The SKAMP system harnesses machine learning technology to process textual data in real-time to detect harmful events and raise alerts. SKAMP includes a feedback loop that ensures fewer false positives. Over time, SKAMP becomes personalized, alerting users only about topics of interest. In 2024, we will produce a product that gives parents the comfort of knowing your child is protected from violence, bullying, sex predation, self harm and suicide ideation, substance abuse, and mass shootings.
Security companies are not immune to data leaks as they continue to rise. For example, on January 15, 2023, Norton LifeLock, which provides Parental Control software and other home cybersecurity products, revealed that thousands of customers had their accounts compromised (Whittaker, 2023). In contrast to other products, which transmit all their users' data to a central repository, SKAMP will run entirely on the child's device. Only data that generates an alert will be transmitted across the network; thus, the vast majority of the child's data remains private. We will join the parental control software market with a solution that identifies serious harm to children while protecting the family's privacy and security.
The virtualization and digitization trends of the 2020s mean children spend more time online. Common Sense Media (2015) reports: "tweens average more than 4.5 hours of screen media and teens more than 6.5 hours of screen media a day. On average among teens, 39% of digital screen time (computers, tablets, and smartphones) is devoted to passive consumption (watching, listening, or reading), 25% to interactive content (playing games, browsing the web), 26% to communication (social media, video-chatting), and 3% to content creation (writing, coding, or making digital art or music)." It is widely believed that the COVID-19 pandemic and associated closures of schools and social activities have increased the amount of time kids spend online. Petrosvan (2022) reports, "As most of the world entered lockdown during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic in April 2020, teens in the U.S. were asked which technologies they had used to connect with friends and family during this time. 'Texting' was the most preferred method, reported by over 80% of teens, followed by phone calls, video chat, and social media." Although most schools and activities have since resumed in-person operations, youth today are well-versed in online communication and can seamlessly switch between virtual and real-life interactions.
In the US, projections indicate that there will be about 50 million children ages 6–17 by 2024. About 25% of children received phones by age 11, and 75% by age 13. Nearly all children had phones by age 15 (Digitale, 2022). To provide content monitoring solutions SKAMP will review multiple communications streams reliably and alert parents in real-time when a potential problem is detected. With speedy delivery of an alert and a reliable algorithm for detecting harmful content, SKAMP will monitor text messages across all commonly used apps (iMessage, SMS, WhatsApp, SnapChat, and so on) on Android and iOS devices.
When we talk about harm, we refer to various experiences and behaviors that affect youth from all economic and social backgrounds. Cyberbullying is widespread and causes enormous damage to children and youth. In Patchin and Hinduja (2022), the authors demonstrate that 14.2% of girls and 14.8% of boys ages 9–12 have been the target of cyberbullying attacks. Almost 70% of those targeted reported that it negatively impacted their self-image. Friendships, physical health, and schoolwork were also significantly affected. However, cyberbullying is not the only concern for youth. Sheridan et al. (2022) found a nationwide five-fold increase in suicide attempts among pre-teens. The CDC reports that 15% of high school students reported using illicit or injection drugs, such as cocaine, inhalants, heroin, methamphetamines, hallucinogens, or ecstasy, and 14% reported misuse of prescription opioids (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022). Other potentially harmful situations that can be detected by SKAMP include eating disorders, alcohol and marijuana use/abuse, dating violence, school violence, and mental health concerns. Our platform is flexible enough to include other harmful situations as we become aware of their impact on youth. Our technical solution includes ongoing studies to continually analyze communication among teens and tweens and adapt when new trends emerge, and new slang comes into usage.
SKAMP utilizes a lightweight, proven machine learning algorithm to detect harmful activity. Our system can run entirely on the child's cell phone. Thus, the phone does not need to transfer the data to a centralized server for processing. When a problematic conversation is detected, that conversation is captured and transmitted to the parent's phone for review. The parent will then have the opportunity to judge the severity of the interaction and provide feedback about whether or not they would like to see similar content in the future. This process will protect the child from harm while also protecting their data. Most, if not all, of the existing solutions transmit all the data from the child's phone to a central repository for processing, exposing content to data leaks. On SKAMP, private communication remains private unless an alert is detected. Alerted conversations are transmitted to our servers and forwarded to the parent's device. This approach is more secure because the vast majority of communication will not be captured or stored on company servers, unlike other companies that rely on collecting all the child's data to give parents full access to their child's activity. The data cannot and will not be resold and used for marketing or advertising purposes.
SKAMP provides an alternative for parents who want to protect their children without spying on them or limiting their online access. Our parents do not have the time or inclination to review all cell phone activity. They want a solution to notify them if their child is in danger without breaching the child's right to privacy.
Patchin, J. W., & Hinduja, S. 2022. Cyberbullying among tweens in the United States: Prevalence, impact, and helping behaviors. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 42(3), 414-430.
Sheridan, D. C., Grusing, S., Marshall, R., Lin, A., Hughes, A. R., Hendrickson, R. G., & Horowitz, B. Z. 2022. Changes in suicidal ingestion among preadolescent children from 2000 to 2020. JAMA pediatrics, 176(6), 604-606.