- Starting Place
Companies are constantly releasing new tools for tracking the physical movements of children. Should parents use them?
Child monitoring apps and devices are rapidly becoming a multi-billion market
By #2012, more than 20 million people were already using Life360 – just five years after the iPhone was released
– #2019 UK study – 40% of parents/guardians had deployed real-time GPS tracking and 15% checked locations “constantly”
- A Relatively New Phenomenon
- Technology and consumer interest began growing in early 2010s
- Two main models
- Location-sharing – provides real-time updates of a device’s location
- Geofencing – provides alerts only when a device leaves or enters a specific area
- Specialized features are emerging
- Speed monitoring and crash detection for teen drivers
- Remote activation of device microphones
- “Stealth mode” – parents can install monitoring without any knowledge of child
- Motivations for Tracking
- Keeping track of devices or belongings
- Make sure kids are where they are supposed to be
- Keep a digital eye on children with health issues
- Stranger danger
- Risk overblown by sensationalist headlines?
- Natural disasters
- Greater freedom for children?
- Relevant Technologies
- GPS (sometimes + WiFi)
- Bluetooth – limited utility in moving vehicles
- Circle Home Plus
- Find My Friends (Apple, 2011)
- Find My Kids (2016)
- Life360 (GPS) (2008)
- My Family
- Potential for Abuse
- Cybertraps for Spouses, Partners, and Lovers
- Fundamental Questions
- Is this legal?
- Yes. Parents have the right to supervise their children. As the owners of electronic devices, parents also have the right to install or remove software and establish rules for the use of the device.
- Does it work?
- Sonia Livingstone, a professor in the department of media and communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science, believes there is in fact “zero evidence that any of these apps keep children safer”. “I’ve never seen any and I look at all the evidence,” she says.
- Are both parents in agreement?
- When does parental supervision cross over into invasive surveillance?
- Are one or both parents becoming digital voyeurs?
- Are parents unknowingly sharing information with third parties?
- Could this intensely personal information be hacked?
- Is it a breach of familial trust?
- Very hard to justify hidden monitoring of child
- Parents should not try to get into a contest with children re technology use
- Open conversation is critical
- Challenges in dual-custody situations.
- Does it stunt the development of child independence and the ability to pay attention to their surroundings?
- Developing a sense of privacy is a natural part of the maturation process
- Are parents putting more trust in a device than their children?
- Chilling effect on friendships, romances, etc.?
- What about when kids voluntarily share their location (e.g., Snap Map)
- When should parents stop monitoring?
- Are subcutaneous GPS chips next? – #2018 “Black Mirror” episode called “Arkangel”
- Is this legal?
- Resources – #2022–05–01 Honey, let’s track the kids: the rise of parental surveillance
– #2022–03–04 How to Track My Child’s Phone Without Them Knowing
– #2022–02–11 I Used Apple AirTags, Tiles and a GPS Tracker to Watch My Husband’s Every Move
– #2021–12–29 ‘My husband tracks our kids’ every move – I think it’s an invasion of privacy’
– #2021–12–20 5 Best GPS Watches for Kids to Safeguard Their Movement
– #2021–11–07 The parents who track their children
– #2021–09–27 Should You Use Apple AirTags to Keep Track of Your Kids?
– #2021–09–08 The Case Against Tracking Your Kid’s Phone ($)
– #2021–08–23 These gadgets can help you track your kids on the way to school
– #2021–08–10 7 Phone Tracking Apps For Parents’ Peace of Mind
– #2020–03–10 Should Parents Track Their Children?
– #2015–10–18 Would YOU track your child’s every move? Three very sceptical mums test £80 GPS watch on their kids to see if it’s helicopter-parenting gone mad… or just good sense
– #2012–09–14 Should You Use Your Smart Phone to Track Your Kids?