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Big Mom Is Watching

Basking Ridge, N.J. — Orwell almost had it right, but Big Brother isn’t watching, it’s Big Mom.

Verizon Wireless followed Sprint Nextel into the market June 12 with a GPS-location service that lets subscribers pinpoint the location of their child’s GPS-equipped cellphone. The location is highlighted on a map appearing either on the parent’s cellular handset or on an Internet-connected PC.

As previously announced, Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) Disney Mobile plans to offer a similar service this month. Disney’s tracking service is part of a package that also allows parents to control the use of their children’s phones.

MVNOs such as Wherify and Guardian Angel also offer child-tracking services, but with their services, parents track their child’s location only through a PC.

Verizon’s service, called Chaperone, differs from the Sprint and Disney services in that, for now, only one phone — LG’s Migo — can be tracked, and that phone is designed as a starter phone for young children ages 5 to 9. Sprint and Disney, on the other hand, allow a variety of handsets to be tracked, and the handsets are designed for teens and preteens.

Verizon’s service also differs in that a step-up service called ChildZone delivers text alerts to a parent’s phone if his or her child leaves a designated area, such as a school.

Chaperone service costs $9.99/month for basic service, and Chaperone with Child Zone service costs $19.99/month.

The LG Migo phone, whose design evokes a Pokemon character, features five speed-dial presets and no dialing keypad.

To prevent unauthorized use, the Verizon plans are available only to subscribers of Family Share family-service plans that share a bucket of minutes among family members, and the services aren’t available online.

The services became available today through 2,100 Verizon Wireless Communications stores and Circuit City retail locations, through authorized agents, and through telesales group.