Service lets parents track their teen's phone

Posted at 6:21 AM, May 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-16 10:53:25-04

A new service is giving parents access and control over their teens' smartphones like never before, but does using it make parents nosey or responsible?

There are many parents who wonder what their son or daughter is doing when they're on their mobile devices, including 10News Anchor Jason Martinez.

"I don't know about you, but when I see my sons on the couch, texting or whatever they're doing on their devices, part me of me wonders, 'Who are they talking to? What are they doing?'" Martinez said.

One of TeenSafe's ads says: "They'll begin to live their lives through this (a phone) ... and suddenly, you won't know everything about them. And protecting them will be out of your control."

"And that's what parents like me are afraid of," Martinez said.

Scott Walker, the creator of the TeenSafe service, said, "I've been through the wars. I know what you're feeling."

Walker got the idea for TeenSafe because his daughter was keeping a painful secret.

"We found out what was going on. She was being bullied horribly in this new school by these kids that she had just met," Walker said.

TeenSafe allows a parent to enter their child's Apple ID and password (for iPhone users) and take a peek inside their smartphone. Parents can read texts, including deleted ones. They can also view their location or block them from downloading certain apps like the dating app Tinder. Parents can even see what their child is searching online.

Walker said he doesn't look at TeenSafe as "snooping on your kids."

"Teensafe believes the best thing to do is to have an open conversation with your kids," he said. "It's not because we don't trust you, it's because we don't necessarily trust who you might be talking to and what they're sending."

Martinez signed up for TeenSafe and put it to the test with his 12-year-old son.

"He doesn't have Tinder; that's a relief," Martinez said.

Martinez noted that he was surprised at a few things he found from his son's smartphone use, but there are some San Diego parents not willing to try it.

"At this point and time, it's a no for me," said parent Bobbie Perez.

Perez said she thinks using a service like TeenSafe would destroy the trust she has built with her 16-year-old daughter.

"It's like walking a tightrope as a parent. Either way you go, there are pitfalls … and you're trying to find that perfect place to be. It's hard. For me, right now, using this is not the way I want to go," she said.

Being a parent in today's tech-heavy world is a struggle, but it doesn't have to be. It's every parent's choice.

"We'll all look back on the day when we handed our children these devices without parental controls on them, and we'll laugh," Walker said.

Walker said more than 3 million teens as young as 13 are using Tinder.

Learn more about the TeenSafe service at