The Parent Debate: Are We Too Connected? Kid Tracking Apps…Yes or No?

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kids laughing while looking at laptop

Times have definitely changed since the day Mom would drop you and your friends off at the mall and plan a meeting spot for 1 o’clock. In this day and age, most parents are so connected to their kids and track every move they make and more – regardless of age. But has this new age in tracking them become too much? Here’s what our team thinks.


Pros and cons of kid tracking apps

teenager girl looking at cell phone

There are some great, free kid tracking apps available today! Here are some pros and cons for tracking apps based on research, experience, and parents we spoke with. Some of the discoveries we made were surprising!

Pros of kid tracking apps:

  • More security and peace of mind
    • Parents know where their kids are at all times
    • Kids might feel safer knowing someone is looking out for them
      • You’ll know if they’re ever in trouble or stuck somewhere
  • You can keep track of their history
    • The places they’ve been
    • Their overall driving behaviors (speeds, location, etc.)
  • Have a live stream of their whereabouts
  • Easier coordination with ETAs and schedules
  • Some apps can block specific content or limit screen time
  • May help kids learn good communication
  • If you have a child who’s struggling, tracking them can be beneficial
    • Feeling suicidal
    • Engaging with the wrong crowds
    • Involved in violent activities
    • Often undependable or doing things they shouldn’t

Cons of kid tracking apps

  • Tracking apps may not work
    • Causes miscommunication
    • Creates momentary distrust with parent or child
    • GPS can be occasionally unreliable
  • Studies suggest that tracking older kids may cause resentment toward the parent
    • These kids have higher levels of conflict at home
    • Kids may feel less of a sense of trust
  • Kids may take less responsibility for their actions with no adult monitoring them
  • Tracking apps may undermine their sense of trust (especially if it’s unbeknownst to them)
    • Forcing them to allow tracking on their phones may create damaging resistance in your relationship
      • They may default to rebellion (i.e. lying or sneaking)
      • Turning off GPS
      • Leaving their phones at places where they’re actually not
  • Some may see this as an invasion of privacy
    • Data from tracking apps are sold to large corporations

How our Hip2Save team feels about kid tracking apps:

Apple Pay iPhone

✅ Track them vs. 👎 Don’t track them

“I have ‘Find My iPhone’ on the boys iPads – they’re 6 and 10. I also track my cousin who is 20 and moved away to college. She didn’t want her mom to be able to track her, but since she’s living on her own for the first time, she wanted someone she can trust, so I volunteered to look out for her. It’s actually worked great for us because she broke down driving back home from spring break, and we were able to use it to find her on the side of the road. Side note, my mom requests to track me all the time, but I don’t allow it – she would judge me on my eating out. (Sorry, Mom!) LOL!”

– Alana


“My kids don’t really have enough freedom yet to need tracking, but I definitely plan to make that a condition of having a phone when the time comes. I have a friend who puts a tracking watch on her child when she goes out to play in the neighborhood. She also wears it in crowded areas like amusement parks in case they get separated. It has GPS and a limited calling/texting feature, and think it only costs like $5 extra to put it on their monthly phone plan. It’s totally worth it to me to know where my kids are, and I plan to use whatever I can as they get older and more independent.”

– Jenna


“As long as mine are still kids and living at home (and we are paying for phones), tracking is pretty normal and expected in our house (to a certain extent). Once they’re in college, I’ll try to let go since I hated being micromanaged at that age. Plus, I always wanted to do the opposite my parents said anyways. I think it’s a tough balance of privacy vs. keeping them safe, but I think we are all navigating this technology-based world as best we can as parents. I hope my kids understand I just want the best for them and to keep them safe!”

– Lina


“I will always 100% track my kids while they are home and I’m paying for their phones. My oldest just finished his first year of college, and I asked him if he wanted me to keep it on him, and he actually said yes. I think he was nervous out on his own and liked that someone knew where he was. I rarely looked at it, but I like knowing I’m still connected to him. I think you should 100% ask if they are out of the house since it won’t hurt anything.”

– Michelle


“With all of the technology available to us now, I think it is foolish not to take advantage of tracking apps. I love the fact that I can instantly locate my child, track their recent driving speeds, see when they left and arrived at a location, etc. – all within seconds by opening up the Life360 app. Plus, the fact that this app is 100% free is a huge added bonus!

