May 22, 2012
SIM Card Allows Tracking Of Child’s Smartphone By Parents
Vodafone, beginning today, is rolling out a pay-as-you-go service called Bemilo that allows parental control of a child´s mobile phone with a special SIM card that can be used in any phone or tablet, reports Evan Rodgers of The Verge.
Available in the UK only for now, parents will be able to oversee and schedule phone functionality online, including the ability to read all text messages sent through the service – even deleted messages. Children will have the ability to vet their friends for parental approval, while still leaving parents ultimate control over all contacts within the system.Parents would purchase a “safety pack” with a SIM card inside, install it into the child´s phone and use it on a pay-as-you-go basis, from $6 per month.
Simon Goff, founder and chairman of Bemilo, told the BBC, “It´s a SIM that is just like any other SIM you would buy for any other network, but 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.”
For instance, he explained, if parents wanted to switch off the phone during school hours, they could do so remotely from a browser.
Katherine Rake, chief executive of the Family and Parenting Institute, told the Daily Mail parents had wanted, “something like this for a very long time. Parents being able to read texts means if bullying is going on they will be alerted straight off and can deal with it straight away. Now we need a joined up effort across all networks and all industries.”
The service was designed to help prevent mobile phone bullying and sexting. A recent report commissioned by the NSPCC has found that teenage girls were coming under increasing pressure to text and email sexually explicit pictures of themselves. It could also prevent a child, especially a teenager, from visiting websites parents deem offensive.
But besides enabling parents to help ensure their children´s safety, they would also be able to control other aspects of their behavior, said Goff. “If you put a child to bed, and we´re talking about young adults here, those who are just under 16 years old, the parents often think they´ve gone to bed - but then they find out that they´re texting very late into the night or accessing the web into the night.”
A survey of 2,000 parents conducted by Bemilo found 40 percent of children from eight to 16 who own a mobile phone are sleep deprived, and 25 percent have been subjected to mobile phone bullying.
The new service has been welcomed by a UK independent charity called the Family and Parenting Institute.
“Today´s generation of children are facing new pressures, such as mobile phone bullying, and parents want help in protecting them,” said Dr. Katherine Rake, the organization´s chief executive.
However Nick Pickles, from privacy group Big Brother Watch, told The Telegraph´s Hannah Furness, “Giving parents the tools to control what their kids can do with smartphones is a good thing, but this is a step too far. If there are problems with what young people are using their phones for the way to fix them is not to have parents spying.”