Technology is finally trying to make the job of parenting easier. There’s a new iPhone app (application, for those not up on the “speak”) called iCurfew. For less than a buck, you can download an application that will allow your kid to email their current location to up to three email addresses. My favorite part: Fully aware of the wily ways of teenagers, the programmers made the location “uneditable.” In other words, if they are at the mall ogling the opposite sex, they can’t hack the system to make it show they’re really at the public library working on their science report.
While well-intentioned, I see a few flaws in iCurfew that can circumvent its usefulness.
1. The kid has to have an iPhone. I’ve been fighting this (losing) battle for over a year, trying to convince my 12- and 9-year-olds that they simply do not need all the bells and whistles (not to mention, GAMES) that come with the $300 iPhone. This app is one more nail in that particular coffin.
Solution: Create a really cheap version that can transmit the same info without the dollar investment. Although, if they lose an Phone, I'm probably going to ground them for thirty or forty years, so maybe that's just as effective when it comes to keeping tabs on the offspring.
2. The kid is still in control. If I can’t get my pre-teen to call me when he’s supposed to, how am I possibly going to convince him to email me when he’s supposed to?
Solution: Add a horrible audio alarm to the program that will remind the kid to check in. Maybe a few bars of the Carpenters, or a recording of their mother’s voice saying “ET, phone home!” over and over until they check in. I'm thinking of something along the lines of the howlers in Harry Potter.
3. It’s easy to fudge. If young Luke is supposed to check in at 9:30 with his current location, what’s to keep him from immediately heading out for less desirable digs the second his location has been logged?
Solution: Make it a “pull” application instead of a “push” one: In other words, I can, with a click of a button, immediately grab my kid’s location regardless of where they are. Then, when I realize my little darling is really at a frat party at BU instead of at the Museum of Science, I can immediately swoop in with all the fanfare and awe-inspiring tumult of Megatron in Transformers.
4. Excuses, excuses. “I left the phone at Sarah’s house.” “Joe had to borrow it to check in with his mom.” “I wasn’t allowed to use my phone in the library.” I can already hear the lines my kids will come up with to explain why they didn’t check in when they were supposed to.
Solution: Make the phone, gaming, and texting functions immediately shut off if the kid doesn’t perform his scheduled check-in. To turn them back on, they have to email Mom. I'd pay extra for that little feature.
Overall, I think iCurfew is headed in the right direction. With a responsible child (one who won’t lose their phone, mislead their parents, or forget to check in), it can be a great way to keep tabs. But if a kid is that responsible, you probably don’t need to keep tabs on them with something like iCurfew anyway.
Solution: Put a GPS-monitoring ankle bracelet on ‘em until they turn 21.
Ahh. Now I can breathe easier. Except…do I really want to know where my kid is 24/7? Sometimes knowledge really is bliss…