A prison for your children

iu-1I hadn’t heard of Life360, an app that parents put on their kids’ phone to make sure they never, ever have a moment that they can’t be located. Naturally, kids are sharing videos with tips on how to evade it or just to vent about how much they hate it.

I guess this is good early training for life in the panopticon; why not get them used to the idea that they will never have a private moment in they lives? I know, I know, if there’s an emergency then you want to be able to find your kids. But it’s naive to pretend there’s not a cost to this. The obvious one can be found in Life360’s privacy policy – surprise, they “share” (ahem – “sell”) the data they collect to third parties for marketing purposes.

But the bigger one, I think, is the impact of knowing that you can never be somewhere without Mom and Dad keeping track. This is weird. Yes, I am biased by having grown up in the 70s and 80s, when we could do shocking things like say we were going to a friends’ house and take a detour, or take the car out to go to the mall and then instead go drive around neighborhoods we weren’t supposed to go to just for the thrill of doing it.

That sounds a bit trivial, but I think it’s kind of important. People need to grow into independence. Most of us do it in reasonable steps. Sometimes it goes badly, but frankly, that’s pretty rare.

And just to put a lens on my 70s kid perspective: when I grew up the crime rate in the United States was three times what it is today. By any objective standard, my childhood happened in a world more dangerous than the ones today’s kids inhabit. It was fine.

Don’t underestimate the value of privacy. It’s healthy for a kid to have a secret spot in the woods down the road. It’s healthy for a kid of be able to have these little adventures that come with breaking out of the parental approved routine. Someday they will be on their own making decisions, and if they’ve never made them before they’ll be ill prepared for it.

And for some kids, it’s more than healthy, it’s a lifeline. What does this app do to the LBGT kid who says she’s going to mall and then heads to a queer youth support group without the knowledge of her super-conservative parents?

Maybe I’m just old and don’t get it. But I read about these apps and realize how little I envy kids today.


  1. I suppose the primary “valid” argument by parents is if they don’t trust their kids. This should be based on their past behavior, not a hunch. The hunch would come about if you did not raise your kids to necessarily be trustworthy.


    • Of course then the lack of movement would be suspicious. Plus, they’d probably flip out not having their phones with them. It’s just all kind of gross.


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