Coping with Gen Z Anxiety : In today’s world, anxiety among young people has become increasingly prevalent, leading to a surge in the utilization of location tracking applications. What’s remarkable is that, rather than parents advocating for it, it’s the youth themselves who are seeking this form of added security and control.
Generation Z, confronted by a multitude of stressors including global conflicts, the enduring pandemic, and the relentless influence of social media, is turning to family location-sharing apps to regain a sense of agency and assurance.
Recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals that nearly 40% of young Australians, aged 16 to 24, equating to over a million individuals, have grappled with various mental health disorders in the past year. Anxiety disorders are notably prevalent, afflicting two in five young women and one in four young men.
One such app, Life360, has witnessed a notable upswing in its user base, boasting 33 million monthly active users in the United States and an additional 20 million internationally. However, it’s not the solitary player in the realm of location sharing. Other tools such as Apple’s Find My, Google’s Family Link, Snapchat’s Snap Map, and GPS-equipped smartwatches are also widely adopted.
For adolescents and young adults, these tracking apps offer a semblance of control in a world they perceive as increasingly tumultuous.
The genesis of this trend can be traced back to a tragic event in July 2020 when a 10-year-old girl was abducted and met a tragic fate. This incident left an indelible mark, particularly on young individuals like Emery Littig, who hailed from the same hometown. In response, she made the request for her parents to employ Life360, a sentiment shared by 1,500 of her schoolmates who participated in a recent survey.
Emery recounted an incident when the app promptly alerted her parents to a car accident she had been involved in (thankfully, with no injuries). On another occasion, when she felt uneasy at a social gathering, her parents were able to locate her swiftly, obviating the need for an address and arriving within just 20 minutes.
The U.S. Surgeon General has sounded the alarm regarding youth mental health, advocating for annual anxiety screenings for children as young as eight.
Shelby Littig, Emery’s mother, observed, “Kids today are inundated with news from various platforms, be it local or global, constantly bombarding their phones, tablets, and televisions. This constant exposure can undoubtedly exacerbate anxiety.”
Michele Borba, an educational psychologist and spokesperson for Life360, posits that certain contemporary parenting practices, such as helicopter parenting, snowplowing, and excessive shielding, may inadvertently contribute to their children’s anxiety.
While it is vital to acknowledge that location tracking cannot eliminate all potential risks, it serves as a lifeline for young individuals dealing with heightened anxiety.
Pamela Rutledge, the director of the Media Psychology Research Center, an esteemed independent research institution, elucidates, “It provides the psychological comfort of feeling connected. When one feels secure, they are better positioned to relax and enjoy life to the fullest.”
Another Life360 user, Larken Hendricks, a 17-year-old high-school senior, adopted the app when she commenced driving along the winding roads near her residence. However, she also relies on it when socializing in her college town at the University of Virginia. Being a young woman in such an environment brings its unique set of concerns, making location tracking an invaluable tool for peace of mind.