Tracking Apps: The Pros And Cons Of ‘Spying’ On Your Children (2023)

All parents worry about their kids. But does that make it alright to ‘spy’ on them?

Posted on

18 October 2018

Tracking Apps: The Pros And Cons Of ‘Spying’ On Your Children (1)

Increasing numbers of parents are using GPS tracking apps on their phones so they can always tell exactly where their children are.

However, using this type of surveillance on adults might be considered harassment, and while they may give peace of mind to anxious parents, the counter-argument is that they’re not helping young people learn to be independent and keep safe on their own.

Parents need to allow their children to grow up to be independent, and there’s a sense that this has the potential to prevent that happening in a healthy and natural way.

How would we have felt as teenagers knowing our parents always knew where we were? Part of being a teenager is exactly the opposite of that.

Also, tracking raises important questions around consent, suggesting some parents may feel that because they pay for their child’s mobile phone, they’re entitled to know where their child is all the time.

But despite having such conversations with their children, some parents may still want to use a tracking app.

So what are the pros and cons of using such technology?

(Video) GPS Tracker Apps: he pros and cons


1. Peace of mind for parents

Parents no longer need to ring their child continuously, thus causing them to feel embarrassed, or interrupting their play and exploration.

Location tracking can also ease unnecessary worry if a child doesn’t answer the phone straight away - through GPS tracking, a parent can receive a quick update and put their mind to rest.

2. Gives kids more freedom

It gives children more freedom because when parents know where the children are, means they're more relaxed about ­letting the kids go further afield.

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3. Reassurance for children

Location tracking can also be reassuring for the child, particularly if they get lost - this is especially useful if a child wanders off in a crowded place.

This peace of mind is relevant to older children too, especially in the wake of new research by Girlguiding UK that shows nearly two-thirds of 13 to 21 year-olds either feel unsafe, or know someone who is fearful of walking home alone.


1. Kids may become more secretive

Young people may respond to being tracked by becoming increasingly secretive and flouting the surveillance by, for example, leaving their phone at a friend’s house so their parents think they’re there.

2. They don’t become streetwise

Young people run the risk of not learning to be ­independent and safe on their own.

3. Internet and social media access

Children need a smartphone for their parents to install a tracking app, but this can expose them to the potential dangers associated with social media and the internet such as cyberbullying, inappropriate contact with strangers and unsupervised access to inappropriate information.

(Video) How to track anyone's phone location without them knowing! This was used on me😱

4. Trust issues

If they’re being tracked, young people may feel their parents think they can’t be trusted. By contrast, if they feel they are trusted, such responsibility can help them behave in a trustworthy manner.

Teenagers might feel they’re mistrusted and controlled by ‘helicopter’ parents. Make sure the discussions you have with them are transparent and always listen to their feedback.

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What are the negatives of tracking your child? ›

Relying on an app to find out where a child is or what they are looking at online, particularly without their knowledge, can seriously undermine that trust, she says, which might lead children to make riskier choices or get clever about evading detection.

Is it wrong to put a tracking device on your child? ›

Bottom line, if you are the legal guardian of a child under 18 you have the legal right to use a child tracker. For teens and adults with special needs or dementia, it is also legal as their guardian to use these devices that will help you know where they are and keep them safe.

What are the potential pros and cons of using tracking apps to monitor children? ›

  • Peace of mind for parents.
  • Gives kids more freedom.
  • Reassurance for children.
  • Kids may become more secretive.
  • They don't become streetwise.
  • Internet and social media access.
  • Trust issues.
Oct 1, 2018

Why parents shouldn t use tracking apps? ›

Your child will know you're watching them and this does get into some privacy issues. Tracking apps will not only let you know where your child is, but you have the ability to monitor their messaging and phone activity. Using these apps doesn't allow a parent to learn to trust their child.

What are three disadvantages of using tracking apps? ›

  • Kids may become more secretive. Young people may respond to being tracked by becoming increasingly secretive and flouting the surveillance by, for example, leaving their phone at a friend's house so their parents think they're there.
  • They don't become streetwise. ...
  • Internet and social media access. ...
  • Trust issues.
Oct 18, 2018

What are the disadvantages of tracking apps? ›

The downsides of location tracking

Just as GPS trackers allow users to share their location with friends and family, they also allow users to inadvertently share their whereabouts with stalkers. This is particularly dangerous for children, especially as some apps give almost anyone permission to track their location.

At what age should you stop tracking your child? ›

“Secret tracking is usually not a good idea,” she added. As for when to stop tracking your kids, Alphabet Inc.'s Google has a suggestion: age 13. At that point, a child who uses an Android phone synced to Google's Family Link can turn off location monitoring by their parents.

Can I put a tracker on my child's phone without them knowing? ›

Yes, you can see everything on your child's phone without them knowing. You need to monitor their phone discreetly with a phone monitoring app. However, not all monitoring apps are discreet and invisible. Hence, you should use an app like AirDroid Parental Monitoring app that works in stealth mode.

