When I was in Grade 10 - long before cell phones were a common teen accessory and home phones were our only means of telecommunication - I remember calling my mom to check in after school and telling her that I was at a girlfriend’s house.
But really, I was at a boy’s house.
I didn’t think she had any way of figuring out my real location, but she was smarter than I had thought. She called that same number back and told me to come right home. She had *69’d my call and discovered the number didn’t match that of my friend.
Technology has come a long way since my teen years. As parents, we do our best to keep on top of tracking the whereabouts of our kids, but they always seem to be one step ahead of us.
The other day, I decided to send a check-in text message to my 11-year-old daughter while she was shopping at the mall with friends. When she didn’t immediately respond, I panicked. Had she received my text? Was she safe? Was she just ignoring me?
When we met up at our meeting spot an hour later, she said she hadn’t seen my text because she had set her phone to silent. I shrugged it off, but thought there must be an easier way to check in.
“When I try and contact him, he rarely answers, either because he doesn’t hear the phone or because (and I’ve finally had to admit this to myself) he may be embarrassed to speak to his dad in front of his friends,” inventor Nick Herbert shared of the story behind the app - which has already been downloaded over 100,000 times (not yet available for iOs devices, but coming soon).
The app, aimed at eliciting an immediate response from kids who receive text messages from their parents (and vice versa), features an audible alert - even when the phone has been set to silent. Once seen, the sender receives a notification that the message has been read and can also see the location of the recipient. Best of all, it disables all other phone functionalities until the message sender has received a reply.
When I read about this app, my immediate reaction was: sign me up!
Other readers who commented on the article were opposed. “I don’t ever want to need to force my kids to reply to me. Doesn’t sound healthy to me,” commented one reader. “What a sad world. Authoritarianism is not the answer,” quipped another.
As a parent who is easing into a more independent stage with my tween, I think this app offers a great way to ensure that my messages are read and receive a prompt reply, and to know the whereabouts of my child. I think it would help to establish trust as we navigate new waters.
I may have resented my mom for figuring out how to *69 my calls when I was a teen, but I quickly learned that it was better to just be honest about my whereabouts and to check in regularly so that my parents didn’t worry. I hope that my children will learn to do the same, and if it starts with an app, that works for me.
Bianca Bujan is a mom of three, writer, editor, and marketing consultant. Find her Twitter and Instagram at @bitsofbee.