Parenting Resources

To Track or Not to Track?

Delaney Ruston, MD
March 5, 2019
phone with map

To track or not to track. That is the question. GPS and cell phone technology has made it possible to follow our kids’ every move. Just because we can, is it ok to do it?

The most recent data shows that among parents of teens aged 14-17, 25% of parents track their kids’ locations, but only 15% of teens actually think their parents do so.

The argument for tracking is knowing where our kids are in this wild world. Proof of our kids' whereabouts in the form of a little dot on a screen provides the peace of mind some parents want. Tracking is also a sure-fire way to know whether kids are exactly where they say they are or supposed to be.  

The main argument against tracking is that it can undermine the desire to build trust between parents and kids. Some say it is important to give youth the freedom to make the right choice without following them. If they know we are tracking them, it weakens their obligation to be responsible.

With my teens, I have always preferred to not use tracking but to rely on our communication with each other. They tell me or my husband where they are. We have discussed with them that we want to know where they are if they go out at night, and they text us to let us know (or ask permission) when they want to change plans. Does that mean they have told us every change of location? During the day definitely not-—and we do not require that of them. They are living their lives and we know that if we have to reach them, usually they will answer the phone—unless there is a reason not to, like their battery died or they are not in cell range. For my teens, it has worked well to rely on our talking about plans in advance and then to stay in touch about changes.

I realize that for other families this approach might not work, and of course, every family needs to make a decision about how this will be handled. One thing that I feel strongly about is the damage that can be done in a relationship when parents are tracking a kid’s location without telling them. That goes for monitoring any type of behavior. Using deceptive ways to monitor can cause serious rifts in relationships that can be very daunting to repair.

There are many reasons that parents decide to use tracking. Commonly they do it because they are concerned about their youth’s safety. For example, if they cannot reach their child they want to be able to see where they are. I have never felt that being able to see their location will make them safer. Because I grew up in a high-crime neighborhood, I have raised my children to be very savvy about safety and I trust that they will rely on such skills to stay away from unsafe situations. That said, I realize that some parents just feel a lot better being able to actually see where they are if they have any doubts.

Another reason people like to track is so they can have fewer talks about logistics and instead rely more on tech for sorting out the locations of everyone in the family.  This is one way tech can really be helpful.

Of course, there are many more reasons that people choose to track or not to track. This is a great topic to have a conversation about with your kids in a calm, non-charged way:

  1. Let’s discuss how families managed logistics before cell phones.
  2. What are the upsides of tracking? Possible downsides?
  3. What do you think of the study results that teens underestimate how often parents track teens’ location?

We would love for you to share this TTT any way that works for you, whether that’s on social media or via a newsletter. If you want to send it out in your newsletter we just ask that you credit us and link to our website, and let us know at lisa@screenagersmovie.com.

HOST A SCREENING to help spark change.
FIND EVENT LISTINGS
Do you organize professional development in schools? We now have a 6-hour, 3-part training module. Request more information here Professional Development.

Stay in touch with the Screenagers community on Facebook, Twitter and leave comments below.

Here are some past TTTs you may find interesting as well:

Kids and Shopping Online
Big List of Screen Time Monitoring Apps
People Share Their Screen Rules

As well as our weekly blog, we publish videos like this one every week on the Screenagers YouTube channel

Join
443
others who have made the pledge!
Thank you for making the pledge!
Please try again
Book page button

Available now - Parenting in the Screen Age, from Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD

Order Here
Find A screening Button

Find a Screening - Find a screening of our movies in your local community

Learn More

Screenagers Podcast - Join Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD for the latest Podcast

Learn More
Book page button

Available now - Parenting in the Screen Age, from Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD

Learn More
Host a Screening Button

Community Screenings - Learn more about hosting your own Screenagers community screening event!

Learn More
Parenting In The Screen Age Book Cover

Free Book Preview - Download a free preview of "Parenting In The Screen Age" by Delaney Ruston, MD

Learn More

Join Today - Members can screen and view our movies year-round, access new lesson plans, resources and much more!

Learn More
Screenagers Under The Influence Banner

Our New Movie - Learn more about the third movie in the Screenagers Trilogy

Learn More

The Screenagers YouTube Channel - Subscribe for new videos and content from our team weekly!

