With so many applications, games, products and Internet access points, it’s easy to see why an average parent can be easily overwhelmed. During a recent Q&A session with a parent group, one parent asked me whether they needed to worry about their child using geolocation technology.
Just so we are all on the same page: geolocation technology provides the real-world geographic location of an object (like a cell phone or other Internet-connected device). So a program that include a geolocation feature can provide a real-time, meaningful location point—like a street address—regarding an individual and their Internet use.
In an age that can feel overwhelmingly connected to technology at the cost of personal connection, it’s easy to see how this could be a cool resource for connecting with friends, family members and peers online and offline. No longer would you be at the Starbucks on one side of the street while your husband is at the Starbucks on the other side of the street, without your knowledge.
BUT, of course, this real-time report of your whereabouts could also open up your kids (and you) to some dangerous scenarios. Our kids aren’t necessarily thinking as cautiously as we do about broadcasting their life through new media. Many of the apps that they download have geolocation features, and they may be advertising their whereabouts to a vast network of people they don’t know in real life. Children seeking attention and affirmation may misuse geolocation features to connect with other teens and adults that may not have best intentions.
Parents must be aware of some of the dangers associated with the misuse of this technology, and, if you decide to allow your kids to use this technology, you as their parent should supervise their activity very closely. If you can’t monitor it closely, it’s probably safer to do without. It’s also important for your kids to only befriend people online that they know offline, and that you, as their parent have viewed and approved. If, for example, your teen is connected with a stranger, a potential bully, or worse, a sexual predator, posting these real-time location-based posts could open them up to real harm. Also, as a general practice, it’s a good idea to know and approve the applications your kids are using on their mobile device, iPhone, social networking site, gaming device, etc. Consider talking with your mobile provider about features that allow you to block your child’s ability to download apps without your consent, or consider getting parental controls on your child’s mobile device.