Keeping track of their kids- are tracking apps worth it?

Claire Campbell

Among high school students in particular, debate surrounding parents using tracking software to know the location of their children at all times is prevalent. Apps including Find My Friends on iPhone and Life360 are commonly used for this purpose. These can include features that alert parents when their kids arrive at or leave a location and track their driving habits. While this may make parents feel more comfortable about the whereabouts of their children, there are many drawbacks that tracking teenagers can cause.

It is safe to say that when a parent forces their child to share their location at all times, it creates distrust in the relationship. It is imperative that teenagers are given the opportunity to learn on their own without someone monitoring their every move. High school is a much safer time to make mistakes than in college because students still have the safety and comfort of their parents to help them overcome any hardships they encounter. While it is still the responsibility of the parent to make sure their child stays out of trouble and stays safe, this does not always require intense tracking.

Many times teens whose location is monitored by their parents develop ways to sidestep these measures. Leaving their phones at a friend’s house or turning their location services off to avoid alerting their parents can create even more dangerous situations. In these cases, if the teen is in real danger and needs to contact a parent or emergency services, they would not be able to. A stricter parenting style can lead to children developing risky behaviors.

Another concern with these apps is the kind of information that they collect from your phone. Not only could the parents be seeing the location, but depending on the app, other people could be obtaining personal information. It is important for users to investigate the privacy policy of any app, but particularly with apps that track your location, to ensure that users know what information they are providing. Research from The Scientific American has shown that 7 in 10 smartphone apps collect and share your data with third party apps. This can compromise important private information including your location, what you are doing, and how fast you are moving.

Overbearing parents can lead to behavioral and mental problems with the child as well. If a teen does not feel safe telling their parents issues that they are facing, it can lead to an “internalizing” of emotions. At an extreme, anxiety and depression can result from this.

Despite these factors, there are positives to parents knowing the whereabouts of their children. However, even with tracking, there is no way to prevent every incident. Teenagers especially should be given a reasonable amount of freedom to learn right and wrong on their own before embarking into the rest of their lives.