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Securing the best interests of your children is much harder when their interests take them online. For parents who want to keep an eye on their child, it may be hard to continuously monitor what happens virtually. With mentoring from Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University, New Mexico-based startup Parental Values is aiming to give parents better tools to manage online dangers their children may face.

As a parent of two, Jason Boxum, president and founder of Parental Values, saw the dangers first-hand when his son went into an unmoderated chatroom. He’s sought to align Parental Values – and its app with the same name – with the Federal Trade Commission and its Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

The act designates children under the age of 13 as a special class of citizen that requires parental oversight and permission to collect, store, or transfer any personal information about them. Boxum said it was key to make sure that legal issues were covered before the app’s use was expanded, especially with regard to sensitive data obtained about fitness tracking and precision location tracking.

Parental Values, currently downloaded onto phones using the Android operating system, features call blocking, text message and screen time monitoring, and web content filtering. It allows children and parents to schedule online activities and also uses location tracking to detect when a child leaves an area and let parents know where their children are in real time.

Parental Values’ customer development process involves constant customer feedback as well as highly focused mentoring through New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Accelerator.

“I have been excited to work with NMSU researchers as a think-tank about innovating safety features using machine learning while complying with legal regulations about children’s personal information,” Boxum said.

Boxum has a military background and spent time working at Honeywell and Boeing.

“I enjoy innovating and solving problems: complex systems are just problems broken down into smaller pieces,” said Boxum. “For the app, we are using machine learning to look for patterns. When it comes to social media, there are indicators that might lead a parent to initiate a conversation with their child. We want to promote that parental involvement with as much information as possible.”

“Our SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) accelerators provide participants access to experts who may already be looking an issue, such as data gathering in protected classes, in Parental Values’ case,” said Dana Catron, Arrowhead Center SBIR program director. “We also help them identify federal funding that will allow them to validate their technology and move towards commercialization.”

Children’s smartphone sensor data could allow Parental Values to continue developing “Echo Alert,” a feature that will automate gunfire recognition and response to law enforcement in active shooter situations, and ultimately save time and lives.

“It needs more crunching of numbers to create a repeatable process, particularly in New Mexico,” Boxum said. “We have downloads from around the world including China, Germany, Iran and France, but we need feedback from our target audience here in New Mexico to improve Parental Values. Once we can organize mobile data usage and recognize patterns through features like our Fitness Tracker, we can use that as a proof of concept to move into active shooter scenarios.”

Parental Values was New Mexico’s 2018 Innovation Voucher recipient and a product of various accelerators and mentorships through WESST, SCORE and the Santa Fe Small Business Development Center, and was a participant in University of New Mexico’s Entrepreneurial Showcase.

“We’re looking for more support from not just parents, but leaders who want to support the safety of our children,” said Boxum.

For more information about how to download the app, visit https://www.parentalvalues.com/.  

For more information on expanding your business, visit Arrowhead Center’s SBIR Accelerator at: https://arrowheadcenter.nmsu.edu/program/nm-fast/acsa/acsa-nsf/.  

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