Digital location tracking: A preliminary investigation of parents’ use of digital technology to monitor their adolescent’s location

The emergence of digital technologies has changed the dynamic of parent-adolescent relationships. Parents can now use digital technologies to monitor their adolescent’s physical location. Yet, to date, no known research has examined the extent to which digital location tracking occurs in parent-adolescent dyads, and how tracking links to adolescent adjustment. The current research examined digital location tracking in a large sample of adolescents (N = 729; Mage = 15.03). Overall, about half of parents and adolescents reported digital location tracking. Girls and younger adolescents were more likely to be tracked, and tracking was associated with greater externalizing problems and alcohol consumption; however, these associations were not robust across multiple informants and sensitivity analyses. Positive linkages with externalizing problems and cannabis use were in part contingent on age and positive parenting, with associations emerging for older adolescents and adolescents who report lower positive parenting. Older adolescents are increasingly striving for independence and autonomy, and adolescents who perceive lower positive parenting may view digital tracking as controlling and intrusive. However, results were not robust after statistical correction. This brief report is intended to serve as a preliminary investigation into digital location tracking, and future research is needed to determine the directionality of associations. Possible consequences of parental digital tracking require careful consideration by researchers in order to provide guidance on the best practices for engaging in digital monitoring while nurturing and respecting the parent-adolescent relationship. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).

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