A whopping 89% of teens have smartphones. But ask many parents whether it's easy to track down their kids and they'll probably tell you no.
But a dad from Britain, fed up with his 14 year old son Ben for not responding to texts, developed an app called “Reply ASAP” that guarantees kids do just that.
He’s not alone in his frustration. A recent study says teens spend an average of 9 hours a day on their screens, earning the name “screenagers." In fact, a study by Common Sense Media, a non-profit that promotes safe technology and media, found that 50% of teens admit they're addicted to their phones.
With their cells glued to their ears and eyes, you'd think they'd be able to respond when their parent texts.
But as app developer and dad Nick Herbert tells us, “My son didn’t tend to respond to messages that often. He used his phone for playing games or social media things, so he had it on silent quite a lot. So, he either didn't hear the message come in because it was in his pocket and on silent, or it was sort of missed with all of the other social media pop-ups he would get.”
With the app installed on his son’s phone though, now when dad texts, Ben’s cell rings...even if it's on silent. And a message saying “Reply ASAP” continues to pop up on the screen until he responds.
Herbert says, “It doesn't lock the phone. But what it does is, he obviously can't see or do anything else because that message has taken over the whole screen.”
The app also notifies parents when the message has been read.
Ben admits he’s guilty of not responding to texts, but actually supports the app. In fact, he helped his dad add a feature which lets him send the same kind of text back to his dad.
Ben says, "It would be a bit unfair if he just used on me, so I thought it would be a better idea if it would go both ways."
But here's the rub: The Google Play Store has removed the app, saying it violates its“Malicious Behavior” policy.
Herbert tells us, "They don't allow apps that encourage spying or surreptitious stalking." Although he says, they never explained to him how his app was breaching their rules.
It’s also odd, since Google Play offers dozens of apps that keep tabs on kids.
That’s why Herbert plans to fight the behemoth to get them to restore the app, which had more than 137,000 downloads in past 16 months.
Herbert say, "I never imagined it would get to this scale. So, it’s clearly fulfilling a need for a lot of people."
Google never responded to our request for comment.
But Herbert is making some minor changes and is going to resubmit his app. If it's rejected, he'll make it available for download on a website.
In the meantime, people who have already downloaded the app can still use it. And Herbert hopes to have it available for iPhones and iPads by next month.