The logo for Life360, a popular tracking app for families. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
In the age of technology, almost everyone has some sort of cellular device in their back pocket at all times. In many houses, every member of the family has their own cell phone, including each kid. National Public Radio (NPR) states that “just over half of children in the United States — 53 percent — now own a smartphone by the age of 11. And 84 percent of teenagers now have their own phones.” With this statistic, the question arises over how adults should monitor their kids’ phones.
Many adults have chosen the route of tracking their kid’s location through their phones, with the help of apps like Life360. The Life360 app allows you to create a family circle where you can track each member’s exact location at all hours of the day, and get alerts for when they leave and arrive at home.
When this topic comes up, many adults would say this is a great idea, while the teenagers and kids will say the concept of it all is absolutely terrifying. I can agree with both sides of the argument. I think deciding if tracking is okay can depend on both the family dynamic and the reason for the tracking.
I think if deciding to track your kid’s phone is for safety reasons, it is a good reason. Being able to make sure your child gets to and from school and friend’s houses safely can calm a parent or guardian’s anxiety immensely. It can also be helpful to check in on your child’s location from time to time to make sure they are not in any dangerous areas.
However, if you are choosing to track your kid’s phone for the sole purpose of controlling their every move, I do not think that is morally right. Teenagers should not feel like their privacy is being constantly invaded and have the sense that they are always being watched. Kids should be allowed to be kids.
If the parent and the child have a healthy relationship and agree to rules about the tracking and how often to check their location, I think the tracking should be allowed. But if the children have no say, and the parent forces them to download the tracking app, I do not think it should be allowed.
I have the Life360 app on my phone, but I have it with my friends rather than with my parents. After having it for a few months, I think it is helpful because it allows me to check in on my friends to make sure they get to their destinations safely and are safe in general.
However, from experience I can say that the tracking can also become addicting. Constantly checking where everyone is going and checking to see where they are that’s causing them to not answer their phone can become a bad habit. If the same habits get picked up by adults, it can create a very unhealthy relationship with their kids.
If trust is the reason that is leading adults to track their kid’s phones, I do not think tracking is the correct solution. The adult should work on these issues with their child one on one, instead of ignoring them and allowing the issues to grow.
Adults tracking their kid’s phones can also do more harm than good. It can cause the kids to become more distant with their parents or guardians, and feel like they can’t communicate with their parents, leading them to lie about their whereabouts.
The decision over whether or not adults tracking their kids’ phones is right differs from family to family. For some, it could be a great idea to make the whole family feel more comfortable and at ease, while for others it may cause more tension and arguments.
If you ever get a notification that says “Mom invited you to a family circle,” don’t panic. Consider the possible reasons for the tracking and plan to sit down with your guardians and discuss the personal pros and cons for your family.