Children are on average getting their first mobile phone by the age of 10, with more than four million kids in Australia now owning a phone.
How can parents balance the need to communicate remotely with their child with online safety?
It is this conundrum that Perth-based company Family Zone is looking to solve with its new FZ One Cyber Safe Mobile Phone.
“You can control what your child does and when they do it,” Family Zone Managing Director, Tim Levy, told Information Age. “We have smart things in our technology that will notify you if your child has installed an app and will send you insights into what that app is and whether it is appropriate for that age group.”
The technology can also auto schedule screen time, restrict social media access, disable the camera, restrict iTunes and restrict in-app purchases – ultimately giving parents the power to control what their child does on their phone and when they do it.
These measures were previously available to install on existing devices as part of a Family Zone plan.
The significance of the FZ One is it is the first-ever fully featured smartphone with cyber safety controls built-in.
“You don’t need to install it, it’s incredibly hard to hack or violate and the whole set up process is made enormously easier,” Levy said.
Source: Family Zone
The phone, manufactured by Chinese company TCL, is installed with the latest version of Android (Oreo) and has no functional limitations on features and apps, leaving it entirely up to parents to decide what their child can and can’t do online.
While the device gives parents the power to monitor how the child is using their phone, there are still limitations as to what the parents can see.
“We don’t get involved inside the messaging platforms,” said Levy. “Most cyber safety experts would suggest that you don’t interfere with the child’s messaging – what’s often called spyware. Cyber experts think that’s stepping too far.”
Schools can also create and enforce their own phone-use policy, Levy explained.
“We allow a sharing of policy management between the schools and the parents,” he said. “The school can apply their policy during school time, then at 3.15pm the parent applies their policy.”
“You know this big debate about banning mobile phone? It becomes irrelevant when you think about a device like the FZ One, because the FZ One can be in a classroom and cause no distractions at all.
“It can be effectively a learning device.”
The FZ One will be available for purchase online and in retail stores for $199 by the end of 2018.