If you’re parenting a teenager, you probably spent a good bit of time worrying about what they’re doing and who they’re with. Are they getting into trouble? Having sex? Using drugs or alcohol? You can keep an eye on them at home, but short of planting a tracking device on your kid, there’s only so much you can do when they’re spending time with friends. How do you know the difference between being paranoid and interfering and being a responsible parent?
You might not have any FBI-issue bugs in your possession, but there are apps out there that can let parents keep track of their kids’ location by using GPS data. Many parents also monitor the websites their teens have visited, look at their text, email, and social media history, and follow their kids on Facebook or Twitter.
According to a report by the Pew Research Center, 61 percent of parents of thirteen to seventeen-year-olds say they have checked which websites their kid visits, 60 percent have checked their teen’s social media profiles, 56 percent have friended or followed their teen on Facebook, Twitter or some other social media platform, 48 percent have looked through their teen’s phone call records or text messages, 48 percent know the password to their teen’s email account, 43 percent know the password to their cellphone, and 35 percent know the password to at least one of their social media accounts. However, only 16 percent use monitoring technology to keep track of their teen’s physical location.
Is there something about online and telephone behavior that makes it seem more appropriate to monitor? Is 16 percent too low a number of parents using the GPS data, or is it an invasion of privacy that none should do? Some parents believe in the “you live under my roof and I pay for your computer/phone/car, so I have a right to know what you’re up to” method of parenting. Others believe in being more hands-off, in the hopes that their kids will learn to be responsible without adult supervision. If they know that someone is always “watching” them, they might be more likely to venture into dangerous situations.
Location tracking can also cause serious conflict between parents and teens. The teenage years are when kids are developing their sense of individuality and independence, and they’re likely to feel as though their parents don’t trust them, or worse, don’t respect them enough to allow them some privacy. Of course, most teens are also tech-savvy enough to be able to disable the GPS monitoring on their phones, leave them at friends’ houses when they go out, or even spoof the GPS.
Some kids might require more monitoring than others, depending on their behavior, level of maturity, past history with drug use or criminal activity, and other factors. Still, experts say that you should talk with them about the fact that you’re keeping an eye on them rather than trying to hide it, because they will find out.
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