Sometimes my mum calls me while I’m at work to ask – usually well-meaning – but infinitely non-urgent questions like: “How do I record every episode of Lark Rise to Candleford?”. As much as I’m well past the age where talking to my mum is a chore, if she had the power to lock my phone until I replied, I’d be pretty ticked off. Apparently the new app Ignore No More gives parents the option of locking their children’s phones until they call them back, and it seems to be dividing camps.
Sharon Standifird has created the app, currently for Android but soon to be on Apple too, that lets parents lock their kids’ phones until they call them back; don’t worry though, they’re not crazy – the kid can still dial the emergency services.
It would be easy to call the app the attention-seeking, controlling behaviour of people who are old enough to know better, but you can’t knock someone who to be fair (mostly) just wants to make sure their kids are safe; it’s an honourable motive, and I can only imagine the fear of a parent when they’re trying to get hold of an elusive child.
Batting for the other camp though, there’s that whole ‘free will’ issue, and the idea that it may be raising a few trust issues during already delicate relationship-building years. And yes, it will almost certainly indulge some control-freak behaviours. One blog describes it as allowing “parents to lock their children’s devices remotely, then unlock once their demands have been met,” which makes it sound more like a ransom situation than anything else; which it kinda technically is.
It seems that maybe we’re starting to go a little too far down the road of ‘tech will fix it’. When our data is threatened, we put technology in place to minimalise the threats, but (to call a spade a spade and a child a child) children aren’t technology and there are some situations where a bit of common sense and communication will probably go further than an app. If your child is old enough to own a phone and leave the house with it, then the phone itself – locked or otherwise – isn’t going to keep them safe. What you want is for your kid to act responsibly, be as safe as they can be, and want to communicate better with you, so you can sleep a little better at night.
At the end of the day, if a kid isn’t returning their parent’s call, it’s probably because they’re a) busy, b) ignoring them or c) mid-way through watching a video of a cat that barks like a dog; locking their phone will do absolutely nothing if they’re actually in trouble. There’s also the minor issue of actually installing the app – which presumably no kid in their right mind would allow – and then the assumption that they haven’t got the smarts to immediately uninstall it. It’s all a bit of a moot point anyway, as apparently the average six year old could out-tech the average 45 year old; and until the tide goes the other way, sorry mum, Lark Rise will just have to wait.
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