Have We Let Technology Turn Us Into Super Spies?

Is tracking our kids' every move really the wisest thing to do?


6/4/20235 min read

As a parent to both teenagers, well.... technically adults, and one youngster, I feel I can speak to a common issue facing mamas in the constantly-connected, overly accessible world we inhabit: using technology to track our kids.

This topic has been debated endlessly in the media with valid arguments being made on both sides, and while unpopular amongst many of my Gen-X peer parents, my stance is and has always been: Nay. Nada. Firmly Against.

But for some reason, since Life360 took off in 2008, previously rational, trusting parents have begun betraying their own 80s free-range style of upbringing and morphed into undercover agents on a James Bond level constantly tracking their kids’ driving speed, location and even how many texts they send.

In fact, over 50 million Americans are now using this service to track someone.

What is going on?

Y’all! What is going on? What are we so afraid of? The boogeymen today are no different than the ones hanging around in 1979, but our parents still let us live.

When we were growing up, our parents wouldn't know our location for hours and hours and ....... yes even more hours at a time.

Back when bicycles were the main mode of transportation for most 16 -year-olds, the most mom could ask for was a quick phone call to say we got to our location safely and then we wouldn’t talk again until we got home. So our mamas were forced to trust us, and but for a few noted exceptions (I'm looking at you Kanye West), we all turned out pretty amazing.

And while I’m sure it is nice to have that warm feeling of security after checking your I-phone and learning that Baby Girl is at the library to study with her friends, where she said she was going, and that she didn’t break 45mph getting there, it also has served to create a bit of a mama-spying-monster society.

You know who I’m talking about. The mama who snoops in her kids’ bookbags, constantly tries to sneak a look over a shoulder while her son is texting, or even worse, the mama who texts during the school day just to “check in.”

(As a public school teacher, this really burns me up, but that’s a blog for another day)

It all just feels a bit too Big Brother for me. I mean, for all the ruckus we raise against the government for tracking our internet use, gaining access to our phone records or knowing what’s in our back accounts, aren’t we actually doing the same thing to our teenagers?

And yes they are not technical adults yet, but shouldn’t we be teaching them how to be responsible ones?

It goes without saying that no logical, loving parent wants her child to be in danger, but keeping them trapped in a cocoon of constant surveillance creates a whole different type of danger: the danger of inexperience!

Experience is the best teacher

If we don’t let our kids mess up on their own sometimes, they will never learn vital life skills.

Skills like learning how to talk the cop out of a ticket and into a warning or knowing how to look innocent when the assistant principal questions

how you magically got a Burger King to-go cup between 3rd and 4th period.

These are the kind of negotiation and survival skills that every adult needs in real life- the kind of skills I developed during those pivotal high school and early adult years. Skills I wouldn’t have EVER learned if my mom had fallen victim to the epidemic of helicopter parenting. To be fair, there wasn’t such a thing as Life 360 in the early 90s, but I’d like to believe she still wouldn’t have given into such nonsense.

Still I hear naysayers constantly repeat the old argument: “ Things aren’t like they were when we were kids” or “Well, yes but things are different now.”

Well, I beg to differ. Even a perfunctory internet search shows child abductions and other such crimes against under-age humans are at a historic low.*

Aside from cyber-crimes, the exact same dangers lurking around today were lurking around when we were pre-teens cruising the mall or meeting friends at the movies, but I don’t ever recall being worried about it. And that doesn’t mean I stumbled through my teens naive and Clueless, although having Alicia Silverstone’s closet in that movie would have been a dream come true !!

Fear is contagious

I was always taught to be aware of my surroundings at all times, park under street lights, and keep an extra $20 around for emergencies. (With the rate of inflation, today that would equate to needing an extra $100….but I digress.)

And I can say without question that my lack of fear was a direct result of the lack of fear flowing from my God-trusting, always praying mama. After all, it’s human nature to internalize and respond to what we’re surrounded by.

By the same token, if she had collapsed into a heap of stress or flipped out every time I came home with a speeding ticket or made a C on a test, there’s no doubt I would have absorbed that same stress and never learned how to keep my spirits up and let things roll off when confronted with life’s REAL battles.

As such, I have attempted to provide my children with the same opportunity to live and learn without a satellite tracker posting updates every time they stop by McDonald's for a frosty. And I must say they have fared quite well and learned to be resourceful in even the direst of circumstances.

For instance, the first Senior Week beach trip my oldest two attended together got off to a bumpy start when they lost their lodging within the first five hours of checking in. No doubt because of their own stupid, teenager choices, but the reasons tend to be irrelevant when a group of inexperienced kids, all under age 21, are shelterless in Myrtle Beach at 2 a.m.

But to their credit, no one called me panicking, and they secured alternate lodging within the day. By the time I even knew what had occurred, they were happily laying out by the Atlantic Ocean soaking up that famous Carolina sun. And while that is an extreme example (that probably doesn’t paint me in the best light LOL), it illustrates my point.

My kids proved they can make adult decisions and provide for themselves without my guidance, if necessary. I couldn’t have felt more proud if Paula Deen herself had complimented my fried chicken.

A break from super sleuthing

So, in an effort to find common ground and offer the tracking mamas out there a siesta from sleuthing, I propose a new style of parenting:

something between free-range, Gen-x style and overly involved, suffocating mama-spy-monster style.

Try cutting your surveillance to only 50% of the time and let your kids make their own choices the other 50%. See how they do and then adjust as needed.

Worst case scenario someone breaks curfew because mama didn’t text/remind him 10 times to get home.

But best case, you get a break from constantly checking your child’s location and finally finish watching the new season of Yellowstone in peace.

Hello there Rip!!😍 It’s a win-win for both of you!

*source for crime statistics: Link