Big Data Simplifies Child Monitoring in an Age of New Safety Concerns

September 17, 2018

The “Stranger Danger” hysteria of the late 1900s did more harm than good. Follow up data found that children were hundreds of times more likely to get abducted by a family member than a stranger. Unfortunately, this blinded people to the very real problems children do face in the 21st-century. The good news is that parents are finally becoming more aware of the issues. A number of child monitoring companies have used big data to develop new solutions to help parents keep their children safe.

Child monitoring becomes more popular as big data improves tracking capabilities

Parents have expressed growing concerns about the safety of their children. While most parents aren’t as paranoid about abductions as they used to be, they constantly fear about their children’s well-being. They are especially concerned about the types of content that their children are exposed to online and the people that they associate with.

Parents are turning to more technologically sophisticated child monitoring strategies. According to a poll by Pew Research Center, 16% of parents use monitoring tools to track their children’s location and the content that they access online.

There are several ways that big data is helping parents monitor their children’s activity more easily.

Amassing more data that can be stored long-term

Older child monitoring solutions had much more limited data storage capacities. This meant that it was nearly impossible to store extensive data on their online behavioral patterns, text messages or the locations they visited. They could only look at small snapshots of their activities, such as a list of websites that they visited.

Since newer tools are more dependent on big data, they can store much more detailed records. This gives parents a much clearer understanding of their children’s activities, both online and off-line.

Big data has extended contextual understanding of parental control tools

When parents monitored their children’s activity in the 1990s, they depended on antiquated tools like Net Nanny. The problem is that these tools were very hit or mess. They usually worked by using one of two controls:

  • They would match domains children were trying to access online against a blacklist of inappropriate websites.
  • They would trigger a censorship algorithm if the user tried accessing the website with certain restricted words.

There were important limitations of both of these approaches. The problem with the first approach was that the list of websites with inappropriate material was growing exponentially every year. It was impossible for tools like Net Nanny to keep up and add all of them to the blacklist. Even as late as 2013, 80% of parental controls didn’t block all offensive websites.

The problem with the other approach was that it frequently triggered faults positives. There were perfectly legitimate reasons that websites had certain phrases that could appear controversial without any important context. One parental control solution blocked a webpage about breast cancer research.

Big data has helped reduce the false positives and false negatives that were common with other parental control solutions. Modern parental control solutions have deep learning capabilities that allow them to understand what types of content is controversial and inappropriate for kids. They become better at censoring adult content without the need of a blacklist.

Using predictive analytics to identify possible concerns that may not appear in digital records

Child monitoring apps have a lot of information. They can see what messages kid sent on social media and what locations they visited. However, you can’t always tell the whole story. A free phone tracker may help a parent see that their child was at A parking lot on the other end of town at 11 PM last Friday night. However, it won’t tell them who they were visiting.

Newer monitoring solutions able to evaluate possible risks, based on the child’s activities. They can look closely at data to see whether they are visiting areas that kids in the neighborhood frequent to get drugs.

Big data and predictive analytics revolutionized child monitoring

Child monitoring capabilities are more advanced than ever. This is largely due to advances in big data. Predictive analytics, deep learning and other big data solutions are the new frontier of child monitoring.