Spy Apps Allow Parents Into Child's Online World - NBC Southern California
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Spy Apps Allow Parents Into Child's Online World

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    NEWSLETTERS

    New apps help parents "spy" on their teenagers' social media activities, but are the app owners collecting - and keeping - your kids' private data? And what if their phone falls into the wrong hands? Randy Mac reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015. (Published Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015)

    The quiet, well-mannered child you know might be living an entirely different life in the world of social media.

    Link: Talking to Kids About Social Media and Sexting

    But parents can get a look inside that world with apps that allow them to spy on their kids' online and phone activities.

    TeenSafe is designed to track a child's every move, if they have a smartphone or other mobile device on them. Anu Parks uses it to infiltrate her daughter's social media universe for $15 per month.

    "I can see all her deleted texts, her current texts," said Parks. "I can see her call logs of who called her and how long her calls were."

    The app, which uses GPS to pinpoint her daughter's location, isn't the only one that allows a parent to spy on a child. mSpy and SpyBubble have similar functions. Phone Sheriff allows parents to put their child's phone on a timer. Mobicip blocks adult material and items that are not age appropriate. MamaBear lets parents monitor a young driver's speed.

    Some of the apps are free, others require monthly fees.

    Anu Parks' daughter, Prema, said she is less concerned about her privacy than that off her friends. She's worried about compromising a friend's privacy.

    "A parent's duty to protect their children trumps their child's right to privacy," said Rawdon Messenger, CEO of TeenSafe.

    The data is only shared with parents, not the company, Smith said.

    "That's a black box," said Smith. "We do not look at it. We do not touch it under any circumstances beyond a legal subpoena."

    But technology expert Juan Carlos Bagnell told NBC4 thieves don't seek subpoenas.

    "They're able to get around your security, now they have access to your child's location and all the content that they've produced," said Bagnell.

    Anu Parks said the risk of a hack is worth the prevailing influence in her daughter's life.

    "That Internet, whether we like it or not, that is their world and I have to become part of that world to stay in my daughter's life," Parks said.

    The TeenSafe app expires when a child turns 18 and is legally considered an adult.

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