At a time of more focus than ever on the protection of children, the digital world becomes ever more dangerous. Two devices could help change that, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
It is deeply ironic that, the more options parents have for keeping their children safe through the use of technology, the more vulnerable their children become.
It doesn’t help that many kids are more tech-savvy than their parents, but that is more of an excuse than a reason for parents to abdicate responsibility for their children’s digital lives. The real issue is that the seemingly simple process of finding the right phone for a child – in terms of budget, style and capabilities – has become absurdly complex.
And then, once a phone is handed to the child, the parent is usually clueless about how to set it up, how to limit activities and types of access, and how to configure parental control functions.
The solution lies in stylish devices that are designed for children without detracting from their experience and even self-image.
Two gadgets launched in South Africa in the last two weeks address exactly these questions.
KidTech: Huawei P8 Lite adapted for children
The first, from a new South African company called KidTech, sensibly uses an existing phone, but adapts it extensively for children’s use. The base phone is a Huawei P8 Lite, a stylish, mid-range handset that has already been successful in South Africa for the past two years.
A 2017 edition, released last year, brings the phone up to date for current apps, while the KidTech adaptation makes it relevant, safe and fun for children. It is provided on a Telkom Mobile contract, and comes with parental controls that sort out these deceptively complex tasks:
- blocks harmful websites and apps;
- protects children from cyber-bullying and sexually-inappropriate behaviour;
- allows parents to control when and how the cellphone is used;
- tracks kids’ whereabouts at any time;
- sends alerts when the user leaves a designated area, like home or school.
“The idea came from witnessing arguments about cellphones between kids who want cellphones and parents who are worried about their kids being exposed to all the negatives that cellphones can introduce,” says Antony Seeff, CEO of KidTech.
The company is a subsidiary of the cellphone account management company, Tariffic, and was started by its executive team.
“KidTech has selected a suite of apps which have been pre-installed and pre-configured to ensure that parents need not worry about their kids online,” says Seeff. “One app helps parents identify if their kids are being the victims of cyberbullying by monitoring all WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger messages and alerting parents the moment certain bullying keywords are used.”
Nic Botes, KidTech co-founder, says the software is pivotal in preventing bullying and sexually-inappropriate conversations. And it goes further than conversations.
“Photos taken on the phone are also backed up and shared with parents, so they can identify any worrying behaviour before its too late,” says Botes.
KidTech also drew on Tariffic’s 12-year track record and expertise in identifying ideal contracts for specific needs. Usually geared to companies trying to make their staff accounts more cost-effective, Tariffic’s system was used to identify the perfect cellphone contract for kids.
The R249-a-month top-up contract comes with 1GB of data and free WhatsApp use. Parents can also top up the account with prepaid airtime or data, allowing tight control of bills.
“The stories that we’re hearing about what young kids are getting up to on their cellphones are frightening”, says Toma Batev, a KidTech co-founders. “There are many reports of kids under 10 sending nude photos of themselves, and becoming suicidal after being cyber-bullied online. Parents need to be able to protect their children from these dangers.
“Not giving children phones is not a realistic answer. Rather give them the right phones with the correct safeguards and protections.”
Aside from the customised phone, KidTech has has also created a website, http://www.ismychildbeingcyberbullied.co.za, to help with the wider cyber-bullying problem.
* Visit www.kidtech.co.za for more information
Connected MoveTime Family Watch MT30
Ensuring the safety of children is also the motivation behind a new smartwatch designed for younger kids. The MoveTime Family Watch MT30 was created by TCL Communication, the company that also produces Alcatel and BlackBerry phones.
It is based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 chip, developed to allow any manufacturer to make small wearable devices. It takes forward Qualcomm’s own vision for the Snapdragon Wear platform, geared to a “new generation of wearable devices designed just for kids”, as the chipmaker put it.
Qualcomm, which announced the platform last year, explained the motivation: “These 3G or 4G LTE connected kid smartwatches can empower a child with a sense of independence, while giving mom and dad some peace of mind with an always-connected device that provides an age appropriate user experience.”
Devices based on the platform were exhibited by Qualcomm at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier in January, making it all the more surprising that the first gadgets based on the platform have already arrived in South Africa.
Says Ernst Wittmann, TCL’s regional manager for Southern and East Africa, “TCL’s Movetime Family Watch MT30 combines the robust technology of Snapdragon Wear 2100 with TCL’s design and manufacturing expertise to deliver a connected rich and fun experience for kids and peace of mind for parents, It offers seamless connectivity and reliable safety features to help parents monitor their children’s safety in a fun, feature filled watch.”
The watch has a colourful touchscreen, which makes it both enjoyable and easy for young children to use. Aside from playing built-in games, it allows them to add friends through Bluetooth, and to send them emoji icons and messages.
While instant text messaging is not possible on the device, it allows parents and children to exchange voice messages and to make calls. Eight pre-determined numbers can be set on the watch, and the child can make and receive voice calls, using just this device, to and from those numbers. Calls to and from strangers are, therefore, not possible.
The MT30 promises two days of battery life on a single charge, and it is IP67 rated for water resistance up to one metre deep. It is also dust-proof, making it a great playground companion.
GPS functionality allows for location features, which provide parents with instant indoor and outdoor positioning via an app on their own phones, as well as geofencing, meaning they are alerted when the child leaves designated areas. A prominent SOS button allows the child to call for help in an emergency simply by pressing the button – and parents can then also locate the child instantly.
Startlingly, the watch is also a productivity gadget: it provides to-do lists, with reminder functions, both to ensure kids do chores and homework, and remember events or appointments. It also helps teach kids time management.
