-- A father has developed a cellphone app to encourage his teenage son to be more responsive to his text messages.
Two weeks ago, Nick Herbert, a United Kingdom-based product manager, launched ReplyASAP--an app that allows users to send urgent messages to others that cannot be ignored without the sender knowing.
The recipient then gets a notification that the text has been read. Herbert, 45, said he developed the app so he and other parents could immediately reach their children.
Ben, Herbert's 13-year-old son, enjoys playing Xbox and soccer with his friends. During his busy summer, the teen doesn't always reply to texts and often keeps his cellphone on silent, his father said.
"There's been a few occasions where I've tried and tried and still nothing," Herbert said, adding that he's logged into his son's "Find my iPhone" account just to get a hold of him. "It's generally a culmination of, how can I get in contact with him if I need to?"
Herbert's solution was ReplyASAP. Currently available to Android users, parents can download the app for free, then connect with their child once it's downloaded on the child's phone.
Messages can be sent in real time or scheduled to go out at a later date. Once the message is sent, a page will appear over whatever the recipient is looking at on the phone.
"An alarm will continue to sound until the child presses one or two buttons that are across the screen," Herbert explained. "In order to carry on with what they're doing, they have to press one of the buttons that tells the parents that they've seen the messages."
Herbert said the recipient can press button 1, which snoozes the text for three minutes, or a "cancel" button. Both buttons will shut off the alarm, but an alert will be sent back to the parent telling them which button was pushed. In turn, children can contact their parent(s) using the same functionality.
Herbert said he considers the app to be a "safety mechanism" that can also be used to contact elderly family members or even work colleagues if something is urgent.
Herbert said Ben has gotten used to the app, which so far has only been used to tell the teen to come downstairs for dinner.
"He goes out and does things on his own now and maybe in my head, this was only going to [continue]," Herbert added. "Just knowing I have a means of contacting him if I need to...it gives you that reassurance."
The app, which has received 6,800 downloads globally, is currently available on Android devices. An iOS version will be released soon, Herbert said. The first connection is free, but to connect with more than one person, it costs $1.27.