App allows parents to police children’s photos and videos to stop sexting

Posted at 11:20 PM, Sep 24, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-24 23:42:14-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – West Michigan communities have recently learned the hard way that taking and sharing sexually explicit pictures can lead to some serious consequences.

Earlier this week, sexually explicit pictures of a Grandville High School student surfaced and went viral across social media. Now child pornography charges may be pending for those who had the pictures on their phones, and for those who shared it.

This prompted local school officers to send a clear message to students: once you delete a picture, it is not gone forever.

“Even if it’s of themselves, can be an illegal act,” said Rory Allen, Wyoming Public Schools resource officer. “Whether it's a tweet, Facebook status, video - that stuff is out there and it’s not going away. It could come back and get you 20 years from now.”

But now there’s an app aimed at stopping that, called SelfieCop.  Developer and Partner Shane Diffily told FOX 17 it works to keep kids safe by preventing cyberbullying and sexting.

“As soon as you take a photograph or video, a secure copy of that is emailed directly to their parents,” said Diffily. “The idea is that children know, every time I turn on the camera, every time I take a photo or a video, to have to stop and think, ‘Do I really want my mom and dad to see this image of me?’”

SelfieCop hit the market during the summer. It costs about $5 and works with Android phones and tablets for now; it's expected to integrate iPhone and Windows capability later this year.

Diffily said it is designed to be used as a parenting tool for children ages 9 to 13, in hopes to teach self-policing behavior when taking pictures or videos and then sharing them.

“These are the most precious pieces of data you’ll probably ever have,” said Diffily. “So make sure you never save it, you never forward it.”

FOX 17 viewers had mixed reviews.

Many who support the app say that they pay for their child’s cell phone, so it is a privilege, and they expect to monitor their child’s usage.

Others claimed that this app could be psychologically detrimental for kids if parents focus on their child’s poor decisions.

“This product is not here to spy on kids, it’s not here to make their lives in misery, it’s actually here to help them by teaching them behaviors,” said Diffily.

Diffily also said SelfieCop uses privacy and data security policies among the strictest available. He explained that their server only passes pictures and video through to parents’ emails, and does not store any data.

“As soon as a photograph is taken, the app takes a reduced file size, or a thumbnail copy of it, and then it uploads that to our servers,” said Diffily. “As soon as it’s detected on our server, it immediately emails the parents’ email addresses, and then it’s deleted off our infrastructure.”

Aaron Vanderwall with Imperial Computer Solutionstold FOX 17 that a system like SelfieCop’s could be hacked, but the likelihood is “slim to none.”

“Based on what I’ve seen on the app, [SelfieCop] looks to have the highest rated security,” said Vanderwall. “The potential rate of threat of getting hacked is slim to none. Nothing is sure-fire, but I think it would be safe.”