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From RFID trackers to fake tattoos: Keeping kids safe at theme parks

By Ivory King
Written on 5/18/2018

While no one wants to be the parent rigging up their kid with a leash, there’s a reason that some kids are known as “bolters” - they get excited about something they see and take off after it. Even if your kid is easy to keep track of, if you have more than one or are in a crowded place, making sure you know where everyone is can get exponentially more difficult. There are other solutions apart from physically strapping a child to yourself or confining them to a stroller all day - an impossibility if you have an all day activity or are visiting a theme park.


Speaking of theme parks, one of the largest has its own solution - Disney’s MagicBand, a wristband-shaped smart device that not only can come in handy when your kid misplaces you, but has a panoply of other features built in. The MagicBand was released a few years ago and was redesigned late last year with an improved ergonomic shape and more customizable colors and designs. Currently deployed at Disney World, the gadget is meant to be worn by all family members and acts as an admission ticket, queue jumper and payment proxy. It isn’t mandatory for visitors, but Disney has loaded incentives and convenience into it to encourage people to pay the extra $13 for it - and it’s complimentary if you buy an annual pass or are staying at a resort hotel. For concerned parents, that might be dwarfed by the potential that it has for shaving off harrowing minutes from looking for a missing child, as their MagicBand can be scanned by staff to access contact information.

Disney's MagicBands with their wrist straps customized


Of course, like all convenience technology, the MagicBand is so useful because it’s a data siphoning machine. It’s radio-based connectivity tracks park visitor movement, where they shop and eat, as well as the information that you supply when you’re buying tickets online and scheduling rides. All of this is tremendously valuable to Disney for marketing purposes, which results in customized offers sent to you if you don’t opt out of them, and for development purposes to optimize ride wait times or where to send costumed characters.

The exact data and use practices are rather opaque, somewhat typical of how large corporations operate when it comes to connective technology. One Gizmodo journalist dissected his MagicBand and corresponded with a hacker that extracted the RFID band and discovered that it could transmit data up to 100 meters away. The privacy risks vs. utility benefits are up to you to assess, and you might decide that the added fun, skipping lines and not needing your wallet are worth Big Mickey knowing your business!

Holding hands with MagicBands

 

Of course, like all convenience technology, the MagicBand is so useful because it’s a data siphoning machine. The radio-based connectivity tracks visitor movement, where they shop and eat, as well as the information that they supply when they’re buying tickets online and scheduling rides. All of this is tremendously valuable to Disney for marketing purposes, which results in customized offers sent to park visitors, and for development purposes to optimize ride wait times or where to send costumed characters. The offers are at least sent only to wearers over 13 and can be opted out thereof.

The exact data and use practices are rather opaque, somewhat typical of how large corporations operate when it comes to connective technology. One Gizmodo journalist dissected his MagicBand and corresponded with a hacker that extracted the RFID band and discovered that it could transmit data up to 100 meters away. The privacy risks vs. utility benefits are up to you to assess, and you might decide that the added fun, skipping lines and not needing your wallet are worth Big Mickey knowing your business!

Others might choose the other tack, and want to choose another family security strategy. If your kids are older, you can have a discussion about what works for you - instructing them to stay in the closest safe spot, how to identify a staff member, etc. But for toddlers or little ones that may not be fluent communicators - or as a backup for older kids too! - there are a few lower-tech ways to make sure that you can be reunited with them as quickly as possible.

While the DisneyAddicts site does recommend the MagicBand for child safety, it also recommends common sense ideas like taking a daily photo. Easily accessible but concealed contact information is a quick and simple way for a helpful adult to contact you when they find your child. This can take the form of a wristband too - they do make them in a form with an interior panel on which you write in your information, then it velcros shut in a secure way that a child can’t simply tug it off.  Just make sure to find one that carries the info on the inside of the label, so it’s not super easy for anyone to see their name. Additional nifty solutions are customized temporary safety tattoos - you can make them yourself with special paper and an inkjet printer, or you can buy them from many online retailers, even Etsy!

From smart device movement trackers to stick-on contact info, there are many options to make you feel safer when taking your family into those big crowds. Though much of what will keep you together is good safety education, planning and communication, at least these emergency solutions can alleviate some of the anxiety of possible separation. Hopefully that will give you room to have some fun - that’s the point, right?

Photo by Jason Chen on Unsplash

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From RFID trackers to fake tattoos: Keeping kids safe at theme parks

y Ivory KingWritten on 5/18/2018 While no one wants to be the parent rigging up their kid with a leash, there’s a reason that some kids are known as “bolters” - they get excited about something they s
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