Wait, kids have iPhones?
A new application in the iPhone App Store brings parental control mechanisms to Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch. Like other types of "net nanny" software, the iWonder application lets parents filter web site traffic, monitor what sites their kids are surfing, control permissions, and even remotely disable the device.
For $14.99, the iWonder application (iTunes link) doesn't just block web sites, it also lets parents see exactly what sites their children visit. Parents can view this data remotely from either their iPhone or their home computer (Mac or PC). The application also integrates technology developed by Life Record Inc. for iWonder which allows parents to simply touch a button in order to shut down the device from afar.
The company touts that their software can even save a child's life: "For example, if you see traffic from your child's iPhone or iPod touch looking for information on suicide, explosives or other alarming material you will know instantly. If your child is on MySpace and is talking to a pedophile, you will see the profile of that person, and any activity between them and your child."
While that may be true in a handful of cases, for most kids, just knowing there is a monitoring application on their device will probably keep them out of trouble on the net, the same as with a monitored home PC.
Should Kids Get Smartphones?
However, the availability of software like this raises some questions that parents may need to ask themselves...questions about invasion of privacy or whether they should disclose to their child that the software is in use, etc. But perhaps the biggest question is this: how old should my child be before they can have an iPhone or iPod Touch?
In the past, iPods were just music players and cell phones were basic devices that simply made phone calls. But today, even the least sophisticated phones have web browsers, IM applications, SMS, and email. So the question applies not just to parents whose kids are clamoring for the latest Apple device, but to parents everywhere who are unsure as to when to introduce technology like this into their children's lives.
According to a study that came out last fall, nearly half the kids 8 to 12 years old in the U.S. own cell phones, with most getting their first phone between ages 10 and 11. Among "tweens," 46% own these devices. And just last month, a U.K. study revealed that the average age for "kids' first phone" was 8.
There's no doubt that many parents want their children, even children as young as 8, 9, and 10, to own a phone. For one, having mom and dad on speed dial can help kids stay safe in case they ever get lost or find themselves in some sort of trouble. But on iPhones and iPod Touches, unfettered access to the web is just a feature of the device. And that makes parents wonder, is it really safe to put the entire internet into a child's pocket?