Tracking location prompts controversy

Leah Matlin, Features Editor

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Over a year ago, junior Leah Greenberg was asked to electronically share her location with her family. She did not want to be tracked, but when she and her siblings traveled to the congested streets of Chicago to celebrate the Cubs’ World Series victory, Leah Greenberg’s mother, Judy Greenberg, thought tracking would be smart for safety purposes.

According to Leah Greenberg, in Chicago, she and her siblings split up to be with friends. Each sibling was going somewhere different, and her mom wanted to know where they were for safety reasons. Sharing locations also helped the siblings meet up after the parade was over. Since then, the family has continued to use location sharing services.

“I was angry [since I had to share my location] at first because I don’t want everyone knowing my location all the time,” said Leah Greenberg. “But as time went on, I kind of learned to just accept it.”

Judy Greenberg said knowing where her children are makes her feel more comfortable.

“[In] a situation where [my family] can’t use their phones and they’re not reachable for a long period of time, [I] have an ability to see where they were last located,” Judy Greenberg said.

According to junior Melanie Ji, her immediate family and grandparents have Life360, an app which tracks location.

“For a while, I just didn’t download it because I just was really angry, … but [my parents] just kept on nagging me to download it,” Melanie Ji said.

Brandon Lem, digital marketing manager at Life360, said in a phone interview that the app uses GPS technology to keep track of each person’s location. In addition, a feature was launched last year called Driver Protect, which monitors information including a person’s top speed while driving and how many times a person hit the brakes quickly.

“We like to think of [Life360] as a way to more easily communicate with each other and [to provide] more … peace of mind for parents,” Lem said.

Lem is aware that Life360 may not be popular among teenagers, but the app can be beneficial for teens who want to know where their parents are.

“As someone who handles a lot of reviews on our app, I certainly know from a younger person’s perspective that [Life360] can be looked at as a tool for parents to put more restrictions on teens,” Lem said.

According to Melanie Ji’s father, Frank Ji, the app is meant to give him “peace of mind” rather than to track his children. He believes the app can be an invasion of privacy, but only if it is not used with the right intention. Life360 makes it easy to see where family members are, especially when they are traveling.

“When Melanie travels for debate or a speech tournament, … I can see on the phone where she’s at,” Frank Ji said.

According to Frank Ji, he was in Florida when one of his sons got lost in Chicago. Frank Ji was able to direct his son by using the map on Life360.

Junior Justin Kang said he does not have a tracking app on his phone, but his parents track him through a GPS in his car.

According to Kang, his parents are able to see where he is going, how fast he travels and the history of where he has been.

“I guess [my parents] don’t trust me, so … there is a rift [in our relationship] from that,” Kang said.    

Lauren Bondy, licensed clinical social worker in private practice, said every choice parents make, including whether to use an app to track their kids or not, has a consequence. Lack of trust might be one of the many reasons why parents want to monitor their kids.

“I don’t think that [tracking is] healthy for kids,” said Bondy. “I think that in the teenage years, it’s a stage of life where they [are] starting to separate from their parents. They’re exploring different things and figuring out who they want to be.

Bondy said a tracking app is very limited in the information it provides, and the app might not provide the whole story in a given situation.

“To me, it would be healthier if parents replaced the app with true dialogue and time spent together,” Bondy said.

According to Leah Greenberg, she has found some benefits from sharing her location, such as being able to track her mom to see when she is coming home from work. Even so, she still has mixed emotions about her family constantly knowing her location.

“If I’m driving and, God forbid, I would get into a car crash, I would feel [safer] knowing my mom knows exactly where I am,” said Leah Greenberg. “Then other times, it’s just like a little invasion of my privacy because I don’t always want her to know where I am.”

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Tracking location prompts controversy