Parent Crap, Reviewed: Life360, A Suite of Applications Designed to Prey on Your Irrational Fears

November 3rd, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  5 Comments

Picture 34Of all the evil, unnecessary products marketed toward anxious parents, Life360 may be one of the most disgusting—a sign that our society deserves whatever fiery, zombie-ridden fate awaits it. At first glance, though, Life360 seems almost innocuous, maybe even useful. It’s primarily a GPS-based system for monitoring the whereabouts of your spouse and children via smartphone (Android or iPhone), with the added bonus of tracking registered sex offenders with Google Maps. In the dangerous world of 2010, this seems like a pretty smart use of technology, right?

A few news reports and blog reviews would have you think so. Says Twice the Love:

I really cannot say enough good things about this company, or these products. The customer service is phenomenal, the products are stellar and the feeling of having piece of mind is priceless. [My husband] Scott even recommends this, especially if you are going to a crowded area, like Disney. Being in security he deals with children separated from families all of the time and products like Life360 greatly decrease the amount of time a child is separated from their parent.

Look, I understand the concept of panic. Your child goes missing from your sight, and your mind instantly imagines the worst: a kidnapping, a head-on charge into oncoming traffic, a lightning-strike raid on a box of lollipops. But how often do these nightmares happen? And what effect does an extra few minutes of delay have on the families involved?

I’d argue: Not often, and not much. I say this, of course, as one who, as a child of almost-8, got lost at an amusement park in Copenhagen. As far as I can remember, it was scary and disconcerting: blond-haired and blue-eyed, I looked just like everyone else, except that I couldn’t speak the language and didn’t know where to go. Also as far as I can remember, a mom noticed I was lost and brought me to a security office, where my father eventually fetched me. Was there lasting trauma? For me, only in the sense that now, almost 30 years later, I’m hell-bent on trying to remember how that felt. And for my dad? Not that I can tell.

The point is, kids get lost and, most of the time, kids get found. The dangers we fear the most—whether because we’ve seen irresponsible news reports or read blog posts telling us iPhones can save our children—are not the things we should be afraid of. I’ve said it before: We need to chill out, and deploying an iPhone app that literally has a panic button (“You’re about to panic,” it says, and there’s a check box for “Don’t show this again,” in case you really don’t want to know you’re acting irrationally) is not the way to do that.

But look, I get it, you worry—about street crime and sex offenders and the general nastiness of the world. You want to know where your child is walking, and who they might encounter. Well, there’s one good way to deal with this: Try walking your kid to and from school one day. Look at the neighborhood and try to figure out if it’s good or bad. Consider alternate routes if they make sense. Talk to your kid about what might be potential dangers and what probably aren’t. In other words, teach your children how to understand their surroundings and make decisions for themselves, rather than relying on advanced technology (remind me again: does GPS work indoors?) and their parents to save them from any bad situations.

And if you’re still concerned about your kid falling prey to sexual monsters, remember that the overwhelming majority of victims are abused by someone they know, often a family member. I’ve seen numbers as high as 90%.

Actually, this kind of makes Life360 make sense. Don’t quite trust that skeezy brother-in-law of yours? Sign him onto the plan ($14.91 a month!), and if he goes anywhere near your kid, hit the panic button.

[Disclosure: A marketer for Life360 suggested I review the product, but I didn’t accept any comped support. He’s probably regretting his e-mail now, too.]


  1. karen says:

    November 3rd, 2010at 7:44 pm(#)

    My youngest wandered away from where we and another family were in the Vancouver Aquarium one day. He’s three. We have a plan, for such events. When a child realises they are without parent or other adult (ie. lost) they are to ask the closest mother with a stroller (preferably with a baby in it, right?) for assistance. Hopefully that parent is overwhelmed enough in day-to-day life to not want to add to their family and functional enough to be able to get my kid to the lost and found.

    My son did not. He had traveled up some stairs and outside and, watched the baby beluga for a bit and then realised he was lost. He started to cry, and was taken by some kind soul to the lost and found anyway. It was the first place I went after “securing the scene” below ground — making certain that all other kids were accounted for and dispatching the search team consisting of my husband and my friend’s husband.

    Sure enough, I found my son was exactly as expected: At the front counter, being comforted with stickers and hand stamps.

    When I was a kid, my neighbourhood was terrorised by one of Canada’s worst serial kid killers, a monster who shall remain nameless for he deserves no recognition. A classmate of mine was one of his victims.

    You would think this would give me the lasting impression of insecurity. Instead, it has the opposite effect. I know those more random incidents are rare; as well the kids who are victimised are, more often than not, neglected youth at risk.

    Fearmongering starts with the horrid TV programs we all stare mindlessly at: CSIs, SVUs, NCISs, and (the worst!) that one that is always chasing the psychotic serial killers. Even our hospital dramas often freak the shit out of us about the safety of our kids.

    These products, and the people who promote them, may really believe this is an unsafe world. I, on the other hand, am terrified of the boogiemen running our governments, multinational corporations, economies. Be afraid, be very afraid.

    (I’d be sorry this comment is longer then your actual post, but it was this or nothing, and I’ve been neglecting you for a while so this it is.)

  2. Didactic Pirate says:

    November 3rd, 2010at 8:01 pm(#)

    Holy Big Brother, Batman. Creepy.
    Now if they can create an app that locates my kid and delivers a small(ish) electric shock to her whenever I want (just for fun), then I’m on board.

  3. Jeffery L says:

    November 4th, 2010at 11:11 am(#)

    I was prepared to get a pricey $600 Garmin GPS tracking system for my hunting dog. The old-school dog trainer we work with told me it was a “crutch.”

    “I’ve had dogs run off and get injured in traps, but a GPS probably would not have saved them. A GPS is for people who don’t desire to put the time in to work with their dog, to be vigilant. Teach your dog to respond to your commands, to respect you, to stay in a comfortable range. Do you want to learn to observe and enjoy your dog, to approach things as team, or just be watching another screen?”

    I figure my daughter deserves the same attention.

  4. Tom Horn says:

    December 21st, 2010at 7:08 pm(#)

    Ok. Fully disclosure. I am a developer on a product that competes directly with life360. Tingo Family, a mobile app and website that let’s you track the location of family members.

    I think you make a good point about life360 locating sex offenders (obviously I would), and I have even blogged about that:

    I feel like we have a different approach with Tingo Family. Rather than tracking the location of toddlers and a handful of registered sex offenders, we envisage our service being used by parents of teenagers to give their kids more freedom:

    “You can go to the party, but you have to check in at ten”

    The app is constantly tracking their location, so their parents can relax a little with the knowledge they can check where their kids are any time.

    I would love to hear what you think.

    You can see a video of our app in action here:


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