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Happy Halloween, Track or Treat!

trickHalloween is so much fun when your kids are little. You get to escort them around the neighborhood, stand in the background as they ring your neighbor’s doorbells, and smile as they shout a hearty “trick or treat.” Unfortunately, when kids hit a certain age the last thing they want is for mom or dad to come along for the fun. This can be unnerving for many parents, but now there’s a smartphone app, Track or Treat, that allows parents to have a real-time view of where their children are and alerts them when their kids venture outside of designated safe areas. While the app sounds good in theory, I wonder if it’s a good thing for parents to use. After all, isn’t it important for kids to do some things without us looking over their shoulder every minute?

I remember when I was nearing my teenage years I was dead set against my parents walking around with me on Halloween as they did when I was younger. I wanted the rite of passage of experiencing the night with only my friends and peers. Since my parents knew we lived in a safe neighborhood, and since they trusted my friends, they were okay with this. It was a rush for me to be out at night without my parents, and in retrospect I view it as a healthy thing. I specifically remember thinking that I needed to be vigilant in watching for cars when crossing the street because it was up to me to keep myself safe. That was a good lesson for me to learn, and I’m not so sure it’s as easily learned when parents forever leave on the training wheels.

On the other hand, I realize there are a lot of dangers for kids these days, especially at night, and today’s kid may need more overseeing than I did. Also, kids can’t always be trusted to do what we tell them. Every kid has that moment when they do something they shouldn’t, and Halloween is a terrible time for it. I can see how a lot of parents will feel that keeping tabs on their kids with an app as unobtrusive as this one is a good thing.

This is obviously a personal decision every parent must make, but I would use this the app with my kids, especially when they’re only twelve or thirteen and not yet used to being on their own. My priority is to keep my kids safe on Halloween, and this app sounds better than what my husband’s mom used to do, which was to tell him he could go out alone with his friends then troll after them in her car trying (in vain) not to be seen!

It is a slippery slope. I don’t think parents should constantly oversee every single aspect of their kids’ lives. In this modern, digital age we have a lot more ways to monitor our children (in addition to apps like this parents can buy software that lets them keep tabs on their kids’ online lives). At some point kids need to learn how to be adults on their own, and know how to survive without knowing that mom and dad are lurking somewhere in the background ready to save the day if necessary.  That is an important lesson, but one that can wait until after Halloween.


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