Using safety and location sharing applications
Maria Tothova-Šimčakova, Child Psychologist
Why should families use this type of app, what do they get from it and what does it bring to the family?
Even though parents trust their children, they are still responsible for their protection and safety. We live in a world full of various information and social contacts. In general, a high amount of social relations develops a child’s personality, but not all the contacts are positive. Parents make all the efforts to protect their children against negative influences. The question is how to do it so that we do not meddle with children’s privacy. At this point, a so called „trust with control“ is important. Parents can be in touch with their children for example by means of geolocalisation services such as the Family by Sygic app. Thanks to it a parent knows the whereabouts of his child and the child knows the whereabouts of his/her parents. The app helps a family be in touch throughout an ordinary day also in critical moments. It may happen that the child does not answer his/her phone because he/she does not hear it ring, but the same situation may happen also on the side of the parent whom the child is trying to reach by phone. Instead of worries, as to what could have happened, the app brings the whole family a range of options how to keep in touch – by means of instant messages and automatic notifications and mapping of family members location. If needed, the app easily allows to send an SOS with an exact location to all the family members. The trust between a child and a parent is extremely important, that’s why both sides give consent to the use of the Family by Sygic app. And as the mutual exchange of information takes place in a closed group between the members of the family, parents can be sure that the information on the wehereabouts of their child does not fall into hands of anybody unauthorized.
At what age do children begin using a mobile phone?
The number of children who use modern communication technologies such as the computer, the Internet, the mobile phone increases each year. More than a half of children between 7 and 11 years of age use a mobile phone. In the more advanced group of 12 to 15 year olds, the mobile phone is used by almost every single child and more than 90 per cent of 14 to 19 year olds use the Internet on a daily basis. In proportion to this, in the last few years the number of children who may be endangered because they do not realize the negatives of anonymous communication by means of modern technology has risen.
How to motivate a child so that he/she accepts this type of parental control in a positive way and without worries?
I recommend using this app already at a time when you give your child his/her first mobile phone. Explain not only the rules and its safe use, but also the functionality of the app and the advantages it brings. And in a very simple manner: „I will know about you, where you are and so will you,“ „When you get lost, I’ll be able to find you,“ „When you feel you are in danger, we can communicate with each other very quickly...“ from such a conversation the child should understand in which situations the app might help him/her. It should bring him/her a true sense of security.
With older children it is important that they perceive the use of such an app as an act of „trust with control.“ They need to be told that we are not going to watch their every single step, but if needed, they can contact us and we can easily find them.
Nothing that can help protect our children in this time full of danger is amiss!
At what age would you recommend starting using this type of app?
Children under 10 years of age yet do not well realise the risks connected with the communication with strangers. Therefore I would recommend control and localization of a child. For a parent, it is important to be aware of the whereabouts of the child, namely because the child has a weaker contact with the reality. In fact, a child can critically think about a situation and find a real way out of it only around the tenth year of age.
For older children the mobile phone and the Internet are becoming one of the elementary communication tools. In general, it is valid that the older the children are, the more they protect their privacy against their parents and they resist control. At the age of over 12, children start to manage things around them exclusively by themselves. They tend to extend their circle of friends and include „new“ people who their parents may not have a clue about. And together in a group of other teenagers they can easily get into inappropriate situations. Therefore it is good if the parent has an access to their localisation and in such a circumstance can help the child.
Why should the child want to use this type of app? What else is good for him/her except for the feeling of parents watching over him/her and controlling him/her everywhere he/she goes?
Rules for both the children and the parents:
Trust with control
It is important that parents know what their children do so that they can support them in these activities and so that they can guide them properly. Do not exxagarate, do not prohibit, but rather try to explain what is and what is not appropriate.
In order to be sure that your children act sensibly and thoughtfully, you have to know where, when, with whom and why they are and what they are doing. Control the child adequately but at the same time do take into consideration his/her privacy.
Set some rules. Even though the child may not always follow them, it is better when he/she knows what is expected from him/her.
Explain that everything what happens in his/her life you do care about and he/she should have trust in you and tell you the truth.
