Tracking Apps: How to Get Buy-In From Your Teen

Our twin 16-year old sons left for Hawaii last week. Sure, they’re in a tropical paradise, but they’re also participating in a community service program. They’ll spend their days as counselors at a Boys & Girls Club and, on weekends, they’ll have the opportunity to immerse themselves in another culture.

5 tracking apps for parents with teens

About three weeks before the trip to Hawaii, I emailed the boys an invitation to Find My Friends. This invasion of their privacy (according to them) was met with disdain and resistance. Instead of accepting a tracking app to give Mom peace of mind, the boys were convinced I was some overbearing, overly protective loony trying to track their every move. “Track” is a dirty word. Try reasoning with a teen. Yeah. Good talk.

[More on the unique challenges involved in parenting a teen here.]

Top three replies to my request:

  • We’re not five.
  • It’s creepy you feel the need to watch where we are at all times.
  • Tracking apps drain my battery.

Around that time, I pulled up the flight map from Ft. Lauderdale to Hilo on FlightTracker. I was horrified to see how far away my children would be. The miles stretched, all 4,500 of them, and I got jittery staring at the distance and time zones that would soon separate us. The disconnect turned to outright fear. I would enlist a new approach — Tough Mom.

I’m your mother, and I own that phone, so if I want to track you, you don’t have a choice. If you don’t accept my request, I’ll shut off your phone for the summer.

Now I’m sure those of you are shaking your heads, wondering why I didn’t just grab the phone and accept the invitation myself. It certainly would be a lot easier. But I didn’t want this to be a battle. I was trying to get these two knuckleheads to understand a mother’s fear and apprehension when sending her kids halfway around the world. That was my first mistake.

Negotiation tactics that are useless to the teenage brain:

Just wait until you have children, and one of them turns the corner in Bloomingdale’s, and they’re out of your sight. There’s peace of mind to see that tiny blue dot. It’s not about tracking, to which they’d interrupt—IT’S TRACKING, and IT’S WEIRD—and I’d finish by saying, it’s a safety measure.


This isn’t about trust. Don’t you get it?


I need to know you’re out there. The blue dot gives me comfort. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a hotel, at your job, or surfing. It makes me feel close to you.


You understand that I can’t see what you’re doing, right? I’m not in the room spying on you. It merely tells me where you are and that you’re out there. Somewhere. That you haven’t been kidnapped and carted off to the unknown.


I want you to have the freedom to enjoy yourself and not feel you have to “check in.”


We’re letting you go halfway across the world without us, of course, we trust you.

And so on. This went on until the night before the trip. My macho, “WE DON’T NEED TO BE TRACKED,” young men were growing soft. As separation loomed and goodbyes were imminent, their resolve began to weaken. Instead of going out with their friends, they opted (consciously or not) to spend a night at home with us. One of them cuddled up close to me on the sofa. The other finally offered up his phone.

The irony is that most mothers are FBI agents in yoga pants. They can do much of their search and discovery by piecing together friends of friends on social media, Uber receipts, and smelling dirty laundry. Nothing is stopping a mom on a mission. But sometimes, we need backup. And nothing is stopping me from finding, knowing, and understanding my boys, even if it means I’m a human lie detector or tracking device.

Tracking Apps to Consider for Your Teen

As our children mature from toddlers through young adulthood, there will be different reasons and scenarios to track. Watching your child in-utero and cutting the proverbial cord is never easy. Here are a few FREE options that can almost guarantee peace of mind when you cannot be close.

Find My Friends 




Find My iPhone

Circle of 6

Tracking our children is a modern accouterment that we can ignore or accept. We grew up without this technology and survived, but the lure in today’s crazy world is difficult to resist. Instead of calling it tracking our children, let’s call it something else. Let’s call it loving them from afar.

I’m watching the blue dot. I know Twin A is near his brother on the street in Hawaii. I don’t know anything else other than that. They can be doing terrible things, and I’ll never know. But I’ll tell you this: I’ll take what I can get in their absence, even if it’s a false sense of being close.

As parents, how do you talk to your teenagers about tracking and privacy?


Dear Mom of High School Sophomore

Study Abroad: What Parents Need to Know 

Cnet – Four Ways to Share Your Exact Location With Family (and Why) 

Rochelle WeinsteinRochelle B. Weinstein is the author of What We Leave Behind, The Mourning After, and Where We Fall. She lives in Miami, Florida, with her husband and twin sons. Every day is an adventure. You can track her on, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter

About Grown and Flown

Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan are the co-founders of Grown and Flown the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. They are writers (Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author), moms, wives and friends. They started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and are co-authors of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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