When I was a teenager smartphones weren’t a thing, and neither was sexting. You aren’t exactly going to take some tasteful nudes with a film camera and drop the roll off at your local pharmacy to get developed so you can pass them to your significant other between classes.
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With the prevalence of smartphones, sexting has started to happen more and more. Pew Research suggests that 1.2 million kids in the US have sent sexually suggestive images to someone else via text message, with the majority of those senders saying they felt pressured to do so on at least one occasion. According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority, 13 per cent of 16- to 17-year-olds said they or a friend sent nude or near nude photographs to others, while 18 per cent said they or a friend had received such photos.
If you’re a parent that’s concerned about your child sending or receiving explicit messages, you have a ton of options ranging from not giving them a mobile phone to meticulously monitoring incoming and outgoing messages.
Now there’s an app that can help do some of the heavy lifting as well using artificial intelligence. Called Gallery Guardian, the mobile app monitors the images and videos shared with and from your teen via text or social media apps, and then lets parents know when it looks like those images are perhaps a bit inappropriate, Digital Trends reports. For cautious parents it sounds like a good idea, but in practice it might not be quite ready for prime time.
If the app does discover your teen is sending or receiving explicit images it can also suggest some ways to go about having a conversation with them about the issue.
There are, of course, a few downsides. For starters, using the app requires you to install it on your child’s phone and for them to not delete it. Already you’re kind of working under the premise of a lack of trust. If sexting is something you’re concerned your child is going to be exposed to, you’d be better served to sit down and have a conversation with them about it before it happens rather than after you discover a problem through a spying app you installed on their phone.
Perhaps the biggest issue right now is how the app is figuring out your child is sexting in the first place. Right now images are also sent into the cloud where they’re analysed, in part because the processing power needed to run the algorithm would drain your phone’s battery. While the app maker says they’re transmitted using the “tightest encryption available” you’re still agreeing to have what you presume to be pics of your nude teen sent to a third party. While they hope to eventually move all the processing to your phone, that’s certainly not an ideal scenario for now.
A better decision? Sit down and have a conversation with your teen. You’ll both be better for it.