Dear Amy: I have two girls in the seventh and ninth grades. I love them dearly and often worry about their whereabouts. I would like to install one of those GPS location tracking programs on their cellphones, but my wife says that it is deceitful to do it without telling them. Telling them would probably compromise the technology. My wife would rather believe them and trust their explanation. I dont see trust as being the issue if they dont come home one night.
I would like to know where they are instead of relying upon where they say they are.
CONCERNED IN WISCONSIN
Dear Concerned: I am completely opposed to installing tracking or monitoring technology on kids devices without their knowledge. This sort of tracking device can create unintended and dangerous consequences. For instance, lets imagine the worst happens and your child is abducted. This tracking technology can easily be used to throw anyone searching off course, wasting valuable time.
Most important, it creates the dangerous illusion and a false sense of security that you can use technology in place of teaching values and instead of doing the hard parenting work of trusting and verifying.
You cannot use technology to mitigate the work (or risks) of parenting. Your kids need to believe that you expect them to be truthful, and if they are not you will find out and they will bear the consequences.
You should confirm their whereabouts the old-fashioned way by getting to know their friends, calling other parents to verify plans, and by driving them from place to place and occasionally showing up early.
For a professional perspective on issues of trust, safety and security, read security expert Gavin de Beckers important book, Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane) (2000, Dell). I once interviewed de Becker on the topic of tracking devices for kids and he stressed that these devices help suppress the greatest safety tool humans possess: our instincts.