Life 360: Innovative or Invasive?

An opinion piece on the controversies of phone tracking apps.

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Life 360: Innovative or Invasive?

Student Carson Kruse (9) holds up a phone with the Life360 logo displayed on the screen,

Student Carson Kruse (9) holds up a phone with the Life360 logo displayed on the screen,

Photo by Kennedy Kruse

Student Carson Kruse (9) holds up a phone with the Life360 logo displayed on the screen,

Photo by Kennedy Kruse

Photo by Kennedy Kruse

Student Carson Kruse (9) holds up a phone with the Life360 logo displayed on the screen,

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Over the past decade, parents have become more and more obsessed with knowing where their kids are at all times. Thanks to phone tracking apps such as Life360, parents are able to track their children’s every move. Teens are beginning to feel as if their privacy is being stripped away now that their parents are always watching.

First Impression

It wouldn’t be fair to discuss the controversies about the app without experiencing it first. I have never used Life360, so these were my first impressions of the app itself. Once the app was downloaded I had to create an account.

Photo from Life360.com
A screenshot of the author’s location on Life360.

The app asked for access to my location, and I clicked “Do Not Allow” out of habit. The app immediately sent me a message saying that I must have my location on at all times for the app to work. Once turned on, it let me create a new ‘family’ that would allow me to add other members to the group.

After opening and exploring the app, even though I am the only person in my ‘family,’ I could see my pinpoint on the map move with every step. This made me quite uncomfortable, as I’m sure it does with other teens who use the app. There were also quite a few ads for an app upgrade that gives information on how the user is driving. At the end of the day, I went back to the app to explore and it shows an overview of every single place I went on that day and the time period I was there. It made me very uncomfortable and felt as if someone had been watching me all day.

Samantha smiles for a Tik Tok video.

Parent Perspective

Most parents using Life360 are going to argue that using the app is for their child’s safety and well being, but sometimes it seems almost obsessive. Many parents strongly believe that Life360 is necessary when raising a teenager, and many say otherwise. On a popular app called Tik Tok, a woman named Samantha who goes by the handle @middleofnowhere0102 has some pretty strong opinions. The user makes short videos sharing her opinions on an array of topics, one of them being Life360. In one of her videos, she states that teens need to be free to make decisions for themselves, and that ‘Find My Phone’ is a better option for ensuring that your child is safe. She also argues that teens need to have time without being under their parents ‘watchful eye’ at all hours of the day.

Teen Perspective

Statistics based on a schoolwide survey of WCHS students.

There are many teens who use the app Life360 with their family. After surveying students from Woodford County High School, it is clear that teens have a lot to say about this app. First and foremost, 57 students were surveyed and nearly 46% of teens who were surveyed had used some sort of phone tracking app with their family. Of those students who had used a tracking app, 53% said that the app had negatively impacted a relationship with a parent or family member.

Tracking apps are a sign of distrust, and it’s downright creepy and controlling.”

— WCHS Student

It is not a secret that teens have a lot to say about this app. When asked about personal experiences and opinions on Life360, over half of the respondents spoke negatively about Life360. One student shared that “tracking apps are a sign of distrust, and it’s downright creepy and controlling.” Another student argued that “…[these apps] teach the wrong lesson. Instead of preventing teens from making consequential decisions, it makes teens want to find more secretive ways to do it.”  Recently, teens are posting ‘tutorials’ on how to go somewhere without your parents seeing it on Life360. Teens have also resorted to leaving their phones either at home or somewhere they know they will not get in trouble, that way they can go wherever they want without being tracked. However, this method has been seen as dangerous due to the fact that one wouldn’t have their phone on them in case of an emergency.

Not all respondents felt the same about the app, and quite a few of them were thankful for phone tracking apps. “At first I was irritated about [my mom making me use the app] because I felt like she was being crazy, but when you think about it we live in a crazy world and this app might just save my life.”

How do you feel about Life360?

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Since I have never had to use Life360 with a family member, it’s hard to form an opinion without truly experiencing what the app is like. However, after hearing many other people’s experiences with the app, I can confirm that I personally do not support the use of the app. Using apps to track your child is not only invasive of their privacy, but it can develop a sense of distrust between the parent and the child. I can understand how the app can be helpful, but in most situations, it does more harm than good.  The app strips teenagers of the freedom they are supposed to have, and it scares them into being trusting rather than earning that trust. Part of maturing means making mistakes and owning up to them, and it is hard to do that if your parents are watching your every single move. Tracking apps cause a strain on family relationships, but it is understandable why a parent would want to track their child. Sometimes, it’s just too much.