In the U.S., parents are frequently accused of being “helicopter” parents, paying obsessively close attention to their child’s experiences and problems, especially when it comes to academia. With kids getting access to new communication tech such as iPads and mobile phones, the notion of hovering has kicked up a notch as parents try to protect their kids by virtually “bubble wrapping” (Cadzow, 2004) them with surveillance (i.e., spying software). At Cyberwise, we do not believe in “spying” with child safety monitoring software. However, we do believe that if the use of an appropriate monitoring tool is fully transparent and openly acknowledged, it can be a very useful and important tool.
That’s why we recommend the newly launched mobile tool, PocketGuardian, an iOS and Android mobile phone app that sends notifications to a parent or guardian whenever suspicious behaviors such as sexting or cyberbullying have been sent/received from a child’s phone. PocketGuardian encourages open family discussions and is designed help parents guard their kids from falling prey to the perilous pitfalls that inexperienced, unsuspecting children can face. Instead of “spying” on a child, PocketGuardian promotes communication, trust, and digital citizenship for parents and children. Each alert notification contains resources parents can use to start a conversation with their child. PocketGuardian alerts parents when inappropriate behavior occurs on their child's smartphone without invading their child's privacy. By not sending the inappropriate content to the parent, PocketGuardian saves the child from embarrassment, maintains the parent-child trust, and allows a line of communication to be opened.
PocketGuardian, developed by two Maryland dads, relieves the need to entirely "bubble wrap" kids from the perils of today’s digital world. Instead, it provides a way to help parents openly share their desire to preserve their child’s safety, which encourages the child to feel more comfortable about sharing their own information with them. For only $3.99 a month (including a free 7 day trial period), PocketGuardian will monitor SMS, MMS, iMessage, Kik and WhatsApp applications and alert parents to inappropriate content on their child’s mobile devices, such as cyberbullying and sexting. Support for additional applications and frameworks are coming in the near future. If you would like further information on PocketGuardian, please visit www.gopocketguardian.com.
Cadzow, J. (2004, January 17) The bubble-wrap generation, Good Weekend The Age, 18–22.