It is a request I get often. “Is there an app that I can install on my kids phone to track what they do?”
That concerned parent or guardian who has heard the horrors of the Blue Whale Game or had the spectre of Fortnite or snapchat waved in front of them on the news or that terrifying thought that some 40-something creep is pretending to be a 12 year old kid talking to their child right now.
Sure there are apps that allow you to track all usage, location data, calls and the rest but as with everything it comes at a price. These apps could actually be putting your kids at a greater risk than what you are trying to protect them from.
Apple recently has made the news that they are blocking some apps aimed at parents wanting to manage their kids screen times in favour of their own screen time management tools.
Of course the developers of competing apps and services are crying foul but Apple actually has got it right this time.
What many consumers are not aware of is a technology called MDM (Mobile Device Management) used by employers to allow workers to bring their own device to work and connect to the network without putting company systems and information at risk.
Using MDM, businesses effectively have total control over the employees device including a “kill switch” to erase a mobile device should it be lost, stolen or the employee is no longer employed.
This MDM technology is actually being repackaged by these screen time app developers as a parental control tool which is all well and good…
…as long as you can trust the developers to behave responsibly with complete control over your child’s mobile device.
They have access to it all, call records, app usage, messages, accounts, settings, geolocation and the ability to remotely manage the mobile device at will. All of a sudden the bad things we were trying to protect our kids from don’t seem as close as the faceless developers we welcomed into our kids lives.
Even if the developers were absolute saints and were honestly good guys, people make mistakes and sometimes people lose control of their systems to really malicious hackers that would gladly turn over control of your child’s device to the black market for a few quick dollars.
If you want a quick example of things going you only have to think back to a recent report of baby monitors being hacked or misconfigured giving complete strangers the ability to peer into your child’s room while they slept.
So yes, there is an app for that but nothing beats good old fashioned talking to your kids and coaching them in how to responsibly use the internet. Letting them know that you are there for them to talk to you about things that concern them or you being willing to let them teach you about that new thing they found gives a much better return on investment than any cheap (of free) app can hope to deliver.