I've spent a great deal of time this year writing about the market for parental control tools. (Archives here). Eventually, all that writing gets plowed into my book, "Parental Controls and Online Child Protection: A Survey of Tools & Methods." And that book, which I update online regularly, just keeps growing longer and longer thanks to announcements like the one AT&T made today.
AT&T announced an expansion of its excellent "Smart Limits" parental controls service that will provide parents with state of the art monitoring tools. Beyond restricting access to inappropriate content, AT&T's new service lets parents set customized limits for each child according to age. Parents can also manage how and when kids use their phones, including limitations on the overall minutes used for messaging and downloads. They can even restrict who the child can contact with their phones.
The innovative new set of tools costs $4.99 per month. All the details about AT&T's new service can be found here.
This is great news for parents who have been wary about getting their kids mobile phones, especially younger children. With tools like these, parents can feel confident that their kids are both safe and in touch at all times.
Incidentally, other carriers have established (or are planning) similar services or have handsets that can provide some of these features. Many carriers now also offer global positioning system (GPS) tracking technology in their phones, which allows parents to locate their children and monitor their whereabouts. I discuss all these services and handsets in Part III of my parental controls booklet.
Independent services are also being developed that supplement these industry efforts. For example, Radar, which bills itself as â€œYour Kidsâ€™ Mobile Watchdog,â€ is a new service that â€œmonitors and tracks your child's cell phone contacts and immediately alerts you if he or she receives unwanted or suspicious email, Instant Messages, text messages or phone calls.â€ If the child is contacted by an unapproved person, parents are immediately sent an alert on their phones and via e-mail. And parents are alerted when children add new friends to their device. The Radar service costs $10 per month for one user or $15 for an entire family.
Not only is this all great news for parents, but it again shows that there is no need for lawmakers to regulate the mobile sector or impose content / communications controls. We don't need Uncle Sam to become a cell phone nanny. Parents have been empowered to handle this job themselves.