Tracking Your Teen

Should Mom and Dad Play Big Brother?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013
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I was a pretty good teenager. Straight-A student. Didn’t smoke pot. Never had a tussle with the fuzz. But I was a dirty little liar. I lied as all teens lie, and for the same reasons: I wanted to be somewhere, and do something, and see someone, that my parents wanted me not to. I wanted those things more than I wanted to be good or trustworthy or deserving of respect.

Starshine Roshell

And so I said I was sleeping at Michelle’s house when I was really at my boyfriend’s. And I zoomed home at 89 miles per hour to avoid breaking my curfew. And I once drank vodka out of a paper bag in a park in the dark with a very-bad-influence friend and a McDonald’s strawberry-shake chaser.

Most of the things I lied about were merely stupid (duh, pour the vodka into the shake, rookie), but some were outright dangerous. And my parents never knew about them until right this second (Hi, Mom!), because they had to take me at my worthless adolescent word.

But today’s parents don’t have to do that. Technology now lets parents track nearly every move their teenagers make. Even beyond lurking on their kids’ Facebook pages and peeking at their text messages, parents can buy devices and subscribe to services that do the following:

• Track a teen’s location on a map at any given moment and alert parents when said teen crosses an agreed-upon “geo-fence.”

• Notify mom or dad when a teen posts something online that “you wouldn’t want your kids’ college recruiter finding.”

• Monitor seatbelt usage, speeding, and “harsh braking” by teen drivers, and block calls and texts when the car is in motion.

SafetyWeb, for example, will scan your teen’s phone and Internet activity for keywords related to drugs, bullying, and even eating disorders, and for online “friends” who are significantly older. “We report it all to you using timely alerts,” reads the company’s website, “so you can see accounts, photos, friends, tweets, posts, texting/calling frequency and more, all in one place.”

Having once been judgment-impaired teens ourselves, we parents can’t help but see the appeal of this stuff. But having also been teens who pined for privacy and yearned for independence, I think we have to ask: Is all this really necessary? Technology has changed to allow such surveillance — but has the world changed so much that we need it?

“I don’t remember hearing about child abductions when we were growing up,” said Dan Rudich, the founder of FamZee, an app and website that lets parents track their kids’ locations and lock their cell phone usage at any time of day. “Kids certainly weren’t texting and driving.”

But it wasn’t safety concerns that inspired Rudich, 42, to create FamZee. It was his daughter’s after-hours texting. “Every night I’d see her still typing away on it way past her bedtime. It was a daily battle, and I figured there had to be an easier way.”

With FamZee, he can lock her phone at bedtime and also when she’s in class, end of discussion. He recommends that parents start off with minimal monitoring and stay that way as long as their kids behave responsibly — a parenting philosophy that’s not so new, really.

“My sister had a diary growing up,” Rudich said. “My parents knew where it was, and they chose not to read it. She was a good kid. If you’re a good kid and you’re not getting into any trouble, your diary is safe.”

To be clear, though, if you come home stinking of Smirnoff and McStrawberry, all bets are off.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

If your child. offspring or little one, wants their toys, they WILL be tracked. Parents are the ones who are held accountable for their foolish actions both with the law and finacially and I for one don't want that Police Officer knocking at my door at 2 in the morning to tell me my child is dead or locked-up; I want to know before, so I can be the notifier to the Police or hospital. Children now are cell-phone, I-pad, Computer users and have access to every pedophile in the world through their innocent internet world, and even if they aren't being careful, they lie about their ages to get on the Adult sites to get the guys or girls who they are forebidden from seeing them due to the law and being the unhappy grandparent of the meeting. I'm not even against tagging them like animals in the wild, to locate them if they aren't where they say they are. I speak of the extreme but the reprecussions are far worse than invasion of rights they don't even have just believe they have until they hit 18, then their own, on their own from then on.

dou4now (anonymous profile)
January 2, 2013 at 6:46 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I believe there are essentially 2 kinds of parents: 1) parents who teach respect to their children through acts of respect, and 2) parents who treat their children like animals (talking to you dou4now with your "tagging them like animals in the wild" mentality). How you raise your child WILL be reflected in their actions.

SB2SB (anonymous profile)
January 2, 2013 at 10:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Wow. I can see how this is tempting, but I'm so glad I grew up right before all of this madness. My parents were lax: No curfew, but I'd upset them if I came home too late; Wouldn't hound me about where I was, but if I ended up stranded or in trouble, I would have lots of yelling to look forward to alongside the gut-wrenching loss of respect from them.

As a result, I drank young and learned I hated getting sick young. I slept at guys' houses and also learned how I wanted to be treated/not treated by men. I smoked cigarettes and pot and learned I felt better when I did not. I starved myself and realized it didn't make me happy. If my parents had known where I was/what I was doing, they would have fainted.

But even at 18 (I'm 25 now)-- I was ahead of my more supervised peers. When I was set free into the world, I had already made decisions for my own life. My friends wonder how I can have just two drinks before stopping, or walk away from a toxic relationship. I know my parents' style could have different effects on different people, but I thank god for it. I've had enough to focus on and learn through college and in my 20s, like my actual studies and my career.

critterchels (anonymous profile)
January 2, 2013 at 11:22 a.m. (Suggest removal)

My parents were more like critterchels, but nearly 1/2 a century ago. There were serious dangers back then too, but somehow my risky behavior never went over the edge, although I lied plenty to participate.

Teenagers will take risks. That is why we get soldiers as young as possible. The earlier they learn how to assess risks and use their own judgement, the safer they will be in the long run. Eventually parents won't be around, one way (they lie) or another (they age beyond parental control), and how well the parents provided education to them is all that matters.

snugspout (anonymous profile)
January 2, 2013 at 12:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Children don't learn by what we tell them or the rules we impose upon them but rather by watching and observing the way we live our own lives.

That does not mean we should set no rules or fail to tell them what choices we think might be the better ones.

It only means that they will learn to respect themselves and others more easily if we show them that respect and show them that we also respect others as well.

Tracking devices may make us feel more secure but it will make our children feel less secure, less self-sufficient and less independent.

If our job is to make them independent, secure, self-sufficient and whole adults, we need to start by trying to live that way ourselves and not by becoming domineering fearful and controlling parents.

RobEgenolf (anonymous profile)
January 2, 2013 at 7:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I agree with Critterchels. I'm 27 and grew up pretty much the same way. Never had curfew, had free reign to go where I want, when I wanted. I made mistakes and learned from them. I learned when to stop drinking, when to not drive, who to hang out with, and when to just stay home and study for a test. And look! I'm still alive! I paid my own way through school, lived on my own since I was 20. Sure, there were ups and downs but I learned how to survive on my own during all those times. We keep babying our children and they turn 18, go off to college and have no clue how to take care of themselves. So go ahead and track every move your child makes. Doesn't make you a better parent. Doesn't guarantee your child will be safe. Give your child some trust and respect and expect it in return. And if your child is constantly on the phone, here's an idea: TAKE IT AWAY. If they can't respect you enough to put the phone down, guess they don't deserve the phone. Stop trying to be their friend and be a parent.

Muggy (anonymous profile)
January 3, 2013 at 2:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Just when I thought there's no hope left in the world, Starshine comes through! Free-range kids FTW.

Ya, the world is a much different place with the internet, but that isn't going to change when your kid turns 18.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
January 3, 2013 at 3:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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