Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Software Helps Parents Monitor/Control SMS Usage

I saw two companies at the Showstoppers event in Las Vegas tonight that are trying to make sending SMSes on mobile phones safer. TextArrest prevents teens from sending text messages while driving, and Smobile helps parents monitors the child's text messages for inappropriate content.

Texting is big in the US. Nearly 161 million Americans have sent text messages on their mobile phone, and among young people 82% under the age of 25 use text to communicate. Inevitably problems can and do arise.

There have been many instances in which drivers -- not just teens -- have been distracted while driving causing horrific accidents. Additionally the phenomena of sexting -- the sending of sexually suggestive pictures and messages has received national attention. Cyberbullying can also be a problem.

TextArrest is a downloadable application that uses the GPS in a smartphone to detect when a person is travelling more than 5 miles per hour. It then locks down the screen of the phone preventing messages from being seen or from being written. Passengers can override the system, but all such attempts are logged. Using web based software a parent can detect when their child turned the system off.

Smobile tackles the other part of the problem by providing for the parent a copy of every SMS or picture that was sent on the phone its installed in. The web based software also detects when inappropriate words are used like beer or naked and alerts parents. The software also scans pictures.

TextArrest costs $4.99 per month for up to 5 family members. Smobile costs 29.99 for a single installation