PRO/CON: GPS Tracking
Are parents being too intrusive when tracking their children’s locations?
February 21, 2018
PRO: A safe and sensible choice
In the age of smartphones and the internet, the word tracking is often thrown around, most notably by parents. Constantly knowing the location of loved ones is no longer science fiction, but a reassuring reality.
There are now countless ways for parents to know their children’s’ whereabouts, whether it be consensual or not. This is because minors of all ages use and carry smartphones with GPS capabilities. In fact, one in every six parents track their children, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.
The obvious reason parents track their children is to make sure they stick to their plans. This could mean verifying the child’s activities or preventing them from doing anything irresponsible and going places they shouldn’t.
Tracking can be a very beneficial tool for both parties. Great peace of mind is afforded to parents when they can see that their child is at the right location. Whenever any worry or doubt comes to their mind, they can simply open up the tracker app and see the little dot representing their child. This is a great alternative to the hassle of exchanging texts or calls back and forth confirming safety, details and location–and eliminates any temptation for deceit.
GPS tracking greatly simplifies the process of picking up one’s child from an unfamiliar location. Providing confusing directions and many texts describing the area can become a nightmare, whereas a simple check of the GPS location can accomplish most of the task in one fell swoop.
In the extremely rare case of a kidnapping, tracking has the potential to save a life. This has happened numerous times, such as in 2016 when the Pennsylvania State Police was able to locate an 18-year-old kidnapping victim using her mother’s tracking app. Even if the phone does not stay with the child, the unmoving location can clue in parents that something is wrong. Additionally, the site where the phone is lost can be a valuable clue.
However, the child still deserves a reasonable amount of privacy. Tracking should be consensual and respectful, not behind the child’s back. Tracking without consent should only be done in dire circumstances; when parents have serious concerns about their child’s behavior.
Some argue that any tracking at all strips away independence and does not prepare a teen for adulthood. However, these teens are exactly that: teens. They are not adults and may need guidance and supervision to prevent them from making poor decisions that may carry on into their adulthood.
They also need an additional layer of safety and security because of their age and inexperience. No teen ever knows when they’re going to find themselves in a dangerous situation. When it happens, they’ll definitely regret not taking the time to simply share their location.
Quality of life–safety, responsibility, peace of mind–is dramatically improved with tracking. As long as it is respectful and consensual, tracking is a beneficial practice.
CON: An inhibition of privacy and maturity
Living in an age of status updates and trending tweets, it is almost impossible to keep anything in our lives truly private.
As technology advances and this world becomes a more “dangerous” place, parents all around the world are turning to cellular tracking in order to ensure their child’s safety. This dramatic violation of privacy is now a norm for helicopter parents who feel the need to be in control of every detail in their child’s lives.
Technology has allowed advances in virtually every field imaginable, but there needs to be a point where we draw the line. No person should be able to track another individual’s location, period. This especially holds true with parent-child relationships.
As society discovers new ways to incorporate technology into our day to day lives, some parents are choosing to have it control the way they raise their kids. Parents are looking for a feeling of relief when they check their tracking app and find that their child is exactly where they said they would be, but does this not also come with a pang of guilt?
The trust between parent and teen is something that once broken, is difficult to repair. A healthy parent-child dynamic sets the tone for the teen’s relationships in the future. If a child sees that their own parents don’t trust them, how will they ever learn to trust others?
In reality, there is no way to completely shield children from the dangers of the outside world. Tracking may ease the mind for a second, but the long term effects can be damaging to the relationship as a whole. Even Ameeta Jain, co-founder of popular tracking app Teensafe, admits that, “It really gives the message: ‘I don’t trust you at all.’”
The idea that parents are constantly watching your every move can be haunting, and according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, can lead to anxiety and a lack of confidence. The teen may never have the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them.
There are many generations of people that have safely survived their youth without their parents tracking their every move. Will the idea of learning from your mistakes without the overbearing guidance of your parents soon become a part of the past?
It remains true that if a teen is rebellious and looking for trouble, they will find a way to deceive their parents and bypass tracking apps. And while some students feel safer being tracked by their parents, eventually they will have to break free from this protective bubble in order to succeed in the real world.
Choosing not to track a teenager’s every move allows a healthy relationship to flourish where kids can openly communicate with their parents about where they are and what they are doing. The control over their own lives and privacy given to these teenagers will ensure a smooth transition into the early years of adulthood.