Should Parents Use Cell Phones to Monitor Teens?

Jan Faull, MEd, on parents' use of technology to keep tabs on their tweens and teens.

Keeping Tabs

worried woman looking at her phone

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Q. I've heard of devices on cell phones that can track owners' whereabouts, and I've considered these for my son, age 11, and daughter, age 17.

I want my kids to have freedom and be safe, of course, but I'm not sure if cell phones alone will provide the protection I'm seeking. Plus, couldn't a child just turn the phone off if they didn't want the parent to trace their steps?

A. In today's scary world, it seems as if this could be the protection parents have been looking for. Let's say your 11-year-old son is going on a long bike ride with a friend, so they take along your cell phone just in case they need help. Not only could they call you if necessary, but with Global Positioning Systems (GPS) equipped on many mobile phones today, your son and his friend could also be located easily if they called 911. Plus, if you subscribed to an additional service, you could track the boys' exact location from your computer.

Or consider this: If your daughter is driving herself and three friends to a concert, she could map out exactly how to locate the concert location and get back home, just by using her equipped cell phone. And with an additional software package, you could track her whereabouts for the entire evening.

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