Sunday, December 7, 2014

Parenting Teens? There's An App For That!

Growing up in New York City, I had a lot of autonomy. With my monthly bus pass (in the coolest bus pass holder ever — trust me — bright purple, bought at a tiny stationery store on 61st and Central Park West), I was pretty much my own keeper. As long as I stuck to the MTA's web of 150 or so bus lines, I could go anywhere, anytime ... anonymously.

It's not so easy for my daughter here in our tiny town north of Boston. Oh sure, she has a driver's license now, which does mean more freedom for her (and more free time for me), but there's always the discussion around which car she should take. "I think the Acura's getting a flat, take the Miata." Most days I still pick her up after school, and her schedule is so densely packed that there's very little opportunity for her to go all Thelma and Louise on me. Basically, she drives a half hour to the stable, a half hour back. Otherwise she's either working with her horse, working at a part-time job, or working on homework.

(BTW, do we see a theme here? With all that "working," it's no wonder she rolls her eyes if anyone implies that high school should be the time of her life. I just hope she hasn't burned out completely before she heads to college.)

I typically do know where my teen is, but I know a lot of other mothers who don't. Maybe their kids aren't as over committed as mine. And it can definitely be a worry. The world is big and our children are small. Well, at this stage, they're not really. But, we still think of them that way.

Microchipping is tempting, but not readily available yet. 

Calm down, my conspiracy theorist friends. I'm only kidding. 

Not that the concept is far-fetched or even unlikely at some point in the future. Reality-show host Troy Dunn (“APB with Troy Dunn”) says “I only support GPS chip monitoring for convicted felons while in prison and on parole; for sex offenders forever; and for children if parents opt in. I am adamantly against the chipping of anyone else.”

Phew! I feel better now. (WTF!)

So what's a nervous mother to do? Fortunately, we live in a world of ubiquitous smartphones and countless apps. There are several designed to help us keep tabs on our offspring:

Find My Kids — Footprints
Real-time GPS tracking of your teens and their movements. You can track them individually or coordinate with the locations of other (also tracked) teens. Creepy.

Family Tracker
A similar system lets you track the entire family. It includes built-in messaging and "a loud annoying siren" feature if you need to get someone's attention. Whoa!

SecuraFone
This takes GPS tracking to another level (and one, admittedly, that may be of great interest to those of us parenting new drivers). Not only do you know where your kids have gone — you know how fast they drove to get there!

iCam
Of course, you can't always be home when they are. This is a webcam video streaming app that lets you spy on ... er, I mean ... monitor your teens in their rooms, your kitchen, or anywhere you put a camera.

'Don't know whether it's because I'm a liberal or because I've read too many dystopian novels. But, to my mind, all of these fairly reek of "big brother." Plus, my daughter already has enough reasons to roll her eyes and resent me. There is one app that struck a chord though. Heres' why.

I'm not a control freak. Not really. (Okay, I am, BUT I generally do control those control freak controlling tendencies.) What I really want is to be able to connect with my teen. To ask where she is and when she'll be home. Because always I care and because sometimes I actually need to know. The problem is, my daughter doesn't always "hear" my call or sometimes "see" my text. (Um, right, okay, if she says so.) That leads me to the app:

Ignore No More
No tracking, no spying. This app hits kids where they live ... on their phones! It's very simple. If your teen doesn't answer when you call them, you automatically and remotely disable their phone. They can't make or get a call (except to 911). They can't text. They can't use Facebook or Instagram. Once they call you back, they're back — to smartphone business as usual.

Bottom line? They're at your mercy. Bah ha ha ha ha ha ha. (Insert evil mom laugh here.) The name says it all. They can ignore you no more. And the beauty is, in a world with so few consequences, you can actually follow-through. "Call me back or else ..." 

Or, you can always go ahead and get that microchip.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of Lovin' the Alien at www.lovinthealien.com.  

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