in Mobile Phones

Mobile Web Content and Parental Control

In the last few months I went through a number of mobile web browsers in order to test their functionality while browsing what we call “The Big Internet”. Between these browser I can count Nokia Web Browser (WebKit), Novarra, Opera Mini, etc.

They were actually very good in delivering what they promised. Surf the internet on your mobile phone no matter if the web site was designed for mobile phones or not.

That’s cool. We have been waiting for years for this to come true. I know there are still lot of problems to be solved in this areas (JavaScript, Flash, Flash Video, etc.) but this is not the main point for this post.

Yesterday I come across a post from Jon Udell about the controlling kid’s usage of internet. The post is very well worth reading and as I commented on Jon post I agree on his view, monitor, not control.

I then matched the two things. Today we have a lot of third party software and, is some cases, native software that will allow parent to monitor or control kid’s usage of Internet.

This does not apply to the mobile world. Basically with a mobile phone you can browse whatever service you want without any possibility of monitoring or controlling usage. The concept of supervision of an adult does not apply.

I went through a quick search and the only reference to a product dedicated to mobile phones is this:

Ni Mobile Phone Security

This product is not yet still released, but, from what I can read from the product page, it will allow parents to:

  • Web blocking and filtering.
  • Instant Message monitoring.
  • Call records logged.
  • Calls restricted to approved numbers or approved duration.
  • SMS text messages logged.
  • SMS text restricted to specific numbers or volumes.
  • GPRS time logged.
  • GPRS connection time restricted.
  • Premium rate warning/blocked.
  • Restricted access to certain applications.
  • Phone SIM card lock.

That’s quite a comprehensive list of functionalities that will really allow parents to implement some kind of control.

Continuing the reading of the features it seems that you will be able to control the functionalities of the application via a web interface that will probably be hosted by the product developer and push the new configuration to the mobile phone (this is what I am thinking about it since no explicit explanation is present on the product information page).

If you are familiar with mobile phone software you will understand that this kind of application will interact with very low level functions of the phone and, because of this, I think it will be available only on those mobile phone with an advanced Operating System (e.g. Symbian or Microsoft Windows Mobile).

This issue is something that at some point in time will be taken in consideration by regulators. I do not really see any other viable solution today.

Two final considerations:

  • My son is only six month old and by the time he will need a mobile phone I am pretty much sure that something will be available.
  • Another good application for this kind of application is to monitor if something is cheating on you.

Why do I blog this? I think that in the near future this is something that operators will have to face. The mobile phone is in your kids hands and it will need to be controlled, in some way or another.