My 19-year-old son lets me track him in an app, but here's why I'm deleting it

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My 19-year-old son lets me track him in an app, but here's why I'm deleting it

Mom says she is sticking with the traditional way of staying in touch with her kids: "Call me when you get there."


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When my 19-year-old son told me he was going to Georgia with a buddy for spring break, I wasn’t expected to have a reaction.

Sheryl Crow (mom to sons Wyatt (above) and Levi): “Wyatt [my adopted son] is definitely all mine. Little souls find their way to you whether they’re from your womb or someone else’s.”

He wasn’t asking permission. He was announcing. That’s what baby adults do.

Still, being invested in his well-being, I asked him to call when he got there. Instead, he took my phone, fiddled with a few things, and handed it back to me.


What he had done was give me access to his location on the app Find my Friends. He pointed to a dot on the map with his name, which was currently hanging out on our street.


I don’t get it.

Never, ever, ever, ever would I have handed my parents a device that tattled my whereabouts every moment of every day of my baby adult life. It’s not that I was running a drug cartel or flying to Ulaanbaatar behind their backs, it’s just...strange.

This younger generation doesn’t seem to mind. Letting friends and family track them is just part of the constant contact they’ve come to expect and to give. No doubt it is a parent’s dream, especially during the secretive, curfew-breaking teen years.

Still, there is something about it that makes me uncomfortable. There isn’t much research on the subject because we are the first generation of parents to have the ability to track our kids in real time. Whether this is good or bad is up for grabs.

My husband’s 101-year-old grandfather is fond of saying, “Never watch your kids play.”

Encourage daddy time. The greatest untapped resource available for improving the lives of our children is time with Dad - early and often. Kids with engaged fathers do better in school, problem-solve more successfully, and generally cope better with whatever life throws at them.

He means it as a joke, but it has some truth to it. Parents are programmed to protect and intervene, which is great for toddlers and not so great for 20-year-olds. That’s why baby adults go away to school – so their parents don’t have a stroke watching them grow up in real time.

Although tempted when my oldest went to Italy last summer, my husband and I have never asked our kids to give us their live location and, until now, they have never offered it.

I will say it is convenient.

Although my son promised to text when he got to Georgia, he forgot, and with a tap of an app, I confirmed he was there. I’m not sure what I would have done if the dot reported him in, say, Peru, but I was prepared to do something.

A few days later, he was in Florida. I only knew that because the dot told me so. What the dot couldn’t tell me is if he was healthy, sick, or dead in a ditch, just that he was on that particular stretch of road in Florida. Or, more to the point, his phone was.

After a few minutes of my imagination doing its worse, I texted him. He texted back that his friend’s family had a beach house there. He had a wicked sunburn, swam in some awesome waves and encountered lots of Michigan State fans while wearing his MSU sweatshirt.

"If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders." - Abigail Van Buren

It was a nice conversation, which made me feel silly for checking the app in the first place.

This didn’t prevent me from checking it again.

Yes, in less than a week, that little app, which I never opened before his trip, had become part of my cellphone routine: Get my messages, read the news, check my email, find my son.

Which is why I want my son to turn it off.

It’s not that I don’t love him. I do. But he’s leaving home this fall, which requires me to snip the apron strings. I don’t think it counts to snip the apron strings and then conduct surveillance on his whereabouts whenever I’m bored.

This tracking method may be the new normal for parents, but, until I can behave normally with it, I’m sticking with the traditional one.

“Call me when you get there.”

Nicole L.V. Mullis can be reached at

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Schedule daily special time. Let your child choose an activity where you hang out together for 10 or 15 minutes with no interruptions. There's no better way for you to show your love.