Principal, Counselor Advocate Use, Students Have Mixed Opinions
Darren Doyle, story and photo:
There are plenty of opinions on privacy and tracking, and with cameras virtually everywhere in modern society, along with voice-activated devices, some even question if there's even such a thing as true privacy these days; however, two Edmonson County High School Administrators are advocates of one particular tracking-type app, "Life360."
The free downloadable app, available on both Android and Apple devices, is a tracking app that allows anyone in a particular family or group, called a "circle" within the app, to join. The app tracks not only the location of the device used by the individual, but battery status and the speed at which they arrived at their current destination.
Users have the option of receiving notifications like "John completed a 5mi drive, top speed: 62mph," or "John checked in at Sportsman's Grill, 2:56pm."
For ECHS Principal Tommy Hodges, he says while he knows some will see it as parents being too overbearing or hovering, he feels like it can give parents peace of mind.
"I recommend parents to look into it," he said. "My sons didn't have this technology when they started driving. If they had, I know I'd have been more comfortable with their driving habits and timelines. I always trusted them, but it would've been so much more peace of mind. No matter what your kids are doing, you're going to worry about them when they drive somewhere. If there's a parent that doesn't worry about their child while they're out, I worry about that parent."
ECHS Counselor Michael Meredith echoed some of the same.
"I personally love the app," he said. "For me, it's not about not trusting my son while he's out, it's more about knowing he's arriving safely at his destinations and seeing that he's driving at a safe speed. I can see when he arrives and when he leaves to come home. I know that when he leaves a certain location, he should be home in a certain time frame. If he's not, then I can be made aware and can call to check on him. It's not just for him, either. If my wife and I are apart and I'm doing one thing and she's at another place, it's handy to look down and see 'oh she's at this store, or wherever.' To get a notification that your family has arrived safely home is a good feeling. And that it's free? that's even better."
So as handy as it can be for parents, some students say 'not so fast.' We spoke with several students who have the app installed on their phones and agreed to allow them anonymity to keep them from getting into hot water with their parents.
"If parents trust you then there's no need to track you," said one 17-year old senior. "It's unnecessary. I mean, I kinda see where it would be good for them to know if you had a bad wreck or something and you didn't get home when you were supposed to, but my mom says I can't drive over the speed limit, even one mile-an-hour over. I'm so nervous watching my speedometer that I'm not watching the road sometimes and it freaks me out."
Another 18-year old senior said you can't say that you trust your child then track them at the same time.
"If parents believe we're driving safe then they wouldn't be watching how fast we're going all the time on an app," she said. "I'm not gonna straight up lie to them about being somewhere other than where I really am. With social media and cameras everywhere, it's pretty hard to do that anyway."
One 17-year old junior agreed with the administrators and said he thought it was a good app.
"It actually helps me," he said. "It shows my dad that I'm driving safely and I'm exactly where I say I'm going to be. I think it's building trust in my case, I don't even think about it. He gives me a 5mph window on the speed limit, so unless I'm going really fast, he's pretty cool with it. I think all kids should have it."
The app also allows you to set up checkpoints anywhere, whether they're public places like restaurants and retail stores, or private places like "Jackson's house," so that when a driver inside your circle arrives, you have the specific time and location, not just an address. You can also add anyone that has the app outside of your particular family as well. Some parents ad girlfriends, boyfriends, etc..
One student and Principal Hodges shared some playful banter as they argued back-and-forth about the pros and cons of the app; all in good fun.
"I challenge you that when you get in your late 20s-early 30s and you have a family of your own to be able to look back and honestly tell me this app wasn't a good thing," said Hodges.
"Yeah, but you're so old, you probably won't be alive by then," said the student with a grin.
As Hodges laughed, he said he could totally see why some students wouldn't like it.
"I would've hated it personally as a kid," he said. "That's why it's important to hear from the students; however, for me, it's not a trust issue, again--it's peace of mind."
The student said that none of her close friends who have the app like it, but she can see why a parent would want it.
While the app is free, you can also upgrade for more features like: crash detection, hard braking, rapid acceleration, and phone usage while driving. The free application shows location, speed, and device battery status. It also shows moving in real time. You can also add profile photos and other customization.
You can download here for Apple Devices and here for Android.