As our little guy becomes more independent, we have been checking out the child safety identification options available. I reached out to the makers of my Buddy Tag and they agreed to let us test one of their child proximity systems. I’m a bit of a tech guy, so the thought of an electronic option appealed to me.
So what exactly is a my Buddy Tag? In a nutshell, my Buddy Tag is a bluetooth device about the size of a quarter that can help alert you if your child gets too far away. The my Buddy Tag syncs with your cell phone to be able to provide an interactive experience. Right off the bat,
I want to point out this little gizmo is not an electronic babysitter, and is not a replacement for responsible adult supervision. What we did find though, is that it’s a great tool for when you’re on a family adventure and you want a backup alert as a reminder.
Do you remember when you were a kid and you finally bought something in the store that you really wanted and you just couldn’t resist tearing the package open on the way home? That was the way I felt when I received the my Buddy Tag in the mail. I tore into the packaging and immediately downloaded the free iPhone application. If you’re not a fan of apple and instead have an android, don’t worry its available on that platform as well. From what I’m told, the applications have been recently redesigned as the instructions included in the my Buddy Tag package seemed a bit out of date. Not that big of a deal though, as it was pretty simple to figure out. Within a few minutes I was playing digital hide and seek with my little guy in the house! Now all we needed was a real life test to see if the my Buddy Tag system could be an effective tool.
Over the next few days, I did quick little demos with some of my family members to receive some input. Little guy’s grandparents seemed interested, but very apprehensive about a technology solution. My sister on the other hand who is more tech friendly, seemed to be more willing to give the my Buddy Tag a chance. The feedback was overall positive, once it was made clear that my Buddy Tag is not a replacement for human eyes. The overall consensus was that any tool that offers an additional layer of protection to return a lost child is a great thing! So here we are about two weeks after receiving the my Buddy Tag, and we were finally able to test it out when we went to the Scotts Zellwood Sweet Corn Jamboreel!
When we arrived for our day of fun out on the farm, I strapped the velcro wristband to my little guy’s ankle. We figured by placing on the ankle, it would be easier on a 2 year old. Sort of the out of sight out of mind concept so he wouldn’t play with it. After all, it’s secured with velcro and he could potential pull it off. We sort of joked that with his new accessory, he reminded us of a felon with an ankle monitor! We noticed it as parents, but honestly the general public probably and no idea we were testing out the my Buddy Tag.
Because we aren’t inclined to just let out little guy roam around in an uncontrolled environment like a jamboree or festival, we actually tested out my Buddy Tag by my wife hanging out with little man and I would be the one wandering off with the cell phone. Remember we were on a farm, which is very flat with few buildings between us, so the range was very far. During the very first test, I was able to go about 40 yards before the proximity alert went off. For our purposes that was just way too far. Realistically, we would never let our little one roam that far ahead, so the first test didn’t really seem to be all that useful.
Because I had read the instructions, I knew there was a way to adjust the distance of the my Buddy Tag before an alert tone would be sounded so we sat at a picnic table for a few moments while I adjusted the settings in the app. By trial and error, we were able to “zero in” on a more appropriate distance little man could get from us before the alert would go off. We determined that about 20 feet was a good distance if the Mrs. and I were tag teaming on an adventure, and I would probably reel it in a bit more if I was taking little man out by myself.
After we spent a few minutes finding a comfortable distance and adjusting the settings, we were able to employ the Ronco method of testing, “Set it and forget it!”. Once we were all dialed in so to speak, I left my phone in my pocket knowing that I would hear an alert siren if my little one wandered off. subsequent tests were very successful, and it seemed to work whenever we would go out of range. Remember we were on a flat farm with no structures between us. If we were visiting an indoor location, we would probably need to readjust the settings, as walls, and obstructions can change how the proximity sensor works. Not really a big deal though as once you figure it out, you can adjust the sensitivity with a simple slider. On occasion, I did receive a false alert when I as holding my little one. The sensor was literally less than a foot away as the phone was in my shirt pocket and his leg was dangling very close to it. I’m not sure the reason for the false alerts, but it was manageable considering he was literally in my arms. Overall we were very happy with the literal field testing of the my Buddy Tag system.
One of the coolest features of the my Buddy Tag system is that you can have multiple my Buddy Tags setup on your phone at one time. This is a great idea if you have multiple children, as they are color coded and you can input their name into the app for easier tracking. Seeing as we do have another little guy on the way, I think it would be neat to be able to keep tabs on more than one kiddo at a time. Although I have not yet experienced it, I’m sure I’ll become more distracted as a parent with more than one to watch over. Tracking kiddos together is one option, or one parent could track one child and the other track number two. Unfortunately at this time you are unable to have one my Buddy Tag tracked by two phones. It’s easy enough to sync the tags, so if you needed to “hand off” the tracking to another adult in your group it’s just a matter of disconnecting the tag from your phone and initializing it on another.
It sounds like my Buddy Tag is difficult to setup with all the synching and what not! It may sound that way, but it’s really super simple. Because I’m a techie kinda guy, I was expecting to have to go into my phone, find a bluetooth device ect, and set it up. Nope! All I needed to do was to make sure that bluetooth was enabled. I use a FitBit step counter as well as bluetooth in my car so it was already turned on and ready to go. When I downloaded the app, there was no searching for the device at all. I just opened up the app and pressed the button on the front. BAM! It showed up and I was able to rename the tag from “Yellow” (the color of the button and band) to my little guy’s name. There was no searching through bluetooth settings or anything.
