A new kind of online kid monitoring

By Anne Collier

Kid online safety needs to be a conversation. You know what I mean. The part of the Net that really interests youth is the user-driven, social part that is, by definition, unruly. SO safety on it is an ongoing conversation at home and school, in the community, among policymakers, etc., and any tool or talking point promoting that conversation promotes safety. SafetyWeb could just be considered a new monitoring product, but it works best as a conversation tool. You could create an account, see all your “child’s publicly available online content,” as my ConnectSafely.org co-director Larry Magid writes in the San Jose Mercury News, including what they post and what others post about them in social network sites. But – unless communication has completely broken down, you feel your child’s in danger, and you need to know what’s going – use it as part of a calm, supportive conversation. [Confrontation tends to create barriers and break down communication, right?] If you think about it, looking at a whole lot of search results revealing what we say in what we think is private conversation (online or in a locker room or on Xbox Live), is uneasy territory for anybody, so parent-child conversations about this need to be extra kind – especially for people who are thinking about the people in their online discussions, not their invisible publics (like parents). Anyway, the three services SafetyWeb.com provides subscribers (for $10/mo. or $100/year) are “access to [their] reporting and Web management system” (meaning continuous monitoring of kids’ public online activity) and “24-hour online and email support,” and “instant alerts and weekly summaries” that might turn up cyberbullying-type language so families can talk about how to resolve tough situations, which usually – unfortunately – involves more than getting a photo taken down or a social networking profile deleted. Online safety no the social Web takes a village – and a lot of conversation. [See also this about parenting amid the digital drama overload and “soft power” parenting.]

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