Service protects kids’ cell phones from predators

A new service from eAgency Systems helps parents track their children’s cell phone usage and provides real-time alerts if kids receive unwanted or suspicious e-mail, instant messages, text messages or phone calls.

Called Radar, the service works on the BlackBerry Pearl and will soon be available for Motorola’s Razr cell phones.

EAgency Systems sells Nice Office, a hosted Web service that allows wireless device users to automatically synch up e-mail, contacts, CRM and other corporate data.

EAgency Systems recently released its Radar monitoring service for parents. The service is designed to help parents deal with the threat of child predators, cyberbullies and others using cell phones to harass children.

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``Everything that’s been happening on the Internet is now moving over to the cell phone,’’ says Bob Lotter, founder and CEO of eAgency Systems. ``For 8- to 14-year-olds, the cell phone is the new desktop. Kids use cell phones to search the Web, SMS and watch TV and videos. For children, text messaging is the preferred method of communications, even more than phone calls. The bad guys have figured out that the phone is a safer venue for them.’’

Here’s how Radar works: Parents go to a Web site where they enter all of the acceptable telephone numbers, e-mail and instant messaging addresses that their child can call or from which he can receive calls. If a child receives a call, text message or e-mail from an unauthorized number, the parents are alerted via their cell phones.

The Radar service also allows parents to log on to a Web site and view detailed reports about their child’s cell phone usage.

``It’s not just pedophiles that are using cell phones. There’s also a rise in cyberbullying,’’ Lotter says. ``Kids are spreading rumors during class with SMS messages. They’re ruining reputations and making kids miserable. They’re sending pornographic photos and threatening text messages. It gets pretty ugly.’’

Lotter says it’s important for parents to monitor kids’ cell phone usage just like they do with PCs.

``In most homes, the PC is in a common area where parents can watch, but they can’t do that with cell phones,’’ Lotter says. With the Radar service, when an unauthorized message is sent parents ``receive a real-time alert within one or two seconds to their cell phone. If it’s a text message or a picture, the parents will get to see it in real time. Then the parent is aware that communication with somebody they don’t know has occurred.’’

The Radar service captures these unwanted communications in a format that qualifies as forensic evidence that can be used by law enforcement officials, Lotter says.

Radar costs $9.95 per month per child, with family plans available for $14.95 per month. It’s available through Verizon, Sprint/Nextel, Cingular/AT&T, T-Mobile and Alltel wireless networks.

EAgency Systems is offering discounts through school districts and Parent Teacher Association groups.

So far, eAgency Systems has ``hundreds’’ of parents signed up for the Radar system, Lotter says.

He says Radar is the first cell phone monitoring service designed specifically for parents.

``There are products that monitor e-mails and text messages on Windows Mobile devices, but they are more for corporate environments,’’ Lotter says. ``Nobody is doing this on the phone as we do this, and nobody is focused on alerting and maintaining a chain of custody for evidence.’’

EAgency Systems is based in Newport Beach, Calif. The start-up has 25 employees and has raised $20 million in funding.

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