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Episode 102

Is tracking our kids locations and grades helpful or hurtful to their growth?

April 8, 2024
In Episode 102, Kyle and Sara, LPCs discuss the growing ability parents have to track their kids. We discuss the positive and negative outcomes that may come as a result of using this technology. Does it help our kids be safe while also hinder our kids from learning valuable skills they need for adulthood? Is there a way to use the technology while also helping our kids be confident independent humans?

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Episode 102 Transcript:

Hello and welcome to the Art of Raising Humans. I'm Kyle. And I'm Sara. And on today's podcast, we are going to talk about tracking our kids. Yeah. It's a big deal. It is a big deal. Didn't exist when we were kids. Yes. But now it does. Yes. And so before we get into that, well, we're going to dive into ways in which we kind of make those decisions, right? Because we help a lot of kids. We get to do coaching with a lot of different parents.


And that there's a lot of like different ways people make decisions about their stuff. And so we really kind of wanted to walk you through how we make decisions in light of this, these kinds of topics, right? Should we not track our kids and that kind of thing? Yeah. Cause it's not really a black or white issue. It's not definitely do it. Definitely don't do it. There's a lot of things to consider. So we're going to help bring light to those things so that you can make the decision with your family. Yes. So before we dive into that, we'd love for you to go to wherever you're getting the podcasts and


Give us a five-star review, give us some comments. All that stuff really helps us be seen more. I mean, right now we're pretty excited. We mentioned this back in our 100th episode that we're in the top 3% of parenting podcasts. It just helps us continue to rise in those charts so we can reach more parents because we wanna help as many as we possibly can. So we just wanna spread the word and if you think this is helpful, we'd love for you to not only comment on it, but share that and then hopefully it will equip more parents to be able to parent with less fear, less shame, give them more skills along the way.


So the reason why this came up, Sara, is because I've been seeing a lot of kids, I help a lot of teenagers, and talk to a lot of parents, and they use apps like Life360, right? So I think everybody listening here either knows what that is, you're using it right now with your kids, or it's a real popular app, you know? And I know there's other ones out there, but we'll just reference that one as the most popular. Basically, just a way to know where they're at, sometimes what they're doing, driving, things like that, but a way to track your child.


Yeah. And so we want to start again by saying, we're not experts on this. We, we don't, we didn't go dive into all the stats about life 360. This is really about, and we're not really making a recommendation of do it or don't do it. That's, that's not the point. No. Yeah. And we'd love to hear from you at the end of it, if you want to send us comments about, Hey, I use it and this is how we use it, this, how it's helpful. We'd love to hear that. Right. Or if you said, well, we, we used to do, and we don't do it anymore because of this and this reason. And so more, it's just, I felt like it was coming up more and more as I was helping parents.


and kids, Sara, of just this question, it seemed like for many people, it was just a given. Your kid becomes a certain age, typically driving age, and they then want to get Life360. It's just like a given, because most other parents seem to be doing it, right? And they have some really great reasons why they're doing it. So let's just start there. What are some reasons for getting a Life360, getting a tracking app? The first thing that comes to my mind is safety, because then I know, I mean, ideally in my world,


I know where my child is located, right? And that didn't exist when we were younger. But now it's like, if anything goes wrong, I know right where my child is, I can show where they've been, if they're getting to the right place with the right people at the right time. That's my thought. If something happened, they got into a wreck, or you couldn't get ahold of them, you would know where they were, right? Something like that, okay? So for you, one of the main reasons you'd say people use is for safety, right? It seems like also what I hear them using it for is,


they want to keep track of them because maybe there's a lack of trust. Right. You know? And so that they don't know, they don't trust for sure that the kid is always going to be where they intended to be or where they said they were going to go. They were going to this person's house, but I look on there and they're at someone else's house or they're at this, the mall or right. Well, so there is this history of the kid says I'm only going here and then the kids and I'm going other places. Right.


So there is a sense of safety with that too, right? Right. But also a- It's like an accountability sort of? Somewhat, yeah. Someone keeping the kid responsible maybe. Somebody's watching you, so maybe you're more apt to make- You've got to be honest about where you're going and how long you're going to be there, things like that. And another one I see used for Sara is driving habits.


