In Korea, parents monitor smartphones with apps that trigger teen alerts - Weekend

In Korea, parents monitor smartphones with apps that trigger teen alerts

SEOUL, South Korea — When it comes to monitoring their kids, parents are taking matters into their own hands, literally, with smartphone apps. At least 15 of these apps allow parents to monitor how long their kids use their smartphones, how many times they use apps and which websites they visit. Some send a child’s location data to parents and issue an alert when a child searches keywords such as “suicide,” ‘’pregnancy” and “bully” or receives messages with those words.

GENERATION APP. South Korean middle school students use their smartphones at a bus station in Seoul, South Korea. Do they mind that their parents are possibly monitoring their smartphone use through mobile apps? (AP FOTO)
GENERATION APP. South Korean middle school students use their smartphones at a bus station in Seoul, South Korea. Do they mind that their parents are possibly monitoring their smartphone use through mobile apps? (AP FOTO)

One of these apps for parental control of Android smartphones is “Smart Relief.” South Korea’s government funded the app, which alerts parents based on its monitoring of phrases and words used in smartphone messages and in online searches. The developer says it can give parents insight into the worries or preoccupations of their children.

Another app, “Smart Sheriff,” was funded by the South Korean government primarily to block access to pornography and other offensive content online, although its features also go well beyond that.

Such apps are criticized in South Korea as an invasion of privacy but their use is burgeoning, particularly after the country’s telecoms regulator ordered monitoring applications be installed on the smartphones of Koreans aged 18 and below. Smart Relief is not one of the 15 apps authorized for use in that program but shares similar features with them.

The app monitors about 800 words and phrases in messages, including: threat, kill, shut up, violence, destroy, handicap, crazy, prostitute, garbage, thief, porn, suicide, pregnancy, inn, obscene, sex, sexual crime, sexual relationship, prostitution, motel, beer, rape, adultery, run away from home, outcast.

It monitors about 300 words and phrases in online searches, including: girl I like, boy I like, dating, boyfriend, girlfriend, breakup, invisible person, don’t have friends, jealousy, lonely, stress, don’t want to live, loser, complaint, help, worry, breast, plastic surgery, appearance, fat, French kiss, porn, menstruation, adoption, divorce, rape, homosexual love, single parent, IS, terrorism, poison. (AP)

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