Jeremy Herold

Researchers are working to make your phone truly childproof.

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An algorithm has been created that can help make phones childproof, once and for all.


While there are loads of activity-monitoring apps for phones that aim to keep a handle on what kids do when they get ahold of a smartphone, they need to be added and turned on. Not a difficult thing to do, but also not a difficult thing to disable by the usual tech-savvy children nowadays.

Thankfully, the future is here and it may soon be possible for your phone to figure out if it’s you or your child that is swiping on your phones screen – automatically.

With this technology, you can choose what apps you want your kids to see, and what apps are off-limits. Meaning you wouldn’t have to worry about your curious child stumbling upon an inappropriate website, or sending a prank email to a co-worker, and the best part: the days of checking your online credit card statement to make sure an enterprising kid didn’t purchase anything from your Amazon account while you weren’t looking are almost over.

The researchers behind this automated age-range detecting phone algorithm are from the University of South Carolina and China’s Zhejiang University.

Xiaopeng Li, a graduate student at the University of South Carolina says that the researchers observed some big differences between how adults and children swipe phone screens.

They found that since children have smaller hands and in turn shorter fingertips than adults, they touch a smaller area of the screen and their swipes are shorter. Kids also swipe their fingers slower than adults, and they’re slower to switch from tapping to swiping.

After they made these observations, the researchers built a simple app and formed two study groups to test it out. A child group of ages three to eleven, and an adult group with an age range of twenty-two to sixty.

The participants simply had to unlock an Android phone and play a numbers-based game on it that the researchers then used to record their taps and swipes. The researchers also tracked the amount of pressure applied by the participant’s finger and how much surface area their finger incorporated.

The research team then used the resulting data to create the age-detecting algorithm. From just one swipe on the screen, the algorithm is 84% accurate, by eight swipes, the accuracy jumps to an astounding 97%.

They’re also looking to make the approach even more effective by adding the smartphone’s built in accelerometer into the mix. The team wants to add indicators such as the phone user’s movements to help the algorithm be even more accurate, as they observed that children’s hands shake more than adult’s hands do when holding phones.

Hopefully, sometime in the near future, this algorithm will come standard on all smartphones and passing your phone to your child will no longer be anxiety inducing.

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