Service helps parents monitor online activity without spying - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Service helps parents monitor online activity without spying

By Andy Wise - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Cyber bullies and online predators may not be the biggest danger facing teens on the internet.

Henry Gordon will soon be 13 years old.  While that has always been a culturally significant age, it is now taking on a whole new meaning.  Gordon will be old enough to have his own Facebook account, and his mother, Katherine Gordon, is worried.

"It's like a tsunami of content that is streaming into your house," she said.  "It's really hard to tell what's good, what's not."

Rather than stand over her son's shoulder all day, Katherine Gordon said she is thinking about signing up for SafetyWeb.  The website was started by two fathers and is designed to help parents keep track of their children's online activity in an ever-changing online landscape.

"Things are changing so quickly," said SafetyWeb co-founder Geoffrey Arone.  "They are on this social network, then this one, then they are tweeting.  How do I keep up?"

Arone and Michael Clark came up with a way for parents to see who their kids are talking to on any number of social networks and what information they are posting and sharing with the rest of the world.

Alerts are sent to parents when certain activity or language raises red flags.

"They are always amazed at how many things pop up," said Clark.

To see all this, a parent only needs their child's e-mail address, not their passwords.  Arone said that is a key appeal of their service.

"We're not a spy tool," said Arone.  "This is what we found after a lot of research to be a fair middle ground."

Teens today are no longer talking with just their friends.  Whether they know it or not, they are broadcasting their activity and it is being stored.  One day, that information could be uncovered by a college admissions director or potential employer.

"They think they are passing a note in class," said Arone.  "That doesn't exist anymore."

With SafetyWeb, there are still secrets teens can keep from their parents, but that also keeps it from everyone else.  That is part of the point of the service.

"Ultimately, it's what's in the public domain that is going to put your child at risk," said Arone.

SafetyWeb can also monitor cell phone activity.  The service can tell parents who their children are calling and texting and when.  They will not see the content of those calls or texts, only who called.

A subscription to SafetyWeb cost $10 a month, or $100 a year.  For more information about the service, click here.

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