You know, that may be if the kid is new to driving and we want him or her to be safer driving, we don't want, we don't want them speeding. We don't want them driving a radical crazy that life 360 will track a lot of that stuff. You know, that's a big concern when you've got a new driver, right? Where they're driving and how they're driving. Yeah. And then maybe you, you could give them feedback on it, right? You could give them feedback on, Hey, it seemed like what would, you know,


this and this was happening, what was going on there. It could provide some helpful conversations on how to be a better driver. Right. Any other thoughts, any other reasons why people might use it? Those are what come to mind. I'm sure we're missing some. Okay, okay. If we're missing a, please let us know. Those are the ones that I wrote down too. Those are the reasons why I hear parents that I help coach that that's what they're telling me they're using it for is mostly for those, right? Okay, but then what are some? Time.


Time on the phone, screens? Okay, yes, some messages. Yeah, there might be some feedback on that. What's some negatives though? What's some negative possible outcomes from using an app like 360, like 360 with your kid? The first one that comes to mind is relationship. Okay.


I think for some kids, especially depending on personalities and things, that doesn't feel good to feel like you've got this little microscope on you and we're watching you. Big brother is always around. We're waiting for you to mess up. We know you mess up. We know you're lying and we're watching you. And um.


Rather that's true and almost like you need us to watch you. Yeah. Right. Like you need us because if you, we aren't watching you, you're likely to do something you shouldn't be doing. Right. You can't handle it. And I think even if it's true, even if your child has broken trust many times, that's not going to feel good and it won't build your relationship. Yeah.


So maybe you feel like it's accomplishing safety or something like that. It's probably not doing much for your relationship with your child. Well, and you hear kids say that. Like, I feel like they did it because they don't trust me.


I feel like they did it because they think I'm going to do something bad if they're not watching me, you know, and they're trying to be children at the, their brain is wired to try to work towards autonomy. That's the stage of development they're in. So to feel like you're, you're the thing holding them back from that. You don't believe in them. You don't, you're not helping their brain with the thing it's naturally wanting to do isn't going to feel good. Yeah, no, I agree. And then the second one I put down was it could limit communication.


You know, um, you know, a kid I was talking to recently was telling me how he would like to have those conversations about where he's going, about what he's doing, about what time he's going to get back, but it's almost like with life 360, those conversations aren't happening. Yeah. It's like, oh, you can just look. Yeah. You can tell where I am. Yeah. You don't need to text me. I don't need to tell you I left from here to here. If you want to know where I am, go check the app. Right. So there is the very thing that hopefully


is maybe already a problem, I guess, is maybe the communication needs to be helped, is it's gonna limit that now, you know? Instead of it being a way to increase that communication. Right? Because now, them driving could be a way to make sure we need to be in better contact. I need you to let me know when you're leaving somewhere, because I wanna know just in case you run out of gas, or whatever might happen, that we can easily find where you're at. So it takes the place. It can take the place of communication. I also thought it leads to a lot of assumptions.


You know, I've seen it where some families, I'll be helping Sara, they will look at the app and see that the kid is at some kind of drive-through restaurant, you know, someplace that, in the parents' mind, should only take 10 minutes, 15 minutes tops. And they're looking, and the kid's there 30 minutes, 45 minutes, whatever it is, you know? And the parents, what were they doing there? Why are they, are they there with their boyfriend or girlfriend? Are they there up to no good? And so they're actually like, you can feel the tension


looking at the app going what's going on and the assumption isn't good it's like oh they're just hanging out it's no big deal and already when the kid comes home the kid feels this energy and the question is why were you at that place so long yeah you know there's immediate accusation from and even though they're teenagers or kids and you think


It still doesn't feel good. If I walked in the door and you're like, um, yeah, I noticed you were at Target for 40. I thought you were just running to get some sausage. Yeah. Like what? Yes. Yeah. Well, it doesn't feel good. It doesn't feel good to us. And it doesn't feel good to them either. I know even honestly, sir, has been times I've fallen into, we don't even have light 360, but we've got the iPhone app, right? Where I can see where you're at and you'll go to have gone to the grocery store and I'll want to be.


going somewhere and I'll be thinking, how long is this taking? You know, and I'll look at the app and I'll be getting upset at how long you're taking at the grocery store, you know? And so I could imagine a parent doing that with their kid and thinking, in my mind, that should not take this long. You should have been done with this by now. What are you doing? And yeah, nothing that builds relationship is just the point. It's not bringing you together. Totally.


