Verizon users can now block numbers, track down children

Whether for screening out irate ex-spouses or persistent telemarketers, a new feature announced by Verizon Wireless today enables customers to block communications with specific phone numbers.

Beyond blocking only specified phone numbers, users of Verizon Wireless' new Usage Controls package can also opt to keep out all numbers except those they've designated as "trusted." Emergency 911 calls, however, cannot be blocked.

The new package also includes content filters and various other restrictions on text, instant, photo, and video messaging. At a granular level, subscribers can set time-of-use restrictions for both messaging and Web use, for instance.

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Available for an extra $4.99 per line per month, Usage Controls will be offered for both single line and "Family Share" plans, according to a company statement this morning.

Meanwhile, though, in a potentially draconian move, under the Family Share scenario, the controls can also be used in conjunction with VZW's Chaperone service, now extended to encompass new features in a new 2.0 edition, available for an extra $9.99 per line per month.

Initially introduced in July, the controversial Chaperone lets parents locate and track the movements of their children.

In the new Chaperone 2.0, also announced today, parents can find and send text messages to multiple family members at the same time. Parents can also apply time and date settings for the "Child Zones" where kids have permission to be situated in the physical world.

Moreover, Chaperone is also now integrated with VZ Navigator, for delivering turn-by-turn directions to the child's location -- a feature that might come in quite handy if a child gets lost, for example, but also one of a number of functions that might well set off alarm bells among privacy advocates.

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