October 2011

Safety Apps for Parents

Good parenting (never an easy job) can't be replaced by technology, but sometimes technology can help you be a better parent. Apps can give you tools and super parenting powers you never dreamed of before. While there are many parent app lists that can keep your child educated and entertained, here are some apps that will keep your kids safe and healthy.

With latest version of the Apple's mobile software (iOS 5), parents are getting an increased level of parental control over previous versions. With iOS 5 parents can control almost everything a child can do on their iDevice (iPod, iPhone, iPad). While that sounds great in theory, in practice it can be very frustrating. You can set restrictions on whether your child has access to Safari, Camera, FaceTime, Game Center, YouTube, the App Store, whether they can install or delete software, etc.  Unfortunately these options are binary, your kid can surf or she can't, see YouTube or not.
safety apps for parents

When it comes to allowed content sold/rented/accessed via ITunes, iOS 5 has much better parental controls. You can set the age content level for music & podcasts, movies, TV shows and apps based on industry content ratings.

As an added bonus, you can use the new free Find My Friends app to track your kid's iPhone location in real time. 
find my friends app

As good as iOS 5's parental controls are, they are still very basic and lack the robustness of a dedicated app that allows more nuanced control. For example you may have a teenager that needs to access the web via Safari but you still want to have some safe browsing and Internet filtering that is age appropriate. Enter the dedicated apps.

Child Safe Browser with Internet Filtering and Parental Controls
Mobicip for ipad iphone and ipod

As a parent and a developer of the Mobicip Safe Browser (a popular Internet content filtering service for the iPod touch , iPhone iPad , Windows 7 and Linux, with parental controls and monitoring), I lead a team that thinks about children’s Internet safety 24/7. After exhaustive research with child development psychologists, high-tech law enforcement officials, Internet safety experts, school IT directors, teachers and parents, we have developed mobile Internet safety solutions centered around three content filtering levels:

  • The elementary school level in our kid-friendly browser blocks social networking, gaming, shopping, entertainment, clothing, and news sites/content, in addition to the middle and high school level restrictions listed below.
  • The middle school level in the Mobicip Safe Browser blocks online gambling, dating, liquor, and chat sites/content, in addition to the high school level restrictions listed below.
  • High school level in the Mobicip Safe Browser is the least restrictive and blocks adult, sexual, weapons, violence, proxy, virus and hacking sites/content.

Our app costs only $4.99 (premium subscriptions are $9.99 a year allowing you more robust monitoring features on multiple devices).

While I believe very strongly that our kid safe browser with Internet filtering parental controls is the very best on the market, you do have other options. K9 and BSecure (both free) and SurfBalance ($4.99) are available, but we feel that their less-than-robust Internet filtering falls short of our high standard for child-safe browsers. Regardless of which you choose, even if it is a competitor, we urge you to install some kind of safe browser solution on all your kids' Internet devices.

Kid Tracking:
Life360 (free or $4.99/month subscription for premium features) is a family locator app that instantly displays the GPS coordinates of all your family members (even if they don't have smart phones). The ability to work independent of a phone's software and hardware, gives this app a leg up over iOS 5's Find My Friends app. With Life360, you can send a message via the app to see if a family member is safe. Family members can check in at a safe location (school, home, Grandma's house, etc.). If a family member goes missing, you can send the authorities all their personal information (photos, GPS history, etc.). Of all the safety apps we tried, this one has by far the most comprehensive features list. As an added bonus, Life360 offers pocket-size GPS devices that can be used for children that don't have phones. Each device costs $99 to purchase and then $10/month for data service.
life 360

Someday, your kid might need to alert you that there is an emergency, but they need to do it subtly so that onlookers can't see. This is where the Silent Bodyguard, a secret panic button/location tracker app ($1.99), comes in. With the touch of an icon, the Silent Bodyguard app will send out an emergency SOS message to email, text, Twitter/Facebook with your kids' GPS location every 60 seconds without alerting onlookers.
life 360 app

Latchkey Kids:
You can't always be there (physically) for your kids. Every family wrestles with the question of what age their child should be given the responsibility of coming and going by themselves.

