Bully Block: Prevent and Capture Unwanted Communication

It is rare that an application is made with children as the primary target audience. However, Spy Parent LLC have made Bully Block, an application that helps your kids keep the not-so-nice kids at bay. Children are getting mobile phones at younger and younger ages, and since parents know they are at risk of getting dropped, cracked, sat on and so forth, they choose happy-medium phones where affordability meets functionality. Many small Android phones are being flung at kids when they ask their parents for a smartphone, because a cracked screen on a Desire HD or iPhone 4 is neither easy nor cheap to replace.

Bully Block offers something that older phones did offer, but a lot of modern smartphones seem to have missed out on: the ability to selectively block recipients from calling or texting you.

How It Works

Like Wifi File Explorer and Kryptos, Bully Block uses background daemon operations to carry out its function. What appears to be the main ‘application’ is just a portal through which you interact with this daemon.

Usually when someone calls you every call comes through without any verification. Bully Block puts a layer between the incoming calls and onscreen notifications. So instead of calls going straight through to your phone application (e.g HTC Dialer), Bully Block first checks to see if it is a number you have flagged to avoid. If there is no ‘do not allow’ flag recorded then Bully Block will allow the incoming call to start ringing. If it is a number that has been flagged as undesired, Bully Block can reject the call in a number of ways, which I cover later on.

Features

Bully Block has a selection of features, all of them with bully prevention or capture in mind. These are the options listed on the application’s front page:

The main menu.

To block a number that has been calling you, open Bully Block, go to ‘Bully Block Calls’, tap on the recent contact, and tick the ‘Block?’ box. It is that simple.

Who to block? Hmm.

The SMS message block works just like the calls block. Find the offending sender in the list of SMS messages and then select to stop seeing messages or calls from the sender ringing. The SMS feature also allows an auto-response message to be set up, which will be sent to the offender whenever they try to text your phone.

Auto responding!

This SMS autorespond features is included for both call blocking and SMS blocking.

The configurations for blocking both calls and messages are essentially the same and relatively easy to understand. Both functions also feature a ‘log to bully file’ option which will save a call or text to a seperate location for later viewing.

The Bully Block daemon stops the calls by terminating them as soon as the phone starts ringing. This means the perpertrator at the other end will barely get a second of connection, if any at all. That should be good enough to make them give up quickly. A small downside however, is that you still get a ‘Missed Call’ notification appear, which can be enough to upset a child who is really worried about someone phoning them.

Voice Capture

This is the ‘Bully Capture’ option and is a simple call-recording feature. While in a call, if you press the Home key and open Bully Block, you can run Bully Capture to record the call audio. A child can then present this evidence to their parent or teacher so the pestering child gets their knuckles rapped. I like this because it means that defensive parents of the bully can’t make claims of ‘not my child’ when put on the spot.

Press the big red button to record, it's that easy.

Bully File

The Bully File is the virtual holding area for any audio logs, calls or texts which have been selected to be logged. It acts much like the ‘Virus Vault’ found in certain computer anti-virus software. This is a handy feature if a child wants to show someone the undesired messages or calls / recordings they have been getting. Sadly though I did find a problem — more on that in The Flaws section.

It Can Help Adults, Too

Yep, Bully Block could help you out. Everyone knows that one guy who likes to go through their phonebook at 1am on a Friday night, giggling to themselves manically. They know that they are going to awaken somebody, or just generally annoy them if they know they are out enjoying themselves, but after a few to drink they just love that idea. Normally, you have to keep on neglecting your fellow partygoers by exclaiming “Sorry, they keep on doing this…”. If the other person has really had their fair share, they will find entertainment in just ringing you back again, and again, and again. Having Bully Block means you can block them the first time round. leaving you free to enjoy yourself without the risk of further interruption. Just remember to unblock them the next morning so you can ask them whether the bacon sandwich is working yet.

Also, don’t forget that bullying doesn’t stop when you leave school. How many of you signed a ‘No bullying in the workplace ethic’ document when you signed on for your job? That piece of paper doesn’t stop people who just couldn’t care less about other people and how they treat them. If somebody at work is giving you hell and likes to use the phone as their torture method, you can just block them and not have to worry about seeing their name on your phone again. Or record them using Bully File and show your employer. Problem solved. I like how Bully Block can serve these ideas, and I bet there are many others you can think of.

The Flaws

There are no decent clues or instruction for how to use the application, so kids will have to spend some time learning how to use it and this may put them off (exactly what you don’t want if you buy this application for them). If you do buy it, giving them a brief walkthrough would probably be necessary.

A further problem is that, though the intention is clear, the ‘Bully File’ section didn’t actually work for me. I understand this feature allows you to even send recordings and texts off the phone to be reviewed elsewhere. I flagged several messages and calls with the provided tick-box and none of them showed up in the Bully File. If I can’t get one of the most useful parts of the application to work, then what hope does a child have?

Price

At present there is no free version of Bully Block which is a tad disappointing, and the paid version is ~£0.79 ($1.29). If you are a parent and are worried about your child on their phone, then 79 pence is as good as nothing to pay for an application which offers to help keep your child comfortable.

Conclusion

Bully Block is clearly not a application with widespread use in mind, and is aimed specifically at children, and parents wishing to look out for their children. Though for me it was near fully functional, I give it a rating of 7/10. Some marks are lost due to the apparently broken Bully File feature, as well as not being explicitly clear on what everything does to aid the young users who end up with it at their disposal. The other seven marks are maintained because everything else does work as advertised! So don’t get me wrong, this is definitely an application worth looking at if your child has an Android device.


Summary

An application that can be used to block calls and texts on a child's Android phone, with the ability to log texts and calls for later viewing.

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