As a clinician who is very interested in prevention, I always have my eye out for new strategies or ways to help parents be aware of what their children are doing online and on their smartphones. We all see enough news stories to know that, though not all children are sexting, a large enough number of kids are sexting, bullying and being bullied that we all need to be aware.
This morning I heard about a new app developed by two dads from Maryland who both happen to be software developers. According to an interview on CBS DC, the dad’s were inspired to create this app after hearing about and discussing a news story about a student who committed suicide. The teens suicide was due to cyberbullying and the fall out of a nude photo being passed around. The dads developed a new app called PocketGuardian.
Like myself, these two dads came to understand that most parents do not know what their children are doing and find out too late if they are sexting. The app they have developed is different from traditional monitoring apps or software. Traditional monitoring or filtering block a user from accessing inappropriate apps or websites. Some apps allow the parent to be privy to every single text the users sends and receives. PocketGuardian is different. The app states that is NOT for spying.
PocketGuardian sends an alert to the parent if the app detects sexually explicit messages, nude photographs or text messages that could be seen as bullying. The app does not send the parent the full content of the message. This way, the parent can be alerted to what the child is doing but the child can maintain some sense of privacy. The parent can then initiate a discussion with their child about their behavior. I really like this model of monitoring. By the parents not seeing the exact message and being alerted only to the fact that there is an inappropriate message, the shame of being caught in this act might be lessened for the child. Also, the parent’s embarrassment might also be lessened, as they don’t know exactly what was said. Lessening the embarrassment of the parent increases the chances of them having a difficult discussion as we know from research that one of the main things that keeps parents from talking to their children about sex is embarrassment.
PocketGuardian has not yet launched but will be available for iOS and Android platforms. You can sign up on the website for information about the launch dates.
This is smart technology for smart and informed parents.