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Researchers Are Developing An Algorithm That Makes Smartphones Child-Proof (technologyreview.com) 67

An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: Researchers at the University of South Carolina and China's Zhejiang University have created an algorithm that can spot whether your kid is accidentally trying to, say, order from Amazon without your knowing. There are already plenty of activity-monitoring apps that aim to control what kids do on phones, but parents need to add them and turn them on, and they could be disabled by tech-savvy children. The researchers figured that automated age-range detection would make it easier for parents to hand their phones over to curious children without worrying that the kids will stumble upon an inappropriate website or get into a work e-mail account.

The researchers built a simple app and asked a group of kids between the ages of three and 11 -- and a group of adults between 22 and 60 -- to use it. The app had participants unlock an Android phone and then play a numbers-based game on it, so that the researchers could record a variety of taps and swipes. They also tracked things like the amount of pressure applied by a user's finger and the area it encompassed. The researchers used the resulting data to train an age-detecting algorithm that they say is 84 percent accurate with just one swipe on the screen -- a figure that goes up to 97 percent after eight swipes.

Researchers Are Developing An Algorithm That Makes Smartphones Child-Proof

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    This^

    • by bulled ( 956533 )
      Says the anon troll who will never have its own kids...
      • by Hetero ( 5159127 )
        Meh, reminds me of the time I bought a "rodent-proof" trashcan to keep the rats out of my goat food.

        I came back a few days later to feed the goats and found rats had chewed right through the thin sheet metal. Go figure. One thing I learned from Jurassic Park is "life will find a way."
        • Or you shouldn't have bought a 'made-in-China' trashcan, but a more robust one.
        • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

          by nonBORG ( 5254161 )
          The interesting thing about the Jurassic park quote is that people quote it like Jurassic park is real. Wake up, the dinosaurs are extinct! Life did not find a way.
      • I tried to use time limiting apps for my kids cell phones. The phones got hacked. Now I require the phone and computer keyboard every night at 10, and give them back next day. Just so they have time to wash and sleep. I think the cell phone is like a drug and an unlimited cell phone in the hand of a child could be a disaster.
  • Except some of the children will be more than clever enough to re-flash the phones with their own preferred ROMs.

    If they're not old enough or responsible enough to understand their parents expectations of correct behavior when using a phone, then maybe they should have a dumb flip phone with no web browser or apps.

    Teaching children expectations and consequences is a basic parental responsibility...

    • by mark-t ( 151149 )

      Except some of the children will be more than clever enough to re-flash the phones with their own preferred ROMs.

      And if they do that, they get told off.... everything gets reset back to the parent spec, which means possibly completely resetting the device back to factory defaultsa and then reinstalling all applicable parental controls, and if the kid is ever caught doing it again, they lose it.

      Entirely.

      Permanently.

    • Except some of the children will be more than clever enough to re-flash the phones with their own preferred ROMs.

      The headline of TFA made me chuckle.

      "Child proof."

      Yeah, right. Hell, I remember *myself* as a kid...I'd have toys and stuff taken apart before we even got the stuff home, as I wanted to see what made it work, and could I make it do something other/cool? My father (a grizzled ww2 combat vet infantry sergeant) used to swear up and down that if the Second Coming arrived, "..that damned boy would have Jesus apart in 5 minutes!"

      Kids these days with tech? Forget about *that* noise! Many adults I know have their k

      • by tsa ( 15680 )

        I read in the newspaper about the Dutch Secret Service hacking Cosy Bear. One of the people involved said that he would love to be able to hire 15 year olds for that kind of work, but the law prevents him.

      • by Chas ( 5144 )

        Exactly.

        Talking about making something "childproof" is like talking about making something "idiot proof".

        It's a nice little fantasy.

        But, where the rubber hits the road, it's a pipe dream. Because, to out-think an idiot, you have to BE an idiot. And even then, nothing's guaranteed.

        I'm not saying "don't try".

        But realize that there are finite limits to what can be accomplished without totally compromising usability.

        The only things truly childproof or idiot-proof are things they simply don't have physical acc

    • by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Saturday February 10, 2018 @09:59PM (#56102547)

      "Except some of the children will be more than clever enough to re-flash the phones with their own preferred ROMs."

      A yes, if some gifted young prodigy can defeat it then its totally worthless even f it works really in practice against the overwhelming majority of toddlers to pre-teens.

      "Teaching children expectations and consequences is a basic parental responsibility..."

      So is keeping the power tools and razer blades out of reach of toddlers.

      Parenting is this whole range of things, where you combine teaching, while controlling the environment, while letting them explore, while monitoring the situation, while letting them get hurt, while protecting them from getting hurt too badly. And yes, those goals can directly conflict with each other. That's the point.

    • by ET3D ( 1169851 )

      Yes, it's exactly the same as trying to make things idiot proof. Idiots, and most children, do bad things accidentally, or through lack of understanding of the implications.

