The Wall Street Journal reports on technology that allows parents to track their children’s mobile phone use.
So, something like Net Nanny Mobile, a tracking service that aims to help parents remotely monitor their kids’ mobile phone activity, might have broad appeal.
Users must download a software application directly onto their child’s phone, and it tracks texts, emails, photos and phone calls, reporting that activity to an online dashboard at Net Nanny’s Web site. Net Nanny Mobile also allows mom and dad to remotely lock handsets, wipe out data and track a phone’s GPS location – all for a $29 annual subscription fee. […]
The service sends alerts to an online dashboard where parents can log in and view emails, texts, photos and a record of calls sent and received by the phone. They can also use the dashboard to view the phone’s contacts, GPS updates and to send commands, such as locking the phone in case it gets stolen.
In good news for privacy supporters, the service seems to have problems performing what it claims.
We decided that for testing purposes, [reporter] Jonnelle would play the protective parent; [reporter] Lauren, acting as turbulent teenager, gamely agreed to have her BlackBerry activities monitored for a week or so. […]
After re-installing a new version of the app on Lauren’s BlackBerry, data began to trickle in to our online dashboard. We saw records of most emails, picture and text messages, but it wasn’t clear whether our keyword alerts were working. […]
Also, we were supposed to be able to view full emails online, but could only view recipients’ names and subject lines of the emails, and not the email content. We noticed this seemed to be the case especially when an email was sent from a desktop computer. The chief technology officer of SMobile confirmed that unless an email is sent from the mobile device, the full text of the email will not appear in the parental dashboard control system. Also, mobile devices frequently show only the beginning of email messages. In those instances, parents will not see all of the email content on the dashboard system.
We also contacted our corporate tech support staff and Net Nanny Mobile’s support to find that firewalls on Lauren’s company-provided BlackBerry may have prevented us from seeing some messages—probably not a problem for kids using regular cell phones. […]
Right now, for instance, a teen can halt the alerts by simply uninstalling the app from the phone. But the company is looking into incorporating password protection so that only a parent could uninstall. They also plan to add Web browsing controls, so that parents can see the sites their children visit and block sites if they wish.