Mobile

Technologies that can help you parent your smartphone-toting teen

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This story was written by Paul Grossinger, a New York City entrepreneur and co-founder of Pervasive Group Inc., a mobile software company. 

‘How do I stop people from bullying my daughter on her phone?’

That’s a question that comes through our company’s support line on a nearly daily basis. The parent is deadly serious, and the tone of the email is starkly clear: I don’t know how to protect my child from this problem and I need a solution.

Welcome to the new, mobile age – and parenting teens in it.

Parents are charting a new path: parenting kids with advanced smart devices that teens often understand better than their guardian adults. But there are software and mobile application solutions available that help parents control and monitor their child’s phone: either from a web browser or directly from their own cell phone.

Here is a guide to some of the specific issues parents face with smartphone-toting kids, including mobile browsing safety, text messaging, locating, remote locking, and setting time limits, and the best technology solutions available to address each problem.

Many parents want to set up controls on the mobile web browser of their child’s device. This concern is warranted: millions of teens have been inappropriately solicited by adults online over the past several years. Several technology providers have put solutions out on the market.

Kid’s Place, a free Android application developed by Kiddoware, enables parents to set up a ‘safe zone’ that only contains child-friendly apps and blocks in-appropriate web pages. In addition, Kaspersky Parental Control, a free application by Kaspersky Labs for Android and iOS, lets parents create a ‘safe browser’ experience on their kids’ devices where all inappropriate material is blocked.

Parents also have reason to be concerned about the contents of their children’s text messages. My company’s MMGuardian software for Android lets parents select words or phrases that concern them and, if those words appear in their children’s incoming or outgoing text messages, MMGuardian forwards those messages directly to the parent’s phone. For example, if a parent selected “sex” as a word of concern, all messages their child sent or received that included the word “sex” would be sent in their entirely to the parent, along with the phone number of the sender or recipient phone.

Parental control needs often go beyond monitoring, however, they extend to direct remote control over the phone. Many parents want to be able to lock, locate, and track their child’s phone remotely and to set time limits on the phone’s use.

Code9 Family Mobile, developed by Code9 and available for Android, provides instant location capability, as does Kytephone Parental Control. And Phoneguard, Izup, and MMGuardian combine instant location and mapping with remote-controlled text and drive prevention. Some of these apps use GPS to determine when the child is in a moving vehicle and, if the vehicle is operating at above 10 miles per hour, shuts down its texting capability – except for an emergency mechanism to call or text the parent. And, excuse the extra attention to my own app, but MMGuardian uses a mixture of GPS tracking and cell towers to reduce battery drainage, so that parents can turn on text and drive prevention in the morning (before school) and it will not burn out their child’s phone battery during the day.

Every parent faces unique challenges in parenting smartphone-owning teens, and different technologies will be required to address their particular concerns. Those highlighted here serve the most common concerns of digital parents.

As more technology comes out to address parents’ growing concerns, stay tuned.

[Top image credit: Shutterstock/Sylvie Bouchard]