Here are two apps by lock manufacturers that come with wireless computer controlled hardware locks that you can install on your front door. These apps can email or text you automatically when someone enters your home. You can assign a specific entry code to each child so that you instantly know when each child is safe at home. If your kid forgets their entry code, you can often open the front door remotely.

The Lockitron uses your iPhone as the key. After you install the hardware on your front door, you just download the free app to your kid’s iPhone, and follow the simple instructions. You can even remotely open the door with your laptop.

The Schlage LiNK kit, offers some of the same features, but requires an $8.99 monthly charge to send/receive texts and work remotely. The system also works with Schlage's wired camera.

If you have a home security system like ADT, you can also download a free app called ADT Plus that can give you a full picture of your home from sensors and installed web cams.
adt plus app  adt plus app 2
(Live web cam view from ADT Plus sent to your phone.)

Home automation specialists like Control4, can build you a custom latchkey security system that you can run from your mobile phone. If you are going the home automation route anyway, it might be a good feature to consider.

If you want to keep your kids safe at home when you are not there, first install a kid-safe browser like Mobicip on their iPhone, iPod or iPad. You can also install some hidden nanny cams that you can access from your iPhone.

Kid Emergency Information Software:
The FBI's Child ID App (free) is one app you hope you never need. 
FBI Child App

You type in your child's vital statistics, shoot a picture of your kid with the iPhone's camera and you have all the information you need to pass on to authorities should your child go missing. The app includes a quick way to dial 911, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and to send your child's information and photo to authorities. The app also includes two very useful checklists detailing what to do in the first and second 24 hours a kid goes missing. While this app is designed for parents, one could easily see a teacher on a field trip using it (with the parents’ permission of course).
FBI Child app 2

While the FBI's app is very good for a missing child, if your child has a medical condition, cough up $2.99 for iEmergency ICE Family Pro. If you or your child has a life-threatening condition, such as a serious allergy, this app's lock screen could literally be a life saver. Totally worth the three bucks right there.
iEmergency app

But there's more. This app allows you (or anyone in your family who shares the app) to have complete medical history, doctor's phone number, insurance, etc for all family members. The app allows a first responder to instantly call your top emergency contacts.
iEmergency app 2

If your child is having unusual health symptoms you may be wondering if it could be a sign of something serious. Find out with the WebMD Mobile app (free). There are a lot of health apps out there, but this one is considered the best because the content is approved by doctors in that field.
web md app

Sex Offender Finder:
Part of keeping your kid safe is knowing the dangers around you. Thanks to Megan's Law, sex offenders have to register with the authorities. With the Offender Locator Lite (free) app you can see a map of the local sex offenders, plus mug shots and a list of their crimes. (Life360 also offers sex offender mapping.) No matter where you are living, this app will definitely give you the creeps once you know how close they live to your home or school. But forewarned is forearmed, if you see any of these people hanging around your child you will know to get him or her quickly out of danger.
offender locator app

Raising a kid to be a safe and healthy adult is a challenge, but with these mobile apps you'll have the situation well in hand.

About Author
Suren Ramasubbu is the Founder of Mobicip.com, a popular Internet content filtering service for the iPod touch , iPhone iPad , Windows 7 and Linux, with parental controls and monitoring. Mobicip's mission is to provide a safe, secure and educational Internet experience for school-age children. Mobicip's dynamic content filtering technology helps parents protect their children from a new wave of Internet hazards stemming from mobility so they can learn and love the mobile web. By delivering an online safety net through its parental control solution, Mobicip gives parents and educators the ability to safeguard their children's mobile devices.  Before launching Mobicip.com, Suren was an Operating Manager at Agilent Technologies, responsible for a division's enterprise web infrastructure strategy and team. At Agilent, Suren has led QA automation strategy, evangelized software engineering methodologies, and developed software for RF and mixed-signal electronic design automation. Suren has also volunteered as a consultant for educational technology projects and led successful United Way volunteering and fundraising campaigns. He holds a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering from Virginia Tech and an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

Mobicip Update

 I am using Mobicip for Windows 7 and getting an update "New Version (1.1.2) When update is complete as soon as IE is used again the update screen restarts for the same update. I've done all the usual restarting etc.

