Do you know where your children are right now?
I do, and I have Google to thank.
With school back in session and a busy fall schedule upon us, my wife and I decided it was time to make full use of technology and start tracking the kids’ whereabouts with their phones. We set them up in Google Maps to share their locations with us.
It sounds pretty Big Brother-ish, I know. It’s a draconian step built out of a pretty simple parental annoyance, which is the amount of time you spend trying to figure out where your children are.
We have good, honest children. Sometimes they’re just not where you think they’re supposed to be, though. Plans change. Things go longer than you expect they might. That all makes a difference when you’re juggling busy activity schedules, trying to get everyone where they need to be on time. Or maybe they’re just really good at not answering when you yell for them.
My wife and I have used location sharing on Google Maps for several years. While she likes to joke that we’re stalking each other, it’s extremely handy. We both have jobs that can keep us from leaving work when we thought we would. Seeing where someone is vs. where they should’ve been eliminates the frustrating conversations on “where are you?” and “when are you leaving work?”
I couldn’t count the number of times I was getting ready to leave my work and checked to see if my wife had left her job to go pick our youngest up from daycare yet. When the map shows her at work, I knew I should swing over and pick up our girl myself. I liked to think of it as next level thoughtfulness, doing something when my wife was struggling with her schedule. Seeing where someone is on a map can help us have a hot dinner ready at the right time too.
Now we’ve expanded that to the children. When I drove to our seventh-grader’s first volleyball game last week, I wasn’t completely sure where they were playing at an unfamiliar school. A quick search of the map showed me where her phone was within 100 feet or so, and it helped me find which gym they used and the closest door to the game.
Similarly, when we got home from work Friday, we weren’t certain where our oldest daughter was. A look at the map reminded us she had to swing over to one of her jobs for training.
The technology is only as good as the people using it, of course. One of our daughters has trouble keeping her phone charged, so it’s unreliable when the phone dies. And sure, I worry about someone hacking in and being able to track my daughters’ coming and going. There’s no guarantee someone couldn’t have been doing that even if we weren’t using the mapping software, though.
We don’t have 100 percent tracking at our home just yet. Our kindergartener doesn’t have a phone. She’s a little easier to find, though. Unlike her tween and teen sisters, who delight in hiding from parental authority, she’ll sprint right up to us when we come home to hug us. I know right where she is.