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Tracking technology allows you to monitor where your partner or kids are.

In an in-depth radio segment today (listen to the above podcast of it), which I co-hosted with Mark Pesce, I discussed how the uses of tracking tools, which are often used in the name of safety and convenience, are affecting trust and privacy in our relationships.

In my recent research exploring technology use in family homes, I’ve found that the majority of parents wonder if they should use an app or a location service to keep tabs on family members. Heavy marketing around these services makes many parents think that this is what a good parent does.

To date, about 20% of families actually use these services. Of those families, here are the kinds of things I hear children and parents say:

Parent X: I use ‘find a phone’ to see where everyone in the family is. It helps me keep track.

Child T: I’m 17 and my parents make me use a tracking app. They don’t trust me. I’m not sure why. It’s not fair.

Parent J: As a parent I want to see that my child is safe. How can I be sure otherwise?

Child T: I get in trouble if I turn my tracking app off. Sometimes I just put my phone is Aeroplane mode to silence it. It’s not about turning the app off, but I still get into trouble.

While these apps and services may help parents have peace of mind, children often feel they are unfairly mistrusted. If they feel this for the 2, 5 or 10 years you use a location service, then consider how it will effect your parent – child relationship. Can we expect them to talk to us if things go wrong when they inherently feel you don’t trust them?

Our job as parents is to support our children to be independent and make their way confidently in the world. Small steps are needed that continuously work towards this. If a child is constantly tied to their parents’ digital apron strings, at what point do these steps begin?

If parents track children, then is likely the child will take this behaviour into their adult relationships with partners. Are they likely to associate loving someone with having always knowing (and being in control) of where they are?

Things to consider

Is it safety or are there other reasons you want to know the every whereabouts of your children and partner?

If you choose these services, does it need to be a lifetime commitment? A better option may a short-term service that is used for an hour.

It’s normal not to want to be tracked. If a child or partner does not want this, it does not necessarily mean they are hiding something.

A last point, just because it’s available does not mean it’s the best option. Technology throws all sorts of things our way and it’s great food for thought to reflect on how we want to live our life.

The original interview can be found here Technology, trust and privacy