Tracking Apps: The Pros And Cons Of ‘Spying’ On Your Children
All parents worry about their kids. But does that make it alright to ‘spy’ on them?
18 October 2018
Increasing numbers of parents are using GPS tracking apps on their phones so they can always tell exactly where their children are.
However, using this type of surveillance on adults might be considered harassment, and while they may give peace of mind to anxious parents, the counter-argument is that they’re not helping young people learn to be independent and keep safe on their own.
Parents need to allow their children to grow up to be independent, and there’s a sense that this has the potential to prevent that happening in a healthy and natural way.
How would we have felt as teenagers knowing our parents always knew where we were? Part of being a teenager is exactly the opposite of that.
Also, tracking raises important questions around consent, suggesting some parents may feel that because they pay for their child’s mobile phone, they’re entitled to know where their child is all the time.
But despite having such conversations with their children, some parents may still want to use a tracking app.
So what are the pros and cons of using such technology?
1. Peace of mind for parents
Parents no longer need to ring their child continuously, thus causing them to feel embarrassed, or interrupting their play and exploration.
Location tracking can also ease unnecessary worry if a child doesn’t answer the phone straight away - through GPS tracking, a parent can receive a quick update and put their mind to rest.
2. Gives kids more freedom
It gives children more freedom because when parents know where the children are, means they're more relaxed about letting the kids go further afield.
3. Reassurance for children
Location tracking can also be reassuring for the child, particularly if they get lost - this is especially useful if a child wanders off in a crowded place.
This peace of mind is relevant to older children too, especially in the wake of new research by Girlguiding UK that shows nearly two-thirds of 13 to 21 year-olds either feel unsafe, or know someone who is fearful of walking home alone.
1. Kids may become more secretive
Young people may respond to being tracked by becoming increasingly secretive and flouting the surveillance by, for example, leaving their phone at a friend’s house so their parents think they’re there.
2. They don’t become streetwise
Young people run the risk of not learning to be independent and safe on their own.
3. Internet and social media access
Children need a smartphone for their parents to install a tracking app, but this can expose them to the potential dangers associated with social media and the internet such as cyberbullying, inappropriate contact with strangers and unsupervised access to inappropriate information.
4. Trust issues
If they’re being tracked, young people may feel their parents think they can’t be trusted. By contrast, if they feel they are trusted, such responsibility can help them behave in a trustworthy manner.
Teenagers might feel they’re mistrusted and controlled by ‘helicopter’ parents. Make sure the discussions you have with them are transparent and always listen to their feedback.