HomeTechnologyApps to control minors' cell phones, how much surveillance is appropriate?

Apps to control minors’ cell phones, how much surveillance is appropriate?

Parents’ fears about the impact of phones on minors are driving the use of parental control ‘apps’, but experts warn of risks: ‘Spying is not the way to go’

“The difference of this APPLICATION “It uses AI (artificial intelligence) to monitor the images (the adolescent) consumes, the texts he reads, and what he writes,” says psychologist Alicia González. influencer with half a million followers In a video paid for by Bosco, A. APPLICATION Parental control for new arrivals in Spain. “But you don’t have access to all their communications and their entire internet history; you will only be alerted when they receive disturbing messages and see images with inappropriate content,” adds González.

Bosco promises a report with a “summary” of each night’s activity, but where parents “don’t see the content.” What do you see APPLICATION and what to do with this data is another question. EL PAÍS asked González if he valued this detail in his collaboration with Bosco, but no response was received before the publication of this article. The standard fee for a promotional video like the one you made with this much follower count is usually around 5,000 euros, but this amount can vary.

Parental control apps allow you to remotely monitor what’s happening on a teenager’s cell phone. There are all kinds of things that are more or less intrusive both in the privacy of minors’ lives and in their data. Millions of parents around the world use one of these apps. Experts believe that its benefits diminish as the child ages, and that there is no single solution that works in all cases. But now, mobile phones have increasingly become a resource as authorities operate against mobile phones on all fronts. “We are getting more offers than these” applications because with mobile phones being used earlier and in more diverse areas, there is more demand in the market,” explains Jorge Flores, founder of Screens Amigas, an organization that promotes healthy technology.

The diversity in the presentation of these applications is enormous. “There are certainly many applications Parental controls are being developed to help kids stay safe online. What is concerning is how they are designed and sold,” says Karla Badillo-Urquiola, professor at the University of Notre Dame (Indiana, USA).

The most popular program is Google’s Family Link, which, for example, allows you to set allowed usage times and forces parents to allow downloading of applications. “There are details that are not so invasive,” Flores admits. “Screen time informs the teenager himself: ‘3 hours on Instagram today, let’s see if I slow down.’ “Some schedules help manage and prioritize. An automated system that reduces time, even when you know your parents are behind it, helps reduce the day-to-day negotiation conflicts that wear down and weaken the communication relationship,” he adds.

Watch over the little ones

But the variety of control options allows us to find tools that even come close to spying on minors – without their consent. In response, young people use a wide variety of methods and alternatives to evade surveillance: creating parallel accounts, using uncontrolled browsers, or speaking in code. The digital savvy of some young people to evade surveillance is admirable. A father describes how his son handled Family Link surveillance in an app store review: “This APPLICATION “With Duolingo (language learning), my son was able to open the Chrome browser by logging in as a Facebook user without needing any controls,” she explains.

“These methods do not contribute much to the development of resilience and skills in children and families.”

Jun Zhao, Oxford University

Today, the main goal is to limit mobile phone use among adolescents. But experts agree that focusing on control is not a good solution in the long term: “The trend in the market is towards solutions based on control and monitoring, which have been shown to do little to ensure online security.” “It doesn’t help them learn the risks,” warns Jun Zhao, senior researcher at the University of Oxford. “These methods also don’t really contribute to building resilience and skills in children and families,” he adds.

This tendency to control does not mean that tools are useless or should disappear. Combining this with other methods can yield good results, especially in the company of teenagers: “Parents should have honest conversations with their children,” says Tiffany Ge Wang of the University of Oxford. “Listening and understanding can make a difference. “We found that using technology tools and regular family communication worked better than limiting screen time and allowed activities,” he adds.

Families sometimes try to achieve through parental control something that parents cannot achieve themselves: reasonable use of the cell phone. “Minors perceive that their parents’ preferential control is restrictive, orderly, and that it is a style that they will not set an example for,” says Beatriz Feijóo, professor at the International University of La Rioja (UNIR). “Adults are the first to think about mobile phone and network use, and what an example we are setting for the little ones. The most appropriate mediation is active, but it is much more complex. Installation applications It is short-term, active mediation has a long-term perspective because it encourages working on a critical and ethical level and requires a lot of contact with minors.”

No miracle, yes brown

Without agreement, problems can multiply and not only within the family. These are sensitive issues with very complex ethical implications: “Spying without consent is not the way to go,” Flores explains. “Trust cannot be built. I came across a case where a mother, spying on her daughter, noticed a critical situation for her daughter’s friend. She was getting into a big impasse and the mother was faced with the dilemma of remaining silent and taking responsibility or intervening and giving herself away. I told him that the problem was caused by that. “This is not technology, it is a different kind of dilemma.”

Using apps alongside regular family communication works better than setting limits on screen time

Tiffany Ge Wang, University of Oxford

There are parents who believe this applications They can create miracles with artificial intelligence: A mother on Instagram asked, “Does this application (BoscoApp) know how to decipher what young people say in code to deceive them?” he asks. influencer Alicia Gonzalez. “Mmmmm, I think he’s figuring things out,” González replies optimistically.

AI is doing more and more things, but they can be problematic in the realm of parental control apps: “AI is seen as a potential solution for detecting risks on the internet,” says Badillo-Urquiola. “Many of these applications They use artificial intelligence to detect inappropriate language or images, but the inaccuracy and bias of these algorithms can be harmful. The concern here is that AI needs tons of data to be trained well, so accuracy depends on collecting private data from young people. “So the real issue is who has access to that data and what they do with it.”

Violation of privacy

Violation of privacy can lead to young people falling victim to data collected by platforms. “It should not be forgotten that the vast majority applications “It aims to make profits by collecting user data to show personalized ads,” says Álvaro Feal, a researcher at Northeastern University (Boston, USA) and co-author of a study on the privacy of 46 people. applications Parental control with over 20 million downloads. “Therefore, their use applicationsBy definition, information that requires access to large amounts of personal data carries risks. In our study, we found that the majority (72%). applications analyzed data shared with third-party companies. Even fewer apps (11%) were sending unencrypted data. “In some cases, this data is as sensitive as the location of the minor,” he explains.

It is an interesting paradox that while parents want to protect their children from the evils of the internet, they make them defenseless by using some of these evils. applications a channel for obtaining information from minors and future consumers: “When children connect via their mobile phones, tablets or voice assistants, their data is constantly collected, analyzed and processed by many companies. This allows these companies to send you personalized game promotions or advertisements. People are unaware of how data is processed across all platforms, allowing these digital companies to have a much more comprehensive picture of our children than we could ever imagine. This information is often exploited to extend the time children spend online and expose them to less appropriate content,” warns Professor Jun Zhao.

According to researchers at the University of Oxford, minors are becoming increasingly aware of their data being used by these companies: “Our research has shown that children in the UK start to take control of their data from the age of 10,” and even a wave of data activism demanding greater transparency and access. It even shows something. “The demand for autonomy over their data is even stronger in the older children we worked with,” says researcher Tiffany Ge Wang.

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Source: El Pais

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