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Emerging Challenges to the Parental Monitoring Industry

Some industry analysts have compared the parental monitoring device market to the Wild West. Users have long been able to purchase whatever kinds of audio or video monitoring devices that they wanted. They’re then at least relatively free to deploy them however they wish.

Regulators have gotten involved with the industry, due largely to the possibility for abuse. Though a company might market a device to parents, there’s nothing stopping people from using it off-label to spy on people. At the same time, civil libertarians have sought to frame the debate regarding the privacy rights of youngsters. In spite of these challenges, the market is expected to continue to grow until at least 2026, though investors and industry leaders will have to respond to these criticisms if they want to continue marketing products to end-users.

Adapting to a Changing Regulatory Environment

Proponents of new civil liberties legislation point to the fact that children have a right to privacy just as adults do. While parents certainly have the responsibility of keeping an eye on their children, they’re not supposed to take away their children’s own agency and make them blindly obedient. It’s highly likely that some lawmakers will put forward new legislation that would dramatically re-frame this debate and provide basic privacy protections for children. Naturally, these new laws will have strict limits, but companies in the parental monitoring space will have to abide by them.

Not all of these requirements are new, either. Guidelines laid out in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule impose certain limitations on users who are younger than 13, which constitutes the bulk of those being monitored. Anyone who plans on sending a video or audio feed over an open network connection would have to be able to severely restrict access to it. If anyone were able to get their hands on one of these feeds, then they could be looking at some serious problems related to the privacy of younger Internet users.

That’s made some companies look into the possibility of utilizing enhanced encryption algorithms coupled with private lines of communication. In some cases, parental monitoring devices don’t use the open Internet at all. Instead, they transmit a feed over an encrypted 2.4 GHz line that can only work with compatible devices. These have become popular with employee monitoring campaigns as well, though privacy concerns are usually less of an issue in the workplace because there’s less of a guarantee of privacy in front of other people.

Those who develop more conventional app-based solutions are finding some innovative ways to deal with any real or perceived changes that might be on the horizon.

Reworking Mobile Apps to Meet New Needs

Forward-thinking companies like Family Orbit continue to focus on both the iOS and Android markets, but they provide additional features that have helped to reduce the overall criticisms levied at the parental monitoring market. On top of tracking the location and activities of youngsters, these apps are designed to help deal with cyberbullying and therefore meet other goals in addition to their primary monitoring function.

Others have suggested that the best way to deal with these emerging privacy issues is to explain to youngsters that they’re being tracked. While some might say that defeats the purpose of monitoring them in the first place, this is technically in keeping with the privacy policies of most apps on the market today. When parents tell their children that their online activity could potentially be monitored, they’re both being honest and possibly making them behave better than they otherwise would be.

As a result, it’s likely that some parents are going to lie to their offspring and tell them that they’re being monitored in spite of the fact that they’re not. That alone should help to ensure that they’re not doing anything they shouldn’t be without resorting to onerous apps. However, this does open up a number of new ethical quandaries, which in turn has helped to ensure that the market for parental monitoring apps and devices should stay strong.

Future Growth of the Industry

Consumers are trying to stay private online, and it’s likely that youngsters will probably do the same. As they do, it’s becoming more difficult to monitor them in real time according to many experts. Rather than presenting a challenge, however, this might provide for some new opportunities.

Developers are working on apps that don’t fall afoul of regulatory guidelines nor do they present the ethical problems that many current generation pieces of software have. A few of these programs are likely to come on the market in the next year or two. That should be enough to help businesses in the space continue to grow in spite of any heretofore unseen changes to the market that’ll happen in that time.

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