      Sure, kids can deliberately do things against their parents' wishes, but that's not the usual case. It can be terribly easy for kids to buy stuff without understanding that they did, and if something prevented them from doing it, that would be helpful.

  • what about ios being more like google? with no password and no payment system needed for FREE APPS.

  • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Saturday February 10, 2018 @05:43PM (#56101611)

    So if someone called from even a high-end residence in DC and said, "I wanna big parade like the one I saw on TV!" or "I wanna send my green army men to North Korea!" the phone would know to ignore it?

  • Seriously, forget the kids. I'm more interested in the phone figuring out that I'm looped and stopping me from drunk texting. Or drunk shopping. Or drunk anything.

    • Seriously, forget the kids. I'm more interested in the phone figuring out that I'm looped and stopping me from drunk texting. Or drunk shopping. Or drunk anything.

      I don't know. I rather like receiving a package I've forgotten ordering. It's like a surprise gift from someone who really understands what I like.

  • How does the algorithm do with drunk people? Can it tell the difference between them and children?

    • How does the algorithm do with drunk people? Can it tell the difference between them and children?

      I was wondering about something similar, but my thoughts turned to those with Parkinson's, MS, nerve damage, or any of the probably dozens of other physical conditions which might make a responsible adult seem like a child to this latest algorithm du jour. Tech "developers" need to Just. Fucking. STOP! with all the excessively-clever-yet-pointless-and-inconvenient minor "improvements" to everything that has or might have a GUI. Go INVENT something fer chrissake, instead of doing the technological equivalent

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Saturday February 10, 2018 @06:27PM (#56101749)

    The researchers built a simple app and asked a group of kids between the ages of three and 11 -- and a group of adults between 22 and 60 -- to use it.

    Noting they skipped everyone age 12 - 21.

    • Would you leave your teen alone with a credit card? With the keys to the liquor cabinet? With your gun?

      No? Then why give them a device with your financial and/or email credentials stored on it?
    • by mentil ( 1748130 )

      I think the premise is that anyone 12-21 would be savvy enough to bypass it.

      • I think the premise is that anyone 12-21 would be savvy enough to bypass it.

        Or fail to allow access when it should. Either way, won't know unless it's been tested.
        (Perhaps they did test that group and it lowered their "accuracy" stats so they omitted the results. /cynical)

    • Though probably won't be in a couple of years. :)

      Anyway, solving half the problem is better than solving none. If one can prevent kids up to 11 from accessing things they shouldn't and buying things by mistake, that's pretty good.

  • Kids to bust this ;) lol My wife gave her phone to our 2 year grand son, to play with a screen touch color app. Next thing she found out he had gotten in to some pet store game thing the wife was playing with and was purchasing additional pet stock ;) lol

    She was credited back for the purchases but did need to rethink things ;) lol

    Just my 2 cents ;)
  • Anything like this that restricts phone access would pretty much put an end to the presidential tweetstorming. That's unacceptable. It's the one thing he knows how to do well. Let Trump Tweet!!
  • So how does this identify adults with physical disabilities? Same question for people who have recovered from a stroke?

    If it systematically identifies such as children and restricts their access there could be a big ADA action if it's ever deployed.

    Meanwhile: 16% error rate for a single swipe? With, say, three hundred million users that's 48 million people misidentified. Even with the eight-swipe error rate of 3% you're still talking nine million people.

    That's if it's consistent, though. If it's per-tr

    • Same question for people who have recovered from a stroke?

      Or those who haven't recovered from a stroke? (Mum hasn't had a stroke for nearly 5 years, but is only slowly regaining mental function and speech. She'll probably die before she learns how to handle a phone. Landline, or mobile.

      • Same question for people who have recovered from a stroke?

        Or those who haven't recovered from a stroke?

        Yes (and sympathy for your Mum). I used "recovered from a stroke" to refer to just such residual partial impairments.

  • with that useful app that makes the phone waterproof. needed when the brats bypass that gimmick, and promptly get punished with a dose of waterboarding for not obeying in the first place. moronic parent's censorship by proxy beats good parenting any day ...
  • I wonder if the data is simply correlating to hand size. Since adolescents were excluded there's a pretty stark difference between the hand size of children and adults. However, an Asian woman's hands might be substantially smaller than a European man's... so I wonder how it'll account for that. Maybe there'll be a calibration where the owner does the test so the app knows the owner's hand size; will be fun when a European man has an Asian wife who wants to use his phone.

  • When we all become tired or upset or are under stress, we become childlike in many ways. So by all means -- in one of your most hyper-lucid moments parental helicoptery concern fests... go ahead and lock down the high technology you use every day, and might need to use urgently and quickly in a true emergency when you're not at your best.

    THINK OF IT AS EVOLUTION IN ACTION
    [grabs popcorn]
    "911"
    "I'm sorry Davie, I can't do that, and if you try again I'll tell Mom."
    "He's not breathing 911 oh fuck"
    "Your mommy sa

  • ... are kids doing with a smart phone at all, let alone someone else's smart phone? The whole basic premise is insane.

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