Thank you, Allison, for a thoughtful and well-researched article.
Some excerpts below. (Click here to see the actual article on the Ventura County Star website.)
In the next three years, 54 percent of 8- to 12-year-olds will have a cell phone, according to the Center on Media and Child Health.
As kids become increasingly connected, they can get into some “ugly stuff” pretty quickly, said Joan Karp, senior associate dean for the School of Education at CSU Channel Islands. That’s why it’s important for parents to know what their kids are doing and have some parameters.
“Parents need to be aware of the power of the technology to connect with all the information in the world,” she said.
Such caution was a reason behind Mobicip in Thousand Oaks.
Mobicip is angling to become the provider of parental controls on every device in the household, whether it’s a souped-up cell phone, gaming device or netbook. The young company hit the market in February with a browser that could screen, filter and block sites on children’s iPhones and iPod Touches. On June 15, it announced a premium service that expands into netbooks.
For founder Suren Ramasubbu, who has experience with technology in education, mobile devices create a wide-open market with very little protection for children using those devices.
“The ubiquity of Internet access is just exploding,” Ramasubbu said. His own 6-year-old plays with an iPod Touch and uses Google to research giraffes in Africa.
New protections needed
Mobicip’s service not only blocks Web sites and scans for inappropriate content on sites, but it also encrypts traffic for an added layer of protection, he said.
Parents can keep kids from getting around it and the service itself tends to outsmart those efforts as well.
There are a few competitors and more are likely, but Ramasubbu thinks by focusing on mobile devices, Mobicip can carve out a niche in the market.
So far, about 4,000 parents have bought about 7,500 downloads of the application, which costs $4.99 for the safe browser. The premium service costs $9.99 a year.
Ramasubbu stresses these are controls that parents determine and put in place.
The basic application allows for filtering at preset elementary, middle or high school levels. But the premium service allows constant monitoring and modification as parents add sites or remove sites on block lists. It also allows flexibility as children mature and have family discussions about what is allowed.
While the company offers parents a new tool, Mobicip also brings something new to the industry. Mobicip is built around cloud computing, where the heavy lifting is handled on the company’s servers and the information is accessed by the user’s device.
That allows the company to easily make changes and update its programs, and it lets parents use a single Web login to make changes to an account that immediately apply to all linked devices.
Using the cloud makes sense for mobile Internet devices that often have little processing power, Ramasubbu said. Traditional parental control software would bog a device down as it processed whether to block a site, but Mobicip’s servers handle all that, making the process more seamless for the user.