Is big brother studying the text messages on your iPhone? Not yet ... but he could.

Apple has been awarded a patent that could be used to block people from sending and receiving sexually explicit text messages, or "sexting," according to a report on technology blog ReadWriteWeb. The technology, not yet on the market, would allow the phone's administrator to block it from sending or receiving texts containing "objectionable material."

Originally filed in 2008, the patent is in line with Apple’s historically family friendly approach to its electronics. Apple is known, for example, for having banned all sexually explicit applications from its iTunes App Store. And Jobs himself has made his thoughts on the topic very clear.

"You know, there’s a porn store for Android. You can download porn, your kids can download porn. That’s a place we don’t want to go -- so we’re not going to go there," the Apple chief told a press conference this past April.

While the patent doesn’t pinpoint sexual material specifically, it contends that there is currently “no way to monitor and control text communications to make them user appropriate.” The patent goes on to state that Apple's system "can evaluate whether or not the communication contains approved text based on, for example, objective ratings criteria or a user’s age or grade level, and, if authorized, prevents such text from being included in the text-based communication.”

Such level of administrative control would also make the iPhone more attractive for businesses, which currently almost exclusively employ RIM’s Blackberry handheld.

The popular blog Gawker asserts that such parental controls are ultimately useless. “Tweens are incredibly stupid and unmotivated, they’ll never figure out ways to get around content-blocking,” the media blog mocks sarcastically. The patent may have other uses, however.

U.S. patent 7814163, which was approved on Tuesday, could also be used for educational purposes, according to the patent document. For instance, kids studying Spanish would need to hit a certain foreign language quota or risk having certain phone privileges automatically revoked.

The effectiveness of the technology will have to be proven. But this could give parents an extra reason to pickup an iPhone come this holiday season.

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