An application currently available for Android smartphones allows parents to monitor their kids' digital discourse.
"It's the digital world," said the app's creator, Jeremy Witkins. "There's no 'I pass you a note on a piece of paper, we throw it out and it's gone.'"
The app is called PicsChecker, and for $1 per week it keeps parents informed about the hundreds, maybe thousands of pics and texts that teens fire off each month. Parents sign up, provide and email address and download the app to their child's phone.
"We take a daily summary of what your child did and send it to the parent in an email. So if you're riding on the train home, now you can check in and see what your child did," said Witkins.
Parent Lisa Johnston uses the app to check on her young son, Dale, every day.
"It's a good way -- not to spy -- but to keep a good eye on what your kids are doing," she said. "When it comes to your kids, especially at this age, I don't think it's an invasion of privacy, it's a right for the parent to know."
Witkins wants his app to be a deterrent, not a "gotcha" for children who text. He believes, for the smartphone generation, that sending lewd photos to another person is forcing teens into scary territory. Parental involvement, he said, may be the last defense.
"I don’t think kids enjoy sexting as much as people think. I’ve seen reports on our thing where a girl wrote, 'I wish sending pictures wasn’t part of dating.' This gives her an out," he said. "It cancels the peer pressure. Dad gets this at the end of the night, and it's got your phone number on it if I do this. We can’t do this."
Witkins said he expects PicsChecker to be available for Apple's iPhone within the next six to eight weeks.