Written by Sonia Freedman and Chase Trigg
Tracking apps have gained popularity in the past years, primarily to allow families to stay connected through location sharing. In 2008, Bay Area entrepreneur Chris Hull launched Life360, and it has since become one of the most popular tracking apps available.
Parents mainly use Life360 to track their kids’ location with the goal of enhanced safety and organization. Unlike Apple’s “Find My” app, Life360 can also track the speed of a vehicle a user is in and can be used to send out SOS signals in case of an emergency.
While strict parenting is a common complaint for teenagers, they have now taken to TikTok to air their grievances. Its most critical teenage users claim that Life360 “ruins” their social life by taking away their privacy of location. There are also claims that Life360 enables helicopter parenting—when parents are overly involved in their children’s lives—which is proven to negatively affect children’s emotional well-being. Sarcastic remarks and insults are prevalent in Hulls’ comment section, and many urge him to delete the app altogether. His replies to the comments are personal, apologetic, and seemingly sincere.
To one commenter that said, “You took away my teenage experience,” he replied, “I’m sorry to hear this. It’s all about safety, not control. Sounds like your parents ruined it? Have you tried ghost mode?” Ghost mode, as explained by Hull, gives the parent or guardian a general idea of where the other users in their “circle” are, but not their exact location.
However, students shared that their parents were reluctant to turn on Ghost Mode because they wanted to know their exact location at all times. Senior Tiziano Bolaños said “It annoyed me because when I didn’t go into the app, my dad would get very mad and wouldn’t let me go out if it wasn’t turned on.”
Despite Ghost Mode and good intentions, Life360 ultimately disadvantages both parents and teenagers. Many students wish that they could hang out with friends without feeling like someone is keeping tabs on them. Freshman Noah de Haaff said, “Life360 is overall really annoying, because my parents constantly check where I am.”
In addition, Life360 often encourages kids to use less secure apps to bypass restrictions. Downloading unsafe apps such as VPN (virtual private network) changers to change a Life360 location can lead to stolen information. Many students have also taken to disabling the WiFi and data on their phones to turn off their location completely. The most important factor of Life360, user safety through location tracking, is broken, along with the trusting relationship between child and parent.
Sophomore Mckenna Bolka said, “It [Life360] definitely makes breaking the rules more appealing because they shouldn’t have put it on my phone in the first place.”
It’s important to note that there is a line when it comes to complete independence for kids. Life360 can be crucial for elementary and middle school students beginning to get used to technology. It can also be vital for parents to track their kids if they have a bad record of lying or abusing their independence.
However, many kids feel as though their parents don’t trust them to an unreasonable degree, especially students who have earned parental trust through good grades and judgment. Numerous studies have shown that child and teenage autonomy is crucial for development into adulthood.
For high school upperclassmen in particular, a natural parenting step would be to loosen control and allow for more self-reliance, starting with deleting tracking apps. Being able to have honest conversations with guardians about social events and independence is more beneficial than forcing teenagers to be monitored at all times. “I am a few months away from turning 18, and I am not the kind of kid who goes to unsafe places. I wish my parents would understand that I am an honest person. Independence will protect kids as they get older, and apps like Life360 just foster a permanent sense of mistrust,” said an anonymous M-A senior.
For families who want to know where their loved ones are each day, a better option is to go over the schedule for the day, whether on a family group chat or in-person, the night before. Encouraging a positive and honest environment creates the trusting relationship that Life360 strives for without the harsh supervision.
That same anonymous senior said, “As I go off to college and regain my independence, I have learned about the relationships around me and the qualities in a family that I deeply value—trust, respect and empathy. In the future, I want to be the kind of parent that my children can be open with and want to share things about themselves and their social life.”