Yes. And so then, then the next one is it gives parents a false sense of security. You know, can you kind of speak to that? How does it do that? Well, in some ways, sometimes it's just not accurate. And so you'll believe something or think, you know, something and you don't, you know, I'm just FYI teens can get around things. So how would they do that, Sara? How would they get around? This genius app.


So they can figure out ways around it. So then the parent again, it's, it's unfortunate for the relationship, right? You build this dynamic of you're watching me and I'm going to just need to come up with ways to get around you. Watch almost like my goal as a kid is to like get out from the constraints of you controlling me. Right. And so they'll do things. I'm sure parents know, but they'll do things like leave their phones somewhere and act like they're there, but just go to a different location or they'll just let their phone die. You know, like, well, my phone.


It lost its battery stuff. And then you don't know if it actually just died. I know. It could have. I know. Yeah. It's hard to know. So it creates all this tension. Yes. And all these assumptions, all this conflict that didn't necessarily need to be there, right? Yeah. And then I think it also, one other negative I put on here was it also misses an opportunity for the kid to actually show you they are trustworthy.


for a kid to actually feel trustworthy, you know, to say, that felt good. I told my parents, I was only going here. I, my parents don't even know it, but I had options to go to the place. I didn't do it. That feels good. The ability to practice self-control. Yeah. I was in all those skills, right? Cause we actually want them to have the skills and funny thing is by watching them and micromanaging it, they don't really build the skill, you know,


It's a different, it's showing them, I believe in you. I believe you can learn this skill. I'm gonna support you learning this skill. You're gonna practice it and they feel like, wow, I did it. I was able to do that. And then I'm gonna give you the opportunity to work on it, right? And then I- That sense of autonomy and growing up. I think a real big thing in our culture that's really grown quite a bit, you know, typically-


If you haven't heard our parenting styles podcast, I encourage you to go back to that, that was last year. And when you go there, you'll see there's typically four parenting styles that we discuss. We talk about the uninvolved or neglectful parent, we talk about the authoritarian parent, the permissive parent, and then we discuss also the authoritative or the loving guidance, whatever inside out type parent. But this fifth one has started to become more popular in our culture. Very, I mean, yeah, I think it's everywhere. You're hearing about this all.


time, which is the helicopter. Yeah. You know, and it seems like to me, Sara, apps like this, although I could believe the people who made it completely intended it to be helpful. And it can be. Yes. Like we said, I know. Yeah. And it can be completely helpful. It can make sure a lot of maybe dangerous things don't happen. It can help somebody be more safe. Right. And I'm sure it's awareness. I mean, even they can look at and see how often, you know, how am I doing on my speed limits? How am I doing? You're right. It could be great for that. And, but what it's done, I think has helped


I'm a irresponsible parent if I don't have something like this. Right? Like, you're almost being neglectful by not having an app. You kind of are really a helicopter. It's like you got these little things like, eee. It's like you have a little drone going around. Maybe they should just invent that and be more like, okay, see you later. Get the drone out, honey. Flying it around and seeing it. But yeah, and then because I'm a helicopter parent, I'm not a helicopter parent.


think this ties into because before Life 360 became a thing an even bigger thing was monitoring your kids school grades.


and in a daily getting a report or in the instant seeing when a teacher puts in a zero. You can always log in or they yeah and they still have all those things. So I think that was part of our culture already that kind of brought about this helicopter parenting type thing. Instead of getting them once a semester. Yes yeah and once again there were some bad things about that. Definitely definitely. There was kids parents didn't know my parents had no idea what grades I was getting. Right and now you could actually help them sooner because you realize there's a problem. You can intervene quicker. Instead of finding out how come I didn't know this has been going on for


You know, but I think the same problem exists with that too. Sara is what it does when I now have knowledge and information of what their grades are, where they're at, how they're driving now, who becomes responsible for that information. Yeah, I is the parent feel responsible now to do something about it.


