“Ok mom, I am heading over to Jenny’s for the sleepover,” said the teenager to her mother.
“Alright honey, make sure to call me when you get there,” said the mother.
The teenager hurried off into her friend’s car. However, they did not go to her friend’s home. They went several miles away to a party that one of their classmates was throwing.
The teen’s mother was a little suspicious why her daughter had been so insistent on having her sleepover tonight and not some other time. She decided to do some monitoring on her daughter’s whereabouts. She was able to use the Find My Lost Phone app on her phone and the locator said her daughter was right where she said she would be. The mother even called a bit later and her daughter answered right away.
Parenting has never been easy and it seemed like a blessing when parents were able to do remote monitoring and track their teen’s location through their phones. Parents could have some comfort in knowing where their teens were at all times. However, this brief period of comfort is over.
In the case above, the teenager had downloaded an app that allows users to fake the GPS location of their phones. These inexpensive apps trick the phone and all of the other apps that rely on the phone’s GPS coordinates to indicate a different location than where the phone is actually located. This allows teens to be in one place but have their phones say they are in another.
This app helps to illustrate that there is a technological arms race between parents and their teens. Parents want to protect their teenagers from risky behaviors and getting into difficult situations. As a result, they use technology to block websites, monitor driving habits, and track where their teens go.
On the other hand, teens want to be able to be independent and make their own decisions. They prefer not to have their parents always looking over their shoulders. As a result, they have embraced apps and other technologies that allow them to elude their parents’ oversight. There are proxy server sites that allow users to get around blocking software. There are even apps that allow for secret storage areas on a phone but that look like ordinary calculator apps.
The point is that whatever technology is devised, there will quickly be other technology that can be used to get around it. This leaves parents with having to rely on a technique that many generations have relied upon. Parents need to have a good relationship with their teens that is built on openness, honesty, and trust.
These types of relationships cannot be downloaded or bought. It is something that has to develop over time and start well before adolescence. The relationship is forged on shared experiences and willingness of parents to listen to their children when they have concerns. It is built by parents granting small steps towards independence and a disposition to be sensitive to their children’s needs. When the time is made to build these types of relationships, there is no longer a need for all of the technology to do the monitoring.
This article was published in the Richmond Register daily Friday on May 13, 2016