A leash called Life360

A few months ago, my mom made my sister and I download an app called “Life360”, a “family locator” which I assume she’d heard about on the local news. It’s a tracker, something I’d figured for a while my mom would try to implement in our household but had hoped that no such app had come to her attention, and after collecting myself and my sisters into the kitchen, she told us very directly that she wanted us to download it. I remember her being a bit apologetic when she asked me to download the app. That isn’t to say that she would have allowed me to refuse, (If she wanted me to download it, there was no way I was going to get around it) but she knew I wasn’t going to be happy about it. And I wasn’t.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]When my mom approached me about downloading Life360, she presented it to me as a way for her to find me in case of emergencies. This is how tracker apps are marketed, and it’s certainly a more acceptable way to market trackers to the general public. This is a perfectly good reason to want to install a tracker on your child’s phone. My sister has Life360 on her phone, and for good reason considering she’s twelve years old. But often, the use of trackers has less to do with protecting a teen from sex offenders and the “bad people in this world” and more to do with monitoring the child’s behavior. Trackers might be marketed as tools for emergencies, but for the teen with a tracker on his phone, the app is a lie detector.

Of course, if your teen is unruly and has a history of lying about where they go and what they do, it’s completely reasonable to install a tracker on their phone. Clearly that person has proven themselves incapable of being trusted to make the right decisions. But I go where I say I’m going to go, and I do what I say I’m going to do. Before I go anywhere with friends, my mom knows when we’re leaving, where we’re going, who’s going to be there, if we’ll go anywhere else, and when I’m going to be home. I’ve never lied about where I was going, and I’ve certainly never snuck-out to go anywhere. I’ve never drank or smoked, nor have I ever been to a party in which those things were happening (I go to birthday parties—the ones with moms as chaperones, and they usually end at 10 p.m.). I have done nothing to warrant being tracked as if I am likely to lie about my whereabouts.

In reality, my mom wanted my sister and I to download the app for both reasons, i.e., in case of emergencies and to keep us from doing something she wouldn’t approve of, though I assume she wanted it on my phone for reasons leaning towards the latter. And I’m not dumb or whiney enough to argue “she just doesn’t trust me!!” I know that my mom acknowledges how honest I am with her.

Still, a tracker on my phone means there is less room for me to make my own decisions. At 17 years old and with the record I have, I have earned the right to make those decisions, decisions that are only mine to make. I’m not arguing that my mom or any parent should give their children the option to drink or do drugs or any other reckless activity. I am arguing that if trust is earned, trust should be given, and that the mistakes a teen makes as result of their own decisions, should be forgiven quickly and easily.