I have been using a location sharing app with my family for the past year to great effect. As a busy, always-on-the-go family, Life 360 allows us to stay connected and relationship-focused. My kids, now ages 12 and 15, can see how far away I am if I happen to be running late for school pick up, and – because I am driving – not responding to their texts. And I know that my son is safely home from sailing practice on those days when I have to stay at the office a bit long. These are just two small examples of many for how we find ourselves connected because we use Life360. And these small things add up to a big value for my family. Here are a few ways you can maximize the value for your family too:
Focus on intent
If you are thinking about using a location sharing app such as Life360 for your family, it is important to be intentional about purpose and use. Have open and honest conversations as a family about the benefits and the details surrounding location sharing. Talk upfront about how you will use location sharing to be connected, and what the limits of that might be. As part of this, highlight that honesty will result in trust, and trust is everything as it forms the very essence of our relationships.
In these conversations, focus on two key points. First, as a family, talk about how Life360 will help both the child and the parents. Second, think about the “opt-in/opt-out” feature that comes with using Life360. What are the expectations around when location sharing is turned on or off? And if it is okay to turn it off, what is your family’s routine around that? Does there need to be a text to mom or dad? Does your child need permission beforehand? What about for you as a parent? Will there ever be situations where you would turn off location sharing and how will your kids know to expect that?
Helpful tips for staying on track
Once an understanding about the value of location sharing, its intent, and expectations about its actual use have been discussed with your family, you will begin to see the benefits – especially when it comes to feeling more connected. Sometimes there can be hiccups though, and it is important to understand that your approach as a parent is going to make all the difference. With that in mind, try to:
- Always be open and honest with your children so they don’t ever come to the conclusion that you are spying on them, but rather really see location sharing for what it is – a technology tool that encourages connection.
- Use location sharing as part of how you do your “job” as a parent to ensure the best for your kids, rather than having it imposed as a consequence.
- Use location sharing to reinforce your role as a parent who is capably in the lead, thinking of location sharing as a tool for you; for example, try saying “You weren’t where you said you were going to be, so I am going to drive you for the next while and we will talk about this again in a week to see where things are at” instead of “You weren’t where you said you were going to be, so now your driving privileges are suspended!”
Make technology work for you
Finally, there is one more amazing technology tool that you can use to explore how your family will use technology to positive effect. National PTA’s The Smart Talk is an interactive tool that encourages discussion with your child around different digital topics and results in a contract that families can sign. It guides you and your child through a focused conversation surrounding the expectations of technology use being embraced by your family. The bottom line is, it is all about connection. And when parents are in the lead, guiding children along with both heart and swagger, technology can be used FOR families to wonderful effect.
Dr. Vanessa Lapointe joined Life360 in March 2019 as a Family Expert to help further the company’s mission of keeping families safe and connected. Dr. Lapointe is an Author, parenting expert, and registered psychologist.