By Emilia Spina ‘22
In 2020 alone, there were 3.5 billion smartphone users around the world, and the average age to receive one is 12-13. With an increase in crime and situations that put the younger generations in danger, there is a natural increase in worried parents. To help them feel more at ease, companies such as FamiSafe, Life360, and Glympse have released apps that all have one common goal: to send, track, and monitor a phone. Although the apps surely keep teens safer, many feel that they are an invasion of their privacy. This difference in opinion and viewpoint of the app undeniably makes many household situations tense. Parents want to keep their children safe, but after many teens speaking out about feeling distrusted and not viewed as someone able to make decisions on their own, and even feeling spied on, do the apps have more pros than cons?
Grace Parsons ‘23 was requested by a parent to download Life360 before going to Field of Screams with a friend. Although her parent quoted safety as the motive, Parsons describes her experience with the app and her mother to be “very controlling,” and she’s not alone. One college-aged user on “Reddit” details an experience they had with their mother, in which they climbed a mountain and did not tell her beforehand. A screenshot that appeared to show texts between the user and their Mom reads “I hear you went to climb a mountain today. I did not see it on Life360. I have asked you to carry your phone with you.”
“As much as technology has shaped the behaviors and expectations of Generation Z, it’s done the same to their parents, who can monitor communications and control how much time their kids spend on apps or games with eerie exactitude,” as quoted in an article from “The Washington Post”. Some parents, such as my own, decided to get the app after hearing about the crash protection features, but later on, used the location and time-stamped movement components more frequently. If a child is sitting in the backseat of a friend’s car, and they pick up their phone, a notification may be sent to the parent, letting them know that they looked at their phone while driving. Such settings may lead the parent to trust the app more than they trust their child, creating a toxic cycle of neither trusting the other.
On social media platforms, a video with the hashtag “Life360” has been viewed more than 13 million times according to “Wired”. The content is usually focused on sharing strategies to outsmart the app, which includes logging into the app on a different device to leave in a location, changing location settings, and even leaving their phone at home, the last of which leads to the most unsafe situations.
At the core of it all, parents’ decision to use the app is formulated upon the wish to keep their children safe. The issue arises once the nice features on the app are overused.
If you are deciding to use a location app to track your family, make sure you create healthy boundaries so that teens don’t feel overwhelmed or anxious.