Across the U.S., colleges are getting ready to start a new academic year. For recent high school graduates, and their parents, it is a momentous occasion.
For many of these students, it will be their first time away from parental supervision, and for some of the parents, it will be the first time they won’t be able to keep close tabs on their children.
Such a situation makes many parents nervous, and so it’s no surprise that some companies have developed technologies that can allegedly help to calm such fears.
I’m talking of tracking apps, such as Life360, as well as a smartphone’s built-in tracking capability. These apps allow users to know exactly where someone is, how fast they are driving, or how much battery life is left in a person’s phone, as well as other features.
The decision to use such an app, as you might imagine, has both supporters and critics.
Those in favor of such apps claim it is a way to keep their kids safe, to know if they have been in an accident, or if they are lost. Critics claim such apps create a false sense of security for parents, and it delays the importance of allowing children to become independent. Mental-health experts say that all this tracking can hamper young adults’ ability to mature and that it signals to kids that the world is unsafe.
The apps seem to be popular – Life360 has more than 32 million monthly active users.
Here’s what Life360 Chief Executive Chris Hulls has to say: “What we find is that younger college kids have grown up in the smartphone era, and they actually want the connection to their parents. Life360 makes them feel safer, and parents naturally are less intrusive about it because there isn’t the ‘mom waiting up looking out the window’ stereotype to worry about.”
It should also be noted that the tracking can work in reverse; children can track their parents’ actions. (no more surprise visit to campus!)
In addition, it appears that many of these apps can be fooled, rendering them fairly useless.
I’m on the fence with this one, and if I had college-age children I would let them decide if they want to use the app. My guess is that if they did want it, the desire or novelty to have it would likely wear off fairly quickly and they would want to delete the app.
Personally, I would have no problem being tracked, and I am fully aware that many of the apps on my phone are already doing so to some extent. I like taking pictures with geo-tracking; I like when Google Maps tracks all my driving, I like that my Apple Watch keeps tabs on what my heart rate is and how many steps I’ve taken, and let’s just say my iPhone probably knows more about me than I do.
But that’s a 63-year old speaking.
An 18-year old may feel very different, and that may be a good thing…
*image from Parentology