Viber is an App produced for all portable devices, (Apple, Andriod, Windows & Blackberry) which uses any available wi-fi network to make phone calls via the internet. Viber also allows text messaging, so the humble iPod Touch becomes a mobile phone capable of ‘free’ calls and texts. The App is free to install, and only requires an email address to subscribe to the service.
Daniel Stanley | Digital Education Co-ordinator from Flinders Christian College writes.
What’s the concern?
Many parents have purchased an iPod Touch for their child for the gaming and music player features. What you also get is a wi-fi capable device that allows connection to the internet. A largely unmonitored connection! Many parents also have a notion about what is an appropriate age to own a mobile phone, based on whether they feel their child will use it in a responsible manner. Viber tends to skirt all this thinking, allowing young kids to connect at will.
Unfortunately mobile phones can tend to create a raft of social and cyberbullying concerns, particularly amongst younger students who do not have the maturity to discern what is appropriate or not. So parents may find a whole host of issues arising as kids ‘sort out’ how to connect in positive ways.
It is also worth noting that Viber supports picture messaging and geotagging, both of which can be misused with disastrous effect.
Connecting with Viber
One feature of Viber that I found somewhat concerning is that on installation of the App, Viber will hunt through the contacts on your device and inform any of your contacts who also have a Viber account that you have just joined. This is fine for an adult who can manage their connections without any hassle, but perhaps you don’t want your child’s online world widening significantly with the installation of a single App.
How can I control my child’s use of Viber?
Once the App is installed, there is really no way to restrict or monitor its use. There is also no real way to limit what Apps kids install on their devices, without putting in a passcode to restrict installation of ALL new Apps.
(On an Apple device, this can be found under Settings -> General -> Restrictions.)
In considering how best to manage your child’s connection to the online world, it is worth revisiting the general principles of responsible technology use:
* Keep technology in common parts of the house
* Power down at bed time
* Set time limits on use
* Set healthy boundaries and enforce meaningful punishment for breaches of trust
* Make discussions about what happens online a regular occurrence.
* A simple but effect way to control excessive use of Viber, and other Internet based tools is to turn off your wireless router at appropriate times. Encourage the whole family to enjoy some time ‘offline.’For more info on Viber, visit their website: www.viber.com