In a research of 74 Android mobile apps designed to promote adolescent online safety, the scientists said that 89% of security features on the apps are focused on parental control, while about 11 percent supported teen self-regulation.
“The apps are emphasized on what the phone is efficient of doing and how parents can restrict and monitor those capabilities,” says Pamela Wisniewski, formerly a post-doctoral scholar in information sciences and technology, Penn State, and presently an assistant lecturer in computer science at the University of Central Florida. “I equate this to a governor on an automobile that will only allow you drive at a specific speed limit. In a way, the app’s just trying to monitor or restrict, or act like a governor on what the mobile phone is designed to do.”
The safety features aim at online activities that teens are most likely to engage in, for instance, using a browser or app, accessing, or texting social media. While such features may initially help curb unwanted activity they do not enhance communication between parents and their kid, or help teens introduce the necessary skills to navigate the online world in the long run, according to the scientists, who present their studies in the Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing.
“Such features were not helping parents mediate what their teens are doing online,” says Wisniewski. “They were not enhancing communication, or assisting a teen become more self-aware of her or his behavior.” Without such sort of instruction, teens may find it distinct to develop strategies to cope with future online encounters, she stated. The scientist suggests that app designers inculcate features that balance both parental controls with teen self-regulation.
“These parental control features may not even be congruent with most of the parenting styles,” says Wisniewski. “Parents usually do not feel comfortable policing every text message their teen sends, or want to set big restrictions on what their teen can or cannot do on the phone. I think that parents want ways to be engaged in what their teen is doing and offer them the autonomy to learn from what they are doing.”
The scientists conducted online searches of Android apps on the Google Play app store. They employed keyword terms like, “teen safety”, “online safety”, “cyber bullying” and “sexting.” They then analyzed apps that were identified in the similar apps section. They continued this procedure until no novel relevant apps were identified.
Over half, 50% were free for download, 24% had a limited free trial period and 16% had both a free and paid version. The scientists confirmed that they expect similar results from Apple iOS products. Wisniweski found similar parental control-dominated apps during an initial review of the Apple range
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