/ Parenting, Technology

Parents – not smartphone apps – should keep tabs on kids

A smartphone application claims to ‘keep children out of harm’s way’ with a location-based tool that will send you an alert when your kids enter, or leave, a specific area defined by you.

The eBLASTER app, available for Android and Blackberry smartphones, has a feature called ‘geofencing’. This allows parents to create electronic boundaries – or fences. When a child goes beyond one of these virtual fences, an alarm will be triggered on the parent’s phone.

SpectorSoft, the company behind the app, says the app will reassure parents that their children are ‘in the right place, at the right time’. Its senior director added:

‘Mobile devices have introduced new concerns for parents as they seek to shield their children from inappropriate contact and content, but they also enable new location-based services that can help protect them.’

Technology can’t replace parental responsibility

The company’s website contains testimonials from parents, including one who says:

‘All parents worry when their kids are out of their sight – are they behaving, doing the right thing, making the right choices?’

Thankfully, my own daughter isn’t old enough – yet – to be out on her own, but if she were I’d never assume that a mobile app could help her ‘make the right choices’. Ultimately that will be down to her, but I’d also like to think my husband and I have laid the groundwork by teaching her right from wrong.

Freedom to roam

Keeping tabs on kids 100% of the time simple isn’t healthy. Recently, over a Christmas lunch, some colleagues and I were discussing the freedoms we had in our youth. I grew up in the countryside and spent a lot of my spare time roaming the nearby lane and making camps in the woods, or cycling between friends’ houses.

My parents didn’t always know exactly where I was or what I was doing. It taught me how to play on my own, to look after myself and my friends. In short, it taught me independence.

There were boundaries, of course. My parents dictated how far from home I could go, needed to know whose house I was cycling to and set a time for when I should return home. With the odd teenage exception, I respected these boundaries as I respect my parents – an app is no substitute for that.

Mobile monitoring

While the geofencing part of the app is new, more established features let parents monitor the text messages their children send and receive, review their web history, protect them from adult material online and to be sent instant copies of the photos that their kids take on their mobile.

I’m a big supporter of parental control software, but not in isolation. These technological solutions should be accompanied by frank and open discussions between parent and child. If not it’s like throwing a handful of condoms at your son, or daughter, without first explaining to them the facts of life.

Have you used technology to monitor your child’s activity? Does the idea of a ‘geofencing’ appeal to you?

Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Isn’t this what we do with criminals or young people guilty of antisocial behaviour?

Perhaps the next app will be to remind parents of their children’s names and to arrange meetings at Christmas and birthdays. Sorry but I am from a generation when parents probably spent more time with their children. Mine certainly did.

Profile photo of dean
Member

“Can’t look after your children properly? There’s an app for that!” 🙂

Seriously though this also highlights the issue of tracking and privacy, as in, if you didn’t know by now you can be tracked to within about 100 metres by just having your phone on.

Profile photo of Hannah Jolliffe
Member

This is seriously scary! Sarah, you’ve so eloquently argued why this is nonsense that I don’t have too much to add. Essentially though, trust builds trust – and young people are no exception. Treat them with suspicion and they’re more likely to give you reason. I really hope that so few parents use this that very few similar apps appear on the market.

Profile photo of richard
Member

Sorry this is a load of old rubbish – No technology will “protect” children from harm – it may give the irresponsible parents misguided peace of mind. but no protection. it may also allow a child to phone for help but not actually protect. The trouble is too many parents are seriously irresponsible. They load that responsibility on to others and close their minds.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Any smart kid can out-smart a smart phone [they’ll leave it in the protected zone while they stray perhaps]. I’m not sure a child is capable of being independent enough to rely on a mobile phone until they’re about eleven and having a smart phone on them makes them prey to criminals. A responsible person [maybe an older sibling or trusted friend or relative if a parent is not avaialable] should be in close observation of them at all times up to then. Parents cannot keep abdicating their role to technology and remain immune from allegations of negligence.

Member
anon the mouse says:
20 December 2011

Like Hannah Said. Trust build trust.

I have 2 young children (7 and 2). Both of them know that there are things they can and cannot do. They sometimes play in a different room to me, but know what they are allowed to play with. Just like my parents taught me (Maybe they were onto something after all)

Member
Brandon says:
20 December 2011

Something like @Rendezvs would be better in this situation where the individual’s privacy is maintained. Primarily based around friend meet-ups, but could be beneficial in this respect. No people tracking with coordinates, just knowing they’re in a general area.

Member
sofie says:
20 January 2012

every single one complaining about this being ridiculous would be about to kill themselves once their child disappears. this is not about keeping tabs on them, this is about protecting them from what is out there, I agree with parents not spending enough time with their kids and maybe not even knowing them that well, I am a full time mom myself but I can tell, the dangers have changes, our parents did not have to look for signs of grooming or your children being forced into prostitution under your own eyes… I would love to put an implant, non activated until we would need it. And the McCanns and many, many other parents too.

Member
Paul says:
27 August 2012

I agree that it shouldn’t be used to “keep tabs” on m kids, but I think it would be useful if they were nabbed by some sicko! Very likely? Probably not, but I’d rather have something to use if I didn’t know where they are rather than just sitting there hoping they will come home on their own. Injured in the woods, nabbed by a sicko, lost with some friends biking in unfamiliar turf. I can think of lots of situations something you don’t want to happen might be made better with a device like this. It would be up to the parent not to use it for the wrong reason. Control freaks, you probably shouldn’t be using this device. Thanks for hearing me out.