How NQ Mobile's Family Guardian will protect your kids

The Android app can access all mobile activity on a smartphone. Bad news for kids, but good for parents.

NQ Mobile's Family Guardian is an app that allows parents to track their kids. NQ Mobile

NQ Mobile isn't content to protect your phone; it wants to protect your children too.

The company, which primarily makes mobile security software that fights off malware and viruses on smartphones, is moving to an adjacent area of security with its Family Guardian app. The app, only available on Android for now, is presented as an all-in-one parental control tool.

Victoria Repice, senior director of product development for NQ Mobile, ran through the app with me last week. While nothing that it does is particularly new, the app does bundle together a lot of features under one price.

Family Guardian is an app that sits in children's smartphones and basically monitors anything they do and where they go. Parents go online and access a dashboard, and can pull up all of the phone's activity: view contacts, Web browsing history, photos taken, what apps are downloaded, and location data. Parents can also set limits on when the phone can be used (it can be blocked out during certain hours of the day), who their kids can talk or text, and restrict Web sites and apps.

"The app provides a tool for parents to understand, track, and protect their children," Repice said.

The amount of restrictions can be customized. Parents can also choose from a number of default profiles set up by age.

Children, meanwhile, need a password to access or delete the app, making it difficult for them to get around Family Guardian.

The app also makes good use of the phone's location awareness and GPS capabilities. Parents can get a rough location history of their kids, seeing where they go throughout the day. They can also set up geofences around known areas such as the school or library; if a child opts to ditch class and leave campus, the parent will get a text message alert.

Children can either check in with their parents or tap the panic button if they're in trouble. The parents will automatically get a text alert with location information. NQ Mobile

The app allows the child to "check in" when at a friend's place or the mall, sending the parent a notification with location information. Likewise, it has an SOS panic button that alerts the parents to trouble, and similarly provides the child's location.

Family Guardian is available for free for the first 30 days. Afterwards, the app costs $34.99 a year.

NQ Mobile doesn't exactly have a reputation for parental control apps, so it intrigued me that the company was entering this field.

The company was based out of China but earlier this year tapped former Samsung and Citigroup executive Omar Khan as co-CEO , whose role was to build a more global presence.

Family security will be one of the core businesses of NQ Mobile in the U.S., Repice said.

Still, NQ Mobile will have a tough task getting into the minds of parents. The company has already started working with non-profit groups that deal with family, children, and the digital lifestyle, and is targeting parent-teacher associations. It will also be more active in local communities in an effort to drum up word of mouth for the app.

Family Guardian has been available since mid-September, and has so far seen several thousand downloads.

Down the line, the company plans on an iOS version of the app, but Repice said it was quicker and easier to get an Android one out.

So for now, children with iPhones can breathe a sigh of relief.

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About the author

Roger Cheng is the executive editor in charge of breaking news for CNET News. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade. He's a devoted Trojan alum and Los Angeles Lakers fan.

 

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