Irish mobile security and monitoring firm Sentry Wireless will be launching Kidsafe later this year, a service that will allow parents to control how children access their mobile phones.
Approximately 220,000 five- to-nine-year-olds in Ireland own a mobile phone, according to recent statistics by the Wireless World Forum. A further 270,000 10- to 14-year-olds also own one.
Ciaran Bradley, the software engineer who developed Kidsafe, said he came up with the idea when he noticed that mobile bullying had become a problem in the UK and in New Zealand.
“I also felt there was a demand for it when Firefly Mobile in the US launched a mobile phone specially designed for kids and it became very popular,” he said.
Research carried out last year by Professor Mona O’Moore of the Anti-Bullying Centre in Trinity College of 2,354 children showed that roughly 10pc of Irish primary school students have experienced bullying via text message.
This figure reflects a growing “mobile bullying” problem worldwide, reflected in research carried out in the UK by children’s charity NCH and Tesco Mobile.
The study showed that nearly three quarters of British schoolteachers were worried that their pupils could potentially be bullied via mobile phones, while 51pc said that it had already happened to at least one of their class.
Kidsafe is a parental control service, accessed through a web portal, which allows the parent to set up a white list of phone numbers that can contact their children, so only the numbers on that list get through.
“Even if the kid’s number is given out on Bebo or given out on a chat session strangers won’t be able to get through,” said Bradley.
Kidsafe also enables parents to choose when their children use their mobile, so it can be effectively locked for use or put on “quiet time during school hours or when they’re meant to be studying”, said Bradley.
He added that it allows for certain numbers chosen by the parent, such as the parent themselves or a guardian or teacher, to be accessed regardless of being on “quiet time”.
“It can be used as a 21st-century discipline tool, so instead of grounding a sulky teenager of younger kid, what you could do is ground the phone, while parents would still be able to get through in case of an emergency”.
By Marie Boran