Family safety tools, often called parental controls or child protection tools, are finally making a great leap forward. And it’s about time. Safety functionality was been stuck in a twenty-year stagnation with rudimentary block and filter functions that were so heavy handed they were nearly impossible to fine tune, and resulted in frustrated parents and kids alike.
Now a flurry of products aims to fill the void by merging state of the art technology with the customization families need. Though still not perfect, the new breed of products are worth considering if you’ve given up on family safety tools in the past.
Here are a couple to consider:
- Crisp thinking’s free imsafer product uses artificial intelligence to monitor conversations and identify the difference between typical kid conversations and interactions that become bullying or sexually exploitive. When the service notices a problem, you get an email alerting you to the situation.
- Newly launched Safetyweb.com is an online subscription service ($10/mo or $100/yr) that scours the web and reports to parents what their kids are doing online and with whom. To learn more about Safetyweb.com read the article SafetyWeb.com selling subscription service to monitor children’s online activity that recently ran in the LA Times, and where I comment further on the product.
For younger kids, the traditional family safety products may still fill your needs. A great way to identify which product may be best for you is to use GetNetWise’s tool analyzer to find the right safety fit for your family, or to use a the tools provided with your security software, or operating system.
3 things to keep in mind when using any monitoring services:
- Monitoring tools can only do so much toward protecting your children, teaching youth how to be responsible online, how to protect themselves, and what to do if there’s trouble is a job that can’t be delegated to software.
- Discussing in advance your family’s safety rules, and being up front about the technologies you will employ to monitor behavior is crucial. Though many programs allow you to spy on your kids using a stealth mode, doing so will break down the trust between you and is likely to cause serious harm to your relationships.
- Your goal is to help protect your kids while helping them to become fully capable, independent, responsible online citizens. As kids mature, the settings you use to monitor them need to be reevaluated. Ideally you do this 2-3 times a year, but at least do so once a year. You need to transition responsibility for their behavior, and for the content, programs and sites they use as they demonstrate they have mastered the skills needed, and accepted the corresponding responsibilities that new services and activities require.
I’ll write another blog about the new safety monitoring tools for cell phones shortly.