Parents are having a huge debate right now about whether it's right to use apps to track their kids
Families are all over the map on this one.
If you're ever bored on a weeknight, just drop into a mom group and ask about their thoughts on Life360 or some other app used to locate children. I guarantee it'll make you feel like the most popular kid in town with how many notifications you'll get, either in support of the app or telling you that it's the worst invention ever.
This question inevitably pops up in a few social media mom groups I belong to at least once a month, and every month there's a battle for who will win the best parent trophy. There's no trophy though, unless the trophy is high blood pressure from arguing with strangers on the internet about children you'll never meet. If that's the prize, then I've won two of them.
The first time I saw this question posed, I didn't think anything of it. I answered the question explaining that I had my daughter download it before she moved across the country for college in a fairly dangerous city. To my surprise, I was met with a deluge of comments telling me how horrible of a parent I was for making my daughter carry around a "tracking device."
That was the first time I made the mistake of answering that question. The second time was under similar circumstances with similar results, except that time I didn't defend my choices. I simply muted the conversation and went on about my business. So what is it about these apps that makes parents absolutely rabid? From my very nonscientific research, I've noticed a pattern. There seem to be four different camps of parents with wildly different ideas on parenting older teens and young adults when it comes to tracking their locations.
There's a camp of parents that believe once a child reaches around the age of 16, they should be trusted to make appropriate decisions. This is also the group that firmly believes at the age of 18, children are adults and should be treated as such, but like, still give them money, pay all their bills and don't expect them to contribute monetarily to the home.
Parents disagree about tracking apps like Life360.Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash
The second group believes these apps are an invasion of privacy and abused to stalk your children, which is often followed up by an anecdote about an abusive parent that used the app to control their child's movements.
In the third group, we have the Anxious Annies that use the app like a security blanket, forgetting that it's there until it's an hour past curfew and you're worried your kid has crashed into a ditch. But then you realize the app hasn't alerted you to a crash so you check their location and see they're still at their friend's house. That's me. I'm an Anxious Annie, and I'm OK with that.
In the last group, parents use the app as an extra tool for safety while their kids are out of the house. Life360 has a plan that's cheaper than AAA that provides everyone in your circle roadside assistance and an emergency button if anyone ever feels unsafe. When you tap the emergency button, the app will drop your location to everyone in your circle and call the police. It will also inform emergency personnel and your entire circle if you're in an accident.
But who's right? It's hard to say because everyone has a different parenting philosophy and every child is different. What works for one family may not work for another. As for me, my children track me more than I could ever dream of tracking them. My secret trips to Target or to sit in silence shoving some sort of greasy fast food in my face have come to an end because now I get sent orders and grocery lists unprompted.
It should be noted that children can turn off their location at any time or hack the system and set their location to one place when they're actually at another. Ultimately, the apps will still come down to trust and maintaining an open relationship whether you believe in the app or not.
So, do you track your kids? Do your kids track you? This inquiring mind wants to know.