Parents’ Invasive use of tracking apps causes concern among students

Lauren Serge | Staff Writer

As digital communication has widened, worries of parents have intensified. With the development of location tracking apps, teenagers are faced with paranoia as their privacy is under observation.

Through the Find My iPhone app, senior Lexy Nelson location is constantly being shared with her mother. Nelson explained that the app is formatted similar to a map, allowing the navigator to view where an individual is located.

“Everywhere I bring my phone, it shows I’m there,” Nelson said. “The app is labeled with your number and name, and you can tap on it, and it’ll show you where someone is, and if they’re moving, it’ll show you where they are going.”

The app can be linked across a family as long as its members each have iPhones. With the navigator in control, they are able to monitor the locations of the users and can decide whether or not to allow their location to be accessible.

Junior Lylia Hyden maintains a connected location with her mother and sister and said the functions of the app contradict the supposed freedoms granted once reaching the level of maturity associated with her generation.

“I feel like being tracked takes away a lot of opportunities,” Hyden said. “I don’t want to act like I’m an adult because I’m 16 years old, but then again, I am my own person, and I’m old enough to know what’s right and what’s wrong for me.”

In 2008, an elevated family networking app, aptly named Life360, was created. The advanced features of this application drew a larger audience, for the app records meticulous data, including location-specific notifications such as arriving at the grocery store or work.

Life360 then stores the data for up to 30 days, allowing parents to reference their children’s whereabouts and specific transportation routes taken within the last month.

Sophomore Marli Tabor utilizes Life360 upon request of her mother as well and said the invasive features do not allow for much privacy.

“When you download it on your phone, it has access to your location at all times and is constantly updating,” Tabor said. “They can tell where you’ve gone–like a recent map, what time you left, and your top speed if you drive.”

For many parents, the decision to download a location tracking app is focused on the perspective of safety; however, for teenagers, the purpose seems to be centered around a sense of distrust. Nelson said the motive that influenced her mother to download the app was skepticism.

“Often, she assumes I’m lying and that I’m trying to get away with something,” Nelson said. “ I can’t do half the things my friends can do because my mom is always on the phone checking to see where I am. I think she uses it to prove a point and catch me in the wrong.”

While Nelson believes her parent does not consider her reliable, Hyden feels the tendency her mother has to track her location is driven by her impulse to worry. Hyden said she realizes this impulse but is concerned that her mother, and other parents alike, in an effort to subdue this worry for her child, is not allowing her, and other teenagers, to learn from encountering her own obstacles and making her own decisions.

“I see why my mom does it; I know she’s just trying to make sure I’m safe, but, kids are also going to be kids and just want to have fun sometimes,” Hyden said. “With a parent constantly watching you, it’s kind of hard to live out your teenage years and make those mistakes. We have to learn from those mistakes, or else, when we’re an adult, and we encounter them, we aren’t going to know what to do because we weren’t prepared.”

Regardless of the intention, students concur being tracked by their parents often evokes feelings of paranoia. Tabor said her personal insecurity is what compels her to hold a heavy opposition towards tracking.

“It’s like when you’re driving and you haven’t done anything wrong, but a cop passes you, and you feel nervous–that’s how I feel with the app,” Tabor said. “Even If I’m not doing anything wrong, I still get nervous knowing she has it.”Because many students regard monitoring location as an invasion of privacy, Nelson, and other individuals, often attempt to evade the software and mislead her parents as to her whereabouts.

“If I ever want to get away with something, or if I  want to hang out without worrying about it, I’ll leave my phone at the place I say I’m going to be,” Nelson said. “I’ll say I’m going to my friends house and I’ll put it in her mailbox or her backyard and I’ll go somewhere else instead.”

In most cases, if users disconnect their location, the navigators will be notified.This poses as an obstacle for many teenagers to escape from the constant surveillance.

“Sometimes I do turn my phone on airplane mode so she won’t be able to see where I’ve been or where I’m going,” Tabor said. “Right now, I’m grounded from my car for everything except school or work, and a couple times recently I’ve turned it off just to take simple errands or take a friend home.”

While typically honest with her mother, during freshman year, Hyden attempted to attend a party while still preserving her connection through the app. She had informed her mother of her legitimate location, but neglected to notify her when she went driving at an objectionable time. When she was caught, the lie took an impactful toll on her decision.

“My mom showed up at the friend’s house that I was with, and she was really upset with me,” Hyden said. “I wasn’t allowed to hang out with that friend for a long time after that incident.”

Despite many aims to bypass the networking, students still recognize tracking poses its advantages.

Sophomore Victor Herthel was recently put on a Life360 family plan after receiving his license.

Herthel said the protection of the app is reasonable as its main purpose is to ensure the safety of teenagers.

“It doesn’t really bother me that much because I really don’t have anything to hide,” Herthel said. “I understand those who feel the need to pause their location, but I’ve never had the urge to do it. I think it’s really beneficial especially when it comes to safety.”

The perspectives from parents are easily understood when teenagers realize the deeper reasonings that drive them. Nelson said the inclination to disapprove of location tracking is merely a natural part of being a teenager rather than a protest on safety precautions.

“We are going to have different views than our parents because we are growing up with it,” Nelson said.  “But if I were a parent, I would probably be doing the exact same thing just to make sure my kid is doing what they should be doing and that they’re actually safe.”

While there are many struggles in enduring location tracking, Nelson said the strongest solution is learning to tolerate the consequences that go along with it.

“I think at some point, you have to accept that you’re not going to get away with everything you want,” Nelson said.”There’s an extent where, no matter how hard it is, you just need to let it go.”