I am very honest with my kids about the fact that I check the app to confirm their location, so this holds them accountable as well. Using the app is really no different than calling another parent to confirm your kid has arrived safely (which is what my mom did 30 years ago). My philosophy is that I will use the tracking app as long as I am paying for the phone. So when my daughter leaves for college next year, the Life360 app will remain on her phone if we continue to pay the bill.” 

– Bryn


“My kids aren’t quite to the ages of needing tracking yet, but we definitely plan to stay connected, regardless. Once they have a phone and are more independent, they will have whatever tracking app is the best at that time. I obviously don’t know what it will be like or how I’ll feel when they go off into adulthood, but I’m with the rest of the team: as long as we are paying for their phones, we will be tracking them. I don’t see this as an invasion of privacy, as I have no intention of using it for that purpose, but more as a safety thing. What parent wouldn’t want to take every possible step to make sure their children are safe?”

– Sara


“I totally agree with the rest of the team! My kiddos have no expectation of privacy as long as we are providing their way & paying for their phones.  Plus, I just think there are too many ways things can go south in the world we are in right now and I love them too much to not protect them in this way (whether they like it or not). Luckily, they don’t really care one way or the other at this point in their life.”

Holly


“I definitely use the tracking device on my oldest son’s phone as soon as he started driving. My other kids aren’t old enough yet since they’re always with us. Tracking him gave me peace of mind to be able to check up on him when he was running late or I hadn’t heard from him in a while. There were also quite a few times when I heard there were really bad wrecks in an area he was in, and it relieved me to check and see he was not near it. It was also a huge help when he broke down and I needed to get his exact location. He is 21 now and on his own phone plan, so I no longer track him, but it was a blessing when I could.”

– Stacy

✅ Don’t track them vs. 👎 Track them

None of our teammates thought that tracking the kids was a bad idea. 


The team verdict? Tracking the kids – 8 vs. Not tracking them – 0

So it’s pretty clear to see our team puts no limit onto tracking our kids. In our opinions, it’s better for the kids and us.

How do you feel about tracking your kids?


Check out these other app-related posts:


Sara is a self-taught blogger and photographer with 5 years of experience having work featured in various building, travel, and fashion publications, most notably Bassett Furniture and Fossil.


Join The Discussion

Comments 70

  1. uma

    My oldest is going to Kindergarten this year and although we have no plans to get him a phone in the near future, I’m thinking of getting him a tracking device that can be connected to his backpack. any suggestions?

    • Juli

      Just got my kiddo the LG Gizmowatch, almost 8 yrs old. You can set Geofencing and the tracking is pretty accurate. I did not realize that my kiddo left the watch in my car one day. I have the app set up to auto track at certain times of the day and my phone started pinging that they were not where they were supposed to be. I opened the location and it legit showed Google maps and was basically at my car. Granted, it was an old satellite map and I always park in the same spot.

      It is a phone watch and you can add up to 10 phone numbers to call. You don’t have to add all of the phone numbers in, just one for emergencies. No one else can call through if they are not added through the app.

      Other than that, there are Tile locators that are pretty cheap that can be added to a backpack.

      • Kat

        Same here – my oldest two (6 & 7) have gizmo watches and they work great for them and I don’t have to worry about giving up parental control just yet like I would with a phone – too young for phones but the watches are a great way to teach them how to be responsible for something expensive and making sure they are charging them and such. Good way to start since we live in a time that everyone has a phone so I know eventually my kids will get phones when they are older. I feel safer letting my kids go to friends houses and play in the neighborhood knowing I can call them and check in!

        • Dollbaby's mom

          Same here, my daughter will be 8 in December and she has the gizmo watch. It’s only has me and her father’s number programmed. I love it!

          • K

            Verizon is discontinuing support for gizmo watches soon 🙁

      • Shannon

        Do you pay a monthly fee for the gizmo watch?

    • FloridaGirl1218

      If you just want to track his backpack then Tile is perfect for that.

