Social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Formspring, MySpace and others have gained millions of users in the last years. Persons from 9 to 90 years old are registered, post content in form of text, photos and video. Even if you have your kids as contacts on social networking sites, there is a lot that you can’t see from what they are posting. A “friend” usually can only see the public posts on other’s user timeline. As a parent, your only way to find out what your child is doing is to have access to his accounts and actively monitor his online activity while on the PC at home. With the availability of mobile Internet, the possibility to permanently be connected via mobile devices, the children can post any content from everywhere. Even if this is not your kid’s case, this process is tiresome and not to say that for many parents impossible to achieve (busy schedule, lack of knowledge, etc.).
If your child has a lot of contacts and they all post a lot, even if you know what you’re doing, you have basically no chance to have an overview on what is going on in his account. You can’t see if he adds as contacts some strangers, if his contacts publish compromising or illegal photos or messages, or even if your child is doing some of these. Children often find such things funny, without realizing what kind of consequences these might have in the future. There are also people out there who are actually searching such content for various reasons.
This is how cyberbullying takes place, online predators are finding their victims, and online reputation is lost. All these and many others are all issues that affect kids nowadays.
By using a monitoring service, you can monitor your kids’ activities on Facebook and other major social networks no matter which computer or phone they use to go online.
As a IT security professional, I have to say that I am in general suspicious when I hear about a “monitoring service”.
I always ask the questions:
- who is monitoring the monitoring service ?
- how ethical is the establishing of the monitoring relationship?
Fortunately, there is a way to solve this dilemma.
If the monitoring service is controlled by the parent of the children who should be monitored, the first question is answered. For the second question there is also a solution: the parent invites the child to allow monitoring by sending a request through the monitoring service. The links must be uniquely generated and can’t be faked.
This process is more than an acceptable way to establish a trustful and secure relationship between parent, child and the monitoring service.
These being said, I am excited to present in the Techblog the newest service where exactly these principles are implemented : Social Shield.
You can see here a 2 minute film about how the service works.
The monitoring service works 24/7 and scans regularly the children accounts for suspicious content. Once something is found, the parent is informed via email and the exact content is sent to the parent.
The free service requires a registration with an email address. After this, the parent can invite the children to accept the monitoring service. The overview of the parent is split several areas (excerpt from the original text available on the Social Shield website):
- Dashboard - An overview of all the Safety Engines™ so that all the information you need is at your fingertips. What you need to be worried about it brought right to the top so you don’t have to go searching through pages and pages of teenage ramblings. We look through all of the activity on all major networks and present it in one, easy-to-understand report that is updated constantly.
- Alerts Engine - Our powerful, Alerts Engine™ scours the major social networks to find discussions in which your kid participates that may have inappropriate language or talk about drugs, sex, violence, alcohol, violence and suicide. This allows you the peace of mind to know at a glance if everything is OK.
- Friends Engine - The Friends Engine™ takes an extensive look at all of your kid’s friends. We check them against more than 50 databases to see if they may not be who they say they are. We alert you when an adult becomes a friend of your child, when someone looks suspicious or has no other friends in common with your child or if something just doesn’t seem quite right. You’ll see all their friends in one, easy-to-read photo gallery. No more clicking to get details on each friend!
- Photos Engine - The Photo Engine™ finds all of the photos that your kids have posted as well as all those that include them but have been posted by others across all the major social networks. This is so important when it comes to helping your kids manage their online reputation or deal with cyberbullying. We build a gallery that shows you all the photos and calls out anything new that gets posted the same day we see it.
- Activities Engine - The Activities Engine™ is where we store every discussion that your kids post within the social network. Every photo is placed in context. Every friend is added into the timeline you see when you log into SocialShield. Because the other engines float all issues of concern up to the top for you, many parents find that it is better to leave their kids some privacy and only access the Activities Engine™ when they need to understand the details of an issue or document something for the authorities. Either way, everything is archived here for you forever.
No worries, I know that there many questions there, but we will post regularly about SocialShield in the Techblog.
Until then, you can have a look on the very useful Knowledge Base of Socialshield.