Learn More
Host a Screening Button

Community Screenings - Learn more about hosting your own Screenagers community screening event!

Learn More
Find A screening Button

Find a Screening - Find a screening of our movies in your local community

Learn More

Screenagers Podcast - Join Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD for the latest Podcast

Learn More
Book page button

Available now - Parenting in the Screen Age, from Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD

Learn More
Host a Screening Button

Community Screenings - Learn more about hosting your own Screenagers community screening event!

Learn More
Parenting In The Screen Age Book Cover

Free Book Preview - Download a free preview of "Parenting In The Screen Age" by Delaney Ruston, MD

Learn More

Join Today - Members can screen and view our movies year-round, access new lesson plans, resources and much more!

Learn More
Screenagers Under The Influence Banner

Our New Movie - Learn more about the third movie in the Screenagers Trilogy

Learn More

The Screenagers YouTube Channel - Subscribe for new videos and content from our team weekly!

Learn More
Book page button

Available now - Parenting in the Screen Age, from Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD

Order Here
Find A screening Button

Find a Screening - Find a screening of our movies in your local community

Learn More

Screenagers Podcast - Join Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD for the latest Podcast

Learn More
Book page button

Available now - Parenting in the Screen Age, from Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD

Learn More
Host a Screening Button

Community Screenings - Learn more about hosting your own Screenagers community screening event!

Learn More
Parenting In The Screen Age Book Cover

Free Book Preview - Download a free preview of "Parenting In The Screen Age" by Delaney Ruston, MD

Learn More

Join Today - Members can screen and view our movies year-round, access new lesson plans, resources and much more!

Learn More
Screenagers Under The Influence Banner

Our New Movie - Learn more about the third movie in the Screenagers Trilogy

Learn More

The Screenagers YouTube Channel - Subscribe for new videos and content from our team weekly!

Learn More
Host a Screening Button

Community Screenings - Learn more about hosting your own Screenagers community screening event!

Learn More
Find A screening Button

Find a Screening - Find a screening of our movies in your local community

Learn More

Screenagers Podcast - Join Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD for the latest Podcast

Learn More
Book page button

Available now - Parenting in the Screen Age, from Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD

Learn More
Host a Screening Button

Community Screenings - Learn more about hosting your own Screenagers community screening event!

Learn More
Parenting In The Screen Age Book Cover

Free Book Preview - Download a free preview of "Parenting In The Screen Age" by Delaney Ruston, MD

Learn More

Join Today - Members can screen and view our movies year-round, access new lesson plans, resources and much more!

Learn More
Screenagers Under The Influence Banner

Our New Movie - Learn more about the latest movie in the Screenagers Trilogy

Learn More

The Screenagers YouTube Channel - Subscribe for new videos and content from our team weekly!

Learn More
Parenting Resources

To Track or Not to Track?

Delaney Ruston, MD
March 5, 2019
phone with map

To track or not to track. That is the question. GPS and cell phone technology has made it possible to follow our kids’ every move. Just because we can, is it ok to do it?

The most recent data shows that among parents of teens aged 14-17, 25% of parents track their kids’ locations, but only 15% of teens actually think their parents do so.

The argument for tracking is knowing where our kids are in this wild world. Proof of our kids' whereabouts in the form of a little dot on a screen provides the peace of mind some parents want. Tracking is also a sure-fire way to know whether kids are exactly where they say they are or supposed to be.  

The main argument against tracking is that it can undermine the desire to build trust between parents and kids. Some say it is important to give youth the freedom to make the right choice without following them. If they know we are tracking them, it weakens their obligation to be responsible.

With my teens, I have always preferred to not use tracking but to rely on our communication with each other. They tell me or my husband where they are. We have discussed with them that we want to know where they are if they go out at night, and they text us to let us know (or ask permission) when they want to change plans. Does that mean they have told us every change of location? During the day definitely not-—and we do not require that of them. They are living their lives and we know that if we have to reach them, usually they will answer the phone—unless there is a reason not to, like their battery died or they are not in cell range. For my teens, it has worked well to rely on our talking about plans in advance and then to stay in touch about changes.