    • Dawn Devereaux

      I would suggest something that can go on his shoes or clothing

  2. Kristy

    When they’re younger definitely not! This world is so full of crazy evil people who have no moral compass. But as they get older and depending on the level of their maturity then yes the parent needs to let go little by little so their child can grow up to be trustworthy and a mature independent individual. And the parent also needs to equip their children with street smarts (aware of their surroundings, what to do in certain uncomfortable or danger situations etc) as they let go little by little.

    • Juli

      Letting my kiddo have independence is the main reason I bought the LG Gizmowatch. At 8 yrs old, they already want to go to other friends houses and outside activities. As much as I preach about safety, I cannot control the surroundings. The watch gives me peace of mind to allow them to have a little extra freedom.

  3. Fee

    Absolutely not. Especially the younger kids. I feel it my duty to protect my child and their innocence for as long as possible.

  4. dee

    Myboys 20 and 13 go on toad trips to amusement parks and I am unable to go on all of them. I did make them both download 360 so I knew where they were if they got into car trouble or any other issues and I can contact local authorities for help. I think they are a wonderful tool

  5. Regina

    Our children are gifts we are meant to protect. Too many children go missing never to be found again or worse

    • Wren

      So true 💟 It is our duty and privilege to protect and watch over them!

  6. TJ

    Once our oldest two got smart phones (at 15), we/they got Life360. Our oldest is 19 and we still have it on his phone however I rarely check his location and never use it against him. He will be going into his second year of college and I can honestly say that the only time I checked his location during his first year of college was when he was making a trip home.

  7. Tami

    It’s not always about a “spying” thing. My high schoolers are in sports & working so I use Find Friends to see if they are on their way home so I can start dinner or have the outside lights on or be at the school after an away meet to pick them up. To make sure they made it safely home when I’m not there is priceless.

  8. MomOf2

    My son is going into 2nd grade this year. He’s had a gizmo watch through Verizon since kindergarten. It’s just a watch he wears and can ou call certain contacts; which is me and my husband. Only $22 month. So worth it for peace of mind.

    • MomOf2

      It also comes in handy when he’s playing with neighborhood friends etc.

  9. Suzanne

    My daughter in college has friends whose parents track their phones. So these girls will often leave their phones in their apartments so their parents won’t know where they’re going (which IMO is very dangerous).
    We all worry about our kids no matter how old they are. ❤️

    • Charlie

      This thing! When kids know they are being tracked, they tend to take off or leave their devices where they can’t be tracked on purpose. To me this is more scary. Built a relationship with your kids that they will tell you rather than you “track” them for your peace of mind.

    • Me

      I think college is way too old to be tracking children. Unless they consent to it.

      • Ana

        Depends on who is paying for college, phone, living expenses, ect. If the child is then yes if you are then you have every right.

    • Wren

      Off topic somewhat, but reminds me of that Dateline a few months ago, the college girl that had unknowingly become involved with a MUCH older man who was also a dangerous felon. She was willingly calling her parents, updating them, etc… they never even flew down to be with her or take her out of the situation. They blame the police for not protecting her. Made my husband so mad! She ended up murdered, of course.

      • A

        Was that the guy who worked for the college she went to? I saw that, he had been stalking her and she was trying to get help. If that’s the one I agree her parents should’ve come. Her parents were on the phone with her when he killed her😔 a phone will not always protect you and may even give you and your kids a false sense of security.

  10. Charlie

    My kids 5 and 7 don’t have any tracking devices. They play out on the street with neighborhood friends or at the park. I don’t plan to get them any tracking devices either.

  11. Pat

    Your list of “tracking apps” misses the easiest one for Android users: just turn on location sharing on Google Maps. No extra app to install, no extra company to trust (not that Google’s super-awesome or anything, but at least it’s only *one* company).

    I will never understand the idea that this is spying on your kids. My location’s shared with them, too. It’s not spying, it’s about people in the family being able to locate each other in case of an emergency (which, for those of us that have direction-deficient family members, happens *often) and establishing that being in a family means you might as well be open anyway.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks so much for the helpful suggestion, Pat! Good to know! I do have an android and I’ll have to remember that tip for sure!

  12. Michelle

    We use 360 for my college daughter only during the breaks when she is home. We live in a dangerous city and it’s more for piece of mind not to keep up with her whereabouts. Shoot most of the time, I’ll call and ask her location versus checking the app.

