The episode in brief:
• Teen suicides prompted dads to develop app
• PocketGuardian monitors without “spying”
• Avoid resentment and communication shutdown
• Texting & many social media channels covered
• Android or iOS phones supported
As someone concerned about the future of humanity, you no doubt hope that soon a solution will be found to the problem of cyberbullying, especially when vulnerable children and youth are targeted. This is going to happen in a series of steps, of course. If you’ve been following the show, you’ve heard about the Digital Citizenship Summit in Connecticut, uniting students, parents, educators, info technologists, attorneys, school administrators, media specialists and others, to collaborate on action. You’ve heard from Henry Lieberman of MIT Media Lab about how design features of social network software can fight abuse, Maria Tatar of Harvard about the importance of stories and novels in developing empathy, and Elizabeth Englander of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center giving concrete steps teachers and parents can take to help their kids.
In this episode, we learned about a specific tool called PocketGuardian, developed by two Maryland dads who designed this app to alert parents to cyberbullying and sexting, WITHOUT “spying” on their child’s communications.
Jason France, co-founder and developer of PocketGuardian told listeners more about this app. PocketGuardian is the first parental monitoring service that allows parents to actively monitor their child’s digital footprint while maintaining their privacy. Maintaining the child’s privacy maintains trust between kids and parents, allowing for healthier communications between them.
How does it work? PocketGuardian uses proprietary software developed by Jason and his business partner, James Ryan, which flags content that within its context appears inappropriate, as well as sexually explicit images. With a background in IT and mobile app development, Jason and James designed the algorithms that PocketGuardian uses.
They came up with the idea one day over salad when discussing a number of news accounts of teens committing suicide as a result of online harassment and bullying. They looked at each other and thought, “There’s got to be a way technology could help here.” Too often, parents are the last to know what their child is going through, hence a way of alerting parents to problems kids are having could help at the front end. When they receive alerts, parents also are directed by PocketGuardian to parental resources that relate to the particular problem uncovered. Some resources come from partners such as CyberWise (Diana Graber has been on The Social Network Show) and FOSI, the Family Online Safety Institute.
Input from students themselves was collected and played a part in designing PocketGuardian. Privacy was a key concern and it was apparent that most knew how to sidestep most monitoring software. They want to be able to express themselves in their own way without having mom or dad peering over their shoulder with constant criticism. PocketGuardian is not a “silver bullet,” but can increase parent’s awareness while respecting tweens’ and teens’ desire to avoid constant surveillance.
PocketGuardian differs from other monitoring software through alerting parents, but not surveilling their children, inclusion of resources on what to say and how to say it, including both texting and the most popular and new social media apps, as well as a low price point making it accessible to all families.
PocketGuardian is available for only $3.99 per month, regardless of number of children or devices in the household. Jason and James are dads who truly want to help all parents meet the challenges of rearing children in the networked, connected world we live in. It is available for Android and iOS devices only at www.gopocketguardian.com
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In the second half of the episode, Jason spoke more about how many children and youth have one, if not two, mobile devices of their own. He and James have been gratified by the outpouring of support from parents, organizations, and schools where they have been invited to present about PocketGuardian. Bullying and cyberbullying continues to be a major problem. Even though middle school is still the most common time for kids to really get into social media, the age of introduction to mobile devices is pushing down into elementary school with the problems following along.
Future goals for PocketGuardian include adding a suicide prevention component which will flag expressions indicating suicidal thoughts. Substance abuse and illegal activity can potentially be detected and parents alerted to follow up with loving concern.
For the holidays, a special digital protection package has been created by PocketGuardian and three like-minded companies, Kids’ Email, Frienedy, and Cyberwise. This is a great complement to your purchase of new devices for your children. Kids’ Email even has an email address for Santa, Frienedy is a kid-safe social network, and Cyberwise offers Cyber Civics courses for schools and short courses for parents.
I want to be sure our listeners know how they can look into this further, order PocketGuardian, or contact them. So here is their contact info:
Twitter – @PocketGuardian
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/GoPocketGuardian/
We wish Jason and James great success as vital members of the stakeholders uniting to make digital life less of a minefield for children and youth. Synergy between all of us working to do that is essential!
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Jason France is a Co-Founder of PocketGuardian, a parental monitoring application that detects Cyberbullying and Sexting on children’s mobile devices while maintaining their privacy. Prior to PocketGuardian he founded Tangent Engineering, which creates custom software applications specializing in CyberSecurity, Natural Language Processing, and Web Design. Jason graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a Bachelors of Science in Electrical & Computer Engineering and a Masters in Information Systems Management with a concentration in CyberSecurity. Follow PocketGuardian on Twitter @PocketGuardian.