London: Worried parents will soon be able to read their children’s text messages, control who they speak to and turn their phones on or off – no matter where they are– thanks to a new mobile service.
The service created by mobile phone company Bemilo allow mothers and fathers total control over how their children use their phones, from the websites they visit to the times of day the handset is on.
To be run on the Vodafone network, the service will be a boon to parents worried about text bullying, sexting and the disruptive use of phones in schools.
Campaigners say the phone deal, which is intended for children between eight and 16, hands power back to parents.
The move follows the Daily Mail’s campaign for internet service providers to protect children by automatically blocking access to pornographic content, with adults having to ‘opt in’ if they want to view sexual material.
Until now, any restrictions on children’s mobile phone use have had to be made using the parental control options on the handset itself.
These settings can be difficult and time-consuming to negotiate, and many parents do not know they exist.
Parents signed up to Bemilo’s system, however, can set restrictions for their child’s phone using a web page that only they can access.
The site is linked directly to the phone’s SIM card, so if a child wants to add a friend as a contact they have to ask the parent, who can then use the website to decide whether or not to allow the change.
The parents can view all messages that are sent and received by the child by logging on to the site, even if the child deletes them from the phone.
Parents can also set a timer so that the phone cannot be switched on during lessons or late at night, for example. However, calls to the parents’ phones can be made at all times.
The pay-as-you-go SIM cards are available from Bemilo’s website and will also be offered by Carphone Warehouse later this month, with the parental control service costing from 2.95 pounds per month.
Campaigners are now calling on other phone networks to introduce similar services.
“Parents have been wanting something like this for a very long time,” a newspaper quoted Katherine Rake, chief executive of the Family and Parenting Institute, as saying.
“Parents being able to read texts means if bullying is going on they will be alerted straight off and can deal with it straight away.
“Now we need a joined up effort across all networks and all industries,” Rake stated.
Bemilo founder Simon Goff added: “Unlike an app, Bemilo’s SIM will work on any mobile device or tablet, and most importantly cannot be bypassed by the child.”