Child as an Internet user may not realize that the material who he/she makes public on various websites can be seen by anyone who owns a computer. Therefore comments, personal details or pictures published on the Internet should not be in any case of an intimate and private nature. You yourselves should set a good example for your children while using the mobile, the Internet and the computer.
How to motivate a child so that he/she accepts this type of parental control in a positive way and without worries?
A child is nowadays open to technological novelties and advances of his/her mobile and he/she will accept them without any worries if we explain it all to him/her in an open dialogue. If parents state the reasons as to why they suggest using the app Family by Sygic or any other app and meaningfully argue for its advantages, I am convinced that children will respect the decision of their parents. Also, it is important that the child expresses his/her opinion. Try to mutually agree on using the app in practice, let’s say, for one month. Subsequently talk to your children about experiences with this app.
How to avoid parents using this control inappropriately?
The most critical is the topic of control with children and young people who have reached the impression that they will not get lost in everyday’s reality and that they will be able to deal with various life situations on their own, without the help of their parents. Very often, however, are these the ones who become the victims of manipulation. We are talking about an advanced school age from 12 to 15 years of age and this fact has been proven by experience.
Improper control coming from the parent is without the trust in the child’s skills. It is the one that limits, does not let the child breathe and ties him/her down to utter inferiority.
What are the risks of localisation services?
Risks of localisation services relate to an unaware (involuntary) use of localisation services. Various „spams“ can manipulate children so that they register to localisation services without the complete understanding of consequences of their actions. Explain to the children that before they give any consent to any kind of such a service they should consult it with you.
How to build „trust“ in family and raise children towards independence and responsibility?
Science and experience confirm that in upbringing the most successful parents are the ones who have natural authority and educate by means of logical consequences of our own actions.
Some parents moralise extensively, they take every detail too seriously, they make use of everything in order to be able to admonish and rebuke their children. They believe that their educational mission consists in doing so. They labour under the misapprehension that they themselves are infallible. Moralising often palls on children soon, admonishing of their mentoring parents has a negative influence on them.
Unhealthy is also the authority built on exaggerated love and goodness. Children hate such love, soon they discover that they can lie to their parents, that it will be enough if they only pretend their love to them and that in the end they will also obtain the benefits. The authority built on unhealthy love is a dangerous kind of parental authority because it leads to insincerity, pretence and selfishness.
The proper authority, respect and esteem parents can obtain from their children mainly by an exemplary life, sincere relationship to them, mutual respect and trust between each other as well as towards their children and by a unified course of action in terms of the process of upbringing. Those parents who respect the rights of others and correctly accept the hierarchy of social and ethical values and live their lives accordingly, have a natural parental authority stemming from drawing logical reasons and sensible arguments used in upbringing and a good relationship to all social values, which later also proves to be seen in life of their children.
To what degree is independence and responsibility of a child regarded as appropriate?
Independence is closely connected to the responsibility which young people avoid. By motto: it will somehow sort itself out, they swim through the difficulties, problems and they do not want to respect and claim responsibility for their actions and deeds.
With independence it is difficult for parents to find options for choices / decisions, compromises, agreements for the child. It is much easier to give orders, to impose bans. But in fact giving child the option of a choice is more pleasant and more interesting for the parents themselves than just to prohibit something. It is necessary to weigh a lot of circumstances (firstly the age of the child, place of living – village vs city, whether it is possible to rely on him/her, if he/she follows the rules and agreements set in advance, whether he/she gets home on time, the distance to where he/she goes, how long for, etc.) and also the degree of indepedence and responsibility which the child has been led to since the birth. The appropriate age for a responsible pupil is around the 11th or 12th year of age. Again this is a very individual matter which has to be thoroughly considered by the parents. They know their child best and know whether he/she can do something wrong while they are gone or if the child is responsible to such a degree that they can rely on him/her without any problems.
An old familiar proverb: „Trust, but verify!“ – applies here twofold. To make use of modern control of a child. If the child is at home or out in the world, we want everything to be as it should be and as we have agreed upon with the child. At least initially, until a reliable trust builds up between You and him/her.
The degree of independence and responsibility increases with age!
In other words, the older the child, the higher the demands regarding independence and reliability placed upon him/her can be and should be.