The first rule of geolocation, like in-app purchase blocking and other parental control apps, is that your kids should understand what it is, that you’ve enabled it, and why you’ve turned it on. Few of us particularly enjoy the idea of being monitored and tracked without our knowledge, and children are no different. But they have a right to know, just like you do, and respecting that right will help them understand your thoughts and concerns about phones.
Lay out why, exactly, you’re enabling geolocation. If, for example, you’re using it to rebuild trust after an incident, explain what you need out of them and what you want to get out of enabling it. Also be transparent about where, and when, you may be using geolocation; if they’re a half hour late from school, if you call and they don’t respond, and so on. If everybody understands how and why a feature will be used, they’ll be more comfortable with it. Transparency and honesty both create respect and show kids positive role models for these values.
Tie It To House Rules
Most homes, especially homes with teens, have rules about when to call, why to call, and what happens if you’re waiting up at one in the morning worried about who they’re with and what they’re doing. These house rules are a good start for geolocation. Say, for example, if a teen is stuck late at their job and doesn’t call, you can reserve the right to ping the phone. Make a point of giving a little to get a little. In the job example, you might promise not to text or call if you see they’re still at work. Let them show you they’re responsible.
Another method is to use geolocation as a way to back up house rules. For example, if your kids are supposed to text you when they get out of school, they should understand forgetting to text means you might be checking up on them in other ways.
Remember It’s Not Always The Answer
Another factor to consider is that a GPS signal can only tell you where a phone is, and that it’s on. Teens can be in a place they’re allowed to be, doing something they’re not supposed to, or they can leave their phone somewhere it’s supposed to be, and then go off somewhere they shouldn’t be. Geolocation can only be a tool you use to build trust, it can’t take the place of trust itself. It’s also important to remember any smartphone’s GPS is only approximate, and if they work at the mall, you may not be able to tell whether they’re on shift or goofing off at the arcade.