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A lot of parents when they get smart phones (Android) for their children ask me whether I can install some kind of parental control app on the device (Even though I'm barely out of high school myself ;) ) And I usually say that these so called "parental control apps" or even spy apps will need basically unrestricted access to the device and this is a major privacy concern as they might be using it for illicit purposes.

But this got me thinking are there actually ANY safe apps for this purpose ?

The most major need will be a secondary call log like feature which stores all calls and sms' even if it has been deleted from the default call log of Android.

Having the ability to record these calls and GPS location logs would be nice but is not necessary.

Thank You.


Answers which are not country specific would be helpful.

Also, will it be practical to make my own app ? Is there any legal problems to that?

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Actually, I would see the most pressing need is administrator-like control (and least-privileged-user) of installing apps, access to sites, and such. Logging calls and other monitoring aspects could be important, but in my mind this is a far secondary requirement compared to user restrictions. –  AviD Sep 3 '13 at 17:47
    
Btw and to be clear - you are not asking here for an app recommendation (which would be closed since these types of questions are not a good fit for SE), but rather if it is possible, what would that look like, what would be required, and how to tell that it is secure? Right? –  AviD Sep 3 '13 at 17:50
    
Well those applications exist but hmm, aren't they illegal and considered as malware? It's definitely a nice idea, did you found any applications out there that do this legally? –  Cokaric Sep 3 '13 at 20:21
    
@AviD Yeah, to make things more clear. I was asking whether its possible and more importantly whether they are safe and if there is a way to find out if they are. But app recommendations would not hurt. –  Grim Reaper Sep 4 '13 at 7:17
    
@Cokaric Since the phone legally belongs to the parent and also since the kids will be under 18. I'm guessing that these apps technically would be legal. But I'm no lawyer hopefully there are people on SE more educated than me on law who can clarify on that. –  Grim Reaper Sep 4 '13 at 7:20
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3 Answers

You do not need apps to keep track of calls and GPS position.

For most carriers, all calls are shown in the statement and most update this every few days or more often in the online view. For any line you can see what number was called and for how long. Since this information is coming from the carrier, you do not need to worry about anything being deleted by the child. If you pay the bill, you get to see this information for all lines on your plan. In most cases this will also show you who SMS/MMS were sent to, but not the content, and not email information since that is not a carrier service.

As for GPS tracking, you do not need an app for that. This is something which can also be done through the carrier or through third party GPS monitoring solutions for a fee. In most cases, this requires an opt-in, but since you can take your child's phone from them and opt-in, you will be able to do this. For example, on Verzion there is Family Tracker, which even lets you setup geo-fenced alerts. There are also third party services which provide opt-in tracking.

It is not usually illegal to install software to track and monitor your own property, and in many cases it is okay for a parent to track their child in such a way. For legal concerns though, please ask a lawyer as I am not a lawyer and therefore cannot provide legal advice.

With any type of app or local tracking, a smart kid will always be able to figure out how to disable the tracking or to send false data so any app has a likelihood of being circumvented. There are also alternatives like Google Voice, email, etc. or some encryption services that those who want to make it difficult will use. Likely, the best response would be for the parent to develop a trusting relationship with their child and to keep up with what they are doing and where they are going.


Something you may want to research more would be working on a rooted phone. It may be possible to password protect access to the rooted controls and you may be able to put something there and have it be hidden from the user mode apps since you are doing this as root. You would of course have to root the phone. A quick search shows at least one example of a GPS app that can installed as a service with root in the background. I am sure someone makes such things for call recording, logs, etc as well which might be worth further research.


Since you wanted more information on India, it looks like perhaps you could ask the government, as there are plans to track all mobiles in real time. At least for a kidnapping or runaway I would imagine the police could leverage this, later to dinner, probably not.

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But unfortunately no carriers in my country offers GPS tracking services. They do however provide statements on phone calls and sms'. But have a rather drawn out process for acquiring them for prepaid phones. –  Grim Reaper Sep 4 '13 at 7:23
    
With a child who want to get around their parents, they may save up and buy a cheap SIM on a prepaid phone anyway. You are correct, this answer is a US-centric. My guess is there are still some carriers that do this because a lot of companies use this to track delivery trucks, etc. –  Eric G Sep 4 '13 at 17:15
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I'm suggesting you some apps for each purpose.

1)Automatic Call Recorder - Records all calls and save to memory card.

2) For GPS Location tracking On your child's mobile Google Maps App-> Latitude->Sharing Currently Disabled->Enable Location sharing-> Then Select Your mail id and enable location sharing.

You can View your child's location from your mobile by Google Maps App-> Latitude-> Friendlist

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Both these apps are very easily seen and can be deactivated by any kid. A PIN protection or something would be appreciated. And also latitude was removed from maps as of August 9th(I think). And now is a part of google+. –  Grim Reaper Sep 4 '13 at 7:33
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Although I agree with Eric G's answer, I've some experience as a former user of Mobiflock. Former only because I took his smart phone away.

It does have a call log, and even call restrictions, one way or two way, based on address book, all, or set up in the web application. Same goes for SMS. further more, a full log of both calls and SMS is recorded on the web application, including the ones that were blocked.

For applications, the parents can block or allow applications, or even provide time based restrictions on when they can be used.

I am a big fan of their GPS tracking. Call it creepy if you will, but, it sends a generic and specific GPS updates at intervals of the parents choosing. At each check-in, it's plotted on a map with a time stamp.

Either way, it's worth checking out.

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