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We live in a mobile centric society. To deny that would be foolish. Everyone has a mobile phone — adults, teens and children. The consequences of children using mobile phones have been constantly featured in the news. Parents fear the dangers that await their children on many mobile platforms.
A new startup has entered the mobile stage to help parents keep track of their children’s mobile usage. Mobilflock, a Cape Town-based startup, that says it makes “cell phones safe for kids by giving parents visibility over how they use their phones, and tools to protect their children from harm”.
The startup is the brain child of Patrick Lawson, founder of Clickatell. According to co-founder Vanessa Clark, Lawson “realised the need to protect children on their mobile phones in the same way you would them on a computer”.
The web is crawling with apps and websites that help parents track and protect their children from the dangers online. Mobiflock joins the likes of Nokia’s Kno-Where an application that allows parents track their children’s whereabouts and activity on less savoury websites like Cell Phone Tracking, and provides parents or guardians with a way of ‘spying’ on any mobile phone.
Launched in April 2011, the startup claims to be different because “it is simple and easy-to-use for the least tech-savvy parent, but at the same time provides a powerful monitoring and control service to keep children safe from dangers such as cyber-bullying and sexting. Mobiflock is flexible enough to provide an appropriate level of protection according the individual child. Having said that, it still allows the child to benefit from all the advantages of having a smartphone.”
The company is privately funded and consists of founders Lawson, owner of Panacea Mobile Donald Jackson and Twokats Communications founder Vanessa Clark. The trio are familiar with the South African startup scene having founded companies of their own prior to Mobiflock.
Here is how it works: Parents visit the website (or the soon to be launched Ovi App and other apps) to download a client onto their child’s mobile phone. This client then gives parents access to a “secure” online dashboard to monitor phone traffic (calls, messages, web browsing, location), and parents can then set up security barriers and alerts for their child.
“We’ve worked hard to make the dashboard as easy to use as possible, and alerts can be sent via email and SMS,” says Clark – every parents’ dream come true.
“Parents didn’t grow up with the same exposure to technology that their children have experienced. Children are now living and undergoing rites of passage in an online environment that their parents know nothing about. Mobile communications have grown so rapidly, far faster than computing, that as yet, very few controls have evolved to mitigate potential risk and protect the vulnerable,” says Clark.
There is a fine line between protecting and spying, however. The dangers of the tech-savvy age and free access mobile platforms cannot be denied. Mobiflock seems to have entered the market just in time to calm tech anxious parents finding their way in this new world.