Linda Criddle gives both SocialShield and SafetyWeb a test run

April 4, 2011

In an interview for KOMO TV in Seattle, Linda Criddle gave both SocialShield and SafetyWeb a test run. Here’s the article, and a link to the video coverage.

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.


Services monitor kids’ social media accounts for key words

March 6, 2011

In an interview for KOMO TV in Seattle, Linda Criddle gave both SocialShield and SafetyWeb a test run. Here’s the article, and a link to the video coverage.

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.


Mobile Revenues in North America Projected to Jump to $10 Billion by 2015

October 22, 2010

North American revenues from mobile content and applications will more than double, from $4 billion in mobile content/apps revenue reported in 2009, to a total $10 billion in 2015, according to a new white paper from Juniper Research.

It is worth noting which mobile content segments are expected to increase the most, and how this growth might effect the safeguards consumers, particularly parents, will need to manage online use.

Juniper divides the mobile revenue stream into seven categories: infotainment, User Generated Content (UGC), mobile TV, music, games, adult content, and gambling.

In 2009, Juniper research recorded essentially no mobile gambling revenue and minimal mobile adult and UGC revenue. Mobile TV accounted for the largest portion of total revenue, trailed closely by music and games, with infotainment lagging behind (but ahead of the other three categories).

The strong expansion of the smartphone market is expected to drive the dramatic increase in overall mobile content revenues. By 2015, Juniper forecasts a strong shift in the strength of the various revenue segments, with games becoming the largest North American mobile revenue category, followed closely by infotainment. Mobile TV will come in third, trailed by UGC and music. Though, smaller categories, Jupiter predicts solid growth in adult content and mobile gambling revenues. Other research by Juniper suggests that globally, mobile gambling services will reach about $48 billion USD by 2015.

Why this matters

For family safety (often called parental control) software to be ready to help manage these additional categories of mobile content, the work needs to be underway now. Consumers need to be able to set parameters that go much farther than simply blocking or allowing these technologies, including flexible content filters, money thresholds – to keep youth from running up exorbitant bills. There needs to be time limit functions for some types of activities, access to safety content relating to each area of content – particularly gambling, and pornography – moderation tools, reputation tools, and usage reports.

As families, the time to start talking about what acceptable and responsible use of these features would look like is before your child or teen begins using the features.

Linda


Broadband Adoption Slowing in Spite of National Plan

August 16, 2010

At the same time as the government pushes forward with the National Broadband Plan to provide high speed access to greater numbers of Americans, new research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project indicates that broadband adoption has dramatically slowed in 2010.


What’s driving this paradox?

The 6 primary goals of the Broadband plan are critical to the future economic success of the country. Of these, 3 relate directly to aspects of consumer access:

  • Goal No. 1: At least 100 million U.S. homes should have affordable access to actual download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and actual upload speeds of at least 50 megabits per second.
  • Goal No. 3: Every American should have affordable access to robust broadband service, and the means and skills to subscribe if they so choose.
  • Goal No. 4: Every community should have affordable access to at least 1 gigabit per second broadband service to anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals, and government buildings.

Compare the government’s goals to key consumer findings from PEW’s Home Broadband 2010 research:

  • Two-thirds of American adults (66%) currently use a high-speed internet connection at home, a figure that is not statistically different from what the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found at a similar point in 2009, when 63% of Americans were broadband adopters. (African-Americans are the anomaly with a 22% increase year-over year)

