Whether you're a parent of an existing iPhone owner, or you've recently decided to give in to your kid's incessant pleading for the new iPhone 4, you may find yourself wondering if you can leverage your son or daughter's shiny gift to keep tabs on him/her. The answer is that, yes, with a bit of setup on your end and a subscription to Apple's MobileMe service, you can indeed track your teenager's iPhone.
Now, before we go on, let's go over what we know about kids and parents. Kids, especially teenagers, are astoundingly moronic, impulse driven idiots that are typically completely ignorant of their own mortality who spend their time traveling in packs looking for opportunities to trump each other's stupidity. Parent's, especially American ones, are overwhelmingly paranoid, obsessive, overbearing blowhards that misidentify harmless coming of age behavior and experiences as threats to their child's well being while ignoring real threats to their mental and physical health such as television and run-amok consumerism.
The message being conveyed by that last paragraph? Kids, don't do anything to fan the flames of your parent's already smoldering desire to play big brother in your life. Parents, use the below knowledge wisely: check on your kids when you're worried they're in real danger, don't destroy their privacy and their trust in you.
Now, on with the how to.
Thankfully, the iPhone isn't setup by default to track your kids like an animal tagged for research. You're not going to be able to follow a blue dot as it pulses around the map or set latitude/longitude boundaires that, should your child escape them, sounds alarms and dispatches an elite retrieval team. That said, with a little effort, you can -- in times of emergency -- leverage the GPS chip in your child's iPhone to determine the location of the phone, and presumably the location of your child. Here's how:
1) You must be signed up for Apple's MobileMe service. Yes, this is a drag, but it's the reality of the situation. It's not that MobileMe doesn't offer some perks, but it's unfortunate that you have to pay for an entire service when you might only need one feature. In any event, if you're not already signed up for MobileMe, go ahead and do so.
2) Before handing over your son or daughter's shiny new iPhone, you'll need to enable Restrictions on the iPhone and set a passcode. Tap the 'Settings' application from the iPhone's homescreen and navigate to 'Restrictions' towards the bottom of the screen. The iPhone will prompt you to set a 4-digit restrictions passcode. You'll need to enter it twice. Once this password is set, anyone attempting to access the 'Restrictions' menu will need to know the password. This will prevent your child from modifying the setting we'll be fiddling with in the next step.
3) Once inside the Restrictions settings, you'll need to toggle the 'Location Services' setting to OFF. While this might seem counterintuitive, what you're doing by switching the setting to OFF is dis-allowing the ability for Location Services to be turned off elsewhere on the phone: essentially negating the ability of your child to hide the phone's location from Apple's MobileMe service.
4) When the time comes that you need to find out where your child and his/her iPhone is, you'll login to MobileMe and use the 'Find My iPhone' feature. MobileMe will retrieve information from the iPhone and provide you with an approximate location of the phone on a map.
Now, bear in mind, your teenager can -- at any time -- simply turn the phone off. Again, as previously hinted, this whole little guide is based on the premise that you and your child have a relatively healthy relationship, and that you're not treating each other like prisoner and warden. If that's not the case, you might need to pursue more elaborate measures, or just relax, a lot.