How the Apple iPhone 5s can improve the parent-child relationship

Can biometric technology make parents' lives easier in monitoring their children's activity on mobile devices?


Fingerprint recognition technology may appeal to business users looking to keep their mobile devices more secure, but could it also have a place in households worldwide?

In today's keynote, Apple announced a split within the iPhone 5 line. The Cupertino. Calif-based company revealed two new products -- the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s. The iPhone 5c is a low-cost mobile device and is expected to be targeted towards developing economies .

In comparison, the iPhone 5s comes in champagne-gold, silver, and black colored versions with storage options of 16GB, 32GB and 64G -- costing $199, $299 and $399 respectively on two-year contracts. The iPhone 5s is a 64-bit mobile phone , the first of its kind, and has an improved battery life, a better 28-megapixel camera, and uses the latest operating system, iOS 7.

However, the most interesting new feature is the introduction of biometric technology, and this is the one feature which could help parents control what content their children can access through mobile devices.

Apple's new facility is called "Touch ID." Within the Phone 5s is an embedded stainless steel "detection ring" which can read fingerprints 360-degrees at a resolution of 500 pixels-per-inch, and can be used to unlock the phone.

The security feature can also be used to make in-app purchases.

While the phone's fingerprint recognition technology is a good alternative for people who otherwise wouldn't have security enabled on their smartphone, the fact that multiple users can be set through biometrics means that parents have a useful tool at their disposal.

Mobile devices including smartphones and tablets are now often used by parents to keep their offspring occupied and entertained. While apps can be educational as well as amusing for children, potentially offering more value than standard computer games, parents often run the risk of children making in-app purchases that can rack up into the thousands in exceptional cases.

By using Touch ID, parents are likely to be able to set up accounts with different privileges. Multiple accounts will allow parents to keep personal & work accounts away from a "guest" option for their children -- which could allow a child to use the mobile device without being able to make expensive in-app purchases, or potentially access services that parents want restricted, such as web browsing or social media networks. In addition, parents would no longer have to worry about exploring fingers accidentally sending emails to their workplace or accidentally accessing inappropriate material.

The idea of increasing parental control over a child's mobile device is being explored by other tech companies. Microsoft recently filed a patent  which explains that parents could be given access to a remote dashboard that monitors devices connected to the personal network. The software could be used to set restrictions including use overnight, set a phone so it can only call a "white list" of contacts and emergency numbers, and could disable features including games, text messaging, email, browsers and social network applications. 

For parents worried about their child's fingerprints being stored on servers outside of their control, Apple has stipulated that tight controls will be placed on developers -- who will not have access to TouchID technology -- and biometric data will not be stored.

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