  • Consumers fail to see the lack of broadband as major disadvantage:
    • Job opportunities and career skills: Only 43% of Americans believe that lack of broadband is a “major disadvantage” when it comes to finding out about job opportunities or gaining new career skills. Some 23% think lack of access is a “minor disadvantage” and a significant 28% think it is “not a disadvantage.”
    • Health information: Just over a third (34%) of Americans believe that lack of broadband is a “major disadvantage” when it comes to getting health information. Some 28% think lack of access is a “minor disadvantage” and 35% think it is “not a disadvantage.”
    • Learning new things to improve and enrich life: Less than a third (31%) of Americans believe that lack of broadband is a “major disadvantage” when it comes to learning new things that might enrich or improve their lives. Some 31% think lack of access is a “minor disadvantage” and 32% think it is “not a disadvantage.”
    • Government services: Only 29% of Americans believe that lack of broadband is a “major disadvantage” when it comes to using government services. Some 27% think lack of access is a “minor disadvantage” 37% think it is “not a disadvantage.”
    • Keeping up with news and information: Under a quarter (23%) of Americans believe that lack of broadband is a “major disadvantage” when it comes to keeping up with news and information. Some 27% think lack of access is a “minor disadvantage” and nearly half (47%) think it is “not a disadvantage.”
    • Keeping up with what is happening in their communities: Less than a fifth (19%) of Americans believe that lack of broadband is a “major disadvantage” when it comes to finding out about their local community. Some 32% think lack of access is a “minor disadvantage” and nearly half (45%) think it is “not a disadvantage.”
  • The research also found that 21% of US adults do not use the internet, although one-third of those still have some connection to the web either through family members with access or having used the internet in the past.

Access is not synonymous to adoption

In addition to PEW’s findings that consumers largely fail to see a major disadvantage to foregoing broadband access, two other pieces of research shed light on consumer’s attitudes towards broadband adoption.

The FCC conducted the Broadband Adoption and Use in America survey in late fall of 2009 and found that concern over the lack of safety online is so high among consumers who do not use the internet, that it is a barrier to adoption for 47% of non-adopters who worry “about all the bad things that can happen on the internet”. 65% of non-adopters strongly agreed that there is too much pornography and offensive material on the internet. 57% of non-adopters strongly agreed that it too easy for their personal information to be stolen online. And nearly half (46%) of non-adopters strongly agreed that the internet is too dangerous for children.

Underscoring the concern over personal safety and privacy on the internet among US consumers, a March, 2010 Financial Times/Harris Poll, found that 81% of Americans are concerned about the amount and security of personal online data that can be accessed by cybercriminals and hackers. 62% say social sites like Facebook and Twitter make many people vulnerable to cyber attacks. 61% of Americans are concerned about the amount and security of personal online data that can be accessed by search engines.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink

As these three research studies so clearly outline, providing broadband access alone isn’t enough to compel consumers to adopt the technology. Far too many consumers fail to see the relevance of the technology in their lives, and/or are afraid of the risks technology can introduce to themselves or their families.

To drive adoption, focus must be placed on three additional fronts: education, infrastructure and enforcement.

Education: Service providers should be encouraged to provide site specific, easily discoverable about the benefits of internet access and clear safety information. This information should be provided in Spanish as well as English on the ISP’s websites, with material targeted  to specific demographic groups – not just kids and parents, but seniors, adults, and those with unique opportunities or risks.

Public service announcements and public awareness campaigns focus on two areas: informing consumers about the tremendous benefits of online access, as well as teaching core self-protective measures such as recognizing a phishing scam or teaching consumers to identify how information leaks, and avoid posting personal information in public access websites.

Infrastructure: Service providers should be motivated to enhance their services’ infrastructure to include robust security and safety functionality – such as built-in antivirus software and personal/family safety settings – for all accounts. Companies should be encouraged to innovate and seek competitive advantage on the safety front — and emphasize that innovation in their marketing.

Enforcement: The FCC needs to coordinate with the appropriate agencies to ensure that law enforcement at the local, state and national levels are provided the manpower, training, and resources needed to adequately respond to online crimes. Consumers need to feel assured that crimes committed against them online will not go unpunished.

Service providers to be encouraged to enforce their terms of service policies – today most sites have lofty terms, but fail to adequately enforce these – and an unenforced policy is worse than no policy at all as it creates a false sense of safety.

