Many people don’t seem to realize that the smartphones we rely so heavily on daily are often a whole lot smarter than previously expected. Oftentimes, apps don’t necessarily track your location for your own convenience — they’re doing it for more nefarious purposes, like marketing. Uber, for example, made headlines last year when it was revealed that the app continued to track your location long after you’d gotten out of a car. Uber officials argued that this helped them make sure that people were actually making it to their destinations, but privacy aficionados took issue with that idea.

Tracking child

However, the flip side of this particular coin is that apps can absolutely use all of that location information that they’re creating for good — provided that the technology is in the right hands. Case in point: Parents are now using a series of specially designed apps to track their child’s every move, meaning that the 21st-century digital era of parenting may have finally arrived.

Your Apps and Your Child: What You Need to Know

According to one recent report, a growing number of parents are using apps to track nearly every aspect of their children’s daily life — from what they’re up to on social media to where they’re headed after school and absolutely everything in between. Sometimes, this is done with the help of features already built into the smartphones themselves.

Apple devices, for example, have a feature called “Find My iPhone” that can be enabled during the initial setup process. Anyone with the right Apple ID and password can then log into the iCloud website, click the right button and instantly see where that phone is located, down to a range of just a few meters. While the feature itself was designed to help people recover their phone in the event that it was stolen, it’s easy to see how it could be used if parents wanted to keep tabs on what their kids were up to.

Other times, parents are downloading apps specifically designed for GPS monitoring — whether the kids themselves realize this or not. Even the parents of young toddlers are getting in on the action. They don’t have to wait until their child reaches “cellphone age” in order to start this type of digital monitoring. There are wearable devices built with small kids in mind that are already available on the market today. In addition to GPS tracking, many of them even include remote calling and SOS capabilities.

As one might expect, this particular issue has been a controversial one, to say the least.

On one side of the conversation, you have critics who say that this type of monitoring is essentially equal to spying on your kids — if they wanted you to know where they were going, they would tell you. This could cause significant damage to the parent-child relationship, particularly during the teenage years when the kids themselves place a higher priority on their own independence each day.

Supporters of this tech-driven approach to snooping, however, say that it goes a fair bit deeper than that. Most people agree that it’s not that they don’t trust their kids — it’s that they don’t trust anybody else.

What everyone can agree on is that this new era of parenting certainly requires something of a balancing act on behalf of parents. Yes, you want to give children enough breathing room to lead their own life, but in the event that something terrible happens, you also need to know about it as quickly as possible. One thing is for sure — it will be truly interesting to see how the traditional role of the parent continues to evolve as technology becomes a more ubiquitous part of our lives each day.

In the face of the impending onslaught of the internet of things, when billions of devices around us will all be connected to the internet and sharing data with one another, will this type of idea even be controversial five or ten years from now? Truly, only time will tell.