Of 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?
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.]