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Common Core: RH.6-8.6, RH.6-8.8, RI.6-8.4, RI.6-8.6, RI.6-8.8, SL.6-8.3

C3 (D2/6-8): Civ.7, Civ.10

NCSS: Individual development and identity; Science, technology, and society

Should Your Parents Track Your Location?

Hero Images/Getty Images (Teens); 123design/Shutterstock.com (Tag)

Your parents might know your classes, your friends, and maybe even what you had for breakfast this morning. But should they also know where you are at all times?

Many tracking apps, such as Life360 and TeenSafe, let parents do just that. The apps use GPS technology to pinpoint kids’ locations through their phones or other digital devices. That means a parent could follow your move­ments in real time, watching as you—a dot on a digital map—ride the bus to school or walk home from soccer practice.

Some apps will sound an alarm if teens leave a predetermined area. Others go even further—letting parents review every text, email, and social media post you type.

Parents have every right to track their kids, according to some people. They say tracking apps can offer adults peace of mind that teens are safe and where they’re supposed to be.

Other people, however, say that teens need to learn how to be independent—something they can’t do if their parents are constantly monitoring them. Plus, critics argue, tracking apps can undermine trust between parents and their kids.

Should your parents be able to track your location? Two experts weigh in.

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YES

According to a Pew Research Center report, only 16 percent of parents say they use technology to track where their teens are. But many others are likely wondering if they should. As the leader of a group that helps people stay safe online, my answer is a resounding yes!

Many apps, such as Foot­prints or Family Tracker, can pin­point the current location of a smartphone or tablet on a map. Some can also create a history of every place that device has been over time. Others allow parents to have an alert sent to their phones if their kid’s device leaves a predetermined area—like if it’s taken off campus on a school day or to another part of town.

Parents can and should use technology to protect their kids.

Is using apps to track teens’ locations an invasion of their privacy? In a sense, yes. But one of the most important responsibilities parents have is to protect their kids. Until a child is old enough to be living on his or her own, parents can and should use technology to help keep them safe. Such apps were created for a reason, after all. In addition to location tracking, this could mean moms and dads making sure they know their kids’ passwords, using phone company services to block certain numbers, or monitoring teens’ social media profiles to prevent cyberbullying being aimed at or done by their kids.

This doesn’t mean parents need to be checking where teens are and what they’re doing all the time. Parents also shouldn’t rely too heavily on technology to protect their teens. It’s important to build mutual trust by talking regularly and openly with their kids about how to stay safe—both in real life and online.

The bottom line is that parents need to protect their kids—no matter what.

—Jayne A. Hitchcock
President, Working to Halt Online Abuse, Kids/Teen Division

NO

Most people value their privacy. Even when we’re doing nothing wrong, we’re uncomfortable when we know other people are watching us. After all, it’s usually nobody’s business where we’re going or what we’re doing, right?

Young kids are used to being watched by their parents. But most teens no longer want—or need—to be monitored all the time. They want to be able to retreat into their rooms and close the door or hang out with their friends without being followed.

Part of being a teen is learning how to make decisions independently. Sometimes teens make bad choices, but they usually learn from such experiences. When parents use location-tracking technology, teens may feel like they’re being followed constantly. That could interfere with their ability to learn—and grow—from their mistakes.

Tracking where teens go may send a message that they can’t be trusted.

For some families, location tracking could be useful. They might find it convenient to know where everyone is—parents as well as kids. Or teens may prefer that their mom or dad just press a button to learn their whereabouts rather than having to constantly call or text to check in. But it’s important that the decision to enable location tracking be made with the consent of the person being tracked.

For one thing, tracking where teens go may send a message that they can’t be trusted—especially if it’s done without telling them. If they find out, teens may become angry and resentful. They might even start leaving their devices one place, such as a friend’s house, while they go somewhere else, or powering off their devices so they can’t be followed.

As useful as technology can be, there is no substitute for trust—and that works both ways.

—Lorrie Faith Cranor
Director, CyLab Security & Privacy Institute, Carnegie Mellon University

Write About It! What evidence does each writer use to support her claims? How does each writer address the other side’s arguments? Who do you think makes the stronger case? Why?

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