This past weekend, a couple I know asked my opinion of putting a phone tracker on their child’s phone. They were thinking of using an app like Life360, which would allow them to follow where their child’s phone is at any one time (which hopefully corresponds to the whereabouts of their child, as well).
When my kids were younger, my wife and I had the same conversation, and we concluded it was unnecessary.
First off, there’s the very predictable: we never had trackers when we were growing up, and we not only survived, but ended up just fine.
But beyond that, I think there are more philosophical reasons for it. What does it say to your child when you put a tracker on their phone? I think kids, and people in general, perform better when they are trusted. This goes back to a general foundational approach that I believe is correct: I trust people until they give me a reason not to trust them.
I want my children to know I trust them, but they also need to know that trust can be abused and withdrawn. If I start finding out that they’re lying to me or saying one thing but doing another, then they start losing trust, which means start losing privileges.
Aside from that, I think it’s a critically important part of youth to get out there and touch as many hot stoves as possible. One of the best parts about being a kid is going out and having adventures. It’s getting yourself into silly, stupid, or ridiculous situations that you then have to get yourself out of unscathed.
If you don’t come out of your childhood without having done at least a handful of things that you feel lucky to have come out of alive (or without serious injury), then you did something very wrong.
Being a child is about pushing limits. It’s about doing things that seem dangerous or crazy at the time, but you look back on and realize it was probably just stupid.
If you’ve got a tracker on your phone, you can’t escape this feeling that your parents don’t trust you. But you also can’t escape the feeling that you’d better not. You’d better not try that. You’d better not get in trouble. It’s essentially taking your kid out of the wild and putting him in a zoo. And when animals end up in a zoo, they start forgetting how to fend for themselves.
And that’s another reason kids should be off exploring. When you get yourself in sticky situations, it’s good to have some experience getting out of those situations on your own. It’s a great way to test what works and what doesn’t. It’s a good place to learn about people. Are they helpful? Can they be trusted? Are they forgiving? These are all questions you start to answer when you’re out having childhood adventures.
There are many reasons to not put a tracker on your child’s phone. Just because you can is not a good enough reason. In fact, whether or not to put a tracker on their phone isn’t even the right question.
What you should really be asking yourself is, “why does my kid have a phone at all?”