25 January 2011


New App to Protect Kids Sounds Too Good to be True

Monday's news on the BBC that a new mobile phone application claims to identify pedophiles sounds great, but it's hard not to think that such technology might give parents a false sense of security.

According to the BBC news article, Child Defence says: "the app can analyze language to generate an age profile, identifying potential pedophiles".

How could this be at all possible?

I know that technology is evolving in leaps and bounds, but it can be difficult for a human to distinguish an adult voice from that of a child on the telephone. Not to mention recognising an adult (or even a potential criminal) via a typed message on an online chatroom, social network or instant messaging service.

Yes this is a significant and serious issue, especially after Barnardo's just launched 'a stark warning to the government over the growing threat of child exploitation' when it released its latest figures. Yes we're talking about children who are young and vulnerable to being 'groomed' by adults posing as children. And yes, we need to help police track paedophiles who masquerade as kids on these chat rooms.

But if this software is as effective as Child Defence says it is (apparently 90 per cent so) then what will technology be capable of next - predicting the lottery?

Chris Cloke, Head of Child Protection at NSPCC, warned that relying on technology might lead to complacency: "It can lull us into thinking that the child is safe and therefore we can move onto something else."

Wise words Mr Cloke. 

If you want my advice, use your head. And tell your children not to speak to strangers.


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