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.
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 as a way to give Mom piece of mind, the boys were convinced I was some overbearing, overly protective loony trying to track their every move. “Track” being 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 there are those of you who are shaking your heads wondering why I didn’t just grab the phone and accept the invitation myself. Certainly would be a lot easier. But I didn’t want this to be a battle. I was really 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 being able 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.
YOU DON’T TRUST US.
This isn’t about trust. Don’t you get it?
I need to just know you’re out there. The blue dot gives me comfort. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a hotel or at your job or surfing. It makes me feel close to you.
You do understand that I can’t actually see what you’re doing, right? I’m not in the room spying on you. It merely tells me where you are. That you’re out there. Somewhere. That you haven’t been kidnapped and carted off to the unknown.
THAT ONLY HAPPENS TO LITTLE KIDS. WHY CAN’T WE JUST CALL YOU OR TEXT?
I want you to have the freedom to enjoy yourself and not feel you have to “check-in.”
YOU DON’T TRUST US.
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. At this point, 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 home with us. One of them cuddled up close to me on the sofa. The other finally offered up his phone.
The irony of all this is that most mothers are FBI agents in yoga pants. They can do much of their own search and discovery by piecing together friends of friends on social media, Uber receipts, and smelling dirty laundry. There is nothing stopping a mom on a mission. But sometimes we need back-up. And there’s nothing 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.
Tracking our children is a modern accoutrement that we can ignore or accept. We grew up without this technology—and we 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 that Twin A is near his brother on a street in Hawaii. I don’t know anything else other than that. They can be doing very bad things and I’ll never know. But I’ll tell you this: in their absence, I’ll take what I can get, even if it’s a false sense of being close.
As parents, how do you talk to your teenagers about tracking and privacy?
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Rochelle 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 www.rochelleweinstein.com, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter