TeenSafe: A Parental Monitoring Tool with Several Advantages

by | Nov. 14, 2014

A couple of weeks ago, I was intrigued by an e-mail that I received from the National PTA. For every parent that subscribes to a smartphone monitoring app called TeenSafe, $10 will be raised for their local PTA. Parents can also receive a 33% lifetime discount on the app.

What intrigued me about this promotion was not only finding another tool to research in my continued work on the parental controls marketplace, but also finding a solution that is endorsed by an organization as significant as the PTA. In many discussions with companies in the parental control marketplace, I’ve often heard executives discuss how they’d like to be aligned with national organizations that are significant promoters of creating a safer online and mobile experience for children. TeenSafe appears to have done just that.

I briefed with TeenSafe CEO Rawdon Messenger this week, and I got additional insight into the company and its solution. I walked away from the discussion thinking that TeenSafe has ticked off some significant checkboxes for success.

 Based in Southern California, TeenSafe was the creation of friends and parents Sukant and Ameeta Jain (a profile of the Jain family is found here on the National PTA website), Allan and Lindsay Legator, and Scott and Terri Walker. The Walkers became concerned about their teenage daughter’s “digital life” and tried a couple of different rudimentary mobile monitoring systems without finding a solution that worked for them. At the same time, the Jains were monitoring their son’s Facebook activity and became alarmed after witnessing examples of cyber-bullying  Subsequent discussions developed the general concept for the service that became TeenSafe. It was designed, developed, and architected over a two-year period, creating the monitoring solution for Android phones and the first solution for the iPhone that does not require jail-breaking. To monitor an iPhone, the parent simply needs to enter the child’s Apple ID and password. No software needs to be loaded on the phone, making this quite invisible to the child.

The first TeenSafe advantage is the broad range of applications which it can monitor. They include text messages (included deleted texts), location, web browsing/search history, bookmarks, contacts, and call logs. TeenSafe also monitors  Android devices, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Kik activity. CEO Messenger acknowledges that a challenge of creating any monitoring tool is the speed at which teens flock to new social network or communications options (from MySpace to Facebook to Instagram, to Snapchat, to WhatsApp, etc.) and the need to stay ahead of these trends. He notes that the company will unveil new features starting in January and will be making announcements about developments to the solution during the first eight months of 2015.

Second, TeenSafe has a large user base. Parents have clearly found value in TeenSafe, as 700,000 have signed up since 2013. Rawdon has confirmed  that the pace of sign-ups is growing at about 10% monthly. Although he won’t reveal how the user base translates to subscribers ($14.95/month to monitor an unlimited number of children), he says that it’s a substantial figure.

Finally, the relationship that TeenSafe has formed with the National PTA allows the company raise awareness about Internet and mobile safety issues and to promote the service. TeenSafe was an official Gold Sponsor of the 2014 National PTA Annual Convention and Youth Leadership Summit in Austin, Texas. Another messaging outlet is a blog called Teenology in which TeenSafe shares thoughts with parents about safe technology use. Messenger said that the company's work has given them credibility among advocacy organizations, and he said that they expect to make some new partnership announcements in 2015.

The National PTA is hosting a webinar on November 19 titled #ShareAwesome Gift-Giving Advice –Talking with Your Kids About the Ways to Make Safer, Smarter Decisions Using Digital Devices. Speakers are:

 

The webinar focuses on tips and advice for appropriate technology gifts for children as well as how to make smarter and safer decisions online. You can register for this webinar here.


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