Why you shouldn't take away your child's device? ›

Taking away a teen's phone interferes with their social life, which can drive a wedge between parent and teen. It's helpful to make the punishment related to the misbehavior, so taking away your teen's phone for a misbehavior like breaking curfew doesn't usually make sense.

Should parents use GPS tracking on their kids? ›

Simply, if you can, you should. Though you want to give your child the freedom to be a kid, to make their own mistakes so they can learn from them, and even give them a better sense of self, the risks today are incredibly high.

Should parents install apps to monitor their children? ›

Parents should trust their children with making the right choices about their safety. Tracking their phones would only lead to mistrust between the two, kids may become more rebellious. If parents really don't want their kids to go to some dangerous or inappropriate some places, they should just tell them directly.

What are the advantages of tracking your child? ›

5 Benefits of GPS Child Tracker for Parents
  • Knowledge of Your Child's Location. First and foremost, smartwatches with GPS trackers are great for knowing where your child is at any time. ...
  • Access to Your Child's Travel Route. ...
  • Regular Alerts and Updates. ...
  • Immediate Emergency Calling. ...
  • Peace of Mind.

Why tracking apps are more harmful than helpful? ›

Instead of parents and children communicating to establish mutual trust, tracking apps cause parents to become reliant on what data they receive from the app, and teens worry over their right to privacy and parental trust.

Is it normal to track your kids? ›

Conclusions. For our survey respondents, using electronic monitoring to keep tabs on their children is normal, and monitoring children without their knowledge is common.

Should I check my 16 year olds phone? ›

The phone plan is probably in your name and you probably bought the electronic devices. But even if not, you have every right and responsibility to check them if you've been given cause to do so because you have the right and obligation to keep your home safe, your child safe, and your other children safe.

What are the dangers of being tracked? ›

5 Alarming Things You Probably Don't Know About Online Tracking
  • Your ISP Can Track Everything You Do Online. ...
  • Almost All Sites You Visit Track You. ...
  • It Involves Third-Party Tracking, Which Is Creepy. ...
  • Personal Data Can Be Collected Secretly. ...
  • Collected Data Can Be Used Against You.

Does location tracking threaten privacy? ›

When GPS is combined with other technologies, such as the Internet, social media, or mobile phone apps, commercial organizations can easily track someone's movements and use this information to collect data on their travel and shopping habits and target them with advertising based on their location.

What are the pros and cons of tracking in education? ›

Pros of academic tracking
  • It creates individualized learning paths. ...
  • It prevents apathy. ...
  • It encourages creative instruction. ...
  • It promotes healthy competition between students. ...
  • It's subject to stereotyping. ...
  • It can lead to unequal education. ...
  • It can have a negative impact on confidence.
Jun 2, 2022

What is the safest tracking app? ›

The 10 Best Location Tracking Apps Found on the App Store
  1. Google Maps. Google Maps is the premier and best app for location tracking for iPhones and Android phones. ...
  2. FamiSafe. ...
  3. Map My Run by Under Armour. ...
  4. Life360. ...
  5. FollowMee. ...
  6. TrackView. ...
  7. Family Locator. ...
  8. Glympse.
Sep 18, 2021

Is tracking app is illegal? ›

In six states (California, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Virginia) laws more broadly prohibit the use of electronic tracking devices, not just on vehicles, and not just in the context of stalking, but when they are used to determine the location or movement of a person without consent.

Should I monitor my 15 year olds phone? ›

Social media monitoring is an essential part of parenting in today's world. You can even set up notifications so that you are alerted anytime your teen posts something. This way, if your teen posts something inappropriate, you can address it, and have them remove it. Be sure you know what your teen is doing online.

Should I read my child's texts? ›

It helps to keep them safe.

If you've already established the routine of spot checks, your kid should be expecting them. If not, make it clear it's for their safety and that keeping them safe is part of your job.

What age should your parents stop checking your phone? ›

When you give a kid a device will determine how long a parent is going to be monitoring them, though not all parents agree on when they should give up control. As we showed in our previous survey coverage, parents tend to agree that they have to monitor kids up to about age 10.

How can I see my child's text messages without them knowing? ›

Another way to view their text message is via parental control apps like AirDroid. AirDroid Parental Control app is an all-in-one app. It allows users to manage and monitor the target device remotely. It runs in stealth mode, so they wouldn't know you have it installed on their phone.

How can I read my child's deleted text messages? ›

You can use third-party parental control or spy apps (like mSpy, Spyic, Spyera, etc.) to recover and read texts deleted by your child. You can find some of these apps above.

Why you shouldn't take your kids phone at night? ›

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that children ages 6 to 18 had an 88 percent higher risk of not sleeping enough when devices were in the bedroom and a 53 percent higher risk of getting a bad night's sleep—and that's when devices were in the bedroom just three nights a week.

How long should a parent take away a child's phone? ›

Taking the phone away for 24 hours can be a good starting place. What about safety issues? Letting your teen go to school without a phone in their pocket or allowing them to walk down the street without a phone isn't likely to cause them harm. After all, you likely grew up without access to a cell phone.