Service providers should also be encouraged to improve their site moderation and develop technologies to identify and respond to abuses as they occur, as well as providing parents with filtering tools and providing information enabling them to monitor and set clear rules for children’s use.

Until consumers are convinced of the relevance of broadband access in their lives, and are convinced that they can go online safely we will continue to see a gap between the government’s access goals and consumer’s adoption rates.

Linda


Child Cell Phone Safety

July 13, 2010

Here is the promised cell phone safety tools follow up to my New Trends in Child Safety Monitoring Tools for PC’s.

With 21% 8-10 year-olds, and close to 70% of 11-14 year-olds having their own cell phone, providing families the ability to help protect their children in the mobile environment is critical.

Family safety tools, often called parental controls or child protection tools, for internet accessible mobile devices were slow to arrive, but today several 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, mobile safety products are worth considering if you have kids, tweens, or younger teens using cell phones, and the safeguards you can put in place through the phone and service provider are not enough.

However, 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.

Mobile safety choices:

  1. Select a phone that is appropriate for your child. There are very simple phones for the youngest users that can essentially do only one thing – place calls – and those calls can be restricted to certain numbers. On the other end of the spectrum are the ‘smart phones’ that are likely to include photo and video filming and viewing, GPS (location tracking) functionality, the ability to chat and use social networks, conduct financial transactions, have removable memory, and more.  Think through the safety and privacy implications and responsibilities that come with each feature and select a phone that you and your child/tween/teen can both be comfortable with.
  2. Choose the carrier that best fits your needs. Consistent coverage is always the first concern for phone purchasers, but for youth you want to also consider what safety features the carrier offers. Verizon has the most comprehensive family safety/parental control options (see also Verizon Safeguards)among mobile service providers, but all the major carriers have at least some safety features. (see comparison chart below)
  3. Pick the phone plan that provides only the functionality you want for your child. You can choose to purchase a plan that allows text messaging, photo sharing, and internet access – or not. Add these as you feel your child is ready to take on the greater responsibility for appropriately using these features. Talk to your carrier’s sales personnel to learn more about the safety functionality they provide, and, if you feel anxious about your ability to set the controls on your child’s phone yourself, ask the sales person to set these up for you.
    1. Another consideration when choosing your child’s phone plan is whether you want your child to have a prepaid plan, a monthly independent plan, or include your child on your family plan. Selecting a plan that allows you to review the bill each month gives you a strong method for monitoring their use and safety. The phone bill should show you what times of day calls/texts are made or received, how much time is spent on the phone, who your child is interacting with, what websites they’re visiting, etc. This helps you to see where there may be concerns like texts/calls during school hours or late at night or calls to numbers you don’t know.
  4. Have the ‘Talk’. Before your child gets their first phone, talk about each type of functionality they’ll be able to use, and what is – and isn’t – appropriate behavior, what types of information are ok to share and what isn’t, what times of day and with whom it is suitable to communicate, and how to treat others with respect. Talk about how to report trouble and assure your child you’ll help if they need you, learn together how to block callers, and use other safety features Based on your child’s age, talking about talking/texting and driving, cyberbullying via cell phones, and sexting may be appropriate.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.Include in your discussion clear ground rules for using the phone and the consequences of failing to use the phone appropriately. Cell phones aren’t a ‘right’ they’re a privilege and failure to appropriately handle a privilege can result in the retraction of that privilege.

    That said, I am not a proponent of taking away a child’s cell phone as a punishment for things unrelated to cell phone use. For example, if you wouldn’t take away pens and pencils from your child if they wrote mean notes, then taking away the cell phone of someone who writes mean texts doesn’t really make sense. The punishment for bullying should be about the behavior, not the tool. However, if your child is making or accepting phone calls in the middle of the night, taking the phone away at bedtime and giving it back in the morning makes sense.

