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Kid Tracking Apps: Experts Offer Advice to Keep the Peace

Posted at 8:53 AM, Feb 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-19 09:53:27-05

Smartphone apps are causing problems between parents and their kids, and we're not talking about social media, these are tracking or parental control apps.

We're taking a look at whether they're doing more than just keeping an eye on your kids.

Donna Slaughter and her son, Josh, have a great relationship, but when it comes to the tracking app "Life 360," they don't always see eye to eye.

Donna says, "That's kinda where we go back and forth, is he thinks I don't trust him, and me, I just, I'm worried that something is going to happen to him. I don't ever question that he's not where he said he was going to be, it's more of, what if something happens?"

Tracking apps have been around for years, and there's a lot of them.

Their function is pretty simple, they track movement through GPS on your smartphones.

At any moment, mom and dad can see exactly where you are or at least where your cell phone is.

Josh says, "I don't like the concept of just people knowing where you are at all times. I always liked it the old fashion way, where you were allowed to make your own mistakes where you went out and did your own thing. And if you make a mistake, you would learn from it and be a better person for it."

For Josh and his mom, the "Life 360 App" came into play after he got his driver's license almost a year ago.

"It has been valuable for me. I guess the longer it goes on the more I trust his driving," Donna says.

But teenagers like Josh, view tracking apps much differently than their parents.

It's a dynamic that Psychologist Greg Mallis sees quite often in his practice.

[greg mallis, psychologist]

Mallis says, "And what parent doesn't want to know that their kid is safe? The problem is that for the kids, they don't see it as a safety thing, they see it as an invasion of privacy."

It's an issue that could build resentment and distrust in the family.

"So it can create conflict and there's been some research to show teens who feel like their parents are invading their privacy are more likely to have a lot more conflict at home," Mallis says.

Mallis says the situation can be resolved, so it's a win-win for both parents and their kids.

"Parents can talk to their kids and say, 'We're going to use this only when we don't know where you are and you're supposed to be here.' So that the teenager knows they're not just going to be pulling it up randomly to spot check where I'm at and what I'm doing."

He also says parents should not keep the app on their kids phones, indefinitely.

"So for this amount of time, six months or a year, we're gonna have this app. We'll tell you when we're going to look at it or when we have looked at it so that you know and you're not questioning," Mallis says. "But if over that time we see that we can trust you then we're gonna take the app off and you don't have to worry about it."

It's something that Josh is looking forward to.

He made a deal with his mom to keep "Life 360" on his phone for a year, and when he turned 17, it would come off.

That day is just a few months away.

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