Jul 3, 2015

An ex gaming junkie helps parents protect their children from gadget addiction

Muhamad Nur Awaludin’s reason for developing a child protection app is quite sad. The story starts when Awaludin himself was still a kid. In hindsight, he knows that he was addicted – a gadget and game junkie for over ten years.

“I could play a game for 30 hours non-stop, and it became really hard to communicate with my parents because I didn’t have much time,” Awaludin says.”I would speak with my parents only when I needed their money, I looked at them like they were a money machine.”

This behavior continued even after Awaludin entered university. But sadly, before graduation day came around, both of his parents passed away.

“I never imagined this before. I couldn’t even make them happy in the last minute when they were still by my side. One of their dreams was to watch me graduate from university, and I deeply regret that I couldn’t make that happen. It made me realize that technology and gadgets take a lot of quality time away from the family,” Awaludin admits.

This regret is what drives Awaludin’s conviction that parents need help limiting their child’s gadget time.

While still at university, he met three fellow students who shared his vision. Working together since February 2014, the team created Kakatu, an app for smartphones and tablets that lets parents limit access to apps and monitor their children’s use of them.

The app was first released in December 2014. According to the company, 46,000 users have downloaded the app, with more than half of them active on a  monthly basis.


Pre-recorded video messages

Kakatu has a suite of features intended not only to limit access to certain apps, but also to inform and educate parents about the best ways to ensure a healthy parent-child-gadget relationship.

Once installed, Kakatu lets parents choose which other installed apps their kids are allowed to access. Parents can also set a timer to allow their kids to play with the gadget only for a limited time. After the time is up, the tablet or phone will be locked – but only after a video message is played, which the parents can record themselves. This could be a fun and personal way for parents to remind their offspring that it’s time to engage with the real world.

Parents also get parenting articles through the app, which will help them establish healthy relationships and media consumption habits for the entire family.

In “parent-mode,” all apps become accessible again, and there are even statistics that show which apps the kids have accessed and for how long.

Another feature parents can deploy – which might sound mean if you were ever a teenager prone to engage in endless, rambling phone conversations with a crush in the pre-smartphone era – is to block incoming calls from certain numbers.


Communities, schools, offices

Kakatu is based on a freemium subscription model. The basic app comes free, but additional features can be purchased for a price of US$6 per year.

The Kakatu team is now aiming to roll out the app on a larger scale. It plans to promote the app at parenting events all over Indonesia, and partner with device manufacturers to have it preloaded on devices. One such relationship already exists with Samsung. In a cross-promotion partnership, Kakatu came preloaded on Samsung Galaxy V3 tablets, which were introduced as family-friendly devices across Indonesia in May this year. Now, there’s the plan to increase that number to 1 million devices before the end of the year.

Apart from using social media and paid ads to promote the app, the team believes that they will have to engage in a lot of field work, going from “community to community, school to school, office to office,” as Awaludin puts it, to promote their app.

There are many parental control apps with a similar offering. Kakatu’s international competitors include (the much pricier) Phone Sherrif, as well as Kids Place, which is free.TimeAway is another similar free app, created in Singapore. However, none of those cater to the Indonesian market with localized versions.

Kakatu was one of the five startups participating at the Indonesian leg of the Tech in Asia Tour: Road to Tokyo 2015.

(Tech in Asia)