Today, mobile apps can do everything, from acting as a live-translator in a foreign country to allowing users to grocery shop from their phones. An increasingly popular function of mobile apps is location-sharing, or allowing users to provide location updates to others through certain app platforms. As a parent, it is important to understand how these apps work, so you can make sure that your child is sharing their location in a safe way. Location sharing when done properly can be a good idea for protecting your child. It’s an easy way for you to know where your child is, even when they are out with friends or in class and don’t text or call. However, it is possible to use these apps to over-share location information and allow too many people to know where you or your child is.
Talk to your child about which location-sharing apps they are allowed to use, when they can use them, and what settings they should enable on the apps. Not all apps are created equal, and it’s important that they use those that are geared towards family safety, such as Find My Friends. Some settings to consider discussing include when your child must turn their location-sharing on and off, and who is allowed to have access to their location, which brings us to the next tip.
While it is safe for some family and friends to know your child’s location, your child should not broadcast their location to their entire contacts list. As a parent, you may want to limit which of your child’s contacts may view their location. Many location sharing apps allow users to hand-pick which contacts can have access to their location, rather than sharing it with all.
Companies like Snapchat and Apple provide information about how the companies handle the location information they collect through their location-sharing apps. Be careful to avoid any location-tracking app that does not specifically address what it does with any location information it gathers.
If your child chooses to have location settings on, it is important that they keep in mind that there are others who can see where they are. This has some implications. For example, before your child changes their plans and makes a last-minute stop at the mall or at a friend’s house, it can be a good idea to notify those who follow their location to prevent confusion and worry. Also, they may want to remember to turn it off before heading to a surprise party!
While there are challenges to monitoring how your child shares their location on these apps, there are also potential issues on the receiving end of friends’ locations. By permitting users to see where friends are, these apps can facilitate the feeling of being excluded, should your child see that friends are gathered in a place without them. This presents another important conversation to have with your child. While it is tempting for teenagers to check what their friends are doing, your child should understand that just because they can see their friends locations does not mean they should check their locations all the time. Further, you can remind your child to avoid reading too far into what their friends are doing without them. Perhaps discouraging your child from exchanging location information with all of their friends can be a good idea.
Overall, while this location-sharing technology provides parents a new way to keep children safe, they bring potential harms for kids, from oversharing location information to becoming too invested in checking friends’ locations. As parents, by remembering that the dangers exist and being careful when allowing children to use these apps, you can prevent the apps from becoming a danger rather than the safety tools they should be.