On the way to school, new technologies for tracing children raise questions

In the canton of Vaud, the start of the school year this year is accompanied by a new practice that raises questions. Some students are now “tracked” during their bus ride from home to school, sometimes via Bluetooth chips.

Officially, we are talking about “new technologies that will make the road to school safer.” So the developers present these solutions purchased by some school carriers.

For example, in Bourg-en-Lavaux, 60 1H and 2H students (4-6 years old) are automatically equipped with these small connected chips from Monday. This is the result of a discussion between the municipality, the transport company and the parents’ association to clarify the responsibilities of each on the way to school.

Specifically, this tracking system is a badge that is individually attached to each child and placed in their yellow TCS security collar. “The badge only works when the child enters the bus. When he passes through the door, the badge is picked up by the vehicle,” explains Grégoire Dupasquier, mechanic and school carrier, at La Matinale.

Thus, if the child is not on the bus or leaves at the wrong stop, the carrier can inform the school or parents. But tracking automatically stops when the child gets out of the car.

“Safety Grid”

According to Grégoire Dupasquier, these solutions save the driver from hard work in addition to road safety. “By eliminating the human factor, we got the reliability we really wanted,” he says. “Without going too far into intrusion, we wanted to have something that is easy to use and, above all, that doesn’t require the child to do anything.”

The device is configured by default. Parents who refuse this should ask for it. In Bourg-en-Laveau, a dozen have already done it. Conversely, those who want to arm their older children can also request it.

The member of the parent association committee, Fiona Rossi Cavin, is a mixed bag. She welcomes the desire to create a “safety net” for students. On the other hand, data tracking raises questions. “And this is an additional tool, among those already proposed, which will not replace human responsibility,” she emphasizes. Even if she remembers at all that “there are few incidents.”

International dynamics

Other models and technologies for controlling the way to school exist in Switzerland. (see box). According to the Waugh Parents Association, several municipalities have adopted such systems to solve problems. Especially for the younger girls and boys who get off at the wrong stop and sometimes get lost along the way.

While these new devices may reassure worried parents, they should be used with caution, warns child rights expert Zoe Moody. On the one hand, because children have the right to privacy. “But they also have the right to be protected from harm. These two rights are in conflict,” she notes.

According to this fellow at the Inter-Faculty Center for the Rights of the Child at the University of Geneva, who has specifically studied the evolution of the path to school, these evolutions in Switzerland are part of an international dynamic that is nothing new. “It’s a way to answer parents’ concerns.”

Limit your learning space

But the fact that the path to school, which remains a space for children’s freedom, is increasingly restricted can be detrimental to the development of children’s autonomy. “It’s a shame not to go deep into your studies,” she laments. By using technology in this way, “we are depriving children of learning opportunities that are nonetheless valued by children.”

That doesn’t mean they won’t have the opportunity to study later, she says. “But some writing emphasizes that this intervention in the space of freedom, in particular in the school way of life, can create a generation less prepared to manage public space.”

This does not mean that all uses of technology to control and ensure the safety of children’s travel should be abandoned. “It is preferable to talk about human-machine interaction, and not just about digital invasion,” Zoe Moody emphasizes again. It’s not all about replacing the person, she said: “The bus driver doesn’t have to recognize the kids anymore, or the kids can’t help each other anymore. me that we can avoid serious malfunctions of these devices.

>> Full interview with Zoe Moody at La Matinale:

Zoey Moody asks about the history and evolution of the way to school / La Matinale / 6 min. / today at 07:00

Julie Rousis / Jop