I thought I did too, although I was pretty sure that my younger teenage daughter was obfuscating just a bit recently when laying out her weekend itinerary for my approval. I continued to require check-in times, other parents’ names and phone numbers, and inquired about peer pressures surrounding drugs, sex and alcohol. I wasn’t convinced. I reminded her about the consequences for lying to me or deceiving me relating to any behaviors that could prove dangerous to her well being, or the well being of others. She assured me with a straight face and pure innocent conviction that she was my sweet little monkey and would never stray from my wishes nor venture to betray my trust. I wasn’t buying it, but I didn’t want to hurt her feelings by expressing such distrust.
I liked to say that I offer my children a long leash with a tight collar, however it was beginning to feel as if my daughters, especially my young one, had the ability to slip from the collar at whim, and yet have me believe that she was faithfully wearing it, more as a favor to me, to make me feel more secure. It worked…for a while.
One evening, not so long ago, my sweet monkey was talking with me, via her cell phone, explaining what her plans were for that Friday evening. By my standards these plans were quite convoluted and something just didn’t feel right. I was working a late shift and was unable to make the efforts to make the necessary parental corroboration, but something prompted me to check in on her at one point, rather late in the evening. I called her cell phone but she didn’t answer. I did this three or four times with the same results. I was reminded by my frustration that the purpose of my purchasing and maintaining my children’s cell phones was to ensure easy communication between them, and me; if I could only remind her of this little forgotten factoid right at this moment.
I finally got fed up and worried enough to call the mother of my daughter’s good friend who was supposed to be with her. She was less than reassuring that our daughters were sticking to a plan and all was ok. I then asked if she might attempt to call her daughter, which she did, but was also surprised when her daughter didn’t answer. This is where I turned to modern technology.
I had previously signed up for a service offered by Sprint called Sprint Family Locator. This feature, once added to my cellular phone service, allows me to locate the cell phones on my phone plan by going onto a website and simply clicking on my daughter’s name. The phone, so long as it is turned on and within the Sprint cell coverage area, is triangulated through the cell towers, picking up on the small identification signals transmitted from every cell phone, called pings. This is not always a very accurate locator, often measured in +/- many yards, compared to the accuracy of GPS technology, which can be often measured in feet, but if the cell signal is strong, then it can be quite precise. On this particular night it was spot on, and what it told me, after conducting a couple of false negative tests, was that my daughter was not where she was supposed to be. In fact, she was nowhere even close. So, as I was preparing to leave work early and track down my sweet angel at her clandestine location, I made one final attempt to call her. Low and behold, she answered, and let’s just say that she wasn’t doing too good. She confessed to attending an impromptu party, drank alcohol, got sick (hee, hee), and vowed never to do this sort of thing again. I had her friend’s mother pick her up immediately and bring her home, and this was the beginning of an entirely new relationship between my daughter and me. The trust slate was cleared and so we started anew.
It is experiences such as these that are the birthright of all teenagers, and yet as parents, we must do all that we can to disrupt these dangerous activities and behaviors, at least as much as safety demands, and it is doubly important for us to remember that our experiences as teenagers are not the same as theirs: Times are different, drugs are stronger, predators are more brazen, sexual behavior has become more audacious, technology has vastly widened the otherwise comfortable geographic parameters, and parents have become more lenient and trusting. So it is with this that I, as a father, a former member of law enforcement, and now as a Private Investigator, urge parents to do whatever it takes to be more watchful over our children. If it means using technology to track, and to keep track of our kids; then so be it. It shouldn’t matter that they won’t like it, they’ll thank you later.