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Being a teenager is awkward. It’s a fact we all know during our teenage years, and also one that most teens will assume Mom and Dad have forgotten.
While making life miserable for your teen may or may not be your prerogative as a parent, there’s no question that one of the most challenging things you’ll go through with your teen is learning to drive. Hitting the road is a big step — and if you’re not careful it can be dangerous.
Thanks to modern technology, you now have the option to monitor your teen’s every move on the road. GPS tracking makes it as simple as downloading an app and plugging a small device into the diagnostic port on your teen’s car. But is tracking your teen driver taking it too far?
How to Track Your Teen
Before we go down the moral rabbit hole, let’s discus the options you have for playing watchdog while your teen is out in the family wagon. Some are third-party solutions, but you might be surprised how many automakers build tracking functions right into their new cars.
Hyundai gets top marks from U.S. News for their Blue Link Remote system, but these days you can throw a stone and hit a new car that comes with some form of tracking feature. It really shouldn’t come as a surprise, since GPS has been in place for some time now as a necessary component of systems like GM’s OnStar, which allows for remote driver assistance.
Everyone from America’s big three to Toyota, Lexus and Mercedes have integrated similar options. Many marques offer the service for free on new models with the option to extend service by paying a subscription fee going forward.
Not everyone drives a new car, though. For those who can’t take advantage of integrated features, there are trackers that plug in to your car’s diagnostic port or live on your teen’s phone. These, of course, might be simpler for your teenager to defeat, but rest assured they won’t be fooling anyone when they reach for the off switch.
The More You Know
Having a tracking solution in place is one thing, but not all tracking apps are created equal. You’ll want to consider what each one does and which features are most important to you.
Any of the systems currently on the market will display your car’s location on a map. For concerned parents, the ability to keep tabs on how your teen is behaving comes from alerts that can be received via text message or email when specific conditions are met.
For example, you could define a specific speed limit and be notified each time your teen exceeds it. Additionally, you can configure the app to monitor a geographic boundary. If your teen ventures outside of it, you’ll be notified.
Some apps even allow parents to lock and unlock the car, start the ignition and set a curfew to incentivize kids to get home. As people who have been teens ourselves, we advise you that the curfew setting may backfire.
So then, it’s clear that you can track your teen and then some. Should you?
Every Teen Is Different
There’s no right answer. Whether or not you choose to monitor your teen is your choice, and how useful it is will come down to the relationship you have with your teen. Trust is a critical component of that relationship. Depending on the kind of parent you are, and your child’s demeanor, you might have no trouble asking your child to let you track them.
Parents of large families have attested that the solution for every child is different. You want to be the best parent you can and keep your child safe, but ultimately a tracking app has limitations.
A teen could still get into trouble while riding in a car with their friend. They might stay out past curfew or exceed the boundaries you set and force you to decide what to do. If you’re using one of the third-party solutions, they could just unplug it or disable the app on their phone. Teens are good at being one step ahead in the tech game.
What If They Didn’t Know?
So there’s something we haven’t told you. You can — if you have access to your teen’s phone — install tracking software that is designed to be hidden. Again, kids are sharp these days, so no guarantees.
Apps like Mamabear and Mspy will keep you posted on where your teen is and some of their activities. Not all of these are specific to driving, but if you’re hell-bent on the spying thing, they’ll get you where you want to go.
Mspy is the most popular “spying” solution available for use worldwide and it collects an impressive amount of information. More than just where your teen is at a given time, it can also tell you who they call and which websites they visit. Do you need that much information? You decide.
Here’s How We Would Do It
If you can come to an agreement with your teen about what you’ll be watching and when, it will probably make things much simpler. Trust, as we stated earlier, should be highly valued in your relationship, and if your teen learns that you’re spying on them you could break that trust.
We weren’t born yesterday. Your style of parenting or the specific child might require you to take extra steps. You have more options today than your parents ever did. But think long and hard about how it might affect your relationship, because setting expectations ahead of time might help you avoid an awkward situation when your teen finds out they’ve been spied on.
Perhaps now you’re thinking to yourself, “Why did I read this article, there’s no answer here.” But if it were possible to summarize good parenting practices in a thousand words, we wouldn’t need apps to track where our teens are.
What is true is that this tool is available right now — and if you feel it can be helpful, you should use it. Just make sure you apply it in a way that works for your relationship with your teen.