Mobicip Safe Browser 2.8.1 Update Now Available!

We are happy to announce that Mobicip' Safe Browser 2.8.1 is now

Mobicip Safe Browser - iPhone App Store

If you have previously downloaded Mobicip, you can download the update for free by using the same iTunes account as before. 2.8.1 is an important update as the following critical issues were resolved:

"Open in" feature

This feature has been requested mainly by students and schools. Apparently, students want to open PDF files in their favorite application like iBooks or GoodReader, some of which allow the PDF to be edited. In version 2.8.1, opening a PDF (or DOC, DOCX, XLS, PPT, etc.) displays an "Open in" button at the top right of the screen, like this:

Open in feature screenshot 

Touch the button to select the application you would like to open the file with.

Open in iBooks screenshot

You should now be able to view the file from within the selected application, like iBooks for example.

Opened file in iBooks - screenshot

iOS 5 Compatibility Issues

As some of you had reported, certain websites were not being rendered correctly on iOS 5. This would not have affected a vast majority of users, but for those who noticed the problem, it could have been very annoying. Luckily, we were able to identify and fix the problem quickly as part of the 2.8.1 update.

Error Connecting to the Network Issue

Many thanks to the users from the UK, middle east and asia who reported a vexing "error connecting to the server" problem when they set the device time to a zone that did not correspond to their location. We did resolve the problem a while ago, but it wasn't a big enough problem to merit an update on its own. The fix finally got out during the 2.8.1. update.

Authentication Crash Issue

Some users ran into an unrecoverable crash during authentication after changing WiFi networks, mostly in school environments. Thanks to all the schools that worked with us, provided crash reports for investigation, and tested the beta version before we rolled out the update. The issue is now resolved as well.

Thanks for your patience as we resolved these issues. Please download the latest update and let us know what you think.

Of iPads, MDM, and Proxy Settings

Just posted a reply (reproduced below for your reading convenience) to this article by ZDNet's Christopher Dawson.


Your article is very informative and highlights a key oversight by Zeeland. However, your assertion that:

"Most CIPA-compliant systems can filter off-campus devices through a simply proxy setup which can be pushed to iPads through the MDM system mentioned above."

is not correct. MDM systems will allow you to setup a proxy only when the device is on WiFi networks that you manage. Off-network proxy setting is possible if you setup a VPN, but turning off VPN is as easy as selecting Settings > VPN > OFF.

Companies like Mobicip and Lightspeed offer an alternate browser on iOS devices. By setting up this alternate browser and turning off Safari, you can ensure that the kids are offered safe browsing on any network. This is a limitation of the iOS platform and SDK, and Apple has its own justifiable reasons to keep it that way.

The alternate safe browser is a "good enough" solution to the problem, but it does mean turning off Safari and losing some of the conveniences (like weblinks on the home screen, links from emails opening in Safari etc.). So schools end up weighing the pros and cons and some decide to go one way or another. Zeeland obviously took the risky option and ended up being burned by it.

I would fault the school administration for not communicating the hazards and possible workarounds (many schools simply recommend that parents install Mobicip, which is available as a retail product through the App Store), but I think the administration would have been smart enough to setup a proxy through the MDM if at all that was possible. If only the options were that simple...

Thanks for bringing attention to this issue, though.

Parents.com lists Best Apps and Products to Prevent Cyberbullying

Parents Healthy Kids Logo 

Parents.com writer Linda DiProperzio shares ways to protect your child from unwanted bullies in cyberspace in the article: 'Best Apps and Products to Prevent Cyberbullying'. 

DiProperzio lists Mobicip as one of the the tools that will guard your kid's online safety. She also lists NearParent app and other great apps. Read the article here.

