Sunday 16 December 2018

The tiny Irish device that lets parents control everything their kids do on their phones

Photo posed
Photo posed
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

A €100 device could be a solution for Irish parents to protect their children online, its makers say.

Safety for children online has become an urgent issue in Ireland. Two weeks ago a 26-year-old paedophile was convicted for sexually exploiting girls as young as nine.

Anonymous instant messaging service Kik Interactive was one of the services that Dublin man Matthew Horan (26) had been using to coerce young girls to send him sexually graphic pictures and videos of themselves.

Experts warn parents are not aware of what their children can be exposed to online. Our proposed digital age of consent at 13 years-old is too young, others say.

Jason Sheehy, Director of iKydz says he believes the debate around whether smartphones should be banned for children under 16 is “a knee-jerk reaction to a wider problem”.

Instead of banning smartphones, Ireland should be looking at ways to protect children while they're online, and limit their access.

Sheehy's device iKydz is a parental control which allows even the most computer illiterate parents to set the controls for their children's technology usage in the home, Sheehy says. It will shut off different devices in the house at differing prearranged times, and it can block any apps like Kik.

It can curtail the risk of addiction, Sheehy adds.

“If you look at China, there are staggering problems in China with addiction. There are 24 million registered technology addicts in China, and there are something like 400 addiction clinics for digital media in China.”

“The solution is a lot simpler than banning the phone.”

“Like it or not, kids are exposed to technology 24/7 these days. The mobile device is only one device. Even if you ban it from schools, when they go home they’re still on the device and the playstation. Some kids will probably sleep with the phone, they probably have it on them 10 hours a day.”

“My son who is 16, his school banned phones in secondary school last year. It had very little impact, because the fact of the matter is the kids will hide the phone, but they still bring it to school.”

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According to its own research, iKydz has found that 93 per cent of Irish parents have no type of monitoring on their childrens’ devices and three quarters of them have never spoken to their children about the issues they might face online.

The iKydz device is an appliance that plugs into the back of the internet router at home, and is operable through an app on the parents’ phones.

“It allows a parent manage the access a child has. It can shut them off at midnight. It helps them manage all the social media apps, like Yellow and Kick, and it still allows the kids be on the internet but not access those when they’re studying. It blocks all the adult stuff or nasty stuff, and it does it on a device by device basis, so if you’ve a range of kids from five to 16, what is appropriate for one might not be appropriate for others.”

“It gives parents the opportunity to monitor where their child has been on the internet and how long they’ve been on it, even if they’ve deleted the browsing history.”

TD Jim Daly has launched the implementation of iKydz Pro units into 35 schools in West Cork as a pilot.

Mr Sheehy added: “There’s an educational aspect to this as well and it comes back to government. The analogy we use all the time is that 10 years ago road safety was a big problem in our country. Now, the first thing a child does now in the car is he or she puts on their safety belt. The government went about a very smart campaign and said we need to address this issue, and it’s the exact same with the mobile phones.”

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