Should You Be Using a Text Tracker?

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Using a text tracker application is a way track a mobile phone’s text messages. A text tracker could be used via a connection made on the Internet, while others are free mobile phone text tracker services that requires software to be installed on the device itself. There are also services that offer extremely advanced surveillance capabilities, which include a free text tracker as part of a bundle of other services.

What is a Text Tracker?

There are two kinds of text trackers. One requires a person to have physical access to the mobile phone, for which they wish use a text tracker to trace and read text messages. The second type does not require the person to have physical access to the mobile telephone.

In this article, the focus is on how to install software on mobile phones that allows a person to track the incoming and outgoing text messages. However, before we get into the technical details, it is helpful to understand the background of the technology, its widespread global usage especially by teenagers, and to come to terms with the moral issues surrounding the use of a text tracker.

Background

Messages sent over mobile phones are either sent using the Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) or sent using the Short Message Service (SMS). MMS messages include text, photos, video, and music.

Texting is the preferred communication method for any under the age of eighteen and for many adults as well. The use of MMS and SMS text messaging has shown explosive growth rates, especially among youth and teens.

According to Diffen, there are 1.3 billion active global users of MMS messages that receive and send approximately 50 billion message each year generating an annual revenue stream of US$26 billion (in 2008). For SMS text messages, the usage is much greater. During 2008, there were 4.1 trillion messages sent and received, which represents an annual revenue of US$81 billion.

Forbes reports that global text messaging peaked and then leveled off at around 30 billion messages per month (3.6 Trillion per year) for SMS and MMS combined. In 2015, according to Forbes, Bill Gates tops the list as the richest man in the world with a net worth of US$79.2 billion. Carlos Slim Helu is second with a whooping US$77.1 billion, followed by Warren Buffet at third with US$72.7 billion.

The odd thing about this is that Carlos Slim Helu is a more recently made billionaire than Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. Carlos Slim Helu is from Mexico. He made his fortune in the mobile telephone business, largely due to the use of mobile phones for texting and Internet connections in Mexico. The mobile telephone companies make lots of money from text messaging. They charge from US$0.01 per text message (the average cost in the USA) up to US$0.10 per text message in other countries.

Teenage Use of Text Messaging

Before parents get all excited about the software ability to monitor text messages on their teenager’s mobile phone, they need to be aware of the serious logistics involved. This comes from the huge volume of text messages.

According to Pew Research Center, teens are more likely to use text messaging to communicate with friends than any other communication method. It is common for a teen to send thousands of text messages each month. One in three teens, send over 3,000 text messages every month and that means that also receive many thousands of message replies.

Parents who wish to monitor this behavior using a text tracker may find themselves facing the daunting task of having to review thousands of text messages each month to look for clues into their teenager’s behavior and associations with friends. This is a serious endeavor, which takes a major time commitment to be effective. That time might be better spent just doing activities with your kids.

Why do we say “clues”? Because teenagers have developed a kind of shorthand code to convey a text message rapidly with a minimal amount of typing. Parents will need to become adept at this shorthand code if they have any hope of learning the meaning of the communications being exchanged.

Parents may find this baffling to know the meaning of terms like “LOL” and “PAW,” and the difference between “KM” and “KML.” Here are the explanations of those terms:

  • LOL – LOL does not mean “loss of life,” it means, “laughing out loud.”
  • PAW – This has nothing to do with cute furry pet’s feet. PAW means, “Parents are watching.”
  • KM versus KML – KM means “killing myself” as in TAKM “thinking about killing myself,” whereas KML means “killing myself laughing” with a completely different connotation.

Time reports some of the most common text codes. Internetslang.com has a broader dictionary of text message acronyms. It can be very confusing. MOTA is another word for marijuana, yet MOTB means “mother of the bride.” For most parents, this is similar to learning a foreign language.

The Moral Dilemma

Using a text tracker always presents a moral dilemma. When anyone, no matter who they are, is spying on another person regardless of their good intentions or overall motivation, there is the question of whether it is ethical or right at all.

In most places, tracking private communication without informing the person is illegal when the person is over eighteen years old. The U.S. FBI in 2014 arrested the founder of the StealthGenie software company for illegally selling wiretapping equipment. StealthGenie got into trouble because its marketing materials said the software could create an illegal listening device, by operating the phone’s microphone remotely without the phone user’s knowledge. Most know it is illegal to use tracking software without telling the person being spied on, but many users ignore the law.

Exceptions are permitted when parents own the phone and monitor their own children using a text tracker, yet the parents must still tell children they are being monitored.

When the desire is to make it safer for children and teenagers, spying on the children may create the opposite result. According to an article that appeared in USA today, Barbara Greenberg, who is a family psychologist, said tracking text messages of teens gives them a severely negative belief of complete distrust from their parents.

Michael Brody of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry concurs. He says that trying to make things too safe for children also creates a dependency that stops children learning how to take care of themselves.

Is it important for parents to consider both the positive and the potentially negative consequences from surveillance of their children.

Text Tracking Software

If a decision is made to use a text tracker, how does one go about deciding which one to use? There are a many choices of free software.

Please note that if the mobile phone is running on the Android operating system, the text tracker software differs from a text tracker for iPhone. If a person has an iPhone, they need to use an iPhone text tracker or software that works for both types of phones.

Also, pay careful attention to compatibility with the version of the software operating system running a particular mobile phone.

For Android mobile phones:

  • IKeyMonitor – This keylogger captures keystrokes on the phone plus records and tracks SMS text messages, calls, and visited websites. To operate in stealth mode (invisible to the user) requires paying for an upgrade.
  • MaxxSpy – Monitors and tracks everything the phone does including text, emails, photos, and videos. It provides the GPS location of the phone. It allows remote blocking of inappropriate websites and applications. It also records calls and the phone surroundings.
  • Mobi-Spy – Silently records all text messages.
  • NemoSpy – Tracks and records SMS text messages on the phone and instant messages made through Whatsapp, Viber, and Facebook.
  • Spy Phone – Tracks and records SMS text messages, voicemails, and telephone conversations. Provides the GPS location of the phone, which is useful to find lost/stolen phones.
  • TruthSpy – Tracks and records SMS text messages on the phone and instant messages made through Whatsapp, Yahoo, and other messenger systems. Also tracks calls and gives the GPS location of the phone.

For Android and iPhones:

  • HelloSpy – Tracks the GPS location, text messages, and calls. Allows access to contact lists and photos that are on the phone.
  • RioSPY – Tracks text and everything else. Works with iOS 2, 3, 4, and 5. Also runs on Android 2.x and 4.x

As parents, it is important to have a basic understanding of what a text tracker is before we decide to impose one upon our children’s mobile phones. Taking trust issues and miscommunication into account is key.

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