Dad Creates New App for His Teen: Genius, or Hover Parenting?

Nick Herbert, a father in the UK, has developed an app to use with his 13-year-old son and I can’t decide if it’s totally awesome, or if it’s helicopter parenting taken to a whole new level.

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When Herbert realized his son was screening his calls, he was obviously annoyed. So he created an app that basically forces his teenage son to text him back whenever the kid tries to ignore him! The mobile messaging app, which he called ReplyASAP, will take over the kid’s screen and sound an alarm while locking the phone until he responds. The app tells parents when the message has been seen or it will show a pending sign if the kid’s phone is turned off. So in other words, it will torment and annoy the kid until he responds, which obviously makes it harder for him to ignore his parents.

Since his son goes to school at Langley Park School for Boys, Herbert explained his frustrations before the app:

“I thought [his smartphone] would make getting hold of him easier, but it’s doesn’t at all. In fact, he is always playing games and has the phone on silent. It drives me crazy.”

It can definitely be stressful when you aren’t able to get ahold of your kid, especially in an emergency situation. And it’s definitely annoying when your kid purposefully screens your calls. For those reasons, this messaging app would be a fantastic way of getting your kid’s attention and forcing them to respond! But it begs me to also ask, what did parents do before they had cell phones and could “hover,” knowing their kid’s exact location, read their texts, and now, have an app that forces them to answer their calls? How did anyone survive in such harsh conditions??

Herbert acknowledges that while this may help alleviate some stress for the parents, teenagers probably will not love the idea.

“As they are teenagers I realize they aren’t going to be massively keen…Will it be the bane of his life? Maybe. I’m not going to be using it all the time to speak to him. It is supposed to be a failsafe.”

Okay, that makes sense. Parent’s who don’t abuse the power that app gives them would definitely not qualify as hover parents. So I’m inclined to agree that this is a good app that could be beneficial to have on our phones while our kids are in their snotty teen years. But I do question the annoyance of an alarm going off until the kid responds. What if the kid is in class or some other situation where they might be screening the call for a good reason?

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Whatever your opinion on ReplyASAP, Herbert gives a good reminder: “It’s all about [my son] understanding why it’s there.”

If I were to ever use something like this, I’d want to make sure to explain clearly why it was there. It’s not for me to “hover,” and it’s not a new way to annoy my teenager or spy. It’s so I can make sure I have communication with him whenever I need, especially in emergencies. I recognize that parents and their kids used to survive just fine with limited communication before cell phones existed. But since smartphones DO exist now, why not take full advantage of what they can do?

Now, Herbert is selling his app in the hopes of helping other parents ease their worries and frustrations about being screened by their teenager. The only problem is that, for now, the app only works with Android phones. So if you are an iPhone user, you’ll have to figure something else out.

The app costs 99p (~$1.16) for one person, £2.49 (~$2.92) to track four people, £6.99 (~$8.20) for ten people to participate, and £12.99 (~$15.24) to connect 20 numbers. Users get one free connection upon downloading the app in order to link with one of their teenagers for free and then will pay for any additional numbers beyond that.

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Would you use an app like this? Do you think it’d be helpful or just another way for “hover” parents to invade upon their already moody teenagers?