SIM card to help parents protect children from bullying
- 3 October 2012
- From the section Technology
Parents will be able to control their child's mobile phone thanks to a SIM card remotely managed from a computer.
The Bemilo system, to be run on the Vodafone network, offers a service for parents to prevent their children from going online, texting or calling during certain hours.
Unlike an app, a child will not be able to switch the service off.
The UK's Family and Parenting Institute said the SIM would help protect children from mobile phone bullying.
To have the service, parents would need to buy a "safety pack" with a SIM card inside, install it into the child's phone and use it on a pay-as-you-go basis, from £2.95 per month.
"It's a SIM that is just like any other SIM you would buy for any other network, but it enables parents to have full control in the context of safety," Simon Goff, founder and chairman of Bemilo, told the BBC.
"They can allow or disallow certain contacts to call them, and they can set the times of day the phone can operate."
For instance, he explained, if parents wanted to switch off the phone during school hours, they could do so remotely from a website on their computer.
But even if nearly all the functions on the child's phone are disabled, parents can always manage the handset in such a way that they are able to reach their children, and the child is able to contact them.
Parents would also be able to read their child's texts, added Mr Goff.
The service could help prevent mobile phone bullying and "sexting" - when a child is subjected to unwanted phone calls or texts.
A recent report commissioned by the NSPCC has found that teenage girls were coming under increasing pressure to text and email sexually explicit pictures of themselves.
It could also prevent a child, especially a teenager, from visiting websites parents deem offensive.
But besides enabling parents to help ensure their children's safety, they would also be able to control other aspects of their behaviour, said Mr Goff.
"If you put a child to bed, and we're talking about young adults here, those who are just under 16 years old, the parents often think they've gone to bed - but then they find out that they're texting very late into the night or accessing the web into the night," said Mr Goff.
According to a survey of 2,000 parents conducted by Bemilo, 40% of children from eight to 16 who own a mobile phone are sleep deprived, and 25% have been subjected to mobile phone bullying.
The new service has been welcomed by a UK independent charity called the Family and Parenting Institute.
"Today's generation of children are facing new pressures, such as mobile phone bullying, and parents want help in protecting them," said Dr Katherine Rake, the organisation's chief executive.
Update: In October 2012, the UK's Advertising Standards Authority upheld complaints about Bemilo's study on the grounds that its methodology was flawed.