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Monday, November 1, 2010

Finally...A Way to Monitor Pictures and Video On Your Child's Phone

Thanks goes to my brother-in-law Scott out in Utah who caught the release of this product two weeks ago and filled me in.  I would have hated to miss this one.

Mobile Media Guard from Parental Solutions LLC is the first smartphone app that actively monitors your child's Android or Blackberry phone and notifies you about and lets you look at every picture or video they take/record, send, and receive.  This app fills a huge void in phone-based security and safety for kids and I am very excited that someone finally got around to creating it.

Think about how much trouble an unsupervised child can get into with a camera on a cell phone.  We've all heard the stories on the news about sexting - some teenage girl has nude or semi-nude pictures of her taken "somehow" and they "somehow" get distributed to everyone.  Yeah, I know what you're thinking...what are teenage girls doing taking nude pictures of themselves (or allowing others to do it) with their phones?  It happens daily, in fact, few counties in the USA have been spared such incidents.  The point is, kids don't always make the best choices and unfortunately, the result can be permanent damage to their reputations, privacy, and sometimes safety.  I had a mother e-mail me last week about a problem in her child's school in Eastern Pennsylvania.  Apparently junior high aged kids are having great fun taking pictures of their classmates while they are changing or going to the bathroom before/after gym class and sending them to everyone they know.  The worst part is that by the time parents find out, it's already been happening for months.

Until now, parents have been extremely limited in their ability to control the camera on their child's phone.  It's difficult to purchase a cell phone without a camera these days, and most of them do not provide parents the ability to permanently turn camera/video off.  The mother from Pennsylvania solved the problem by having her husband take a small drill and drill into the lens of her kid's camera - extreme?...yes.  Problem solved?...yes.  The good news is that now, some parents can put away the drill and use this new app instead.

Mobile Media Guard works for Android ("Droid") and Blackberry based smartphones.  What does that mean?  It means it won't work with phones that aren't based on the Android or Blackberry operating system.  How can you tell which phones are?  Ask your service provider.  Here's how it works:

The product works as a "app" on the phone, downloaded and installed from the phone's app store or market.  The setup process is very easy and takes less than 5 minutes to complete.  Once the phone has been set up, parents then visit Mobile Media Guard's website to set up an account and activate the service (another quick, easy process).  Once the service is activated, parents receive an e-mail notification any time a new picture or video is taken by the child's phone and/or whenever the child receives a picture or video via e-mail (on their phone) or text message.  So it not only monitors the pictures and video your child takes, it monitors what their friends are sending to them as well.  When parents receive the e-mail notification about the new picture or video, they can go out to the parent control panel on the Mobile Media Guard website and actually view the image/video.  I was going to post some screenshots and give you an overview of the setup procedure, but the Mobile Media Guard website does such a fantastic job, I don't need to.  You can see for yourself here.

The cost?  Not bad.  The app is free to download and the service subscription is $49.99 per year (for the first phone...additional phones are $35.99 per year each).  For what you get and for how easy it is to use, it's a great deal.

The downside?  I know some parents are going to complain that the service is only available for Android and Blackberry smartphones.  Most kids don't have these high-end (more expensive) phones.  But honestly, the cost of smartphones is dropping, as are the supporting data plans and with the way technology is evolving, all phones will probably be smartphones in he next few years.  The other benefit of smartphones for parents is that there are several good apps that help keep your kids safe (like geolocation/tracking and kid-safe browsers).  And for the iPhone users out there, Mobile Media Guard isn't available...yet.  But the guys at Parental Solutions are working on that.

I really like this product and even better, I like the company behind it.  I had a chance to talk to co-founder Craig Spenner last week and got a strong sense that he and his partner truly believe in "the cause" of keeping kids safe online.  I expect great things from this company in the future.

Find out more about Mobile Media Guard at the website:

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