The Bemilo system, which will debut on Vodafone, allows parents to turn off phone functionalities during certain hours. The phone user will not be able to access the internet, send texts or make phone calls while the block is active. Certain numbers can also be blocked, meaning the user cannot send or receive calls or text messages associated with that number. Moreover, the child cannot disable or override the functionality on their phone. It can only be disabled through the computer. However, the phone can be set up to allow the user to contact their parents.
The SIM card will be sold as a “safety pack” which is installed into the child’s phone and used on a pay-as-you-go basis, starting at £2.95 a month. Bemilo founder Simon Goff added, “It's a SIM that is just like any other SIM you would buy for any other network, but it enables parents to have full control in the context of safety.”
The reason behind this functionality is to stop sleep deprivation in children. "If you put a child to bed, and we're talking about young adults here, those who are just under 16 years old, the parents often think they've gone to bed - but then they find out that they're texting very late into the night or accessing the web into the night," Goff said, explaining that 40% of mobile phone owners aged 8-16 are sleep deprived.
So far, it all sounds very good. But there is one very controversial element to the safety-SIM; “Parents would also be able to read their child’s texts.”
This functionality would allow parents to prevent mobile bullying and unwanted sexual advances on their children. The NSPCC found that girls were facing unwanted sexual advances and pressure to send messages and images of themselves to others. A recent study also found that 25% of mobile-owning teenagers were bullied through mobile phone contact. The Family and Parenting Institute supports the new technology, adding, "Today's generation of children are facing new pressures, such as mobile phone bullying, and parents want help in protecting them.”
Conversely, a mobile phone is a very private possession, detailing every single encounter the user has had with others. Some even argue that reading someone’s text messages is comparable to reading a diary. Privacy is very important to a lot of people and many parents believe that there are boundaries to how much involvement you should have in your child’s private life.
Where do you stand? Is the safety pack a way to keep your children safe? Or a way to invade your child’s privacy? Let us know your views in the comments section.