  13. Sk

    I use a tracking device when my daughter goes to her father’s house. With a history of him taking her where she is not supposed to go it gives me a little peace of mind that she is staying in a safe environment

    • Shannon

      Which tracking device do you use? I’m wanting to get something for my kids 6&8 yrs.

  14. Jen

    We delay access to tech devices till high school, do light monitoring, and no tracking. Like I tell my kids, if I need to do tracking or more monitoring, then you’re not ready to have the freedom/access.

    • Jennifer

      This is exactly how I feel. I have my son text me when he gets where he is going and when he is leaving. That is due to the way people drive in our area. I have been known to show up and bring him home when he doesn’t text. That solves that and teaches him he needs to be responsible in letting me know where he is and not have to have me track him.

  15. Rebecca

    Something to note, if someone has their phone in battery saving mode, you cannot use Life 360 to track them. Also, as a mom of teens who does date, I like the idea that my kids can track me. My kids are old enough to handle the information that mom is a “grown up” or I would not put them in that position. I always tell a friend where I am going but I still like to have the feature.

    • Lynn

      Yes! My 21 yo can track me too for this same reason. My philosophy with my kids is I won’t ask is they are in trouble and will come get you no questions asked. I believe this makes them more willing to share their location and not leave their phone behind.

  16. Shannon

    We do find my friends for myself, husband and teen. My hubby has his elderly mother on his also. It’s good to see where everyone is at with work, sports, going out with friends etc. it helps to find your phone if you’ve lost it also.

  17. riss

    I never used the tracker or location finder on our kids’ phones. They’re 23 and 21 now, one is gonna be senior in college in the fall, and the older one graduated 2 years ago. When they were younger, I thought about installing the app, but never got around doing it. I just told them to call us or text us when they left or got home. Of course, it didn’t happen all the time. Usually, they got busy and forgot to text mom. And i always drop/pick them to and from school until they got their driver’s licenses. And we live in a safe city.

  18. Sara

    If I ever have kids, I would never give them a smartphone or allow them to add one to my plan. They will get a flip phone. I didn’t get a phone until 3 days before I started college in August 2006. It was a nondescript LG flip phone. Granted, smartphones didn’t exist at the time. I didn’t get a smartphone until August 2011. It was an iPhone 3GS. I got it because it was only $49. The iPhone 4 had already been out for over a year. I only got a new phone because I damaged the screen on my Samsung Strive. The screen was black except for the bottom row.

  19. Emily

    I am not a parent, but when I was in high school I was friends with a girl whose parents kept crazy close tabs on her.
    Her mom yelled at my mom for taking us to get pedicures instead of staying at our house when she came over for an afternoon. Her mom tracked mileage driven in the family minivan to make sure she wasn’t driving places where she shouldn’t be going (i.e. friends house was 3.5 miles away, why did she drive 15 miles that day?)

    It culminated into her lying about sleeping over at my house to spend the night with a boy, and I got a phone call from her parents asking where she was. I had no idea that’s what she did until her mom called me and yelled at me.

    Again I am not a parent, so I may not be an expert. However, I think tracking could cause this sort of behavior.

    • L

      On the flip side, this kind of behavior can cause the tracking.

  20. Monique

    I used a tracking app for my son who is now in college. actually everyone uses it my mom sister her daughter my son ect we can all see each other. I don’t view it as a trust thing as more of a safety feature my sister lives in Vegas and obviously we worry about her when she goes and watches bands on Fremont. We never had an issue with it being about trust because we always looked at it from a safety standpoint 🙂

  21. Claudia

    When my daughter started driving one of the conditions to be allowed to use our cars was that she download Life 360. She had no problem doing that and everyone is happy. She sends me a text when she gets to her destination and rarely do I need to check the app. It’s only for the “what ifs”

  22. Rachel

    My 15yo daughter has the where’s my iPhone app so I can find her if I need to. I don’t watch it on a daily or weekly basis though. It’s a just in case thing. Plus, she knows I can pull it up and track her so she’s less likely to try anything sneaky. She’s introverted so I can’t get her out of the house much but she’s so bad about checking her phone and leaving it on vibrate so it’s nice to know that I can find her if I need to.

