The right to privacy for teenagers is one they feel entitled to.
However, as a parent who has witnessed my own kids’ behavior over the years, oftentimes in slack-jawed amazement, I am acutely aware that the human brain doesn’t fully develop until we are in our late twenties. Because modern life doesn’t allow us to be physically present at all times, there are a lot of gray zones for our teens between privacy and helicopter parenting. And as a single parent with teenage daughters, it’s important for me to know what they’re up to, or at the very least, where they are.
Life360 is a free, real-time location-sharing app for iPhone or Android that provides a simple and reliable way to know where my daughters are, always, because it uses GPS tracking on their phones! The free version allows users to create a group of users called a “circle” (each user must have a supported device and opt-in) which then shares location information and checks users in to pre-selected locations, such as home or school. Pay versions of the App provide additional features like Crash Detection and Roadside Assistance. All service plans include a safety feature called a Help Alert which sends a notification to all circle members letting them know where you are and that you need help with one tap (click here for a complete plan and service breakdown).
To set it up you just need to download the app, turn on wi-fi and enable location services in your phone’s settings. You then create a profile for yourself and your circle of participating members. Once you are set up you can select two locations (unlimited locations on paid versions) to which members of your circle will automatically “check-in” upon arrival.
One tip which I learned during the early stages of implementation is that life360 is not foolproof. My circle had arrived at Kennywood, eaten lunch and gone our separate ways when one of my daughters realized she could disable location services. This allowed her to appear to be riding the Steel Phantom for two hours (her location when she paused location services), when in reality she was at the other end of the park having ice cream with a boy. And yes, the location tracking is accurate enough to identify which ride she was on. But for the app to work, location services must remain on, so trust is required. To that end, there are selling points for your kids, beyond contributing to their own safety. For example, there is no longer a need to call mom to discreetly find out when she will be home to avoid the panic clean-up right before she walks in the door. They can just check the app to see if she checked out of work (physically) or where she is along her trip home.
Bonus points: No one can say that they didn’t see a text or in-app chat message because their phone was dead – the app shows the battery life of everyone’s device!
Now comes the real beauty – we have a new driver in our house, so I opted for the top tier version of the app, Driver Protect, which is fabulous. I get weekly driver reports of how many miles my daughter drove, what her top speed was and how many drives she took. Don’t try and fool me with your lead-foot, multiple trips to Starbucks, hard breaking, rapid acceleration and phone usage because you don’t stand a chance – the app doesn’t lie.
There’s only one downfall, mom can’t take a day off and hang with her girlfriends or take a trip to the spa in peace because it’s a two-way street. Unless of course we…. “disable location services.”