Should I take my 14 year olds phone at night? ›

The answer to this question — should parents take away cell phones at night? — is much more definitive, say the experts. Yes, unless you are absolutely sure your teenager is able to put the phone away (and not pick it up) at bedtime. That's because screens and sleep do not mix.

Why do parents use tracking apps? ›

Parents who use tracking apps to monitor their children's activity can help protect them from things like bullying, drugs and alcohol, sexting, smoking, and more. Trackers also allow you to get in touch with your child when necessary so they don't get themselves into trouble unknowingly.

What is poor parental monitoring? ›

Parental monitoring (parents' knowledge of where their child is when not at home or school and who their child's friends are) also affects risk behaviors. Youth who perceive less parental monitoring may be more likely to engage in a number of risk behaviors, including sexual risk taking and substance use.

What apps allow you to monitor your child's phone? ›

Best Parental Control Apps of 2023
  • Best Overall: Screen Time.
  • Best Budget: unGlue.
  • Best for Real-Time Monitoring: Qustodio.
  • Best for Location Tracking: Norton Family.
  • Best for Older Kids: Canopy.
  • Best for Younger Kids: Net Nanny.
  • Best for Time Management: Kaspersky Safe Kids.
Sep 7, 2022

What are the benefits of tracking? ›

Here are the top 5 benefits of GPS tracking:
  • Improved Safety. The safety of your drivers is no doubt a top priority for your organization. ...
  • Minimize Fuel Costs. ...
  • Lower Operational Costs. ...
  • Increased Productivity. ...
  • Theft Recovery.

Why should parents not monitor their children's social media? ›

The main reasons for not monitoring your teens social media activities are privacy and trust. Kids don't want their parents looking through personal information, texts, and social media posts. Many kids consider their smartphones sacred property not to be viewed by their parents.

Why should parents monitor their children's phones? ›

If you've got young children using the internet, parental controls of some sort are a necessity to ensure they are kept safe from threats online. These threats include predators, cybercriminals, cyberbullying and inappropriate content.

At what age should parents stop tracking their kids? ›

“Secret tracking is usually not a good idea,” she added. As for when to stop tracking your kids, Alphabet Inc.'s Google has a suggestion: age 13. At that point, a child who uses an Android phone synced to Google's Family Link can turn off location monitoring by their parents.

What are the problems with tracking students? ›

Even when tracking is based on the judgement of teachers, students, and/or parents, it rarely accounts for differences in family education or circumstances, past school experiences, and other factors. It fails to fully consider each student's strengths, weaknesses, and potential.

Why you shouldn't track your child's location? ›

Adults tracking their kid's phones can also do more harm than good. It can cause the kids to become more distant with their parents or guardians, and feel like they can't communicate with their parents, leading them to lie about their whereabouts.

What age of kids is hardest to parent? ›

In fact, age 8 is so tough that the majority of the 2,000 parents who responded to the 2020 survey agreed that it was the hardest year, while age 6 was better than expected and age 7 produced the most intense tantrums.

What is a disadvantage of online tracking? ›

One of the biggest complaints about web tracking is the sheer amount of personal information that is collected by these websites. Many people are uncomfortable with the thought of having personal information such as their name, birthday, and interests being shared with complete strangers.

Should I be worried about trackers? ›

In short, you don't need to worry. You're likely to collect more trackers the next time you use the internet, depending on which web browser you use and the privacy settings you've activated. Your two main concerns with trackers are your online privacy and the space these types of files can take up on your hard drive.

Are tracking apps an invasion of privacy? ›

Spend some time going through your app permissions and revoke any that aren't needed for the app, or limit them to only having access when the app is in use. Location tracking is a major invasion of privacy.

What is a negative impact of tracking in schools? ›

Underperforming students may be at a disadvantage with academic tracking, as their low performance may result in fewer opportunities to express their intellect, creativity, or unique skills. For example, they may be less likely to be selected for extracurricular events, such as the school quiz team or an art expo.

Is educational tracking bad? ›

Another potential disadvantage of the tracking system is that by dividing students into a group by their academic ability, the educational system may cause those students to self-label themselves as inferior to upper track students.

Is student tracking illegal? ›

Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in the assignment of students to schools or classes. It also prohibits discrimination in ability grouping or tracking students.

Is it OK to read your child's text messages? ›

Reading your child's text messages is not that different than eavesdropping or reading their diary.” She advises parents to stay in their lane by steering clear of needless snooping, whether trying to find out what your kids are saying or who they are hanging out with.


1. Are You Being Tracked? How Companies Are Monitoring Productivity
2. Tips For Parents - how protect your child with spy app
(Spy Advisor)
3. Safe and Sorry – Terrorism & Mass Surveillance
(Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell)
4. How to Use "Find My" For Parents
(Tech Talk America)
5. mSpy Review 2021 | How Good Is This Popular Spy App?
6. How to track anyone's location WITHOUT their knowledge (why you should!)
(Liron Segev)


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