Parents use surveillance apps to keep tabs on kids away from home

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Kade Henry

Joseph Manivong, Staff Writer

As teenagers become more independent they often wish to exercise that independence by going out with friends — away from their parents’ watchful eyes. So it’s no surprise that parents, who may not be ready to let their children out into the real world, want to keep tabs on their children’s whereabouts.

For some parents, a simple phone call from teens telling them where they’re going and when they’re going to be home usually suffices. Other parents, however, opt to employ smartphone surveillance applications, such as Life360, to know exactly where their children are and what they’re doing at all times.

These smartphone apps, which are installed on children’s smartphones and cannot be uninstalled without parents being notified, monitor almost everything about their lives, including time of movement and speed they’re traveling at. Some students whose parents use surveillance apps say that their parents don’t trust them and for no good reason.

“It feels as if my mom doesn’t trust me due to an incident with my sibling,” junior Jaycelyn Adena said. “I feel disappointed because I’m not a bad child and don’t do bad things.”

In the past, Adena’s younger brother left the house without his parents’ permission. Despite not being the cause of the incident, her mother installed Life360 on Adena’s smartphone. Senior Kade Henry is in a similar situation, as his parents installed Life360 on Henry’s smartphone, despite his claim that he has never disobeyed them in the past.

“I feel violated and like [my parents] don’t trust me, even though I don’t break rules,” Henry said.

Other students worry more about their privacy than having their parents’ trust.

“I feel it’s kind of weird just to know that your parents are watching your every move,” junior Jared Riley said. “These apps invade privacy. . . and can make people feel uneasy.”

Henry, Adena and Riley generally agree that these surveillance apps show their parents’ distrust in them.

“Parents should keep track of where their children are going but on a basis of trust, not surveillance,” Henry said. “[Parents] should ask their children where they’re going and believe their answer.”

Many students agree that parents should trust their children, but that tracking may be required when a child is disobedient or has disobeyed their parents in the past.

“If a child has a history of disobedience, then [parents] might need tracking,” Henry said.

The issue for these students is that they don’t break their parents’ rules or disobey them, yet they are still being tracked. Some students voice their opinions against their parents but to no avail, while others refuse to accept the app.

“I obviously didn’t like being watched so I told [my parents] about it, but they forced it on me anyway,” Henry said.

“I just deleted it and they never knew,” Riley said about his parents’ attempt.

Other students try to get away from their parents’ surveillance by leaving their smartphones at home to make it seem like they were home or making up excuses.

“My cousin and I were going to drop off my friend when we weren’t supposed to, so my younger sibling decided to stay home to make it seem like I was at school,” Adena said.

“When I go somewhere, I have an excuse for why I was there or I make it look like I was where I said I was,” Henry said.

Just as Henry has his reasons for being opposed to surveillance apps, his mother, Crystal Henry, has her reasons for installing Life360 on her son’s smartphone.

“After finding out about [Life360] online, I had my whole family get it for safety reasons,” Crystal Henry said. “If something ever happened to one of us, we could track them and call emergency services.”

Crystal Henry is aware that some members of her family are averse to the idea, but chooses to use the app in their best interest.

“I know [Kade] doesn’t particularly like it, but. . . his life is more important to me than what he likes or dislikes,” Crystal Henry said.