Dad creates app that forces kids to see parents' texts

Commentary: ReplyASAP takes over a phone screen and demands attention. Now.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Young woman smiling while using a phone

Hit Snooze and proceed. 

Josh Miller/CNET

Kids have always been a little difficult.

Technology may have made things worse, as the young tend to know more about tech than their parents do. 

They know, for example, how to ignore mom and dad and do whatever they like. 

Nick Herbert found this a touch frustrating. 

Kids have a habit of simply not replying to texts. Not because they're bad kids, but, well, they're doing something more interesting on the phone -- like playing a game.

So, as CBS News reports, Herbert conceived ReplyASAP. This is an app (currently available only on Android) that forces your child to address your texts. 

By annoying the living hell out of them.

"I wanted to be able to set an alarm on his phone -- that was the gem of the idea. Alarms sound even on silent," Herbert told CBS. 

Oh, who likes to hear an alarm go off? Nobody. And which teen would enjoy a phone screen being taken over by a message that might read, "Call your dad or else!!!"?

The teen is then offered only two choices: snooze for three minutes or cancel. But then parents get a notification that they've been snoozed or canceled. 

Herbert insists that ReplyASAP is meant to be used only in emergencies. This isn't about annoying your kids all the time, however tempting that might be. 

Indeed, he told me that it's not about forcing your child to reply. Instead, he said: "It is simply a means of getting an important message to the child, even when they have their phone on silent, and for the parent to know they have seen it." 

Equally, it can be helpful for kids who need to reach their parents with an urgent request -- more money, for example.

On the app's Google Play page, Herbert explains that he doesn't think the app will merely help parent-teen relations. He suggests it's a way of ensuring that an urgent message -- say, between someone and an elderly family member or just between friends who are organizing something -- will be seen.

Currently, however, ReplyASAP -- which costs $1.27 to have one person connected (and more if you want more people) -- enjoys only a 2.4-star rating.  

Some complain the app is bypassed too easily.

I was moved, for example, by the hurt tones of one complainant, Shaun Soong. While pointing out that phone users can simply switch off text messaging on their devices, he offered a poignant view of modern life. "Not a worthy app," he wrote. "My gal simply cancelled the sms n continue to play games. Useless." 

When I asked for his feelings about this complaint, Herbert replied: "This app requires the consent of both parties, deliberately so. It is not a punishment and the parent and child should be discussing why it's there."

Not only the parent and child, of course, but also the friends, other family members and, yes, even lovers who might use it.

Once you've agreed to something, there's no switching it off when you feel like it. 

At least, that's how good relationships should work.

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