I regularly receive press releases from companies that i promptly delete as a new form of spam. Today, i received one that stopped me in my tracks:
You can now load software in your kids’ BlackBerry and/or cell phone that will be your watchdog (to prevent them from being approached by someone potentially trying to molest them)
How it works — the program will send the parents a text message when a foreign IM, text message or e-mail comes into their child’s phone or PDA (anyone not on an approved phone contact list).
The concept was thought of by Bob Lotter, a software publisher in Orange County, because he was so alarmed to learn that 56% of kids receive unwanted cell or PDA solicitations (which they don’t tell their parents about). (Sixty percent have been approached.) Lotter has also created a homepage for parents on resources they need to track strangers.
It was a peculiar press release because the company (a known PR agency) did not include any links and i can’t find much about Bob Lotter other than he seems to be connected to the scientology world.
I’ve been waiting for mobile stalking software for a while. We already have GPS-driven stalking software that will let parents figure out where their kids are. (Kids have figured out how to circumnavigate this by sending their phone off with their friends.) And i’ve met plenty of parents who obsessively scour the phone bill to see who their kids are talking to and for how long. But i’m quite impressed with this new level of parental stalking software.
I’m also absolutely fascinated by the assumption that “your kid” will have a Blackberry and that this software will prevent your kid from being approached by a molester (at first, i thought that the advert was going to be for mace). This software is not about protecting children from strangers that they meet face-to-face – it’s about giving parents control over who their kids talk with rather than teaching them how to navigate people. Of course, i can’t wait until mobile text message spamming kicks in. Kids will be getting hundreds of messages from people that they don’t know and thus their parents will be notified and notified and notified. There’s nothing like a bit of spam to make this a complete mess.
Anyhow, this just infuriates me and i can’t even offer a proper analysis except to scrunch my face in disgust. As i’ve written about before, the stats on predators is pretty clear: it’s people that children know not strangers. I kinda suspect that the #1 child molester (the parent) is not going to be on the list of people blocked.
Surveillance destroys parent-child relationships – technology does not solve relationship issues. And yet, we keep building technology. Why? Fear sells. These people will inevitably make money off of parent’s fears. Le sigh.