  23. Mollie

    What happened in trusting our children?

    • Jc

      Personally, I don’t track due to mistrust, I track for safety reasons. Why wouldn’t you do everything in your power to ensure your children are safe? Use every tool.

    • A

      Was that the guy who worked for the college she went to? I saw that, he had been stalking her and she was trying to get help. If that’s the one I agree her parents should’ve come. Her parents were on the phone with her when he killed her😔 a phone will not always protect you and may even give you and your kids a false sense of security.

      • A

        Woops, not sure why this posted here too?

    • Megan

      Trust but verify

  24. Tiffany

    I don’t track my kids at the moment. They’re 6 and 9. They know to tell me if they’re going to the park or in a neighbor’s house. Next year that will change. We’ll be moving and they will be latch key kids (alone maybe an hour). My oldest will get a phone and I will use find my phone for my peace of mind. I don’t think it’s appropriate to track older teens constantly. It shouldn’t be a means of control.

    • Sasha

      Not trying to be mean but your kids are too young to leave alone.
      That’s not appropriate.
      (Depending on where you live, illegal)
      However, keeping tabs on your teenage kids, especially if you have a good relationship with them is not only appropriate it is important. You are not their friend, they have enough of those. They need parents.

  25. JSB

    Sorry if this is a repeat, but as a first grade teacher, these watches are a huge distraction and they do become a “status” symbol. Kids will go home and want one and parents do get them a watch to keep up with the Jones’s.

  26. Crystal

    I’ve got 3 teens. They are 14, 16 and 18. They are eligible to get a phone when they get a license. They get a license when they get their 1st job. They pay their own monthly phone bill. We don’t track. It’s not for everyone, but it works for us.

    • Amber

      Yes!! I love this!! Couldn’t agree more!

  27. R

    Flip phone for the young ones. Too much access these days. Kids are curious and the internet has too much of everything at their fingertips including the worst part of everything.

  28. JuliaMarch

    My daughter is 15 and I neither track nor monitor her. I brought her up to be a responsible young woman and that’s how she turned out. Her friends’ parents monitor everything — these girls are honor roll students, no discipline problems whatsoever. Not surprisingly the monitored friends deeply resent their parents and — because these are smart kids — successfully dodge the parents monitoring apps. My daughter and her friends trust me because I don’t monitor and I treat them all with respect — so they actually talk openly in front of me. So exactly what have the micromanagers accomplished? They have earned their children’s resentment and disrespect while gaining very little information. So yes — you have every right to monitor/track a minor child — but minority is temporary — majority lasts forever — just like resentment and distrust. I know parents who monitor/track refuse to listen to the other side — but if you had ever experienced a roomful of teenage girls venting about their hurt and resentment because of micromanaging parents you might think twice.

    • Monique

      It’s not about trust it’s about safety my family can monitor me just as much as I can them. I’m an adult with a kid in college as is my sister who has a 13 year old. My mom can see us we can see her our kids can see everyone.

    • R2

      Yup. My best friend, who was the preacher’s kid, and I were good honor roll students who never got into any trouble except maybe toilet papering a friend’s car once in awhile. I never had a curfew, had free run of the town, and a pretty good relationship with my mom, even for being a sullen and somewhat feisty teenager. I naturally shared where we were and what we were up to and didn’t feel a need to hide or lie to her. My friend, on the other hand, was always given arbitrary curfews and subject to unreasonable monitoring (to the extent that you could in the 90s lol) and yeah, she resented the heck out of it and still does decades later since they had no reason to distrust her. Statistically speaking, it’s never been a safer time for children – it’s hard to believe with our 24/7 access to news, but crime is at historical lows and kids generally are kidnapped and abused by people they know. Extenuating circumstances aside, I feel like monitoring your kid’s every movement is just another way that parents are infantilizing their children. Yes, their safety is your concern, but if the unthinkable and unlikely happens to them, it’s not your fault because you didn’t put a tracking device on them.

