I’ve said it time and time again: face-to-face communication with your child or teen about issues like cyberbullying and sexting, and the consequences of such actions, is the key to helping them make the smartest digital decisions. Of course, not all teens are willing to listen, let alone talk about the issues, and most young children don’t have the mental capacity to understand the consequences behind their actions. In these types of situations, parents need solutions that are practical and effective so they can help guide their child’s (or teen’s) use of their cell phone in the right direction.
Cyberbullying, in particular, has been all over the news lately. Sadly, in extreme cases, children have taken their own lives. Our country, our government, our states and our schools are at a crossroads, trying to decide what to do about cyberbullying; how to establish true consequences and what constitutes “actual” cyberbullying.
In the meantime, parents need to know that there are simple software solutions for cell phones that can help detect and deter cyberbullying. I know, deciding which piece of software can be tiresome and overwhelming—I can’t blame you. But, if you’re serious about taking a proactive approach and implementing one of these solutions in your home, look no further; the Yoursphere Editorial Team did the work for you.
Below is a look at two mobile solution providers. Both of these products are great options when it comes to keeping an eye on your child’s cell phone activity, establishing curfews and flagged words, and tracking their physical location if need be. Obviously, a great way to catch cyberbullying or sexting before it gets out of hand.
There are two types of mobile monitoring solutions: the passive type and the aggressive type. We’ve reviewed one of each. Determining which one works best for your family is up to you.
$10/month per phone – Available on Android and Blackberry Mobile Platforms (we confirmed with Code9 that they’re working on iPhone availability, though no specified date at this point)
Code9 Mobile is a monitoring application that is installed on your child’s phone, and then accessed by you through the Internet. This can be a great way to spot cyberbullying, as, in a nutshell, the software allows you to:
- Establish flagged words, meaning words that you want to be alerted to when they’re included in one of your child’s text messages (sent or received).
- Monitor your child’s physical location through the GPS feature on their phone. If their phone doesn’t have GPS functionality (recommended), you can still track their location via cell phone tower signals, which is pretty impressive!
- View their text and call logs. Code9 isn’t spyware, so it only shows you who their texting/calling and when they’re texting/calling that person.
- Set curfews on cell phone usage – a great way to limit cell phone activity during school hours or after bedtime.
Set up was easy. After signing up on the Code9 Mobile website, you’ll need to download the Code9 app on your child’s cell phone via the app marketplace. I recommend doing this BEFORE giving your child the phone, so if you’re thinking about buying them their first phone or upgrading them to a newer phone, this is a great way to go about it.
Installing the app on their phone does one thing: syncs their phone’s information with your Code9 dashboard. Keep in mind, just like with any app, your child can easily uninstall Code9 from their phone. The reason for this, I believe, is two-fold.
- First, Code9 is not spyware, meaning its not hidden software that works in the background without your child knowing.
- Second, Code9 subscribes to the same philosophy as I do: use these tools, not as a way to spy on your kids, but as an opportunity to talk to them about the importance of digital safety. Kids will make mistakes, there’s no way around that. Software tools like Code9 are just there to help you help them learn from their mistakes.
As mentioned before, your child can uninstall the app from their phone. If they do, you will receive a notification on your dashboard letting you know. We received our notification within 24 hours.
The flagging system works wonderfully. Words that we flagged were picked up within minutes of being texted on the phone. This is the only time the Code9 dashboard will show you the entire text message. Again, a very effective way to catch cyberbullying granted you choose the right words to flag.
You’ll also have the option of creating a “blacklist” (not allowed) and “whitelist” (allowed) of contacts that can and can’t contact your child’s cell phone. These lists can be coordinated with curfew times.
$39.97 – $129.97 – Available on Android, iPhone, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7 Mobile Platforms.
On the other end of monitoring spectrum, you have products like Mobile Spy that are essentially designed to give you full access to your child’s cell phone. Parents can access all of its great features via a dashboard, just like Code9. Once there, parents can:
- View and block any contacts on their child’s phone.
- View web browsing habits and history. Useful if your kids have a smartphone with a data plan.
- Track their child’s physical location using GPS technology or cell phone towers.
- View and track communication logs – This includes calling and texting habits, message details and any photos or videos that were sent or received (or stored on the device).
- Remotely lock or wipe their cell phone.
Unlike Code9 Mobile, Mobile Spy is spyware and isn’t shown as an app on your child’s phone, meaning they can’t uninstall it themselves. It may sound intrusive….because it is, but software products like Mobile Spy can be a very effective way to spot and stop issues like cyberbullying AND sexting.
Installation First Impressions:
Set up was simple for such a complex piece of software. After verifying that you are the owner or authorized user of the phone you’re attempting to install the software on, you are sent an email with a registration code that you use to register your account online. The email also includes a link to download the software on your child’s phone, as well as detailed instructions on how to get everything rolling. All in all, it took about 30 minutes total to set up everything. Again, not too bad.
Mobile Spy gives you access to just about everything you can think of:
- Call logs (incoming and outgoing)
- Text messages (even after they’re deleted)
- GPS position
- Phone contacts (even as they’re added)
- Calendar events
- Email logs
- Website history
- Photo/video logs
There is an additional add-on feature called LIVE Control Panel that basically allows you to view your child’s cell phone screen in real time. This sounds scary, but keep in mind that Mobile Spy is spyware and leaves no room for privacy.
Mobile Spy is something to consider if you’ve tried other products and you’ve been doing your best to teach them but have come to the conclusion that you need better access to their phone activity. On the other hand, if you’re planning on buying your child their first smartphone or upgrading them to a new one, we recommend installing this software before handing them the phone. Remember, the only way your child will know Mobile Spy exists on their phone is if you tell them.