Right as opposed to before that information was just in the hands of the kid and the kid was the one responsible to do something about it Right and sometimes that's too much, you know, right given to the needed support and no we didn't even know exactly as parents Yeah, because the kids brain is still developing the kid doesn't have actually skills the tools So they actually need your help So sometimes that the kid would think it's all on their shoulders and they're just like a poor little fifth grader sixth grader And they don't know that no this is actually supposed to be something you do


with your parents, right? But since the parents didn't know, they just assumed you got it all together. You got it figured out, you know? And the kid inside is stressing, like, oh my gosh, I hope by the time the report comes out, I have it up, you know? So now I think- We can probably all relate to that even in a job scenario, where maybe you feel like you're underwater in your job and you need support, but you know, does your boss know? Even as adults, we have that experience. I think a great example as you're saying that is, in our culture,


we're supposed to know things and asking questions lots of times makes you look stupid. Yeah, how come you don't already know that? So in a work setting, the boss might say something and you might be completely confused to what the boss, he or she is saying. And you don't raise your hand to ask for clarification because you don't want everyone to go, how do you not know what we're doing? You're behind on some task you were supposed to have done but then you're really afraid to go say, hey, I'm struggling to get this done. Yes, so I understand the point of those apps


being able to have that knowledge is to help you as a parent support your kid in being successful. But all too often that knowledge doesn't lead to that. It leads to the parent feeling this sense of responsibility to now take over what the kid is doing and make sure the kid succeeds at it. And then the kid, at least when I'm talking to them, they don't feel like it's their job anymore. Right. They think it's your job to make them successful.


Instead of taking that responsibility. Yeah. So in framing in that way, if any of you, I'm sure everybody on here has had some experience who's listening with grade type apps and those kind of things. But maybe you're just now new to this Life 360, you've been doing it for a while. I'm sure you can all relate to that tension. And all we want to do is kind of walk through.


how we help parents make those choices. Like is Life 360 the thing for our family? You know, those kind of apps, right? Anything like that, right. Or is monitoring grades on a daily basis, is that something we wanna do as parents, you know? So it all kinda ties into that together. And if I want it, how could it be, how can I try to lean into the helpfulness of it and away from the, you know, the risk to relationship and those other downfalls? So I think the first question we always ask ourselves, Sara, is we try to do kind of an inner assessment.


of what is our intent, what is our intent behind the action? You know, am I doing this because I'm scared?


Am I doing this as an attempt to control, right? Am I closed fisted as opposed to open-handed, right? Maybe I'm framing it in light of safety, but really it is, I want them to be safe, but also I believe they're just naturally unsafe. So I need to make them safer. I kinda wanna spy on my kid. Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Cool, and I feel responsible to do it. I feel like, once again, I'm a neglectful parent if I don't notice that. I mean, I can, so maybe I'm supposed to and I should.


I mean, that part, you got to check in with yourself and really have that honest conversation of what, what's really going on here, because if it is coming out of fear, that's just, that's not a great motivator. So there could be some great intent to it, but you want to own that other piece. If there is this other piece, you want to kind of pull that to light.


Because if you're acting out of that space, the kids will feel it. I mean, it's going to create a problem. So that's not the space you want to operate. You want to deal with that first so you can move. Yeah. And so yeah, in this parenting approach, we want to come open handed and with something as big as this, or anything, but especially as big as this, we want the kid to do this with us hand in hand. And if we're coming with fear as the main intent, that's that we want. We're wanting to stop all these bad things from happening.


from looking like a neglectful, irresponsible parent. Yeah, whatever it could be. Some social expectations, something we have on ourselves, something from our history. Because I'm sure there's got to be this fear, Sara, what if something did happen? And I didn't have that app on there. And I could have. Now I'm responsible somewhat for the negligence of that. So I'm sure those thoughts are there. So first, I want to evaluate and talk it over with your spouse. You and I would discuss it together about, what is our intent? What are we really trying to accomplish here?


Then the second thing is, how can we do this with them? How can we go hand in hand with our kid?


to co-create whatever it is we're trying to do here. Right, because if I'm in a great space with it, I wanna go to them because especially as teenagers, I'm trying to prepare them to be adults because they're right there, they're so close. And it's an illusion to think that I'm still controlling everything. I actually don't even want to be because I really want to be handing things off to them. So I need to invite them into that. And my goal is to keep shifting more and more to them.


