Parental Monitor - Keep an eye on a child's phone usage

You want your child to have a cell phone in case of an emergency, but you're worried who they're talking to and messaging.  You're also nervous about giving them a smartphone because you won't know what applications they're running.

The Parental Monitor application helps a concerned parent to unobtrusively monitor the important data and activities on a child's smartphone.  Copies of the following data are sent to a web site where it can be viewed by the parent:

  1. The accounts associated with the phone.
  2. The contacts stored on the phone, including their phone numbers, email addresses, postal addresses, and even their contact photos.  In addition, the number of times the contact has been used and the last contact time is captured.
  3. The contact groups.
  4. The call log, including phone number, contact name, call type (e.g., incoming, outgoing, or missed), time of the call, and call duration.
  5. The text messages (SMS and MMS) received and sent.  For multimedia messages, any attached images are viewable as well.
  6. The list of installed applications.

Some competitors want two or three times the price of this application per year for equivalent features.

Installation and Configuration

Important:  This application doesn't create a launcher icon.  To run the application after installation, the parent should press the Open button when viewing the application details in the Android Market phone application.  The Open button replaces the Buy button once the application has been purchased.

The parent must have a Google (gmail) account to view the data.  Open the Parental Monitor application on the phone to associate the phone with the parent's Google account.  The parent should enter their gmail address and password.  Once verified, information uploaded by the application will be viewable from that parent Google account.  Note that the verification of the gmail address and password is done by Google servers.  The Parental Monitor application will not have access to the parent's gmail password or other account information (except for the email address itself).  This is the only configuration step that must be performed using the monitored phone itself.  After this configuration step, the phone will periodically upload data that is then viewable on the web site.  Any further configuration options are set by the parent at the web site, which will communicate the changes to the phone.

The Parent's Web Site

As the parent, to view the monitored information, you log on to the web site msi-parents.appspot.com using your Google Mail address and password.  This is the same gmail address and password entered on the phone during the initial configuration step.  Note that just like that step, the gmail address and password is checked by Google servers.  The msi-parents web site will not have access to your password or other account information.

More information on the use of the web site is available on the Help Page.

Permissions

We think it's important that developers disclose what their applications are doing with certain permissions, so here is our description for this application.  Seeing as the application's purpose if to retrieve a lot of information from the phone, it requires a lot of permissions.  This is an explanation of each permission needed for the app and a description of what it is used for:

  • GET_ACCOUNTS - needed to read the list of accounts on the device.  A description of each account associated with the device is uploaded to the web site.
  • READ_CONTACTS - needed to read the list of contacts on the device and the contact information.  This information is uploaded to the web site.
  • READ_PHONE_STATE - needed to read the phone's telephone number and serial number, to identify the device to the server.
  • READ_SMS - needed to read the SMS and MMS messages that are uploaded to the web site.
  • INTERNET - Needed to send gathered information to the server over the Internet.
  • ACCESS_NETWORK_STATE - If Internet access is not available when needed, this permission is required to listen for the event that says it is now available.
  • WAKE_LOCK - used to briefly prevent the device from going into a low-power sleep mode.  When a timer or other event for the app received, an Android "service" is created to process it.  The service performs the desired operation in the background.  A "wake lock" is used during this time to prevent the phone from sleeping.  Rest assured the wake lock is held for as brief a period of time as possible, and the service does not run all the time.
  • RECEIVE_BOOT_COMPLETED - This permission allows the program to run when the device has finished booting up to see if there are messages ready to transmit to the server and to schedule the necessary timers that check for changes.  If the outgoing queue is empty, very little code runs at bootup, and the service that performs this check completes immediately so there will be no unnecessary memory usage on your device.

Content Rating

The Android Market uses a content-rating system for applications.  According to Google's guidelines, it is rated "Everyone".

Install Dots & Boxes on your Phone

Go to the Android Market page for the Parental Monitor app to install the application from a browser.  Alternatively, if you have a program like Barcode Scanner installed on your phone, you can scan this barcode to direct the Android Market application on your phone to view the Dots & Boxes application.  You can then download it if you wish.

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Version History

If you are interested in the evolution of the Parental Monitor app, here is the version history so far.