Is there a right answer on tracking and monitoring teenage children?

Last night my husband and I went out to dinner with a small group of friends. We decided on a very nice restaurant with an impressive menu and great ambiance. I was really looking forward to a night out without kids or work to relax, have a delicious meal, good conversation and some laughs. Especially since this is the first time we’ve been out in the new year.

Once seated at our table and after drink orders had been delivered, a couple began discussing one of their children, who recently passed her driver’s test. They were both proud and nervous, as all parents are when their children reach this important milestone. After discussing the fact that she would be driving herself home from practice while we were all out, the woman took out her phone and apologetically said to the rest of us, that she was just going to check NEST quickly to see if she had made it home yet. I had heard of NEST before, but haven’t gotten on board yet, so my interest was piqued. She proceeded for the next 15 minutes, maybe more, to check the phone between a tracking app and NEST to determine her daughter’s whereabouts. After finally seeing that her car was pulling into their driveway, she then said she wanted to see how she did parking. At this point she held the phone up while we all gathered around to watch on screen as their teenage daughter parked her car. She did a great job! We all laughed, shared our stories of parking and continued to enjoy the evening.

Later that night, after I was home with my own teen’s, I couldn’t stop thinking about the experience. I was fascinated that we now have the technology to not only know where our children are at all times, but to actually see them as well. Technology that allowed one nervous mom to lay her concerns to rest and enjoy the evening. I wondered if I shouldn’t look into doing this myself. As a parent of one young adult already out of our ‘nest’, I certainly spent many a night worrying and with two teens at home now maybe this is a tool that would ease my own anxiety. But would it?

I always thought of myself as the kind of person who would find this type of thing overly intrusive. When technology started making its way into our homes at the same time as my own brood where developing independence, I kept telling myself that it was best to trust them. Allow them to test their own wings and fly. Often, I’ve said to others that I don’t want to know what my kids are doing every minute of the day. My own mom didn’t know what I did every minute of the day. Yes, I made mistakes. I also learned from them. I’m not saying I haven’t set guidelines. We have rules about acceptable screen times, and I did shut down data and Wi-Fi at a certain time each night when my kids where younger. We talk about the dangers of the web and keep open discussion on the tough topics of the day. But as far as tracking whereabouts or creating anonymous social media accounts (something quite a few mom’s I know are doing) to watch who they’re talking to and what they’re saying, reading, doing; not for me.

I’m mom to three amazing children ages 17 to 27. One of them struggles with alcoholism. Before the drinking ever started, there where behavior issues as well. Now I wonder, if I had been more diligent with tracking and monitoring could I have intervened? Would camera’s in the house watching them have stopped his sneaking out, drinking in his room? Have I been wrong all along? Of course, I will never know for certain if anything could have prevented things that have already happened. I do wonder, though, if going forward, tracking apps and home monitoring is something useful in parenting today or is it causing more harm in the long run?

Maybe there really isn’t even one definitive answer. Certainly, there are many factors that would come into play, including the individuality of each child. Perhaps, you simply decide collectively what is best for your family and stick to it. Could it be that it works great for some, yet causes even more anxiety in others? If I had something like NEST in my home, would I be able to check it on occasion and still be able to give my attention to other things in my life, or would I become obsessive about it? A woman in my office uses a tracking app for her daughter who is away at college. I’ve heard other people in the office complain about how often she checks it and claim it becomes disruptive. Some feel this is unhealthy behavior. Others view it as her deep commitment and love as a parent. Her child is doing extremely well, receives high marks and is thriving. So, I would assume it’s at least not causing any harm to the child. The question I would like an answer to is this; is the child thriving because of this style of parenting or in spite of it?

For now, I will continue to pay attention, listen to others using it and see where things go. I’d certainly love to hear more opinions on the subject and hear of other’s experiences.

Mid-age Gen-Xer working hard to stay relevant, to not be the worst mom on the planet and maybe someday retire in peaceful contentment.

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