Monitoring kids’ cellphones

By Anne Collier

Parental control apps for cellphones – either downloadable ones or the controls provided by the carriers themselves – aren’t new, but their numbers are growing. The toughest nut to crack in this category, according to the Wall Street Journal, has been monitoring kids’ texts and calls, but that’s changing too. “Due to privacy concerns … carriers can’t monitor the content of text messages and emails going into a phone. So a number of start-ups and smaller technology companies are stepping into the void.” Two of them, both of which charge $9.99/month, are Parents Are Listening Services’s app Kid Phone Advocate, which sends parents alerts “when messages containing keywords such as ‘suicide’ or ‘drugs’ are sent to their child’s phone,” and WebSafety Inc., which offers CellSafety, “a similar monitoring program that … draws from a unique library of 6,000 phrases deemed inappropriate, including slang and online abbreviations.” The Journal adds that the latter monitors “text messages, emails, instant messages and updates to social-networking sites such as Facebook.” Please see the article for other features and a third product that’s more a Facebook app with cellphone features. Two drawbacks of CellSafety and Kid Phone Advocate: 1) they run in the background, so – unlike smart computer-based monitoring products that run openly, AOL’s Safe Social and Norton Online Family – they don’t promote parent-child discussion, and 2) they “require a data plan” and so won’t run on basic phones with just voice and text which a lot of kids use.

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