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Tracking your family: the relationship between the use of family surveillance apps and parental anxiety

Tracking your family: the relationship between the use of family surveillance apps and parental anxiety

Murekian, Octavio (2024) Tracking your family: the relationship between the use of family surveillance apps and parental anxiety. In: 2024 Academy of Marketing conference: Fusing resilience and power for public value – igniting marketing’s social spirit, 1st - 4th Jul, 2024, Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University. (In Press)

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The portrayal of children as inherently vulnerable and consistently exposed to risks has been a recurring theme within contemporary consumer culture (Hays, 1996, Molander, 2021). Consequently, the proliferation of location tracking apps designed for families over the past decade seems unsurprising. In the United Kingdom, 40% of parents and guardians engage with GPS location tracking on a daily basis, with 15% continuously monitoring the app (Lewis, 2022). Notably, Life 360, a family safety app, boasts 50 million users worldwide, including 3 million in the UK (Shah, 2023). The app purports to offer parents peace of mind by addressing concerns about heightened external dangers faced by their children by tracking the their location (Jones, 2021).

Contrary to company claims, insights from non-academic sources indicate a potential association between the utilization of these applications and an elevated state of anxiety (Zucker, 2023). The need for incessant and compulsive monitoring of family and acquaintances facilitated by these applications, coupled with the apprehension surrounding the potential interruption or malfunction of the technology, even if temporary, may evoke heightened anxiety among users (Ashworth, 2019).

Academic research has established a connection between smartphone use and anxiety, particularly in the aspects of excessive checking and reassurance seeking (Oulasvirta et al., 2012; Billieux et al., 2015), thereby linking anxiety, stress, and problematic smartphone use (Elhai et al., 2017). Moreover, research underscores the relationship between reassurance-seeking behaviour and daily stress (Meyer et al., 2023). In the domain of security consumption, negative emotions associated with security-related purchases, often labelled as "grudge spending", and argued to be consumed devoid of pleasure, have been extensively documented in the literature (Loader et al., 2015, Loader & White, 2017; Puck & White, 2021). Nonetheless, Crawford and Hutchinson (2016) argue that the affective dimension of security consumption, specifically feelings of fear, anger, and anxiety, remains underexplored.

Research has accentuated the connection between employing surveillance within the family context and increased stress, suggesting that the ritualized monitoring of family members creates a negative feedback loop leading to heightened anxiety when not engaging in such monitoring (Murekian, 2022). This feedback loop aligns with research on smartphone consumption, indicating that using devices to alleviate stress can paradoxically induce further negative emotions, such as anxiety (Taylor et al., 2023). However, research analysing the relationship between the use of family surveillance apps and anxiety has not materialized to date.

Against the backdrop of existing research on both smartphone and security consumption, the marketing of family surveillance apps as a means to achieve calm and peace of mind appears inadequately supported. To address this conspicuous gap, the proposed study endeavours to conduct semi-structured interviews with parents, aiming to analyse the intricate relationship between the use of family surveillance applications and the of feelings of anxiety on the consumers. This research strives to significantly contribute to an undertheorized realm of consumption, furnishing valuable insights into the potential emotional implications of placing reliance on such technologies for ensuring family safety.

Item Type: Conference or Conference Paper (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: consumer behaviour; security consumption; mobile applications
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Business
Last Modified: 12 Apr 2024 11:13

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