      • *Angela-Miles*

        R2…. I had a very similar situation as you described. My mother trusted me, i always told her things, never hid where i was. I had freedom and no tracking, but me an my best friend never got into trouble or did anything crazy. My friends mother was tracking her every move constantly and in return she always complained about her mother being soo overbearing. So when we graduated high school, she picked a College very far away and got on one of her roommates cell plans. I know everyone’s situation is different but she definitely had multiple arguments with her mother over it. I whole heartedly agree with your comment! ♡

  29. Shannon

    There is a point where it becomes weird but I’m responsible for my child and at the end of the day that’s what matters. I don’t know the perfect cut off age for tracking maybe17.

  30. Amelia

    My 2 older kids are almost 15 and almost 13. They got their first phone this past christmas. We got it mainly because it helps me when it comes to picking up from school or practices after school. Sometimes they would call me from office and I would miss the call and there was like no way to call back and talk to them because office doesn’t call students up for phone calls so we decided it was time for phone. We have Google Family Link on their phones. It allows us to have a set schedule for phone to lock at bedtime and unlock by itself in morning. If they are not listening then it allows me to manually lock the phone. Their location is always on and they have no way to turn it off. I can monitor apps being downloaded and block certain apps from their phones. Age restricted apps send a notification to my phone and must be approved by me.

  31. Dcouponer

    My 3 yo has autism and we are going to DisneyWorld this fall. I plan to get name tags or even T shirts printed that say “My name is _. I have autism. If I’m lost call my parents at (our cell numbers).”

    • Traci

      My son is Asperger’s and even at 10 isn’t going to remember my phone number for any reason. We have done inkpen phone numbers on arms with liquid bandage over for all sorts of amusement parks, fairs, anything. It’s easy peace of mind for me.

  32. Nita

    Each family has a different set of circumstances and I definitely agree that’s it’s our duty to protect and keep our kids close by for as long as we can, but there are situations where you need to track them sometimes, when you’re not able to be right there with them..so for those times when they’re still not teenagers yet, it’s definitely a good thing to be able to track.

  33. Alycia

    Wow I’m kind of amazed as a mellenial technically, I was born in 84, and raising two teenage boys; that we have so little faith in our children to make the right decision. Whatever happen to letting your children make mistakes and learn from them. I went through, beepers, flip phones, razor phones, then smart phones. If a kid wants to hide something they will find away. Apps that find your phone are awesome in emergencies, but other then that no way. If you can’t trust the decisions your child will make why do you give them a cell phone? Now a car tracker is another thing. That seems like more of a safety thing.

  34. PH

    I use Life 360 –(I have a teenager that just started driving). Another feature it has in addition to tracking, that I like is that it will tell you the highest speed of the car, fast accelarations, hard braking, and phone usage. I find it helpful as a teaching tool for going too fast, and frequently using his phone while driving. (thankfully he does not abuse either).

  35. Jennifer

    Highly recommend watching Black Mirror Season 4 Episode called Arkangel. It is Directed by Jodie Foster, the episode makes a living nightmare out of parental controls. So good!

    For my 3 girls, they have iPods that they can call and text with as long as they are on WiFi. So when they have a sleepover they can say goodnight etc. We have really enjoyed them as a pre-phone device.

  36. Ann

    Maybe everyone with younger kids should put their phones away and talk to/play with their kids. So many moms are just looking down all the time🤷‍♀️

  37. jbernock

    It’s all about safety and not about stalking/helicoptering, not to mention locating lost phones. As a family, we’ve all been connected through Life360 for several years. My daughter is going to college this fall and has no problem being connected. None of us do as a family since we are respectful of boundaries and have nothing to hide. If, however, God forbid, there was a real problem, I would be able to assist authorities with her or my husband and vice-versa. I watch too much ID. LOL

  38. paula harrop

    Do you know you can get access to any device? Get in touch with acephanthom via gmail

  39. sarah anderson

    I didn’t know one can get access to any device until i was referred to cyberdemonhacker432 via gmail

  40. erasmo porath

    i was able to hire an hacker with thehackerspro.com to track and put a trace on all my family members so as to monitor there whereabouts. even though it costs me a fortune but i have made a vow to myself after i lost my wife that i will protect these kids to the best of my ability.i think any father would do this except im overacting. you can contact on telegram @h4ckerspro for faster response or call/text +1 646 948 8125

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