Tracking Your Teen — The Dark Side?

When I got my first beeper, I probably should have felt empowered. After all, it meant I would be first line in case of an emergency. That made me important, right? Instead, it made me feel like a dog on a leash. I valued it when I was at the hospital or on call, but the minute I was off-duty, it went in a drawer. I didn’t want to feel anyone could contact me at any time. Now, of course, we are all reachable at any moment, and return texts are expected on the spot. It is well documented our addiction to our phones is causing stress and anxiety. As if this wasn’t bad enough, now we can be tracked?!?! Why do people think this is a good idea?

I feel like Katniss in the Hunger Games. Before you know it, there will be cameras to track our every move like Orwell predicted in 1984. He was a few decades premature, but it is really starting to feel like Big Brother is watching. I am holding out. Larry suggested we do it, because everyone else is doing it, but I quickly said I want no part of it. I also made it clear if anyone started tracking me, I would leave the country. Sadly, I am never anywhere that would be shocking or controversial enough to make tracking me any fun, but the idea that anyone can know where I am at all times is at the very least, disconcerting and degrading.

Lately, when I am out with friends, they are spending even more time than usual looking at their phones. It used to be to answer incessant texting from their kids — something I am sure I have been guilty of — and now, it is literally to watch a little dot representation of their kids as they go about their life. Often, the conversation is interrupted by quick updates to the other spouse about where darling is now as the kid’s every moment is tracked. It is helicopter parenting to the extreme. The explanation for its necessity, is now parents know where their children are at all times, and they can see when they get home. Remember the good old days when growing up meant earning some independence? We didn’t carry mommy in our pocket to save us from whatever horror we encountered — horrors like needing to get from point A to point B or not having enough cash for a second slice of pizza. Remember having a curfew, and just getting home when you were supposed to? As long as you weren’t staggering or reeking of pot, few questions were asked, because our parents had their own lives, and really didn’t care all that much about our social agenda. Remember having parents who loved you, cared about your safety in a general way, but didn’t obsess about your wellbeing at every moment?

By every indication, helicopter parenting is failing our kids. Their generation suffers from more emotional illness, lacks basic life skills, is generally thought to have a weak work ethic, and we are losing too many of them to addiction and suicide.  What kind of a message does this drone parenting send? It says, I cannot trust you to tell me the truth, you are unable to make decisions on your own, and it is essential to your survival I am involved in your life at every second of the day. We are creating virtual bubbles around our children, and still, our efforts are causing more harm than good. Bubbles are suffocating, not to mention, making mistakes is an important part of growing up.

Worse perhaps, is what this kind of over-involved parenting is doing to us. Our interest in the minutia of our children’s lives, our micromanagement at every turn, and our constant enabling is not only damaging to our kids. It is destructive to our emotional health and to our relationships. It is not empowering to be all-knowing about our children, it is a jail sentence. The burden of over-attachment is carried by both parties, and the expectation we should be virtually holding our child’s hand well into adulthood is an enormous cross to bear. It takes away the joy and furthers the myth parenting is a job. We are not better parents when we hold on so tight, our kids never learn to fly. Yes, they will fall, and we must let them. You can’t catch a little flashing dot anyway.

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Author: Karen Latimer

Dr. Latimer is a Family Physician and Wellness & Parenting Coach. She works with parents who want to feel more confident when helping their children and coaches young adults to help them better navigate college life and transitions. Contact her at to learn more. She is the author of two Audible Originals, Take Back the House -- Raising Happy Parents and Worry Less, Parent Better. She is also the co-founder of the app that makes your life easier and puts social in a healthier place -- List'm.


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