Do You Trust or Track Your Teen?
Parents' intuition and the village vs. technology and parent apps
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The commercial ran at least four times while I was recovering from a migraine headache over the weekend. The device was touted as being a must-have for parents of teens. If your child drives outside of a preset boundary, your app will alert you. Want to know how fast your teen is driving? Look it up on the app. You can also locate your teen’s vehicle, says the commercial, should you question the location of your child.
The message I received from the 30-second spot was that if I did not stalk my child, they would go to the beach instead of school and parties instead of the library. Are parents and teens so disconnected today that rather than build trust, parents must resort to stalking tactics?
I have a teen as well as two young men in their early twenties and I say no.
When I found the device and its accompanying smartphone app online, I discovered that its main purposes are to track car maintenance as well as assist with roadside problems and vehicle theft. The teen stalking attributes are a secondary feature that the company seems to think they should market to today’s families.
To market the device and app as a parental tool to help keep teens safe, in my humble opinion, is reckless. The campaign assumes poor parenting practices have been in place all along and teens are irresponsible and untrustworthy.
I do concede that even in the case of the most well-behaved teen, parents must know who, what, where, when, why and how when it comes to their children. Who are they with? What are they doing? When will they be home? Why are they going? How are they getting there and back?
The question is, do we need apps to ensure the teens are giving you accurate information? Unless your child is a flight risk, I say no.
How, then, do parents ensure the safety of their teens? Open communication, mutual respect and logical consequences for breaking the rules all help parents keep tabs on their children as they grow and begin to take on more independence and responsibility. As trust increases, so do independence and responsibility.
How do you know you’re on the right track? Grades, behavior and friction. The friction comes when the teen abhors you because you’ve enforced a rule that has been broken and the teen must do without a car, cell phone or weekend plans.
And, it should be noted to the folks who wrote the ad for the device, the village that helps raise the kids is highly effective for ensuring moms knows if teens have strayed. Villages have many eyes and ears, and information eventually gets back to the parents. Combine the village with a parent's sixth sense when it comes to filtering truth from fiction, and teens are already surrounded by safety systems much more advanced than a tracking app can provide.
If you do prefer tracking your child using today’s technology, then what will you do when they go off to college, grow up and move out? More importantly, what will they do? How will they survive if they haven’t built a foundation for adulthood that includes independence, trust and responsibility?
Track car maintenance. Have the peace of mind roadside assistance can provide. But if you’re already a good parent, you might want to refrain from tracking your teen every moment of every day.