Yeah, more and more handing that off. Yeah. But we're doing this hand in hand. So I'm thinking, how would they feel about this? So if we asked them, we could ask them.


How do you feel about this? Like, you know, is this something you think is important? Yeah. Right? Are they asking for this tool to help them? Are they asking for it? You know, is this something they're saying? Cause like, there are some kids I do, they say, I want it. Yeah, yeah. I like having it. It's great. This could be helpful to me. Totally. There's many kids who say. Great space for that. Yeah, I totally like having it. Cause I know, I like that my parents know where I'm at. And then they're never anxious or worried about it. Cause they can see clearly what's going on. I can show, it demonstrates everything. I'm driving all this great stuff. Yeah. Cause then it's a way for me to show


so well.


But then also some interesting questions come up that kids will ask, are the parents gonna share their location? If we're doing this together, why am I the only one? And if it's for safety, don't you need to be safe too? Yeah, that's a great question. Like is there a double standard? If you're watching how I drive, can I see how you drive? Yeah. Are we together learning how to be better drivers? And so if I'm unwilling to share that, what's the reason? I mean, there might be a good reason, I don't know, but to the kid, it seems like a double standard. And how are they gonna perceive this?


wondering are they resisting this? Are they pushing against it? If they are then I've got to go back again to the intent.


Maybe they are, maybe my tent is out of fear and I thought it wasn't right. Or maybe they're misunderstanding the intent. Maybe they think I don't trust them. I don't believe in them and I'm trying to control them. So I need to go back to that first question to reevaluate what is my tent? Cause maybe the reason why they're pushing back is because maybe I am trying to be really want to hear if they're resistant to it, I need to know, you know, what's going on in them and, um, maybe there's an opportunity to heal something there, maybe there's a something on your side or their side and it's, it's at least an indication.


That there there's potentially a relationship breakdown and I want to fix that I want to do something about that Yep, and then the third one was what is the skill? We are wanting them to learn so I think this is really important to what is the skill in this moment that we're thinking this


this moment they're driving they're having more independence what is the skill that we think they're lacking that they need to get better at what is the skill they already have to some extent but this could be a great chance for them to practice it more you know so some of the skills i wrote down sarah are self-control um their ability to communicate more clearly right and be more intentional about that um the ability to take responsibility for their actions being independent


and making safer choices. Yeah. Right? So I think those are all skills we want them to have by the time they leave and become adults, right? And they go off to wherever they're gonna go. Is we'd like them to have a lot of opportunities to practice those skills in the safety of our relationship, right? Where they're still living at our house. And if we believe they don't have these, and therefore we're using an app like Life360 or some school app to then control them,


we're missing that opportunity. It needs to be a tool, a helpful tool to them, to you, to everybody, so.


not something I'm gonna secretly control you with or something, yeah, you want them to see it as this could be a helpful tool to me and it could be a helpful tool to us. Yeah, yeah. And so we wanna evaluate what is the skill we are wanting them to learn. So that's once again another great conversation as couples to be like, what is it we think they need to get stronger at? Well, what is it they already do really well, right? Because we don't want this device to somehow take away the opportunity to get better at that skill, right? So then the fourth one was, is just would this help them learn the skill?


You know, or does it undermine their ability to learn it? What ways could it help them practice the skill? You know, so I love the opportunity of saying like I think life through see could be a great way to do that to say Hey, this is a brand new endeavor a new step you're on where you're really gonna be more independent And and there's gonna be opportunities for us you to do make all types of choices outside of our ability to help


you know, guide you on those, you know? And so maybe a parent says, I would like to have this on there just to help you know that we're there with you, to help you, to be able to be alongside you, you know? So that way then if there's a kid tempting you to go do something that might be harmful, you could go, ah, no, my parents, yeah, they won't be cool with that. You could use it for that, right? Totally, sometimes you need that way out. And parents are a great way out if the child feels in that moment.


