Life 360: Safety or Surveillance?

The apps parents use to spy on their children.

Life 360 is a tracking app used by millions of parents in the United States that is designed to allow friends or family members to share their location with each other. According to the San Francisco-based company, Life360 has over 25 million active users. The app has helped parents track their kids’ whereabouts since 2008. Although the app was intended to be used for safety reasons, for many teenagers it quickly became a way of 24 hour surveillance.  Apps like these tend to be too controlling and show a lack of trust towards children, and this can only lead to more lying and distrust from teenagers.   

“My dad does not use it, and my mom uses it for safety purposes but not to actually track me all the time. I think the app is way too controlling if parents stalk you, because if you have no freedom, you are gonna go into the real world with no experience and be too shielded,” Alexa Pamatat, a junior, said.

Apps like Life360 can give kids and parents a sense of security, but they also raise questions about how much privacy children are entitled to. Even if it is completely legal for a parent to track their children, some experts have urged them to consider how they go about it and the impact it could have on their teen’s trust or their ability to practice independence. Parents cannot always know where their children are, and it is important to let them have their own freedom, so they can experience the world. Parents should trust their children, especially if they have done nothing wrong in the first place. Also, the app can bring about unnecessary panic and force parents to constantly check in on their childrens’ location.   

“My friends and I use it to track each other which is nice. My parents are really protective so they use the app often. The app is mainly used by parents who are curious about their children’s location,” Dena Wolfs, a junior, explained.

Life 360 and other tracking apps can be beneficial for safety purposes, but it is not necessary to keep track of a child’s location all the time. There is nothing wrong with having the app because it is useful if you need to be found or if you have just started driving.  Also, friends can download it and be able to see where each other went, allowing for them to protect each other.

“It just makes you more creative about how to get around your parents rules, which is not good because it ends with people lying to their parents,” Pamatat said.

If you keep constant surveillance on teenagers eventually they will find ways to break the system. Teens share with each other strategies for circumventing the app on social media, so in the end the apps do not entirely work. This leads to more adolescents lying about their location and breaking the trust of their parents. An app that was initially meant to be used for sharing locations and for safety could become useless and unusable.

Overall, there is an appropriate level of parental oversight that is needed, but parents should not go beyond them. Adolescents are capable of making decisions themselves and it will prepare them for the real world.

 

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