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GPS tracking on your child's phone: Intelligent or invasive?

Whitney Coy is a freelance writer and editor based in Columbus, OH, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She writes frequently for SheKnows, as well as several other websites. She writes on topics including parenting, trav...

Are you crossing a line?

It’s getting close to curfew. Do you know where your kids are? Some of the latest innovations in GPS tracking allow you to know their location with the touch of a button, but is that good parenting or is it going too far?

tween-on-cell-phone


Most cell phones are now equipped with GPS tracking capabilities. Whether or not you activate or utilize these features on your child's cell phone is up to you. Many parents find themselves conflicted when making this decision. Is tracking your child with GPS an intelligent or invasive way to parent?

What is it?

Cell phone GPS tracking uses communication between a cell phone and a satellite to give you a continuous feed regarding the location of the phone and its user. The way it's used depends on the application, but you can usually get an update by checking your own linked cell phone or by logging on to a website. You can set up GPS tracking to alert you when the phone travels outside of a certain range or leaves a certain area during a predetermined time slot.

Kids and technology: Age appropriate guide >>

There is a huge selection of GPS tracking services available, some of which are available through your cell phone provider, while others are purchased through a third party provider. The one you select will depend on who you're tracking and why. Most of these services come with a monthly fee.

Intelligent

There are many situations where using GPS tracking on your child's cell phone may be viewed as an intelligent decision. This is especially true with young children.

Monitoring young children through GPS tracking on a cell phone can help find a child who has wandered away or gotten lost. If your child doesn't show up at the bus stop or gets separated from you at an amusement park, you'll have no trouble finding them if they're carrying a GPS-enabled cell phone. Simply use your linked cell phone or a nearby computer to find their exact location in seconds. For this reason, GPS tracking is a way to put a parent's mind at ease.

GPS tracking also comes into play with trouble-causing teenagers. If your kid skips school or sneaks out at night, you can set the GPS tracking system to alert you if they leave school grounds during school hours or if they exit your home during preset nighttime hours.

Teen drivers: Track them or trust them? >>

Parents of teenagers are often familiar with the pain of waiting up late at night, fearful for your child who has missed curfew and won't answer her phone. Has she simply lost track of time or is something seriously wrong? If they have GPS tracking on their cell phone, you can find out in an instant.

Invasive

While some see GPS tracking as a good way to get an inside look at the lives and whereabouts of your children, others view it as a huge invasion of privacy.

It's often argued that the relationship between a parent and child should be built on trust, especially with teenagers. Tracking your child's every move conveys to them that you don't trust them to follow the rules or make smart decisions on their own. If your child feels your mistrust, this could have lifelong effects on your relationship, especially if your mistrust was not provoked.

Parenting controls for cell phone safety >>

Others view GPS tracking as "technological parenting," which basically means letting technology do your job as a parent. If you know your child has a GPS-enabled cell phone in his pocket, you may not meet him at the bus stop every day as you normally would or keep such a close eye on him at the mall. GPS tracking for these purposes often represents an "easy way out," no matter the age of your child, something often frowned upon when it comes to parenting.

Tell us:

How do you feel about GPS tracking your children?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

More on children and cell phones

Does your teen need a cell phone?
Teaching kids about cell phone safety
Should kids have cell phones?

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