Dec 192014
 
 December 19, 2014

Because of HIPAA constraints, I can’t provide a lot of details, but when a teenaged patient was in my office with a parent, the teen complained that the parent had required the teen to download an app that enabled the parent to track the teen.

“What do you think about parents tracking teens that way?” my patient asked me in front of the parent.

“I think it’s an invasion of privacy,” I immediately answered.

The teen’s parent was very unhappy with that answer, but I stand by it. If you can’t trust your teen to tell you the truth about where they’re going, then you have a problem that a tracking app will not solve.

And if your justification is that you’re worried about their safety, then is your anxiety their problem or your problem? I’ve often heard parents say, “Well, I wouldn’t let them go out if I didn’t have the peace of mind from knowing that I can tell where they are.” So wait: you would keep your teen a prisoner in their home because you’re worried? Seriously? Unless your teen poses a threat to themselves or others, do you really want to convey that you don’t trust them? Even though they’ll be moving out or going off to college in a year or two? Will they suddenly become responsible then? Will the world suddenly become a safer place?

What are you teaching them now?

There are alternative ways to communicate with your teen and to develop trust. Start when they’re young and build a relationship with them whereby they know they need to call you and let you know where they will be – and that they need to be there or call you in advance if they are about to change their plans/location. My kids learned early on to be responsible about letting me know where they’d be, and in turn, I almost never told them that they couldn’t go somewhere.  I got peace of mind from our arrangement. What they got was a sense of responsibility and the absence of guilt most of their friends who lied to their parents had.

It really isn’t that difficult, folks. Don’t rely on privacy-invasive technology as a substitute for good communication and parent/child relationships.

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