Dear Dr. Debbie,
My youngest is 17. We have a tracking app on all of our phones. It’s not a secret, we have had it for 3 years and he can see when we come and go, just like we can see where he is. Lately he’s been saying it’s “creepy” and he wants it off when he turns 18 in a couple weeks. I offered to compromise and take it off at graduation which is only a little more than three months further out. Am I being too much of a helicopter parent? It’s not that I don’t trust him, it just gives me peace of mind. If he is out and it’s late, I don’t have to text to ask if he is coming home soon (I try not to call or text if I think he is driving) – I can just look at the app and see if he is on his way home.
Don’t miss last week’s column Protecting Our Children From a Violent World — Good Parenting
Dear Worried Mom,
Alas, there is often friction as the final year under parents’ wings winds down. Your son is craving independence. You are being ever alert to dangers he may or may not be aware of. It’s a parent’s duty to protect our children, and even when they are grown, or nearly grown, we worry about them. Because he is your youngest, the changes on the horizon may have greater significance for you than when his siblings were seniors.
Let’s stick to the issue of being considerate since trust is not a concern. As long as he shares your home it is considerate for him to keep you informed of his whereabouts and to let you know he is safe. You do the same for him. The old fashioned way was to make a call or leave your family members worrying. I remember when long distance calls cost extra, so the no cost solution was to ring three times and hang up to let a loved one know you had arrived safely at your destination. It’s just good manners.
There are many advantages to using the latest tracking apps. One of their primary purposes, as you’ve noted, is to prevent those “Are you on your way?” texts and calls. Such an app also eliminates the need for the “Call me when you get there” courtesy. A bonus is being able to use it for “I can’t find my phone” assistance. And, just in case a bad idea is sounding good to his peers, your son can rely on the “but my parents would know, so I can’t” excuse. Peer pressure is something even the most trustworthy kids face.
My recommendation is to hold off on his request at least until graduation – if not the day he moves out. Actually, a tip for public safety on a college campus is to use a tracking app with friends and or the security office. If he’s lined up a job right after graduation his boss and co-workers will play the role of noticing if he’s gone missing. Whatever his future holds, it’s a good practice to have a friend or family member know his schedule and to be aware of an unusual absence. Until then you can back off on other “helicoptering” such as knowing when he has a test coming up and trying to manage his time for him, or keeping inventory on the foods he likes so you don’t run out.
Have a conversation with your son about ways he can take on more responsibility for running his life and see where there may be some concessions you can make.
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What do you think? Email your comments or questions to Dr. Debbie at editor[at]chesapeakefamily.com.