By Alyssa Pittari
People are always finding new ways to use technology, and while location-based tracking has been around for some time, it is increasing in popularity because parents are using it to monitor the location of children and teens.
Apps, such as Life360, Sygic’s Family Locator and Spyzie, are being used by parents to help safely track their children. While these features may seem like a great way to keep kids safe, location-based tracking is a topic that is widely debated. Some parents find that tracking their kids stunts their independence, while others feel it eliminates fear or physically losing their children.
These tracking apps are used for children and teenagers of all ages. However, they are used more frequently for younger kids. A popular device is the Gizmo, a smartwatch safety tool used for tracking kids as young as 3 years old.
Smartwatch technology is increasing in popularity in the United States and was projected to grow by 18% in 2020, according to analysts at The NPD Group, a market research company.
It is no secret that the world we live in today is less safe and secure than it was decades ago. Parents want younger children to be tracked for many reasons, some saying that one can never be too safe, especially in today’s world.
Some parents feel more comfortable knowing that they can check on their children’s safety at any given moment. Many parents fear the worst when being separated from their children, such as the child getting lost or kidnapped. Parents use these smartwatches to give them peace of mind about their children’s safety.
“I don’t mind my parents using Life360 to track me because their main purpose behind it is to make sure we are driving safely,” said HPU student Gabriella Green. “They like the fact that the app alerts them if I was to get in an accident.”
Other parents feel the need for tracking apps or devices because of the amount of freedom they give their children. For example, parents of children who walk to school every day want to know that their child arrived safely. Conversely, this need to track children may suggest parents’ distrust of their children’s responsibility.
“When I am driving, my parents closely monitor where I am going and lecture me about driving in unfamiliar areas,” said HPU student Sarah Borland. “I don’t agree with my parents tracking me now that I am an adult in college.”
There is currently not enough research to prove that tracking technology helps prevent children from the dangerous situations their parents fear. Child development experts are more concerned about the possible negative effects tracking can have on a child’s autonomy.
The knowledge of always being tracked can hinder the development of responsibility and can cause anxiety issues. Having every move monitored as a child can cause him or her to have a general sense of distrust in others.
Children must learn to be independent and to be able to show their parents that they are mature enough to do things on their own. Tracking devices and apps inhibit personal boundaries and private space.
My family has used Life360 to track our location since my older brother started driving. My parents simply wanted to know when he arrived at school and returned home without having to ask.
I started using Life360 when I received my driver’s license for the same reasons. Although I was 17 years old, having my location monitored did not bother me. I knew my parents were doing it for the right reasons. My parents did not think I was irresponsible or immature. Instead, they simply wanted to know I was driving safely and arriving at my destination.
While my brother and I had no issues with being tracked, other people, including my friends, said they will never tell their parents about Life360. They feel that their parents should trust them because they are mature enough to not have every move monitored. They still feel safe, even though they are not being tracked, and believe they are responsible enough to have freedom.
“My parents say that they use Life360 for safety reasons, but now that I am an adult, I see it as an invasion of privacy” said HPU student Samuel Gainey. “I feel that I deserve to have some freedom. Instead, my parents call me and ask where I am going when I leave campus.”
I feel that deciding whether or not parents should track their children requires the consideration of many factors, such as age, responsibility level and the neighborhood that they live in. Living in areas that are prone to crime is an understandable reason for parents to track their children.
Tracking the location of younger children is more practical than tracking teenagers — this also correlates to the child’s maturity level.
The more mature a child is, the more a parent should trust that the child will be safe and make responsible decisions. Deciding to monitor a child’s location says a lot about how much a parent trusts their child.
Whether you agree or disagree with the usage of location-based tracking, this technology will still advance and be distributed. And more people will continue to debate the use of it for various reasons.