Teen Tracking Apps: Should Parents Spy on Their Teens?

Teen Tracking AppsDid you know that according to an infographic of Top 5 Mobile Spy Applications, 32% of teenagers admit that they have been lured into some sort of danger online? And 20% of teenagers report trying drugs before they are 16? A number of parental tracking apps and services exist for monitoring teen activity online. So do you think parents should use tracking apps and spy on you if you’re a teen? Or do you think that would be an invasion of privacy?

Parents have always had the right to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their children. In the past, parents could keep an eye on their teen’s life and relationships because friends and acquaintances would actually need to knock at the front door or call on the home phone. Teens used to have curfews and had to be back home by a certain time. Nowadays everything happens 24/7 in the digital world, hidden from parents’ watchful eyes. Parents need a way to gain back that glimpse into their teen’s life. Tracking apps can serve that purpose, but are they really necessary?

Teenagers are not children any more. They are growing up, going out in the world, and doing things without mom or dad. Everyone needs a little “alone time” and teens are no exception. Teens are individuals who crave independence and want the freedom to have a life of their own. If you raised your teen well enough to be able to trust them, you should let them have some privacy. Think about it, how would you feel if someone were to read your e-mails or your diary or listen in on your personal conversations?

Don’t get me wrong – teens still need a parent to help protect, advise, and guide them. But the best way to monitor your teen is to have a close relationship and keep the lines of communication open. If they are comfortable with talking to you, they won’t have a reason to keep things from you. So if you have a teenager who meets his or her responsibilities, comes home on time, is hanging out with decent people, and does not give you any reason to be suspicious, there is no need to use tracking apps. When you spy on a responsible teen, the message you’re sending is, “I don’t trust you, even when you haven’t done anything wrong.”

However, tracking apps do have their place when, as law enforcement would say, there is probable cause. In other words, if a parent has a reason to be suspicious, the parent has a responsibility to protect their teen, especially if they’re under age 18. So if your teen’s mood, body language, or demeanor changes; if they display inappropriate conduct or behavior; if they suddenly switch screens when you walk into the room or stop responding to messages in front of you – these could be warning signs that something is amiss.

Likewise, if you accidentally discover something incriminating when you’re cleaning your teen’s room; if you see them associating with the wrong crowd; if you suspect your teen might be using drugs, drinking, or engaging in other risky behavior; or if you just have a gut feeling that something’s not right – you have an obligation and a responsibility to do something about it before it’s too late and they end up in jail, addicted, victimized, or dead. Minor children of any age should have no expectations of privacy when it comes to their safety.

If that means searching their room, looking in their drawers, checking their text messages and internet browsing history, then that’s what you will have to do. Some parents who have become aware of problems with their teen’s online behavior may feel a need to monitor the content of their social media communications. Other parents may want to put tracking apps on their teen’s computer after they’ve found them using drugs. It’s just like when a criminal is caught in the process of doing something bad, he or she is held in jail or made to wear an ankle monitor and loses certain rights to privacy.

After all, whoever owns the home has a right to look anywhere in their house. The same goes for when the cell phone and internet bill is in a parent’s name. A parent has every right and responsibility to check into these things if they’ve been given cause to do so. That’s because it’s the parent’s responsibility to keep their home safe, keep their other children safe, and especially keep the teen who is messing up safe. The consequences can be far too dangerous to just let it slide.

The parent might say something like, “I’m doing this because I love you, I want you to be safe, and I can’t let you do this in our home.” Or “you don’t have a right to keep secrets from me if it’s something that endangers you or endangers our family.” Nevertheless, to keep your teen from feeling betrayed, many experts advise that parents be honest and inform them that you reserve the right to go through phones and Facebook accounts. If your teens aren’t aware that you’re monitoring them or doing random checks, then you are spying on them behind their backs, which is a breach of trust. If you are worried about your teen’s safety then have a talk with them about it, please don’t stalk your own kids.

Part of maturing naturally means making mistakes and learning from them; but on the other hand, some consequences may be avoided with active parenting. It’s not always about your own teen’s behavior, either. There are teens who have been bullied on social media and committed suicide, for example. Hopefully your teen will realize that they can come to you in times of need, and not go to their phone or other electronic devices. Nevertheless, tracking apps can discreetly empower parents to safeguard their teen children from harm. Monitoring online activity is a means to possibly stop bullying, thwart predators, and even prevent death.

There is certainly a balance to be found between monitoring and privacy, and each household has to figure it out based on children’s ages, family values, etc. I hope that you and your family are able to find that “happy medium” between providing for your teen’s safety while also acknowledging their need for privacy and autonomy, especially during the older teenage years. Have some empathy for your teens and realize that they normally don’t have to be monitored every second of the day. But even smart kids can make stupid choices sometimes; that’s when parents have to step in and do their job.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the space below.

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