Kytephone, the Y Combinator-backed startup making smartphones kid-friendly and safe, is now expanding its focus beyond the “little kids” crowd with the introduction of a new platform for teenagers and parents. Called “Kytetime,” the system is designed more for keeping track of a child’s location and their phone usage, rather than strictly locking down the phone or offering a simplified user interface.
The company first launched last summer to address the problems associated with smartphones being put into the hands of ever younger children, whether as their own device or on loan from their busy parent, caving into the kid’s request to play games. With the original Kytephone Android application, the software is able to take advantage of apps’ ability to deeply integrate with the Android platform, and presents a kid-friendly interface that also lets mom or dad control who the child can phone or receive calls from, which apps they can access, and more. It also taps into the phone’s GPS for a location-tracking feature.
Now Kytephone has repurposed that same technology for its teen-focused product, Kytetime, which is reminiscent of the “Net Nanny” applications which tracked kids’ Internet usage on desktops, and restricted access to inappropriate content.
Similarly, Kytetime, can also track how the teen is spending time on their phone, what websites they’re visiting, how much time the teen spends in each app, when apps are used, who the teen is talking to and texting with, and more.
However, because it’s the next step up from Kytephone’s “kiddie” interface, the system doesn’t actually block sites or apps entirely, though it does allow a parent to set up “time of day” controls for app. This prevents teens from using apps after a designated bed time or during school hours, for example.
So yes, no more Snapchatting in class, it seems.
“Kytetime is focused on awareness rather than control,” explains Ktyephone’s Anooj Shah. “Our goal was for the child and parent to be aware of how the child uses the phone and highlight opportunities where the kid can use the phone more responsibly,” he says. “We wanted Kytetime to facilitate a conversation between the parent and the child, rather than all out control.”
Unlike the original app, Kyteime doesn’t offer an app sandboxing functionality, nor does it present a child interface. Instead, the teens get full access to the Android interface, as they would normally.
However, parents still have the location-tracking feature available to them, and they have an online and mobile-friendly “Parent Dashboard,” where they can configure settings and track activity in real time. Parents can also receive email reports, summarizing their teen’s activities.
But like the Kytephone kids application, the new Kytetime app is also available as a free download from the Google Play app store. Access to the Kytetime Parent Dashboard and the email activity reports will only be available on a subscription basis. The fee is $40 per year, or $5 on a monthly basis. A two-week free trial is available upon sign-up, and it doesn’t require a credit card to try out.
To date, Kytephone has been installed by tens of thousands of users (Google Play shows installs between 10,000 and 50,000 but the company didn’t want to share exact numbers publicly). It has users in 60 countries worldwide. Kytetime, which now has over 1,000 installs of its own since launch a couple of days ago, is already gaining parents’ attention.
Though not everyone is happy, of course. Writes one user in his review: “I hate it !!!!!!!!! Say one who it is used on,” laments the teen.