They need that extra. Or it could be, I hear kids say, Sara, that sometimes they thought about making that impulsive choice and having the app cause them to pause. And go, oh, wait, is this really going to be safe? Is this a great idea? So just even the app itself was this level of accountability, you said. It wasn't controlling their choice, but it helped them be aware that there is someone else involved in this choice. And this isn't something you're just doing under


this like complete anonymity and nobody knows about it. Like your parents are seeing it. Or even like they say, we're driving. Some kids say, I do drive safer. You know, it's kind of like you see those commercials. It's like a reminder. It's there to remind me, hey, and I can look back at it. And you see insurance apps do that too. Yes, yeah, yeah. Well, they give you incentives to drive safer, right? So there's a way in which someone else is watching. So therefore I'm being more thoughtful. It's not about controlling me because you don't trust me, but it's saying, hey, we're with you. You know, so you're more likely to make, so I could see that being a helpful way for the kid.


And then they're stepping into it instead of it being this external source of control It's I'm using this extra thing out here to help with my internal control And that's a switch and you want them building that internal not I'm only driving this way because you're watching Yeah, yeah, and then the fifth one the last one is just is this sustainable? how


How long is this actually gonna be helpful? Right. You know what I mean? For lots of parents, they start it when the kid's 16. Are you gonna keep doing this when they're 18, 19, 20? What's the end game? And then what happens if you've used it as this controlling thing, what happens when they can just choose to get rid of it? Yeah. You know, have they built what they need?


at that point or has it just been this external? Well, and going back to that idea is if we don't trust them, if we don't believe they can do this safely, what is the end game to help them do that, right? So if they are thinking, oh, it's only because the life 360 is there, otherwise I would have done all types of stupid things. Then when is that gonna come off? Like as soon as they're 18, you see this a lot with kids who go to college, they think it's freedom to go to college and be, they don't understand that freedom comes from self-control.


Freedom comes from self-discipline. So the ability to actually choose what is better for you. That is freedom It's not just doing whatever you want But kids who have had parents monitoring them from the time they were little and constantly telling them what the good choice is The kid doesn't actually know how to make that choice You know because they now the kids looking around and maybe they start dating somebody who will do that for them or something or you know But they still feel the need to have those external controls Making them make good choices


had something built inside of them. It's always been this outside thing. So when the outside thing's gone, they don't know how to, what do they do? So just to recap, Sara, those five for anybody who's listening on this is we ask, what is the intent behind the action? Number two, how can we do this with them? How can we co-create this with them? Number three, what is the skill we are wanting the kid to learn? Number four, will this actually help them learn that skill?


And then number five is, is this sustainable? So is whatever action I'm doing, how long is this actually gonna help them? What's the plan for it? What's the end game? If we're gonna do this, what's the end game? Is it just for a temporary fix, or is it actually to help our kids thrive and be successful into their adult years? Yeah. Right?


Okay, so I hope that conversation was helpful to you. If you are thinking about anything from a tracking app for a driver all the way down to looking at grades, and we have a whole nother podcast we do just on grades, and we'll probably do more in the future because it's a really big thing for a lot of parents where they feel like they need to constantly be on top of those grades and tracking what's going on. You can ask these exact same questions about looking at those grade apps and constantly being on top of that because really your kids want to be successful drivers.


at school. They want to do that. So you actually have the exact same goal. So how can we use these tools, if at all, to help them achieve those goals? Okay. So I hope this conversation really helped expand that conversation. Please make sure you go comment, give us a five star rating, share this podcast with your friends. And we just thank you for listening today. Yeah. Have a great day.


Do we need to track our kids? Do we need to constantly be monitoring where they are when they're driving or how their grades are doing on a daily basis? I know for many parents, they feel like that's what a responsible parent needs to be doing. And they may be right, but it's really not about it being a right or wrong choice. It's really about being thoughtful about how these apps that we have every day that are in our lives to help us be better parents.


really being thoughtful about how are they helping equip our kids. So in today's podcast, Sara and I are going to give you five steps on how you as a couple or as a single parent can walk through this and really decide if using these apps or these devices is going to be more helpful.


than hurtful to raising a kid that is self-disciplined, self-controlled, responsible, kind, and all those other great things you want your kid to be. So I think you'll find this podcast helpful and those five steps will really expand this conversation. So I hope you look forward to it.

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