Have you ever used technology to track your child’s location? It has become increasingly more popular for parents to track their children. Some view it as a quick and easy way to see where their child is, reassuring them that they are safe. Others view it as a violation of privacy.  Teenagers are rarely away from their phones, making it even easier for parents to monitor their children’s activities and whereabouts. But is it ok?

Young adults need their privacy. I know it’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s true. Using technology to track your children can greatly cause conflict and hinder your relationship with your child. While you may think it’s innocent, and it very well so could be, they won’t see it that way. Psychologist Lisa Damour advises parents who are considering using location-tracking technology to monitor their children.

“Location tracking can, without question, damage the connection between parent and teenager,” Damour says. “Research shows that adolescents who believe their parents have invaded their privacy go on to have higher levels of conflict at home. And teenagers who resent being trailed digitally sometimes disable location features, take pains to “spoof” their GPS, or leave their phones at friends’ houses to throw parents off their scent.”

For those who opt not to use tracking technology, she encourages them to tell them why.

“They might say, for example, ‘When you are not with us, you are in charge of yourself. We’re here if you need help, but we will not monitor you because we cannot, at a distance, protect you from the choices you make.’”

Many parents feel like they need to control their child’s life, especially when they’re young. As your child develops, and they can understand their choices, things begin. It’s important that you shift to a space of trust, moving away from the need for control, and open up the space for openness.

When kids, especially teenagers, feel like their privacy has been invaded. This can lead to your child internalizing behaviors. This can show up in the form of depression, anxiety, and even withdrawal.

“There’s a lot of research indicating that kids who grow up with overly intrusive parents are more susceptible to those mental health problems, partly because they undermine the child’s confidence in their abilities to function independently,” says Laurence Steinberg, a professor of psychology at Temple University and author of Age of Opportunity: Lessons From the New Science of Adolescence.

Teenagers need privacy from their parents. When parents don’t allow their children the space to make their own decisions, they don’t have the chance to learn from their decisions. Parents do have an obligation to guide and protect their children from harm, they also have to give their child the space to learn and grow.

The desire for privacy is a major part of growing up. They will begin to deal with new challenges, like where they fit in, what they want to do in life, and what kind of person they are. This is also a period where they are developing in so many ways. It only makes sense that they would want more privacy and the space to work through things.

This can be a huge adjustment period for parents. This is the time and age of the unknown. There will be many unknowns in your teen's life, which can leave you feeling incredibly unsettled. It only makes sense that you would want to know where your child is. Knowing where they are at every moment will calm your nerves and give you some peace of mind. It is important to see that your child wanting more privacy doesn’t necessarily mean they are trying to hide something from you.

Your child being more protective of their information, comes with the territory of independence. The only time their privacy should be considered a potential red flag is when extreme secrecy is involved.

Right now, you must understand the relationship between privacy and trust. It is important to give your growing teen space. While they are maturing, they are not always ready to deal with the adult world alone. They will still need to confide in you. There are times when they will make quick decisions and not even think about the consequences of their choices. This is why it’s important to have established trust. They will need your support and advice. Keep the lines of communication very open. Remember that giving them privacy doesn’t mean that you are giving them free rein to do whatever they please.

Parents need to balance their teen's need for privacy and your need to keep them secure and safe. Start by determining what you need to know from what you don’t. If your teen is going somewhere with their friends, you need to know where they are going to be, who they will be with, and when they will be back home. You should know where they are going for their safety, but you don’t need to know every detail of the night. If they want to share that, let them come to you with that information.

It’s hard watching your child grow up, but their independence is everything. Make sure your child knows that you trust them. Anything that gets in the way of that can do irreparable damage. Unless you see something in your child’s behavior that might send warning bells, allow your child to be independent. That means the world to them.

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