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Using In App Tracking To Spy On Other Parents? Seriously?

It’s always fun when people share parenting tips and stories, isn’t it? Here’s a fun anecdote from a Your Teen reader.

A mom was driving her daughter and a group of her friends to a waterpark about an hour away. On the highway, she receives a phone call. It’s from the mother of one of the girls in the car. “Hi, this is Hannah’s mom. Did you know that you’re exceeding the speed limit right now? Do you really think that’s a good idea with the girls in the car?”

Wait, what? How did she know how fast the car was going? Was this helicopter mother hovering right above the car as it sped down the highway? Never mind the fact that she herself created a potentially distracted driving situation by calling someone whom she knew was on the highway. Exactly how was she surveilling that other mother (who had selfishly claimed for herself the joy of driving a bunch of 16-year-old girls and spending an entire day with them at a waterpark)?

In App Tracking For Spying On Parents?

She did it through the magic of an app called Life360 installed on her daughter’s phone. Life360 has a “driver report” GPS feature which permits parents to receive alerts for speed and shows the user’s location on a map, all in real time. What a nice tool to help parents supervise a new driver, right? But did you ever think to use it to monitor the driving of another adult? Or their parenting generally? Just to, you know, make sure that their judgments and decisions are completely in line with yours?

That got me thinking. What if we decided to use technology available to us to stealth monitor all the other parents in your kids’ lives? How wonderful! Just think of all the mistakes/dilemmas/awkward situations you could preemptively avoid.

1) Spotify.

Some people don’t know that their settings are public, or that they share playlists with friends. What a great opportunity to paw through another mom or dad’s musical selections and make sure you don’t find anything objectionable that your teen could be exposed to on the carpool home from lacrosse practice! “Hi, Sharon? Thanks for driving the kids to practice. I’ve looked through your playlists and, well, I have some concerns. Some of those Prince lyrics are pretty suggestive. I also think there are too many references to cocaine in the The Cole Porter Collection (‘Some get a kick from cocaine/I’m sure that if/I took even one sniff/It would bore me terrifically, too/Yet I get a kick out of you.’) on your Sinatra playlist. Could you not play those songs while the kids are in the car? Thanks in advance.” She’ll be sure to thank you for your helpful suggestions.

2) Facebook.

Imagine all of the bad parenting you will head off by a quick perusal of someone’s Facebook wall before he or she has any contact with your kids. That mom at swim meets who volunteers to time swimmers? She had a kinda revealing bikini on last summer vacation. Better ask her not to wear that around the kids. Oh, and that photo of the donuts your son’s friend’s dad posted last weekend?  (“Turtle caramel donuts! #amazing”). How could he possibly blame you if you let him know that your family is gluten- and sugar-free? What if he bought donuts again for the sleepover this weekend and your son was exposed to them? You can’t be too careful.

3) Pinterest

Lots of possibilities for well-meaning intervention here. “This is a little awkward, but I noticed that you created a message board for ‘Fun Holiday Cocktails to Try This Weekend’ and I’m concerned that you are going to give the girls alcohol at the middle school dance. They’re only 14!! What could you be thinking?” Or that pin she saved about “How to Wear Miniskirts After 40?” Who is she fooling? She doesn’t have the legs for a miniskirt!” You should probably tell her.

4) Twitter.

Social media provides endless possibilities for you to share your opinions, insights, and parenting advice in helpful ways. Why not follow all the parents of your kids’ friends and see what kind of things they “like” and re-tweet? It can only improve everyone’s parenting. “Cathy, you retweeted an article about global warming that goes against every single thing I believe in. I don’t think we can carpool to dance practice with you anymore.”

All kidding aside, using an app to spy on another parent is creepy and insidious. If you have valid concerns about reckless or inappropriate behavior, by all means, confront the other parent. But be a grownup and do it directly. You know you can teach your kid to tell you if an adult ever texts, or drinks, or speeds when driving, right? You don’t need a high tech nanny cam Elf on the Shelf to keep tabs on your kid wherever they go. Yes, we have the technology to be nosy and judge each other from afar, but that doesn’t mean that we should. Because this kind of use of technology is a slippery slope for some over involved parents. Remember, after all, that someone could also do the same thing to you. You know you missed a stop sign back there, don’t you?

Jane Parent

Jane Parent is senior editor of Your Teen.