I realize that for other families this approach might not work, and of course, every family needs to make a decision about how this will be handled. One thing that I feel strongly about is the damage that can be done in a relationship when parents are tracking a kid’s location without telling them. That goes for monitoring any type of behavior. Using deceptive ways to monitor can cause serious rifts in relationships that can be very daunting to repair.

There are many reasons that parents decide to use tracking. Commonly they do it because they are concerned about their youth’s safety. For example, if they cannot reach their child they want to be able to see where they are. I have never felt that being able to see their location will make them safer. Because I grew up in a high-crime neighborhood, I have raised my children to be very savvy about safety and I trust that they will rely on such skills to stay away from unsafe situations. That said, I realize that some parents just feel a lot better being able to actually see where they are if they have any doubts.

Another reason people like to track is so they can have fewer talks about logistics and instead rely more on tech for sorting out the locations of everyone in the family.  This is one way tech can really be helpful.

Of course, there are many more reasons that people choose to track or not to track. This is a great topic to have a conversation about with your kids in a calm, non-charged way:

  1. Let’s discuss how families managed logistics before cell phones.
  2. What are the upsides of tracking? Possible downsides?
  3. What do you think of the study results that teens underestimate how often parents track teens’ location?

We would love for you to share this TTT any way that works for you, whether that’s on social media or via a newsletter. If you want to send it out in your newsletter we just ask that you credit us and link to our website, and let us know at lisa@screenagersmovie.com.

HOST A SCREENING to help spark change.
FIND EVENT LISTINGS
Do you organize professional development in schools? We now have a 6-hour, 3-part training module. Request more information here Professional Development.

Stay in touch with the Screenagers community on Facebook, Twitter and leave comments below.

Here are some past TTTs you may find interesting as well:

Kids and Shopping Online
Big List of Screen Time Monitoring Apps
People Share Their Screen Rules

As well as our weekly blog, we publish videos like this one every week on the Screenagers YouTube channel

More Like This

The Power of Self-Compassion: A Strategy for Smoother Parenting
February 27, 2024
Parenting Resources

The Power of Self-Compassion: A Strategy for Smoother Parenting

Some months ago, I got back into therapy, and I remember the first day back, the therapist asked me, “Do you do a self-compassion practice?” I remember the moment because I had one of those little head-scratching kind of moments. My therapist's question about a self-compassion practice made me want to understand what I might be missing and, most importantly, how self-compassion could help me as a parent and all parents.

READ MORE >
How to Address The Hardest Screen Time Parenting Dilemmas
February 6, 2024
Parenting Resources

How to Address The Hardest Screen Time Parenting Dilemmas

I just released a new Screenagers’ Podcast episode featuring a lively and productive interview with Charlie Appelstein, a social worker and the author of “No Such Thing As A Bad Kid,” who has worked with youth and parents for over four decades. He is full of wisdom about helping youth with behavior management. Having seen his parenting workshops, I can personally attest to the remarkable insights and impactful strategies he shares. In the podcast, we address challenging scenarios, including how to determine appropriate consequences for lying and managing rude behavior from our children and teenagers, among many other topics. Read today’s blog for a sampling of some screen time dilemmas and strategies for addressing them that we tackle on the podcast

READ MORE >
Introducing Screenagers Bites on YouTube!
November 14, 2023
Parenting Resources

Introducing Screenagers Bites on YouTube!

We recently launched the Screenagers YouTube Channel where we will be uploading a range of new content and resources each week, such as movie clips, podcasts and other original content. I wanted this week to introduce you to the first regular feature on the channel - Screenagers Bites!

READ MORE >

parenting in the screen age

for more like this, DR. DELANEY RUSTON'S NEW BOOK, PARENTING IN THE SCREEN AGE, IS THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE FOR TODAY’S PARENTS. WITH INSIGHTS ON SCREEN TIME FROM RESEARCHERS, INPUT FROM KIDS & TEENS, THIS BOOK IS PACKED WITH SOLUTIONS FOR HOW TO START AND SUSTAIN PRODUCTIVE FAMILY TALKS ABOUT TECHNOLOGY AND IT’S IMPACT ON OUR MENTAL WELLBEING.  

ORDER HERE
Parenting in the Screen Age book cover