New Straits Times
Safer Internet for the young
Monitoring app helps parents ensure a safe digital playground for children, writes Balqis Lim
THE smartphone appears to be a child’s best friend; you can see a child using a phone to either watch videos or play games almost everywhere. Parents also resort to giving a phone or tablet to their children to get their attention and to stop them from crying.
However, children who are clever enough to navigate a screen have access to the world, which if not monitored, can pose hazards. The demographics of smart devices usage today include a large number of children, making them much more vulnerable to online predators.
As one of Malaysia’s mobile telecommunication service provider, Celcom feels the need to ensure a safe cyber realm for all of its users, especially children.
Since September last year, Celcom had initiated a “Parents Unite for Online Safety” campaign, to create awareness among parents to ensure a safe digital playground for their children.
Celcom Axiata chief executive officer, Michael Kuehner, says the company recognises the growing rate of cyber-related incidences and is pleased to support this initiative as part of its corporate social responsibility.
Apart from the awareness campaign, Celcom with its tech partner Access Motion, is also offering consumers a parental control service called KidSafe.
It is a network basic Internet filtering service via an innovative mobile application, exclusively designed for Celcom subscribers to safeguard their children when they are online. Kuehner says that the parental control service is also available as a web application.
KidSafe, he reiterates, is in line with the call from Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), urging all telecommunications providers to innovate a parental control service for their consumers.
“Through Celcom’s Parents Unite for Online Safety programme, a total of 175 1Malaysia Internet Centres (PI1M) nationwide will be equipped with the KidSafe app, a parental control tool for Internet filtering.
“The application was developed by Celcom to complement the awareness programme.”
HOW IT WORKS
Parents have to install the app on their device first before installing and applying KidSafe on their child’s device. They will have to log in to “Parent Mode” to monitor and control their child’s device. Only three devices may be connected at one occasion with the parent app.
Parents can monitor and limit all apps installed on the child’s device in real-time, blocking access to inappropriate websites (such as pornography, violence and adult content), and even limit how much time their children are allowed to use their devices or specific apps every day through the Daily Device Time function. Once the set time limit is reached, all apps will be blocked.
When a text that includes words that the parents have selected to monitor is received, it is also sent to them, allowing them to actively respond to it (which may contain inappropriate content or elements of school violence and bullying).
Parents can also set KidSafe to block specific incoming and outgoing calls such as advertisements or international calls.
The mobile application currently works on Android devices and will be available for other platforms in the near future.
Both Celcom postpaid and prepaid customers can subscribe to KidSafe at an affordable fee of RM95.99 annually. They may also opt for the half-year subscription at RM54.99 or a monthly subscription at RM9.99.
As reported by MCMC in the third quarter of last year, Kuehner says the penetration rate for mobile cellular in this country is at 131.8 for every 100 inhabitants.
He adds that according to a data obtained by the Statistics Department, in the fourth quarter of last year, there are close to eight million children aged 5-19 living here.
These numbers can relate to the numbers of children that may own a smart device, as now the technology is more affordable for most parents. “Many parents provide their children with smartphones, in order to ensure that their children are contactable, anytime and anywhere,” says Kuehner.
“The device changes the way the children and youth learn and develop. Google, for example, has become their source of reference on almost everything; one key word may lead them to unlimited information — either positive or negative,” he says.
Celcom’s efforts proved to be fruitful when the Youth and Sports Ministry acknowledged its determination and offered the opportunity to collaborate and align their aspiration with the National Transformation 2050 (TN50). Just recently, its minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, officiated a new phase of the programme, the first of such joint efforts between the government and a private company implemented under the TN50 initiative.
To impart the message further, joining hands with Celcom as programme partners are Brainy Bunch International Islamic Montessori, Protect and Save the Children and Malaysians Against Pornography, a campaign by Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia (Ikram) Wanita.
The collaboration will provide a holistic platform in educating parents and youths on online safety.