Use technology to monitor your kids, and someone’s likely to criticize: Shouldn’t we be letting our kids explore without looking over their shoulders? But maybe it’s not quite that simple to dismiss tracking apps as a parenting tool.
During the summer of 2020, social justice awareness heightened, and protests became a daily occurrence. In the United States, civil rights groups organized Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests. Like families throughout the world, ours was keenly aware of what was happening.
Noticing our sons’ interest, I suggested we attend a social justice rally for families. To my surprise, I learned that our 27-year-old son had already been photographing marches and the 16-year-old already had plans to participate in a BLM march with a buddy the following day. I wasn’t invited. I applauded their initiative but was apprehensive. Although they planned to be home well before nightfall, when civil unrest cropped up in some places, I couldn’t help but worry.
But I knew this was a pivotal parenting moment. Time to step back and watch, literally and figuratively.
Since I couldn’t tag along, I did the next best thing. I tracked the teens with GPS while anxiously watching the local news. Extreme? Perhaps, but I felt better, and my teenager was able to maintain his plans. It was just as important for him to assert his independence as it was for me to feel as if I was being proactive regarding his safety.
While they were demonstrating, the other boy’s mother called. She also was worried. Assuring her that I was monitoring them eased the tension. Relieved, she told me I was a good parent. I don’t know about that. However, I was utilizing a good parenting tool.
When our 16-year-old returned from the BLM march he was jazzed. He held me captive with stories and impressed me with how he and his friend led part of the march during a leadership vacuum. Being alone, he felt empowered and leveled up his maturity accordingly. This was possible because I had access to monitoring technology and felt secure allowing him to encounter an unknown situation without my in-person supervision.
Technology is simply a parenting tool—one that we can use smartly.
With the click of a button, parents have access to information and likeminded communities, and we can share family pictures and news. Baby monitors, toddler proofing, screen time tracking, and GPS locators are modern parents’ best friends. The fact that previous generations didn’t possess these resources doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have used them if they could have. Years ago, when my husband teased me about being glued to our newborn’s video monitor, a family friend admitted to wishing she’d had one when her children were babies. Instead, she slept on the floor of their room until she felt secure enough to leave them alone.
Using technology to monitor kids is controversial, but I don’t see the harm if it’s used as judiciously. Technology isn’t wholly bad or good. It’s a tool. Whether to use it is less important than how we use it. We should use it as long as it’s helpful, and remember to back off as our kids mature.