As anyone with kids will tell you, parenting in the digital age can be a nightmare. Whether you’re reading about the latest global horrors, trying to keep your teenager from disseminating information that could prove counterproductive, or working to protect your child from online predators, it’s a scary world out on the internet.
For a while, there have been several family locator services on the market. Some of these are offered by mobile operators, others by venture-backed startups, but location tracking is about the furthest most of them go. Two years ago, a mobile application called Mamabear was developed, to go beyond location tracking and actually allow parents to monitor their children’s social media interactions.
Why are we talking about it now if it came out two years ago? The big news from TechCrunch is that yesterday this app, which monitors activity across platforms that include Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, acquired $1.4 million, to help with both growth and further development. This is great news for parents because it means this useful app is now available to help with things like cyberbullying and other problems that go beyond the “stranger danger” parents in the past had to face.
Here’s how it works: parents and children install it on their iPhone or Android smartphones. The version on the child’s phone is a customized, simpler dashboard, allowing for check-ins with emoticons and also “come get me” and “emergency” alerts. The parental version allows for tracking of locations, receiving geo-fenced alerts, driving alerts and monitoring the child’s social media. For that aspect, items are filtered, to keep social media monitoring from becoming a full-time job. Parents get information about the things they need to know, like who the child is friending and following, who’s following them back, and Instagram uploads, and allows them to preview the photos as they go out. Parents can also configure a blocked word list; that feature is being updated to include pre-populated word suggestions and continual updates.
So far, Mamabear has 120,000 installs and just under 100,000 active parents. The company is now focusing on expanding into other features like private family chatting and integration with other services, like sports and activity management platforms or educational and learning platforms. This will allow parents to be more interactive, less like Big Brother, able to communicate, encourage and cheer their kids on digitally.
Obviously, teens will be the hardest sell on this one. With that in mind, Mamabear is positioning the app to be installed with a child’s first cell phone contract, so that it’s just an intrinsic part of the mobile experience. What do you think about all this? Would you install a program like this, or do you believe trusting your kids to give you all the information you need to know? Is this protective or invasive?