Teenagers think twice now before they send a gossipy text message or profane e-mail to Deb Goldach's children. For several weeks now, the Goldach family in Bexley has been testing a subscription service that allows
parents to monitor how their children use their cell phones.

With Columbus-based SMobile Systems' parental-control dashboard, Goldach can read every text sent or received on her three children's phones. "It's not a matter of trust; I have three great kids," she said. "But there's a
lot of mean-girl-type stuff and catty texting and pictures that goes on, and I don't want my kids to be part of it."

For $29.99 a year, the application works on Web-enabled smart phones, although it has yet to be approved for the iPhone. The dashboard allows parents to review their child's text messages or map the location of their
phone from a computer or their own Blackberry or other phone. If they don't approve of a daughter's boyfriend, they could block all messages from him.

Parents also can set up automated alerts if someone sends their child a message with words like "sex," "beer" or "party." The goal is to help parents watch out for sexual predators, bullies, drugs and spyware,
spokeswoman Joy Nebel said.

Goldach said it also helps track down lost phones, or, in the case of her 13-year-old daughter, a phone that a friend hid as a joke. "Anything that helps parents make sure their children aren't doing anything illegal is a good
thing," said Lt. Heinz von Eckartsberg of the Dublin police. He said police are starting to see cases of sexting -- sending sexual photos in text messages -- at schools, and not just among the older students.

Whitehall psychologist William Friday said children are using technology to escape from their parents. "Kids like to be able to engage in their own private fantasy worlds and they use technology as a privacy barrier," he
said. "But it allows them to access inappropriate imagery and story lines." Monitoring tools could help, he said, but there needs to be a balance of privacy and parental authority.

If a parent snoops too much, it might drive the child to be more secretive and deprive the child of opportunities to learn about making healthy choices, Friday said. Parents might also use it as a crutch instead of
developing trust and personal relationships with their children. Nevertheless, parental controls for phones have the potential to be big business, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst with the California research company
Enderle Group.

The average U.S. teenager sends 1,700 text messages a month, and 10 to 11 years old is now the average age at which a child receives his first cell phone, according to Neilson Mobile research.

Cell-phone providers already market a variety of ways to take away a child's texting privileges, restrict texting hours and keep teenagers from buying expensive phone applications. Programs for monitoring computers
have been on the market for about five years, but Enderle said systems like the dashboard are just taking off. "It's a bit unreal what you can see," Goldach said. "I'm going to keep it."