When Pam Ward and Saskia Wallace first dreamed up a product that would help parents keep their kids safe, it looked very different.
That was in 2011, when they won the student category of Grow Wellington's Bright Ideas Challenge. The company was called Appease and the concept was a wearable Bluetooth device that would alert parents if their child went out of range in a busy place like a shopping mall. But the challenge proved too difficult and a new idea was born.
"We learned a lot about how hard it is building a hardware product," says Ward. "We worked with Grow Wellington and got a $5000 grant from them and TechNZ (now Callaghan Innovation). We changed the product to look at when kids get their first mobile device and to keep an eye on their walk to school."
That was the idea that got Ward and Wallace into New Zealand's first tech accelerator, Lightning Lab, leading to the new name Kids Go Mobile.
The three month experience in Wellington with eight other startups sparked another pivot. "They encouraged us to do a lot of customer validation work. We discovered parents were so much more concerned with how their kids were interacting with the devices," Ward says.
The validation also involved assessing similar apps available in the market, says Ward. "There are a lot of competitors and software that gives parents a full window into what their kids do. The problem with that is it's a lot of information for a parent to trawl through and it feels quite invasive for a kid when they've finally go their own device."
Kids Go Mobile focuses on giving parents email or SMS notifications about their child's device activity, along with advice about how to mitigate the risks children face when using websites and apps. Those risks can include cyber bullying, inappropriate content and contact from unknown sources.
The app is designed to encourage open discussion between parents and children, Ward says. "It's not spying on kids whatsoever. As soon as people hear the idea they think of those existing products which are really just a window into what kids are doing."
Kids Go Mobile has developed an alpha version of the app that lets parents know about their children's phone usage, what apps they're using and if they're using their phone after 10PM.
It also tells them monthly usage and the most frequently used contacts, and there's a rating system to tell parents how safe or dangerous applications can be. It hopes to develop the app with more focus on how kids are using mobile applications.
The advice for parents will be gleaned from the creators' own knowledge of mobile apps and from organisations like NetSafe, 0800 What's Up? and Victoria University's Educational Psychology Department.
It hopes to have an Android Beta available next January and an iOS version next July.
The Kickstarter project has a target of $20,000 and offers pledgers a year's subscription for one child, which can be used across several devices.
The earlybird reward is $80 per year, after that it will cost pledgers $100. Kids Go Mobile expects the subscription price will then be between $5 and $10 a month.
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