Two months ago, my teenage son passed his driver’s test with flying colours. Though the initial terror of watching him drive away has passed and our son is proving to be a competent driver, we are still working out the kinks.
Because students in his high school are allowed to leave campus if they have earned high academic standing, our son has the freedom to leave campus a few times a week. This means he can learn time management skills and gain independence before leaving high school (and hang out with his buddies at a local coffee shop).
It also means it leads to situations where he comes home unannounced and scares his mother half out of her mind. Long story short: he almost met the business end of my flat iron when he stealthily climbed the stairs and yelled, “Surprise! I’m home!” one random Tuesday morning.
Suffice it to say, my husband and I have talked about installing tracking apps on our phones so that we will always know he’s arrived safely to his destination. (And so he can’t scare me again.)
I have mixed feelings about tracking our son so closely. My parents most certainly didn’t know my every move in high school and college and I have some pretty epic memories with my friends because of it. I don’t want our son to feel like we don’t trust him, but at the same time, when he forgets to text us that he’s arrived at a friend’s house, the urge to go and find him is strong.
Thankfully, technology has made it so that you can track your teen driver as much or as little as you feel you need.
By and large, this app is the one my friends most recommended when I was asking around about tracking apps for new drivers. Not only does it have real-time tracking, Life360 can give you a location history for your kid’s whereabouts. They can use the app to get help in an emergency, as well, and you can also look at their driving history to help improve driving skills.
Find My Friends
This app allows your kid to share their location with you temporarily or permanently, and you can see real-time movement on the road. However, this app requires that both parties share their location for the app to work, and it’s a quick swipe of a button for your teen to turn location services off. But if you only want occasional tracking for certain situations, this is a good option.
GPS phone-tracking apps
Offspring Facebook group member Galen Zheng says his nuclear family shares their locations via Google Maps. “It’s always been more of a ‘just seeing if you’re on your way,’” he says. “I have a 14-year-old and a 10-year-old who both get themselves to school.”
There are a wide range of simple-to-use GPS apps to choose from that are free for both Android and iOs devices.
Teen Driving Log
While this isn’t a tracking app, per se, it’s a useful app for your teen to download when they’re accruing hours behind the wheel before taking their driving test. Because our state requires that teenage drivers get in a certain number of hours of practice before the exam, this app helped us keep track of hours, road conditions and types of driving in one place.
Don’t forget in-person communication
Parents should have an on-going dialogue with their teens from the beginning of their driving experience, says Brent Conly of Hickory Driving School in the United States.
“Talk to your teen about your expectations and the responsibilities that come with being behind the wheel,” Conly says. And while yes, tracking apps are helpful for locating your child in a pinch, he says the best thing you can do to keep them safe is make sure they get plenty of instruction and practice behind the wheel.
“I tell parents not to be afraid to drive with their teens regularly when they have their learner’s permit,” he says. “It’s a slow progression from learning to back a car out of a parking space to learning how to merge onto a highway.”
Conly also encourages parents to talk to their child’s driving instructors to understand where their deficits are when it comes to driving skills.
“Working on those skills before they hit the road alone,” he says, “will go a long way in helping both of you feel confident when your teen is driving solo.”
After successful trials in selected suburbs, New South Wales is looking to launch the digital driver licence statewide by the end of this year, which means you won't need to carry around a physical licence any longer. The option is already available in South Australia and other states and territories are set to follow. Here's how it all works.