Local dad launches app to combat cyberbullying, sexting

A Charlotte dad has created a new app for parents concerned about their kids' safety online.

We hear about it a lot these days: cyberbullying, sexting. A Charlotte dad just launched a new tool to help parents keep their kids safe. But some are questioning the way it works.

The headlines got to be too much; kids killing themselves after being cyber bullied.

"This is an issue we see more and more," said James Ryan. "We're really just two dads who developed an app and it snowballed."

The Charlotte dad teamed up with another dad to create the PocketGuardian app that monitors text messages.

"We're not looking at every single message but if there's something that could be harmful to you we want to know about it.

Ryan demonstrated the app.

"Say for instance they said to someone, 'everyone hates you.'"

The app has to be installed on the parent's phone and the child's phone, then software scans all text messages sent or received and sends parents an alert anytime something is considered bullying or sexting.

"We're not spying, we're not invading the child's privacy, we're not sending any of the content of the messages to the parent, only sending alerts."

But Mohammed Shehab, who is an associate professor with the Department of Software and Information Systems College of Computing and Informatics at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, has some concerns.

"Of course there are lots of concerns because now you are being monitored

But the app makers insist the pocket guardian is less invasive than similar apps on the market.

"We only alert the parents when something inappropriate is going on."

That, the professor approves of.

"I think it's a smart idea because they are trying to reduce the amount of information that the parent gets."

And they're going one step further.

"Along with the alert email we send to parents, we also provide resources."

Suggestions on how to talk to your kids about these tough topics.

"It's not a way to stop parenting. It's a resource in our toolbox to help you along. You still have to communicate with your children, you still have to be a parent."

The app costs $3.99 and is only available directly from the PocketGuardian website, not in the app store.


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