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.
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?