Today Show highlights what we talk about in this blog

Source: http://moms.today.com/_news/2010/10/25/5347112-is-technology-turning-mother-into-big-brother

The video is approriately titled “Parental tools, or spying devices?” It’s a very good question to ask, especially if you feel as I do that, if done correctly, this type of system will be the ubiquitous method of communication for families, as much if not more so than SMS and phone calls (both are long, cumbersome, sometimes embarassing processes currently).

The Today Show aired a show this morning. The topic? Is new technology  (in particular geo-location services — or as everyone else thinks of them as, child tracking services) going to far in the child space?

We believe the current systems are, and we’ve been writing about it for a few months now.

Today Show states: “Parents, do you employ such high-tech tactics to monitor your kids’ behavior? By the same token, do you feel you may be compromising their privacy by doing so?”

The simple answer is yes. But why? Shouldn’t parents have access to this information? I mean, it’s their children after-all.

The issue is that children don’t have a choice. Most devices “track” children without letting the child ever know (see the previous post). It’s up to you to decide if that’s too far. But we firmly believe it is.

Pulling location passively is a fantastic technology, but does that mean it’s being used in a truly fantastic way? We think not, and have some solid ideas on how to change that.

“letting go is one of the hardest things any parent can do, but it’s getting easier with new technology.” We think Today and Kevin Tibbles from Parenting Today have got this absolutely correct because they state: “[this technology] can help keep [children] safe.”

I often get the objection that goes something like this: “why would my child need to use this technology? I know he/she gets on the school bus in the morning, and comes back on the school bus. Why would I ever need a service to tell me this?” But, about 5,000 children become missing in that window of school bus rides alone.

Ahh, the lovely “ZPass” (apologies — I am blogging as I watch this great video). I wrote about this a few posts back. It’s technology that “tracks” children, and shares it with school officials and police officers. Sounds fun for children right? To be fair, the video interviews someone who looks less than 10 years old, and pre-teens do indeed have slightly different requirements.

Oh, and look at this: a parent says “I didn’t want an external, a different person, big brother looking in on where MY kids were.” Maybe now since I have proof, someone will listen :).

They address another concern I hear all the time: “my kid is a good kid, why do I need to use this service to prove that?” But the parents do want it, and daughter Ali feels “it was more to keep tabs on me, which is a weird because I was a good kid. I hadn’t done anything at all before I got my license.” So why is this good for both parents and children?

Let’s take a simple example that is used in the video. People shouldn’t be preoccupied while driving, it’s just not safe. I know that at least Massachusetts and California have laws that disallow “texting while driving.” And that’s probably a really good thing. But what if your parents need to know those questions they always have: “where is my child, are they safe?”

You don’t want your child pulling out the phone to send you updates every minute, and you don’t need a fancy, expensive GPS system in your car. This can all be done on mobile devices that an overwhelming majority of children already have.

But of course there are other questions on parents minds. We’ve always planned to address “what are you doing and who are you with?” But parents want more, and I think it’s too much at the moment. We need to get children to trust the first solution before you add more layers.

Today Show: Are these services “keeping children safe or strangling them with an electronic leash?” Founder/CEO of My Mobile Watchdog: “we are leveling the playing field so the parents have a way to do what they need to do as a parent.” That’s a good thing, but what about the children?

Once again, you can’t build a genuinely successful service when half of your users hate it.

More on this soon, please feel free to contact me Today Show, I’d love to share more :).

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