A new mobile phone service launched today demonstrates vividly the debate currently raging about protecting children using mobile phones.
Big Brother Watch has long supported the need for services to give parents more granular control about how devices can be used, but ultimately technology is not a substitute for parenting.
The new service from Bemilo gives parents the ability to read every text message sent or received, as well as control who the child can call from their phone and see what pictures have been taken.
You can’t substitute parenting for technology and if there are problems with what young people are using their phones for the way to fix them is not to have parents spying on their children.
Technology like this creates a serious tension between children and their parents – one can only imagine the reaction of a 15 year old when they find out their mum has been reading their texts. It also de-humanises family relationships, with parents relying on the contents of a webpage to determine the emotional state of their children. If children don’t feel parents respect their privacy, it undermines trust and fosters a cynical view of authority figures that doesn’t help anyone.
Equally, the likelyhood is kids who are bothered will simply get a cheap SIM card and switch it with the parent-enabled one.
Giving parents the tools to control what their kids can do with smart phones is a good thing, but this is a step too far.