Even when I was a student of kindergarten there was a sense of liberty and free thought that was a part of my existence and had even told one smiling teacher who stood near my desk watching me draw, ‘Ma’am, I’ll show my drawing to you once I’ve finished it. Your standing here disturbs my concentration.’ In simple terms I have hated watchdogs of any sort. It was probably because of this that my father called me a radical in my teenage and my instructors at the IMA thought I was nurturing anti-establishment concepts.
Even today when I read newspaper reports of government agencies snooping I feel restless. I read about our politicians talking about curbing freedom on the internet and I murmur, ‘Idiots!’ Even as I headed Corporate Communications a few years back, I was vociferously arguing the case of giving every employee free access to the social media during office hours, though I always added, ‘It is better to make each employee realise their responsibility towards their work than forcing them to stay away from technology that helps awareness and creative thought.’ Well, you can understand how I felt when I stumbled upon an app called eKavach that claimed to be India’s first digital parenting application.
I moaned, ‘Not another app that is created to wound our spirit of freedom. Come on techno-creativists, do something better!’
Specky, my wife, looked up from the book she was reading and asked what I was talking about. When I told her that an app called eKavach was there for parents to spy on their children. I told her that the app was to be used for social media monitoring, chat room and IM monitoring, SMS and call monitoring, and for web browsing filtering. ‘Monitors!’ I shouted, ‘our lives are so full of monitors!’
‘Come on now,’ said Specky calmly, ‘stop fussing about nothing. I know this app quite well and a lot of parents of my students love it.’
This was rather disconcerting news and I said, ‘Thank God our son is grown up and married… it would certainly have suffocated his creative instincts!’
‘No,’ said Specky firmly and then went on to explain to me that children need to be guided well and put on the right path that is both safe and leads to a future that is reasonable. The best part is that a lot of this parental control is in real time and rather insightful. Parents can make sure that their child is not slipping towards sleazy sites on the internet, that they are not installing shady apps that do no good to anyone, and that they have a fair idea of what is being searched and read.
‘Insightful!’ I repeated, ‘what sort of insights can monitoring give?’
‘A lot,’ said Specky, ‘and I don’t mean a parent trying to keep a track of only the undesirable sites that a child is visiting. If a child is reading up a lot of articles and information on astronomy, the discerning parent would hardly have any reason to ask him to take up subjects that keep him or her away from it.’ I guess Specky was right about this as there are too many parents wanting their child to take up subjects not because they love them but because they lead to preferred job profiles later on. Thus there is hardly any crime in trying to give your child a profitable online environment, understanding his likes and preferences by following his online activity, and ensuring that he reaches his dreams without stumbling into activity that is destructive.
I was then told that the app would also qualify as a really reliable gadget not just to know what the child was doing but also where the child is. This, I must emphasise, is a rather vital aspect and tracking to protect is not akin to stalking. I say this because some of my readers may take this characteristic as following a child until he suffers bouts of anxiety… well no, a protective follow-up isn’t at all similar to infringing upon the right to freedom for a child.
eKavach isn’t just an app is what I have understood in my interaction with it. It is a great way to open up multi-level pathways of understanding between a child and his or her parents. The app doesn’t just keep saying NO to porn and other undesirable websites… but helps a child stay protected from cyber bullying as well. This is a rather massive achievement and worth an applause. As an added bonus, both the parent and the child are enabled to decide on the various learning choices by communicating the right information. The app does this by following and noting the browsing habits of a child, as I have pointed out earlier in this post.
This app can be installed on the smartphones of both the parent and the child with the parental right obviously going to the parent. The info on the net says that the app is available for iOS as well… but the author of this post was not able to find the app on the App Store in his iPhone 5. However, I shall keep trying and will add my hands-on experiences right here in this post whenever I am able to track it and install.
As a parting shot let me just say that watchdogs are both bad as well as good and, therefore, hating them is as reasonable as loving them… however, from the watchdog’s perspective a good job done is when benefits outweigh any other perceived ills. I guess then that eKavach is a watchdog that most people might end up loving.
02 July 2015