For teens mobile locationing may be synonymous with “tracking,” but for adults it’s a whole different story

wood staircaseIt’s been a few years, but I still know how to get down the backstairs and out the door without any one in the house knowing. Not impressed? Try having an alarm system of three dogs assuming since I’m up, I want to play and welcoming the idea with heavy, bouncing toys and loud barks. It was tougher than escaping Alcatraz.

It appears that teen girls are still in the same line of thinking as I was. A strong 59% of teen girls surveyed by Pew Research this year said they have turned off location-tracking features on their mobile device. Why? With over half of parents of teen cell phone owners admitting to using their child’s cell phone as a way to monitor their location, there may be a correlation.

The same Pew study reports fewer teen boys (38%) turn off the location-tracking feature which I guess means they’re behaving more often, right? I seem to remember as a teen the boys my age getting caught more often when they snuck out. Some things never change.

While many teens are turning off locationing, a sizable majority of adults are now using it to get around. In fact, 74% reported using their smartphone for directions and getting more information about their current location. More interestingly, a growing number of adults and teen users alike are now automatically tagging their location in social media posts. 30% of Pew’s respondents said they included location in their social media updates; a significant uptick from a mere 11% two years ago.

Back in the day, I used to skip the squeaky step, but I’m not 16 anymore and mom and dad tracking me isn’t an issue. I, like most other adults, find that I’m using my smartphone’s location tools all the time. Whether I’m finding the fast way from point A to point B with Waze, or adding place details to what I share with my social circles, location-based services apps have changed how I – and everyone else — interact with the world. As an adult, location isn’t about simply tracking, but a way of improving our knowledge of where we are, and enriching our status updates (often with a little boasting) or asking friends to join in an activity.

Years ago, the back stairs sent my location data to the only people I didn’t want to have it. Had the stairs told me it was raining outside and I should turn back now to grab a jacket, I could have saved a few trips back and forth. Luckily, this location-based knowledge is transferring to the real world. We all would be appreciative to skip the hassle of forgetting the dry cleaning if we could be pushed a friendly reminder to pick it up while we’re a mile away from the shop. And, we are busier than ever with packed schedules – we would welcome the chance to see more of our friends when we are in the area by alerting them we’re here.

That squeaky step taught me to tread carefully with who knew where I was; dogs were okay, people were not. Location is playing an increasingly big part in everyone’s life today – whether we want it on and broadcasting to the world, or if we want to go off the grid for a while. Although the stair was only a tattle-tale, I’m looking forward to the day my device reminds me to pick up some coloring books because my nieces are coming over. While location information caused me a headache before, it can save me from many in years to come.