Kids who google with abandon and publish intimate details of their lives on MySpace have become a major worry for parents in the Information Age as recent media reports have detailed.
Concern over children being targeted by predators at online social networking sites or being able to access porn and other inappropriate materials through search engines has led to a demand for new laws and for more secure, child-friendly networks, states a recent article.
It prompted two companies, led by two moms, to create technologies for safer web-surfing for kids, said the article.
One, an Emeryville company called Industrious Kid, later this month will unveil a social networking site called Imbee.com, geared through children eight to 14 years old, according to writer Benjamin Pimentel.
The other, Thinkronize, a company that created the netTrekker search engine for K-12 schools, began making its product available to consumers in January, said Pimentel.
“Children and their parents have to use these sites which make some educators and industry analysts skeptical that they will attract a viable customer base,” he said. “But the two companies apparently believe that online child safety has become such a pressing concern that there is a growing demand for what one industry expert called the walled garden approach to child Internet access.”
Pimentel stated that Industrious Kid’s Web site hopes to serve as an online hangout for children, a place where kids can communicate with each other and create content.
According to research the company wants to address growing concerns over MySpace, the popular social networking site that’s supposedly restricted to people who are least 14 years old but which has attracted younger children and adults who prey on them.
MySpace has removed about 250,000 profiles of underage users since it began in 2004 and has worked closely with law enforcers to make sure the site is safe for children, according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle.
But the criticism and attention continues, states the article.
Imbee.com will charge up to $5 per user per month for higher-level access according to literature.
“Our goal is to provide a safe environment for kids to have fun and to talk to their friends,” said Tim Donovan, Industrious Kid’s vice president of marketing in a recent interview.
Protecting children from inappropriate materials while ding online searches was what prompted educator Chris Willig to help create netTrekker, according to its website.
A mother of seven, Willig said she became frustrated with “challenging searches” her children encountered while doing online research for school that led either to inappropriate or irrelevant information, said staff.
“Created in 1999 the search engine has developed a database of more than 180,000 web sites that have been reviewed and rated by a network of about 400,000 educators,” said Willig. “NetTrekker has been used by school districts nationwide, including the San Jose Unified School District which signed a four-year licensing contract at about 85 cents per student or about $25,000 a year for the district of about 30,000 pupils.”
In January Thinkronize began offering netTrekker Home for consumers “because of the demand we were hearing from parents who wanted access to the site, whether their school subscribed or not,” according to Willig. “We’ve been selling netTrekker to schools for five years.”
Parents were experiencing the same trouble with Web searching as teachers were.
According to promotional materials Willig said the company decided it was time to listen to parents’ concerns and provide access to a family-focused version of the site in netTrekker Home.
Parents have had access for years to free search sites geared to children such as Yahooligans, perhaps the most popular, and Ask for Kids, as well as other sites set up and maintained by a host of nonprofit organizations including public libraries, according to a librarian.
Access to netTrekker Home costs $9.95 a month according to statistics.
Other sites, such as Yahooligans and Ask for Kids also submit Web sites for human review before making them available to users according to their press kit.
But netTrekker says its database is subjected to a more rigorous review by a deeper pool of experts and educators who also rate the Web sites according to grade and reading levels.
But Perry Aftab, executive director for WiredSafety, an advocacy group for child online safety, said that while netTrekker is useful for schools it may not be attractive to many households, wrote Pimentel.