New technology allows parents to remotely switch off their children’s phones, read their texts and see what websites they’re visiting in the name of safety. But should they be allowed to?
‘Controlling children’s content’ – it’s an ominous heading; one that conjures up images of censorship and totalitarianism. But for many parents, knowing what sort of mobile content their children are accessing provides much-needed peace of mind in the Smartphone age.
A new initiative in the UK promises just that. Called Bemilo, it bills itself as the UK’s ‘safest mobile network’ and is designed specifically for children. The company surveyed 2000 parents, who revealed that 40 per cent of their children aged eight to 16 who have a mobile phone are sleep-deprived due to using their phone late at night, while 25 per cent have been subjected to mobile phone bullying.
Bemilo (which runs on the Vodafone network in the UK) believes it has the answer with its ‘safety pack’. Costing Ł2.95 (about $4.70) a month, the pack features a SIM card that, once installed in the child’s phone, can be remotely managed from a computer to prevent the child going online, making calls or texting during certain times.
Safe or sinister?
Bemilo founder Simon Goff told the BBC: ‘It enables parents to have full control in the context of safety. They can allow or disallow certain contacts to call them and they can set the times of day the phone can operate.’
Mr Goff also said that parents would be able to read their children’s text, which, may seem like an invasion of privacy to some, but given that a report commissioned by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in the UK found that ‘teenage girls were coming under increasing pressure to text and email sexually explicit pictures of themselves’, it’s a step many parents around the world would be willing to take.
The Bemilo safety pack has drawn the support of groups in the UK, with Dr Katherine Rake, CEO of the Family and Parenting Institute, saying: ‘Today’s generation of children are facing new pressures, such as mobile phone bullying, and parents want help in protecting them.’
- What do you think? Are you a parent? Would you use Bemilo or something like it in the interests of protecting your children, or do you believe it represents an invasion of their privacy?
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