By Art Holliday
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - A St. Louis man has created a new smartphone app that lets parents spy on their kids in order to protect them.
"I actually built something because I'm passionate about keeping my kids safe," said Kevin Bloom, father of two young girls.
Kevin Bloom's company designed surveillance apps for parents. The "Catch Me If You Can" and "Protect Me If You Can" apps monitor almost everything a child does on an Android smart phone.
"It uploads the messages, incoming, outgoing messages, and it organizes them into a top ten list," said Bloom. "Who are the top ten people communicating with your child? It does the same thing with phone calls. It basically uploads from the phone virtually everything that happens on the phone. If you feel like your child is being bullied at school electronically, phone calls, whatever, you can record those phone calls and make a better determination with evidence of whether the child is being bullied or not."
Technology raises interesting questions for parents. How far are you willing to go to know what your child is doing or who they're communicating with on their cell phone? Do you consider this spying or using technology to keep bad things from happening to your kids?
"Whether a child has a legal expectation of privacy or not, that's pretty clear," said Bloom. "They don't up to a certain age. Whether they have a moral expectation of privacy, that's a whole different matter that's family dependant."
Wendy Watson won't be buying a cell phone for her toddler for a few more years, but she considered the question of how much technology-based supervision is too much?
"Obviously it would be optional," said Watson, "but I personally think it would be great. Something to track where they are, where they've been."
Neil Richards is a law professor at Washington University, internationally recognized as a privacy expert. He's also a parent of two young children.
"It's understandable to want to keep our children safe, but we ultimately have to let them make a few mistakes, expose them to a little bit of risk," said Richards. "We as parents and as a society have to resist the temptation no matter how natural it is, to put our children, especially our teenage children, under 24 hour surveillance."
"Yes, it's a heavy decision for most people," said Bloom, "but for me it's more of an obligation rather than a right or an infringement."
There are two versions of the app. There's one where the child knows they're being monitored, and there's a stealth version that works without the child's knowledge. The annual cost runs between 20 and 60 dollars. In the case of adults who use the app illegally to spy on other adults, Kevin Bloom says his company will cooperate with law enforcement. To learn more about the apps, go to http://catchme.ifyoucan.com/.