    Be clear about your level of direct monitoring. If you feel that periodically sitting down with your child and reviewing their contacts, texts, photos, etc is appropriate – and it is based on age and the child’s maturity – this expectation should be well understood by your kids up front so you avoid unhappy confrontations in the future.

  5. Continue having the ‘Talk’. Once your child has a cell phone, sit down periodically to discuss how well they’re managing the freedom and responsibility the phone affords them. When they demonstrate that they can use the existing phone features appropriately, allow them to add additional features and functionality and step up their level of self management.
  6. Decide if your child needs additional safety or monitoring tools. These tools break down into three primary categories: tools that filter content and contact, tools that monitor and block usage, and tools to track the child’s location. Which tools will be appropriate for your situation is something only you can determine, but you have a number of options. GetParentalControls.org provides an excellent overview of available cell phone safety services in their Mobile phones Parental Controls Product Comparison 2010 (see comparison chart below). Like all comparisons, this chart (see below) represents a snapshot in time. Since its release, additional tools have come available. Most noteworthy of these is McAfee‘s Online Family Protection for Apple iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. To find the latest

Your goal is to help protect your kids while helping them to become fully capable, independent, responsible online citizens on any device. 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.

Linda


NEW! Parental Controls Product Guide: 2010 Edition

March 25, 2010

GetParentalControls.org has just released their new Parental Controls Product Guide: 2010 Edition, and they’ve done an excellent job. Written by David Burt, it provides a comprehensive view of the available parental control options to help you understand what tools will work best for your family and kids.

A quick review of the topics covered (see Table of Contents below), and you’ll see the breadth of information provided in the guide. Of particular interest may be the overview of mobile phone safety management options as few parents are familiar with these choices.

Table of Contents

What are Parental Controls?

An Overview of Parental Controls: Internet, Mobile Phones, Gaming Consoles, and Media Players

What parental controls do I need?

  • 5-7
  • Up to 7 years old
  • Age 8 to 10 years old
  • Age 11 to 13 years old
  • Age 14 to 17 years old

Using the GetParentalControls.org Product Comparisons

Internet parental controls

  • The Options: Parental Control Software, Security Suites, ISP controls, Operating System, Routers, Online Controls 9 Filtering and Monitoring
  • Search Engines, E-mail, Instant Messaging, Social Networks, Video Sharing, and Virtual Worlds

Internet Parental Controls Product Comparisons

  • Internet Parental Controls Product Comparison
  • ISP Provided Parental Controls Product Comparison
  • E-mail Parental Controls Product Comparison
  • Social networking Parental Controls Product Comparison
  • Instant Messaging Parental Controls Product Comparison
  • Search Engine Parental Controls Product Comparison
  • Virtual Worlds Parental Controls Product Comparison
  • Video and Photo Sharing Sites Parental Controls Product Comparison
  • Kid Safe Browsers Product Comparison

Mobile Phone Parental Controls

Gaming Console Parental Controls

Media Player Parental Controls

Using Parental Controls to Address Specific Safety Issues: Cyberbullying, Sexting, Privacy, and Predators

About GetParentalControls.org

Internet Parental Controls Reviews

Kid Safe Brower Reviews

My only objection to this otherwise excellent product guide is the title. Though most products in this category call themselves parental controls and the term is widely used, it implies a power dynamic that’s a very negative approach to what should be positive and nurturing family safety settings.

Linda


Apple Tones Down the Sale of Sex on iTunes

March 1, 2010

Apple has removed about 5,000 sexually explicit or adult applications made for iPhones and iPods after complaints by women, parents and developers that they were degrading and inappropriate for children. The decision to clean up the app store came before sales of Apple’s new iPad tablet, which will use the same application store.

Apple’s move comes on the heels of Google’s implementing rudimentary parental controls in YouTube, and signals two sources of pressure – the volume of consumers protesting, and the potential for increased government regulation should companies not adequately address the concerns around inappropriate content in the hands of minors.

Your voice matters.

Linda