Digital Parenting: Apps to Monitor Your Child’s Safety

News

For families who worry about their children’s safety on the internet, the newest generation of monitoring services may be a parent’s best friend. 

Apps are now so sophisticated they can screen for red flags without actually violating the child’s privacy. 

When Ami Kantawala’s son started middle school, she knew it was time to pay closer attention to his on-line activities. 

Reporter:  “How worrisome is it as a parent?”
“It’s scary. It’s scary they have so much access,” Ami says.

She downloaded a monitoring app called Bark to analyze his email and social media. It alerts her about issues including bullying, depression, and drugs. 

Titania Jordan is Bark’s chief parent officer. She says the internet needs precautions, just like the real world.
“You don’t send your child to the beach without sunscreen, you don’t put them in a car without a seatbelt.”

For $9 a month, Bark uses artificial intelligence to screen messages for signs of danger. If it finds a problem it alerts the parent and gives advice on how to discuss it with the child. The program is also available in schools. And Jordan says it recently flagged a parent about a possible shooting. 

“That parent called the school, the school shut down so they could investigate and keep everyone safe.”

Libe Ackerman is editor in chief of the web site Super Parent.  In addition to Bark, she recommends Circle, which monitors devices that work through your wi-fi. Or Pocket Guardian, which analyzes a child’s messages and social media.
“It can understand certain phrases and contexts to really know if there is a real issue or not and whether a parent should be alerted.”

Ami says monitoring her son’s phone gives her peace of mind. She plans to keep it up until he leaves for college.

Parents also need to be plugged in to their child’s on-line gaming. Experts suggest adjusting the parental controls on each console to create an environment that feels safe.

(Kenneth Craig, CBS News)

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