The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has approved a patent filed by Apple that may allow parents to clamp down on the much-ballyhooed 'sexting' phenomenon. The language of the patent doesn't specifically mention sexting but the company's intentions seem pretty clear. The patent talks about preventing "users such as children" from sending or receiving "objectionable language." The document says it will work like this:

A message will be blocked (incoming or outgoing) if the message includes forbidden content …The content of such a message is controlled by filtering the message based on defined criteria.
Could this usher in the end of teen sexting as we know it?

Jobs and company have just sealed the deal on a solution to the number one fear of parents across America, kids sending “unauthorized texts.” As it looks like whatever algorithm or control the system is comprised of will basically censor the transmission of R-rated content on iPhones, is this the first sign of the end of “Sexting” as we know it?

Yes and no, as those interesting in “Sexting” will probably find some clever workaround to express how much they want to bang, screw, hit it or a myriad of other words that don’t immediately set off the censorship sensors.

  • This Is More Powerful Than You Think, writes Zack Whittaker at ZDNet:

Gawker considers this patent almost useless, with those who want to send these kinds of messages resorting to making a phone call instead. Yet, as anyone will know who has sent a raunchy text message before, the reason it is written down is because it’s socially awkward saying it directly to them - especially if you are in the very beginning stages of a ‘relationship’. Plus, the traditional phone call are in decline with the younger generations today, opting for social media and instant messaging instead. I just hope there’s a way to turn it off.

  • The Patent Sounds Pretty Sophisticated, writes Leander Kahney at Cult of Mac:

Designed to give parents more control over their children’s’ text messages, the system can also be set up to check spelling, grammar and punctuation. If kids grades are dropping at school, parents can block messages unless they are grammatical and free of spelling errors. Likewise, the system can check for foreign language words, so if the child is supposed to learning Spanish, it will only send messages that contain a minimum number of Spanish words.

  • We'll Have to See How it Actually Works, writes Shane McGlaun at Daily Tech:
The patent outlines an application that would allow the parent to determine words that a child using the phone can't send or receive texts that contain those words. The patent also outlines a way that the application could alert other people like parents or administrators in a business setting when patents with these objectionable words are sent using the phone.

It's unclear if the patent will cover a system that automatically censors objectionable words and inserts other words all the time by default or if it is an opt-in service. If the patent is a system that will only allow those who own the devices to set word filters, there will be few parents or network administrators that won’t like the newfound control over how an iPhone can be used.