his phone, I don’t have access to edit any of the Trusted Places or the Care Team. It feels especially egregious, considering I physically carried and birthed the child I’m tracking.
Regardless, I am overall pleased with the Jiobit as a tracker for my toddler. It’ll feel like an especially worthy get if we’re still using it years from now to see if she’s walking to school and where she’s biking around town. For now, it’s a low-effort way to track her without feeling overbearing. All I need to know is that she’s safe and secure.
Updated 4/29/2021 at 12:15 p.m. ET: This article has been changed to note that the Jiobit Next isn’t built on GSM/HSxPA, but on LPWA CatM1. And it isn’t yet able to connect internationally. We regret the error.