If you have an older child, the my Buddy tag is perfect for playing in the park! You may want to give them a bit more distance before you receive an alert, but lets face it sometimes kids dart behind a playground or get involved playing with other kids. It’s a fact of life. We all know that as parents we must instruct our little ones about “Stranger Danger” but it can often be difficult for little ones to identify danger. The my Buddy Tag system features a great panic button feature. All your little one has to do is press the small button on the my Buddy Tag and you’ll get a different alert. The App actually advises you that your child has triggered the panic button! This is a great way to give your child a bit of independence while still having a safety net. Just knowing that you’ll come running if there is an emergency can provide your little one peace of mind.
A week or so later, we decided to test out one of the most beneficial features of the my Buddy Tag: the water feature! If the tag is submerged in water for more than 5 seconds an alarm goes off. We went to my mother in law’s pool the other day to check out how it works. We put the band on his ankle and removed the paper ID strips. They wouldn’t survive in the water, so we took them out. We did a few test runs, and while the signal may have been sent within 5 seconds, it seemed more like it took more like 10 seconds for the alarm to go off. It was probably my perception and I didn’t use a stop watch, so the timing is subjective. When his ankle was submerged, I received a warning message that the my Buddy Tag was out of range. While we found the water feature to be a great bonus, especially as we are usually around bodies of water during our adventures, we wish there was a special alert that notified us of a water incident instead of just being out of range. As a parent, if you have lost a child, the first place you should always look is in or near standing water, so it could still be a good option if you train yourself to look in the water first.
Probably because of the water feature, the my Buddy Tag is a sealed unit. That means that there is no user serviceable battery. The folks at my Buddy Tag indicate that with regular use, my Buddy Tag should last about a year. If you use your my Buddy Tag constantly, then you may not get a year out of it. Since you can’t replace the battery, you’re left with replacing the entire unit. You do have the option to return the unit to the manufacturer for a discount on your next purchase. To maximize your battery life you will want to disconnect your my Buddy Tag from your phone when not in use.
So what else is included with your my Buddy Tag system? Your child will receive a wristband that has a small pouch to place the my Buddy Tag into, as well as a few paper strips that slip inside the wristband where you can write food allergies, or even an emergency contact number. This is a great idea, seeing as if your child becomes separated from you, another responsible adult or the authorities would be able to reach you quickly. The only down side to this is that it’s not entirely obvious that there is an ID in the velcro strap. Similar non electronic identification wristbands have something printed on the outside notifying an adult unfamiliar with your child, that there is contact information inside. While you could easily write it with a permanent marker on the wristband, it would be nice if there was something obvious on the outside of the band. Other options include silicone, terry cloth and velcro bands. We tested out the velcro option and the disposable bands. You can also purchase just the bands without the tag for about $15 for a reusable, or $10 for the disposable bands.
One of my other concerns was that my little guy would pull the velcro band off. Through all the testing we did, little man didn’t try to remove the my Buddy Tag when it was on his ankle, but on occasion would try to take it off his wrist. Remember he is 2 years old now, so an older child could be instructed to not touch the band. The folks at my Buddy Tag must realize this is a concern, because plastic disposable bands are also available. Similar to the wristbands you may receive when in the hospital or at special events, the plastic bands must be cut off when they are snapped into place.
Another feature of the my Buddy Tag system is that you be imaginative with what you track, not just kiddos. I suppose if you go to a dog park, you could easily track your four-legged loved ones since there is a small hole in the my Buddy Tag that you could easily pass a zip tie through. It would be perfect to strap to your dog’s collar. If your little ones have laced shoes, you could also zip tie the my Buddy Tag to their shoelaces. This would be a great way to always have the my Buddy Tag near by and wouldn’t require the ritual of placing the wristband on all the time. This would also be beneficial in regards to the water safety feature. If a child goes into water feet first, you would get an alert quicker if it was attached to their shoes. If you get into the habit of turning on the my Buddy Tag each and every time you leave the house, this could also be a good way to prevent leaving children in a hot car as well.
Overall, our tests of the my Buddy Tag system were positive and successful. We found the system to be quite useful, especially in large crowds. While you would need to take some time to get to know the my Buddy Tag app, it’s rather intuitive. There are also other features such as email alerts and more that you can also take advantage of. It’s important to note that this is not a GPS tracking system, so there are no monthly fees and relies on your cell phone to operate. For around $35, for a complete system, it’s really cost-effective. Remember, there is no substitute for proper adult supervision, but my Buddy Tag can give you peace of mind and offer an additional layer of protection against lost children.
my Buddy Tag Details:
|$34.97 For a My Buddy With Band|
|$14.97 ForAdditional Bands|
Full Disclosure: We were provided a my Buddy Tag to do an evaluation. This article contains my personal opinions and experiences with my Buddy Tag. We believe in providing accurate information in regard to product evaluations. We of course encourage you to do your own due diligence when researching products.