The delicate dance of independence, safety and personal boundaries between anxious parents and digital-generation kids is always tricky. Some apps and device usages are A-OK, some are a highly concentrated essence of bad choices (looking at you, Snapchat) -- but most fall into a gray area, subject to negotiation. Some parents may choose to know as much as possible about what their kids are doing online, and in turn they want their kids to know that they know.
MobileKids, the parent / child paired app launching in the US today, aims to replace uncertainty with information whenever possible; the goal, according to development house Bipper, is to bring back the transparency of kid tech usage that we had before mobile took over. "We aim to help parents define limits for a mobile generation much like parents did in previous generations when the only phone in the household was a landline attached to a wall," says founder and Norwegian mom Silje Vallestad, who was moved to launch the company when she noticed her daughter's friends using cellphones... at the ripe age of 6 years old.
The child app (only available for Symbian and Android at the moment, with a limited iOS client coming soon) delivers usage reports for the kid phone directly to the adult phone. Bipper previously offered a SIM-based parental reporting tool in Europe, but now focuses completely on apps (including the adult SOS app bSafe).
The platform-independent parent app can monitor kid device usage, check location (much like Find My Friends), set time controls or other usage thresholds, and in future versions will include geofencing alerts on the kid phone location. The parent app runs on both iPhone and Android, plus a web portal.
Full-on iOS households, however, aren't going to derive the maximum benefit from MobileSafe. As mentioned, right now there's no kid app for iOS at all; when it does arrive later this quarter, it won't be able to do the detailed monitoring that the Android and Symbian versions can deliver. It will, however, keep most of the location features and the Safety Alarm / SOS alert that kids can trigger to notify guardians of their location. Of course, it's possible that even iPhone-loving parents might choose a different device for their kids, and in that case the MobileKids pair may work well.
The MobileKids app has already launched in the Norwegian App Store, and now US customers will be able to give it a try. The SOS alarm and basic features are all free to use; the advanced reporting features (most of which are not applicable if the child uses an iPhone) require a subscription plan at US$5.90/month or $59.90 per year.