Keeping kids safe on social networks

SafetyWeb gives you a quick way to find out what your kids are up to on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and elsewhere -- within limits

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In my brief experience with the product, I found it a little inconsistent. Some of the data is old or outdated. For example, I changed my Twitter handle more than a year ago, but SafetyWeb still reports on my old one. It lists my Facebook profile as "private" when it's really more than half public. It found a Twitter account for my son that belonged to someone else entirely (though it also found one I didn't know about). It told me my son had an Amazon account, but (because it's private) gave me no way to find out what he's using it for.

In short, SafetyWeb is not a total solution. It's only as good as the databases it uses to cross check these sites, and some of them clearly need to be updated more often.

Still, I can see some good uses. It offers a quick, one-stop glance at your kids' social activities online -- a lot easier than schlepping between MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, etc.  How effective that is depends on how open your kids are about what services they belong to and what email addresses they use.

My not-quite-14-year-old son, for example, is a devious little bastard who uses multiple email addresses online, some of which he refuses to reveal, and is militantly opposed to sharing his online life with his parents. So SafetyWeb is a bad choice for kids like him, because it could give parents a false sense of security. (Not us -- we have no sense of security.) Also, at $10 a month per kid, it can get very pricey for large families. SafetyWeb co-founder Geoffrey Arone says the company plans to offer family pricing discounts at some point in the near future.

Hey, when you're raising a digital native, parents need all the help they can get. Tools like SafetyWeb are another helpful weapon to add to your arsenal. Your kids may not appreciate it now, but they'll thank you later. Maybe.

Author Dan Tynan has no online reputation left to protect, and it's his own damned fault. Check out one of the reasons why at eSarcasm (Geek Humor Gone Wild) and follow him on Twitter: @tynan_on_tech (another reason).

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