Parents are equipping their children and teens with smartphones earlier and earlier these days, but the move makes sense: Moms and dads want to be able to reach their kids and check in from anywhere.
But one father in the United Kingdom, Nick Herbert, noticed that his son wasn’t as responsive to calls and text messages as he’d like, which is likely the case with teens everywhere, he said with a laugh.
And he wanted to be able to do something about that. So he did.
Herbert, who lives in Southeast London, came up with an app called RespondASAP that has the potential to be a real game-changer for parents everywhere. Basically, your kids can no longer claim they didn’t see your message, or say their phone was on silent. This is a way to reach your teens every time, and know for a fact that they saw your text.
Here’s how it works:
If you’re the parent, you and your child would both download RespondASAP. This is important, because both parties need to have the app and consent to the technology in order for it to work.
Then, let’s say you’re trying to text or call and your teen isn’t responding.
You’d send a message through the app. When it arrives on your child’s phone, it will appear over his or her screen and sound the alarm, even if the phone is on silent. The noise will continue until the message is acknowledged. The message will display over whatever was on the screen before.
Here's what it would look like on your end, as you're setting it up.
It’s almost like you’re sending an alarm, which takes control of the phone until the user responds. Just like an alarm, the message on your teen’s phone has two buttons: snooze and cancel.
If they snooze it, the message comes back every three minutes. If they cancel it, the message disappears.
Both options send a notification back to the sender, or in this example, the parents, to tell them what the recipient has pressed.
Most importantly, it makes sure your children see the message you need them to see.
As seen above, parents can send in real time, or schedule a time, like when it's nearing curfew.
This could be used with elderly people or even colleagues if something urgent comes up at work.
And for teens or children, perhaps the technology could come in handy, as well, in case they need to reach their parents urgently. It goes both ways.
So, how did Herbert’s son, Ben Herbert, feel about his dad going to such great lengths to get hold of him?
At first, Nick Herbert said, “He didn’t think I’d do it. But as soon as he realized I was serious about making it, (that all changed),” he said. “I asked for his thoughts and ideas. And in the end, he was comfortable. He knows it’s there as a last resort, when I've tried everything else.”
Herbert created the app about two years ago, but had to relaunch under a new name six months ago.
Ben is now 15.
Nick Herbert didn’t have any experience with an undertaking such as this one, and career-wise, serves as a product manager. He’s not in a technical position, but said he does work with developers, who helped steer him in the right direction when it came to making his idea a reality.
“The hardest parts were coming up a color scheme and logo,” Herbert said.
The process took about nine months in total, to go from initial discussions to a live app.
He never imagined the app would take off, and now it’s gone global.
“It was really just meant for me and Ben,” he added. “And maybe a few family members. … I just thought, ‘It’ll be an experience. I can say I’ve done it.’”
He’s definitely surpassed anything he thought might be possible. If you include numbers from the original launch, the app has been downloaded nearly 150,000 times. Under its new name, it’s had about 18,000 downloads, Herbert said.
The app is only available on Android at this time, but it is free.
As for what’s next, Herbert said it’s an exciting time. He’s gotten some interest from companies that would like to take the technology in a slightly different direction, while still using the core alert function.
“I’ll be interested to see (what comes about) in the next six months,” Herbert said. “It’s become a lot bigger than I ever imagined, and it has legs to grow even further.”
All images provided by Nick Herbert.