Parents.com Mobicip Best App

Login issue on Linux (Ubuntu)

 I have been having issues to log onto mobicip on Ubuntu for the last 6 months. I am able to log onto my web account, but not on the ubuntu app. Everytime i log in using my email id as username and password it would say 'Login Failed'. I have tried creating a new account and logging in, but no luck.


Can someone help please?




Mobicip App Mentions and Reading Recommendations

Mobicip application was recently mentioned on a few sites. Thank you DelMarvaNow.com and SummitSeriesforFamilies.com! We are happy to feature a small part of this content on our blog, however we strongly encourage you to visit both of these sites to read the articles.
Mobicip Safe Browser Application
Program gives 185 students iPads by Calum McKinney at DelMarvaNow.com
"Prepared for worries about students using the device to access inappropriate websites, Vonhoff said their iPads come equiped with software to deal with such issues.

'We use a program called Mobicip, so our students don’t use safari browser; they use mobicip as the browser,' he said. 'It allows us to log and monitor Internet use on campus or off. It’s a good tool to help them use the device responsibly.'"

Safe Mobile Browsing with the Mobicip Safe Browser by Jonathan Wylie at SummitSeriesForFamiles.com
"It is relatively easy to set up parent monitoring controls for computers used at home, but what about ones that are used on the go? Mobile internet devices like the iPod Touch and the iPad are great tools for today’s teenagers. However, it can be hard to monitor their usage when children use them away from home. This is where Mobicip’s Safe Browser comes into its own."

Mobicip Windows Content Filter

Other Reading Recommendations:
British Schoolkids Stock up on iPads, iPhones
Technology and Your Children: How to Keep Kids Safe
Kindle Fire or...iPod Touch? (Ask Maggie)

The Dennis Ritchie Effect

In other words, the butterfly effect. That is what Dennis Ritchie's work in creating the Unix operating system and the C programming language did to the world. Most people don't know this; it set in motion a whole new industry around computing.

Count me among the legions of programmers who learned their ropes by implementing the recursive quicksort after being challenged by the bible for coders of my generation - "K&R", the popular moniker for The C Programming Language by Kernighan & Ritchie. Mobicip's co-founder, Pradeep, one of the best hackers I know, says, "I think this guy affected the lives of software engineers like us more than any other individual. His book was an inspiration to me and redefined the way I saw programming." And that is an understatement.

Rupert Goodwin writes on ZDNet, "Unix and C's direct and spiritual descendants cannot be counted, but include Linux, Android, Mac OS, iOS, JavaScript, C++, the genius of the internet and a world full of developers."  You can add your microwave, printer, TV, set-top box, smartphone, car and anything that has any firmware to the list. Enough said.

RIP Dennis.

October is National Cyber Security Month

Enough is Enough

Enough Is EnoughSM (EIE) recently sent a great reminder for National Cyber Security Month. In 2002, October was named Cyber Security Month and is an annual commemoration of the importance of promoting cyber security and safety. This year's theme is "Our Shared Responsibility." EIE President and CEO, Donna Rice Hughes, helped create a three pronged strategy for Internet safety that involves the public, the technology industry and law enforcement sharing the responsibility to protect children on the Internet (see below.) To get more information and support efforts to protect children online, please go here: https://enough.org/
EIE's three-pronged approach of shared responsibility includes:

1. Educating the public, specifically adults about cyber dangers and safety solutions primarily through the media and EIE's Internet Safety 101SM multimedia program resources. The program is the only multimedia program designed to educate, equip and empower caring adults to protect children from pornography, sexual predators and cyberbullies and to keep kids safe and secure on social networking sites, gaming and mobile devices.

2. Encouraging and working alongside the technology industry, including industry giants like Google and Microsoft, to implement viable, family friendly technology solutions and corporate policies and best practices. EIE incorporates cyber security technology solutions into all its Internet Safety 101SM program resources. Additionally, EIE's Internet Safety 101 program is featured as a requisite teaching tool by many of its partners to equip, educate and empower communities with the ability to implement cyber secure practices.

