TeenSafe opens up access to your kid's phone

Useful tool, or invasion of privacy?

KINGMAN - Teenagers are more wired, social and mobile than ever before. According to a 2013 Pew Research study, 74 percent of teens access the Internet via their cell phones, tablets or other mobile devices. The same study showed that 94 percent of teens were posting on Facebook at least "occasionally" and had in upward of 400 friends.

Studies such as this one, however, come out much more slowly than the tech industry moves, and teen adoption rates for "new" platforms like Vine (2012, acquired by Twitter), Snapchat (2012), Kik (2010), WhatsApp (2009, acquired by Facebook in 2014) and the flurry of other social media apps that release regularly is enough to dizzy anybody wanting to follow the industry.

This creates problems for parents as well, and while I'm not a parent myself, I can see how nerve-wracking it must be to tread that line of monitoring your child while respecting their privacy spanning all these social media platforms. Even if a parent wanted to monitor who their child is talking to on Facebook or on their phones, some parents lack the technological resources and know-how to do so.

A press-release for an online service to assist parents in monitoring their child's smartphone and social media accounts crossed my desk that aims to address that issue.

It's called TeenSafe, and it's a web portal that gathers all your child's social media accounts and phone information into one client and allows you to monitor everything without logging into their accounts or looking at their phones.

The setup process is simple: the parent gathers the child's account information and password for his social media accounts and phone. They enter it into TeenSafe's web portal, and TeenSafe accesses their accounts and displays the information in an easy-to-navigate interface.

TeenSafe's phone monitoring system stood out when I tested it on myself. I wanted to see how much information I could track from my iPhone. I entered my Apple ID and password, and within 20 minutes TeenSafe populated the web portal with all my information. I was able to see:

• My phone's current location;

• Texts coming in and out, both the ones on my phone and ones I deleted;

• All incoming and outgoing phone calls including call times and contact information;

• Who I have stored in my address book;

• All web searches I did in Safari;

• All the bookmarks and web browsing history I did, even when I had "Do Not Track" enabled.

It relies on iCloud back to get that information (or an app installed in the hidden directory for Android), but once that's set up there was no way outside of jailbreaking my phone to know that TeenSafe was logging that data.

I also tested it with my Facebook account and was able to access everything: photos, messages (both via the app and online), news feed, a list of my friends, and basically anything and everything I posted or was posted about me on Facebook.

Currently TeenSafe can only monitor iPhones (with iCloud backup), Android phones, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Kik. They are adding more platforms, and because it pulls the information by logging in with your child's information they anticipate more platforms to come to the client soon.

For those less tech-savvy, I found the user interface and setting up the monitoring very easy to program. All you need is your child's login information for all their social media accounts and to enable iCloud backups for his iPhone.

TeenSafe encrypts all that information it's collecting with 256 bit SSL encryption, and they advertise that no one can see your child's information but you. Because it relies on login information, you can simply change your child's passwords to lock-out TeenSafe.

The service is $14.95 per month, and a family can add as many children as they want to the service. You can also try it out for a week before buying, just be sure to cancel the free trial if you don't plan on keeping it for the month.

For more information on TeenSafe, visit their website at http://www.teensafe.com.