The MoveTime Family Watch is available on contract at R149 per month, including a SIM card in the watch, or R2699 as a prepaid purchase.
How we use phones to avoid human contact
A recent study by Kaspersky Lab has found that 75% of people pick up their connected device to avoid conversing with another human being.
Connected devices are becoming essential to keeping people in contact with each other, but for many they are also a much-needed comfort blanket in a variety of social situations when they do not want to interact with others. A recent survey from Kaspersky Lab has confirmed this trend in behaviour after three-quarters of people (75%) admitted they use a device to pretend to be busy when they don’t want to talk to someone else, showing the importance of keeping connected devices protected under all circumstances.
Imagine you’ve arrived at a bar and you’re waiting for your date. The bar is busy, and people are chatting all around you. What do you do now? Strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know? Grab your phone from your pocket or handbag until your date arrives to keep yourself busy? Why talk to humans or even make eye-contact with someone else when you can stare at your connected device instead?
The truth is, our use of devices is making it much easier to avoid small talk or even be polite to those around us, and new Kaspersky Lab research has found that 72% of people use one when they do not know what to do in a social situation. They are also the ‘go-to’ distraction for people even when they aren’t trying to look busy or avoid someone’s eye. 46% of people admit to using a device just to kill time every day and 44% use it as a daily distraction.
In addition to just being a distraction, devices are also a lifeline to those who would rather not talk directly to another person in day-to-day situations, to complete essential tasks. In fact, nearly a third (31%) of people would prefer to carry out tasks such as ordering a taxi or finding directions to where they need to go via a website and an app, because they find it an easier experience than speaking with another person.
Whether they are helping us avoid direct contact or filling a void in our daily lives, our constant reliance on devices has become a cause for panic when they become unusable. A third (34%) of people worry that they will not be able to entertain themselves if they cannot access a connected device. 12% are even concerned that they won’t be able to pretend to be busy if their device is out of action.
Dmitry Aleshin, VP for Product Marketing, Kaspersky Lab said, “The reliance on connected devices is impacting us in more ways than we could have ever expected. There is no doubt that being connected gives us the freedom to make modern life easier, but devices are also vital to help people get through different and difficult social situations. No matter what your ‘connection crutch’ is, it is essential to make sure your device is online and available when you need it most.”
To ensure your device lifeline is always there and in top health – no matter what the reason or situation – Kaspersky Security Cloud keeps your connection safe and secure:
· I want to use my device while waiting for a friend – is it secure to access the bar’s Wi-Fi?
With Kaspersky Security Cloud, devices are protected against network threats, even if the user needs to use insecure public Wi-Fi hotspots. This is done through transferring data via an encrypted channel to ensure personal data safety, so users’ devices are protected on any connection.
· Oh no! I’m bored but my phone’s battery is getting low – what am I going to do?
Users can track their battery level thanks to a countdown of how many minutes are left until their device shuts down in the Kaspersky Security Cloud interface. There is also a wide-range of portable power supplies available to keep device batteries charged while on-the-go.
· I’ve lost my phone! How will I keep myself entertained now?
Should the unthinkable happen and you lose or have your phone stolen, Kaspersky Security Cloud can track and protect your device from data breaches, for complete peace of mind. Remote lock and locate features ensure your device remains secure until you are reunited.
Five key biometric facts
Due to their uniqueness, fingerprints are being used more and more to quickly identify and ensure the security of customers. CLAUDE LANGLEY, Regional Sales Manager, for Africa at HID Global Biometrics, outlines five facts about the technology.
How many times in a day are you expected to identify yourself? From when you arrive at work you are required to sign in, visiting your bank, receiving healthcare services… The list is endless. When a system knows who you are, you are able to do any number common, everyday activities. Your identity is unique and precious. It is also easily stolen and the target of many hackers across the globe. Technology is constantly evolving alongside the criminal element, always looking for ways to protect data and identity. One such solution happens to be biometrics and it is rapidly gaining traction in our increasingly complex modern world.
Reliable, secure and fundamentally YOU, unique biometric traits such as fingerprints are being used by banks, enterprises and consumers to verify identity. Biometric solutions offer significant identity protection because they use unique biological details to ensure an account is only accessed by the account holder, a door only opened by the owner. Here are five things that are little known about this technology…
- The uncut identity. Your fingerprint is unique to you. Nobody can use a copy of it to impersonate you. Good technology is capable of scanning down into the layers of the fingertip to differentiate unique elements of a person’s fingerprint, this data is then encrypted and used as a key to unlocking whichever physical or virtual door that the biometric system protects.
- The living proof. No, there is nothing to the stories of fingerprints being used without their owner’s knowledge or permission. Biometric solutions can use specific variables to determine if the finger used to access the system is that of a present, living person. A copy or a fake cannot be used to access a cutting-edge biometric solution.
- Easy and convenient. Queues and documents and paperwork may well be a thing of the past should biometrics take a firmer grip of government and banking systems. The process of registering is easy, and access to identity documents and records is yours alone.
- Security blanket. A thousand passwords and a hundred post-it notes stuck on walls and drawers. An excel file with a list of sites and applications and their corresponding passwords, all a thing of the past. Nobody needs to remember their password with biometrics, they only need to show up.
- Anywhere is cool. Schools, airports, networks, offices, homes, toilets, banks, libraries, governments, border controls, immigration services, call centres, hospitals and even clubs and pubs – knowing “who” matters and biometrics can quickly and conveniently confirm your identity where needed.