Services monitor kids’ social media accounts for key words
By Connie Thompson, Mar 1, 2011
As many teens will tell you, there are all kinds of ways to keep parents from knowing their social network secrets. A couple of new monitoring services say their eyes can go where yours can’t.
SocialShield and SafetyWeb comb through dozens social networking sites in search of information and photos posted by and about your kid.
They provide parents with daily alerts of key words and phrases and other activity that could signal a problem: depression, profanity, adult interaction, bullying, threats, drugs, alcohol, predators, racism and hate. You have to provide your child’s name and e-mail information for their social network accounts.
Both websites offer a free sample report. So Internet safety expert Linda Criddle gave them a trial run using her own e-mail address. While they identified some of Criddle’s social network accounts, neither site came up with everything.
“Now that doesn’t mean that they can’t do a better job when they are getting more information from a parent to help hone in on who their child is, what their phone number is, all of that information,” said Criddle.
Without conducting a back-end analysis of the sites, Criddle says both sites are a good start at helping parents find potential red flags.
“And what’s exciting with both SocialShield and SafetyWeb, is that they’re sort of the next generation of family safety or parental control tools that are more than just block and filter,” Criddle said.
Criddle stresses that monitoring kids online best done with transparency where the child is aware the monitoring is taken place, and gets ongoing parental guidance about online safety. SocialShield agrees.
“Kids don’t always make the best decisions,” said SocialShield’s Kenny Ossen. “We’re trying to protect kids, make them safer and still let them do what they want to do.”
Ossen says his company’s service is another tool to help parents teach their kids to use social networking wisely and be smart about what they say and do. Since SocialShield was launched last summer, Ossen says the service has help a number of families identify bullying that parents were not aware of, and is credited with helping a couple get help for their son, who they had no idea was suicidal.
But don’t expect monitoring sites to tell you everything your kids are doing online. The services focus primarily on active social network sites- and in some cases texting and cell phone activity — places where most teens tend to gravitate.
Both SocialShield and SafetyWeb charge monthly fees of about $10.