The Trouble with Tracking Teens' Phones

By Kadijah Bah and Alex Waterman

With social media, phones, and technology in general becoming increasingly prominent in the lives of teenagers, the temptation for parents to track their teens via technology has grown significantly. Free apps and services such as Life360 and have made it way too easy for parents to track their child’s every move. Life360 is the app that many kids are forced to download on their phone tracks their every move, restricting the freedoms that every high schooler should be allowed to have. Life360’s web page claims that it will bring “your family closer with smart features designed to protect and connect the people who matter most,” but those who have the app claim differently. Ana Borgstede, a senior at B-CC has had the app for six months and has already seen the negative effects that it has on family relationships. “It takes away any trust between them [parents and kids] and exists to ‘catch’ these kids, leaving them paranoid all the time,” Borgstede said.

The app, which has a free version, a plus version, and a “driver protect” version, monitors everything from a simple location, to detecting driving methods, such as an increased acceleration and hard braking. In other words, it stalks you. “Parents may say it’s purely safety-related, but there was a time before I had it where I didn’t have any problems and wasn’t in danger, so it’s hard to believe that’s the only issue,” Borgstede explained. “The app makes me paranoid that I’m going to get caught or confronted even when I’m not doing anything wrong.”

A poll conducted by SurveyMonkey and Common Sense found an alarming statistic: 26% of parents say they use some sort of monitoring or tracking device to check on what their teens are doing online, while only 15% of teens think their parents do so. With statistics like these and the increasing popularity of tracking applications, many teens fear either they are being tracked without their knowledge or that their parents may start tracking them. This increased amount of parental surveillance and monitoring that has arisen is an invasion of privacy, especially if it is done without their child’s knowledge. Out of the students interviewed by The Tattler who had the Life 360 app downloaded onto their phone, 100% of them were forced to do so by the instructions of their parents. It’s not bringing families closer together, it’s tearing them further apart. Senior Hayden Renaghan does not have Life360, but her parents use a different app to track her which also has the ability to store the history of her location for days. “I think I have a greater fear that my parents distrust me, not saying I do not give them a reason to, I have made mistakes. But, I do think that they are constantly being able to access my location makes it seem like they don’t trust me very much,” said Renaghan.

Often, parents say that they must track their teen’s phone to ensure their safety. Jib Heintz, a father of a senior at B-CC says that he made his child get the app because they had made poor decisions about their plans before. “The fears I have for my child’s safety are relieved a little by the app, as it also helps to build lost trust by showing my child is being honest about their location,” Heintz said.

The problem with this is that it leaves the teen’s safety entirely in the hands of the parent and disturbs a key part of their maturing process: learning independence from their parents and responsibility for their own safety. Teens must learn how to be in charge of themselves. This type of intervention into anyone’s life is domineering at the least and doesn’t allow for kids to grow up, make mistakes, and learn from them. Restricting teens in high school could also lead to serious consequences when they go to college, as the first experience of any type of freedom could lead to those kids to make poor decisions, instead of making them in high school. They enter the world blind and constantly depend on someone else to keep them safe.

In the past, these tracking and monitoring devices weren’t present and there were still means of keeping teenagers safe. The new developments in technology and the continued importance of it in our daily life is no excuse for our privacy to be compromised. A supportive family environment does not stem from knowing exactly what your child is up to. Instead, incorporating trust and taking the word of your child will teach them that they can go to you if they mess up, and this will lead to a much more open relationship and will also lead to more confidence between both the parents and their kids.

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