A new phone network has launched to give parents control over their children's mobile telephone usage.
The Bemilo pay-as-you go service allows mums and dads to vet who can contact their youngsters, who the children can phone, and the time of day the phone can be used for calls and messaging.
The company says the phone lets young people have all the benefits of having a mobile, whilst giving parents 'full control' of the services accessed, including capping how much they can spend, and how much time they spend on their phone.
Bemilo claims a third of children are sleep deprived because of late night texting, whilst one in 10 have received bullying text or calls, and a quarter text whilst in class at school. From a central log-in, mums and dads can control this by reviewing all their children's calls and SMS messages, and where necessary, blocking contacts, and putting usage limits in place.
Parentdish spoke to the Bemilo founder, Simon Goff, who told us that the controls give parents the confidence that their kids are safe from the negatives of mobile phone use – such as cyber bullying and unwanted calls – whilst still allowing them to be contactable in an emergency; the reason he says most mums and dads give their youngsters a mobile in the first place.
"The original premise of the business was the ability to just set time limits for a child," Simon told us, "So at school you might not want them having access to texting or the internet, but you would still want to be able to contact them yourself, or have them be able to phone you."
We asked him how teenagers might feel about their parents having access to their phones. Wouldn't most youngsters be horrified at the thought of their parents signing up for such a service - particularly if they knew they could see their text messages?
"We were under the impression parents wanted the ability to look at text messages," Simon said, but admitted there were pluses and minuses to that part of the service, but overall, it was a safety-net for concerned mums and dads.
"Lots of bullied children do not have the courage or social understanding of what to do with a bullying message," he explained, "If a parent was worried their child was being bullied by text, this gives them the opportunity to have a look, and block the number if necessary."
"Mobile bullies can't trick our system. Parents are able to review the content of all incoming and outgoing calls and SMS, even if the child has deleted the information from its phone. Bemilo can also bypass withheld numbers, disallowing bullies from contacting a child if they are not set up as an approved contact. Likewise, if a parent contacts the child from a withheld number, our technology ensures the number will always get through," he added.
It is not, he said, a 'Big Brother' service for parents to snoop on their children.
"It's the safety and emergency side of things. Ultimately, it is up to parents to set guidelines and boundaries for their children's phone usage, and adjust security levels according to how responsible their child is with the phone. At the moment with a phone the only parental tool you have is to take it away or not top up credit."
Dad-of-one Simon says his own five year old son was the inspiration behind the venture:
"The average age for a child to get their first mobile is eight," he says, "And I see my son now charging around with the iPad, and know, at some point, he is going to be asking for a mobile!"
A Bemilo safety pack costs from £2.95 per month, with calls, SMS and data purchased as part of a pay as you go tariff.
Would you sign up for this for your kids?
Or do you think your children would throw a fit if they thought you were monitoring or controlling their phone usage?