Location tracking is becoming an increasingly popular parenting tool, but some parents might not be aware of the problems that come with overuse. When parents and teens rely on location tracking software too much, it can get in the way of healthy communication about whereabouts, plans, and safety. Here, we hope to warn parents of the unintended consequences of counting on location tracking to protect their teen.
- Teens Stop Asking for Permission
One of the first dangers you might want to watch out for is when teens forego asking permission to go out because you already have their location. In this situation, your teen might feel that there’s no need to tell you what you can find out through the tracking software, but it prevents a conversation about safety, expectations, and limits if they’re going somewhere you don’t approve of. Plus, if you find them somewhere they’re not supposed to go, you’ll find out after they’re already there.
- Safety Could be an Illusion
When parents rely on tracking software, they might gain a false sense of security. Parents might get into the habit of not checking in with their teen since they can rely on the software to learn their whereabouts, leading to less communication. This gives teens the opportunity to plant the location device somewhere innocuous, then go somewhere else since they know their parents don’t check up on them or put their honesty to the test. Your teen could also be getting into trouble by being at the appropriate location, but doing something you wouldn’t approve of. For example, you might see your teen is at school, but they could be cutting class.
- Tracking Can Become Obsessive
When parents focus too much on tracking software, they might get anxious about their teen’s every move. It’s easy to get wrapped up in questioning what your teen is up to at all times, and even small variations to their normal routine could set off an alarm, even if there’s nothing to worry about. This can lead to parents having less trust in their teens, making parents more suspicious and fearful. Plus ,if you’re monitoring your teen all the time, you are providing fewer opportunities to test their responsibility. To prevent overthinking and hovering behaviors, we recommend that you limit how frequently you check your teen’s location, and try talking to them about their plans instead of using the software as your primary source of information.
- Teens Lack a Sense of Freedom
Using location tracking can keep your teen safe while you’re testing their ability to use more freedoms with responsibility, however keeping it installed for too long can diminish your teen’s sense of independence. It’s fair to use location tracking while you establish trust with your teen, but after they prove that they can be trusted and responsible about where they go and how they spend their time, it might be time to uninstall any parental software. If you overuse the location tracking software after your teen has proven to be responsible, teens can feel like they’ll never have the freedom they deserve. It’s good to reduce your usage after your teen demonstrates responsibility because when teens don’t get to feel freedom, it can lead to anxiety and depression.
Limit Your Use
Overall, there can be a lot of problems that arise from overusing location tracking and letting it replace communication with your teenager. It can create the illusion of safety, but also lead to less trust between you and your teen. We recommend prioritizing conversations about your teen’s plans on a regular basis, so location tracking becomes a secondary source of information instead of the primary source. This can help prevent a lot of the dangers of over-relying on location tracking technology
Tracking can be a lifesaver when you need to find out where your is teen, but overusing it can be problematic. Make sure to follow these four rules.
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com, ghostwriter at WriteItGreat.com, and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.