In the blink of an eye, our teens are independent. They have a life outside of us. They are walking around the Domain, going bowling, going out to eat after school, driving (!), riding with friends, working. How do we keep track of them when they aren’t in our homes? Do we use tracking apps?
The digital world has made it possible for us to track and monitor our kids with literally every step they take. It gives us peace of mind, but how does it make our teens feel? This question is an important one: you are continuing to build a trusted, strong relationship with your teen whom you want to make good decisions, especially knowing he/she won’t be under your roof much longer.
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I recently spoke to a group of high school junior boys about social media and gaming, and one teen asked my opinion of Life360, a location-based “family social networking app” with both free and paid services providing recent and real-time whereabouts, along with many more features.
My response was that many of my friends use it, and it seems like a great tool. He said it felt very intrusive and creepy. He gave an example of a time he told his mom he was headed to a specific location, but stopped at a gas station on the way there. His mom immediately texted him and asked why he wasn’t where he said he’d be. This made him feel like she didn’t trust him, and didn’t give him the chance to be independent. He was emphatic about the intrusion he felt because of this app and the way his mom was using it.
I told him his mom obviously loves him very much, and cares for him deeply. However, this honest conversation make me realize how extremely fearful we are as parents, and how little trust many of us have in our kids (most likely because we have been teens ourselves).
Is this tracking app and others like it a lifeline or a life sentence? I use “Find My” a free, bundled app for iOS. I can see where my kids are in real-time. It’s simple, and has given me peace of mind many times.
Listening to this teen made me realize a tracking app is yet another important conversation topic to have with your child. Otherwise, it is seen as a way you are trying to control him/her and can be destructive to a trusted relationship. After all, the tracking app only works if your teen has his/her phone. There are always ways to get around it.
Sitting with your teen to discuss your fears about his/her safety is a beautiful first step. Talk about how scary it is to not know where he/she is, how you worry about driving, how much it would mean to you to have updates to know he/she is safe. Then, LISTEN to your teen. Really listen. Try to remember how it was for you when you were that age. Your teen might talk about how important trust, independence, freedom, and privacy is to him/her. Together, you can decide on a plan that satisfies both of your concerns and wants. Perhaps you won’t use a tracking app at all and instead your teen texts you upon leaving and arriving at any location. Or, maybe you both agree that a tracking app is a good idea when used in a certain way. Maybe you don’t come to an agreement in one sitting. Trust goes both ways and will be a big focus for this discussion.
I believe in social media contracts because they provide clear expectations for both my kids and me. I created the first one when my son joined Instagram when he was 11. I’ve now drafted one for “Find My” that my kids and I agreed upon together. These contracts – or written agreements – are only successful when created in dialogue with your kids. They provide autonomy for your kids with clear expectations on both sides, and with agree-upon consequences as well.
When I’m outside of my house, I will have my cell phone with me at all times. I will respond immediately to texts and calls from my parents. I will text my mom before I leave a location and after I arrive at a new one. I will let my mom know where I’m going before I leave and who’s taking me (or riding with me). I will not text while driving.
I agree to Find My app. I know my mom cares for me and wants to know where I am. I know my mom trusts me, and this app is a way for her to have peace of mind for my safety.
If I don’t respond to texts, calls; or forget to communicate with my mom before leaving a location and/or arriving at a location, I will lose her trust and I will have consequences.
What are your thoughts about tracking apps for your teen? Do you use one? I’d love to hear your feedback after talking with your teen.
Photo Credit :: Lindsay Herkert Photography