3. Promoting legal solutions that call for aggressive enforcement of existing laws and enactment of new laws to ensure security and safety of children and families. In April, Donna Rice Hughes, was invited as a cyber security expert by the U.S. State Department to educated State Department employees about cyber security and the digital threats kids face, as well as what can be done to prevent cyber crimes against children.         

Enough Is Enough (EIE) a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, emerged in 1994 as the national leader on the front line of efforts to make the Internet safer for children and families.  Since then, EIE has pioneered and led the effort to confront online pornography, sexual predation and other dangers associated with the evolving web with innovative initiatives and effective communications.  EIE's Internet safety 101 Program is a comprehensive, multi-media program that addresses the critical need for parental education and empowerment to protect kids.

Get more information here: EIE Newsletter, Enough.org, and EIE Blog.

Steve Jobs and the Art of Transforming our Lives

I was told Steve Jobs was ill. I noticed his frail appearance at WWDC 2011 but dismissed the hoopla around his health. I never doubted for a second that Steve would be back in the pink of his health soon. As always I fell hook, line and sinker for his "one more thing" preamble. An icon of my lifetime has passed away, and every person in the Mobicip team feels the loss deeply in their hearts.

I'm sure Steve has influenced and changed many lives, in ways more significantly than he did mine. But that is what is remarkable about this man, and I'm compelled to share this story nevertheless. June 09, 2008. This was the day Steve announced the App Store for the first time. I followed the engadget liveblog franctically, reloading and refreshing to catch the latest morsels thrown at us by the live-bloggers. I watched Steve's presentation after the session ended. I decided to quit my job that very day and Mobicip was born.

Steve Jobs has many remarkable achievements to his credit. One among those is the amazing transition of power from wireless carriers - the likes of AT&T and Verizon - to independent app developers. In the days before iOS, app developers were at the mercy of large carriers and their bureaucratic ways. If the carrier blessed you, and the app made it to the handsets, you had a shot at success. If they decided not to bless you, that would be it. With the announcement of the iOS SDK and the developer program, Apple opened the floodgates in one fell swoop. No more dealing with carriers. Pay $99 to Apple, download the SDK, develop the app, get it reviewed and published to the world. Every self-respecting app developer's life had changed, most certainly mine.

I had been, at the time, working with K-12 schools learning about the need for anytime anywhere learning using a handheld mobile device. When the iPod touch was launched - not the iPhone mind it, but the iPod touch - I felt it was going to satisfy the demand in education for a convenient learning device. When the SDK was announced, it was a no-brainer.

The message was delivered by Steve Jobs with his trademark flourish. And I knew at that instant that this was it. This man was going to change how our children learn. The iPod touch sowed the seeds. The iPad will transform education.

Steve, your legacy lives on. Among the people who use Apple products, among your fans, among your employees, and most importantly for me, among app developers like me whose lives you touched.

RIP Steve.

Mobicip Basics: How to use Mobicip on the iPod Touch

Mobicip Facebook fans have been asking great questions and we thought it would be great to review the basics for example, "How to Use Mobicip on the iPod Touch."

1.    Click on the Mobicip application from your home screen

Mobicip application

2.    Wait for Mobicip to load.

Mobicip Windows 7 filter

3. You will see a home page with many popular websites listed.

Mobicip Content

4. Click the selected website from the menu, or type a preferred website into the URL bar at the top of the screen.

Mobicip Google

5. When a page is blocked by Mobicip due to inappropriate content, this page will appear:

Mobicip Blocked content

6.  However, if the content is deemed as appropriate based on the settings you have made, you will be directed straight to the website you have searched for.

Do you have a Mobicip question that you would like us to answer on the blog? If so, let us know! Leave a comment or find us on Facebook or Twitter.

Mobicip Approved site

Mobicip won't launch on iPad2

Mobicip has been working for a couple of months but now it won't launch at all. I have an iPad2. The knowledge base articles related to Mobicip not launching all refer to iPod touches. Please help!