Should parents use GPS tracking to monitor their children?

GPS tracking as a parenting device is new to the mainstream - do we need to set boundaries around its use?

Technology has indisputably made life easier for parents. From scheduling and sharing calendars, to accessing advice and support, to product research and homework help - the list is endless! However, there's always a new technology for parents to navigate, and at the moment it's GPS tracking.

A recent Jodie Foster-directed episode of sci-fi series Black Mirror controversially addressed the possibilities of what could happen if parents abuse technology to monitor the behaviour of their children. By implanting a chip in their children, the Black Mirror parents were able to not only follow their movements, but also see through their child's eyes. While the episode was an extreme and futuristic example (it also received some criticisms of its own) its message to parents was clear: beware of the fine line between protective and invasive, particularly when it comes to parenting through tech.

Black Mirror

While the Black Mirror chip is not the reality we're dealing with in 2018, GPS tracking via smart phones and watches is a popular new tool. While users appear to love the comfort and security provided by the technology, Educational and Development Psychologist, Stephanie Lau, urges parents to remember that, while integrating parenting and tech is wonderful, it shouldn't replace the fundamental aspects of parenting: communication and education.

"Beyond using technology to track your kids and keep them safe, [parents need to] help them understand 'stranger danger' and how to contact their parents should there be an emergency, so they know what to do if they are in a situation where they do feel unsafe or they need help," Stephanie explained

"[Technology] can’t take away from the time adults spend with children so that the kids can develop the necessary life skills to keep themselves safe and independent."

Someone who has done this with success is Anastasia Scott-Myles, who, until recently, used GPS tracking to ease her anxiety when her daughter travelled to and from school.

"I have only this year stopped tracking my daughter's location. She is in grade nine this year and we trust that she will do the right thing," the Queenslander and mother-of-three explained. "She is also familiar with her bus routes and is able to contact me in an emergency."

Anastasia, who has a background in teaching information and communication technology and runs the blog Kid Space Gold Coast, is an avid fan of tracking technology and shares the seemingly popular opinion that if it exists, why not use it?

"I believe if the technology is available to increase our children's safety then parents should have no reservations around using the technology," she continued. "It is simply better to be safe than sorry."

She's not alone. According to users of The Hug App - an app which connects users to a social network of trusted, local carers - 76 per cent named its GPS tracking capabilities as their favourite feature. The Hug App was created by Melbourne-based single dad Simon Bishop, who found himself needing extra help with child care, including school pick-ups and drop-offs.

"There is no greater peace of mind than knowing your child is in safe hands with people you know and trust,” he said.

As for whether or not GPS tracking is good parenting, Stephanie Lau says "each to their own". 

"Parents should use what they are comfortable with and what their kids are comfortable with as well. I guess it’s about adapting parenting practices with the constant changing technology of the 21st century."

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