By Julie Schuler
I have a 13-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old son. Both are “good kids.” They haven’t given me any reasons not to trust them. Still, parenting wisdom and my own childhood experience tell me that these kids will push limits and do things on their own that they wouldn’t do with me around. I’m actually okay with that. Because, the thing is, my son likely will go away to college in less than two years; and before he gets there, I want him to practice controlling his actions and making smart decisions on his own.
When my son got his license, a good friend told me, “You have to get Life360.” I was intrigued. She had been using Life360 with her 16-year-old — not so much to monitor his driving, but to monitor driving speeds when he went out with friends. Another friend’s son was assaulted at college one night on the street. One of his friends used a tracking app to find him and then call for emergency help.
According to cyber protection provider Malwarebytes:
- Around 80% of parents monitor their kids’ electronic behaviors.
- About 50% of these parents use more than one form of monitoring.
- The most common thing parents monitor is location.
At Your Teen Media, the use of monitoring apps to keep track of kids often sparks debate. Some people argue that monitoring apps are an excessive form of helicopter parenting. A majority of parents say locator apps are less about helicopter parenting and more about providing our kids the backup they need in today’s sometimes dangerous world. Here are some reasons those parents cite to use them:
You can see where your kids are without calling them. Soccer practice was supposed to end at 9 p.m. Now it’s 9:15 and they’re not home. Do you call and potentially distract your teen while they’re driving? Nope. Just check the app and see that they’re on their way home.
Kids can track where parents are too. Your middle schooler is waiting for you after practice. You’re running several minutes late. She has no idea where you are, and you’re not answering her texts (because, of course, you’re driving). Instead of freaking out, she can pop open the app and check to see if you’re almost there.
Accident notification and roadside assistance. This is BIG. A monitoring app like Life360 offers accident notification and immediate dispatch of emergency services. According to the company, if a user is driving above 25 mph, sensors on the phone will detect an abrupt stop. An algorithm then parses the sensor data to determine if there was a collision. If the safety app determines there’s been a collision, it notifies emergency services along with all the driver’s Life360 contacts. Several Your Teen parents experienced the benefits of this monitoring first-hand and say this very reason is why they still use apps like Life360 even after their teens became adults.
Teens want to keep track of their friends at college. On more than one occasion, my partner and I have taken our son somewhere he calls “boring” for enrichment, only to have my son open Snapchat and discover that several of his friends were at the same boring place with their parents, too. My point is, teens already use apps to keep track of one another; and they can use this tracking skill they already have to look out for one another, too. This skill is especially important for kids at college who rarely have parents around and instead need to lean on their friends for safety. Tracking apps are great resources that can help safeguard the security of our kids.
Knowing where your kids are can help you worry less about what might go wrong when they’re away. Teens need to exercise a certain amount of independence to prepare for life after high school. As kids start exploring the world on their own — whether driving a car, shopping online, going out with friends, or traveling alone — a subtle check-in (without a phone call) helps create an environment that gives our kids more independence and us parents more peace of mind.