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from the L.A. Times

SafetyWeb.com selling subscription service to monitor children's online activity

Two technology entrepreneurs are launching a company Wednesday that they say will help parents better monitor their children's online activity.

SafetyWeb.com is an online subscription service that compiles publicly available information and reports back to parents on what kids are up to on the Web.

Safetyweb Michael Clark, who was a senior vice president at Photobucket, and Geoffrey Arone, who started the dance video website DanceJam with MC Hammer, say the service, which costs $10 a month or $100 a year, can help alert parents to risky behavior or online threats such as cyber bullying or sexual predators.

Clark and Arone say that as parents themselves they grew concerned about children leaving a permanent online record that could haunt them later as they apply to college or for jobs.

They enlisted the advice of Hemanshu Nigam, a former federal prosecutor handling Internet child exploitation cases, who, as chief security officer for News Corp.’s online properties, helped MySpace clean up its image as a dangerous hangout for kids.

Safetyweb2 SafetyWeb.com, which is based in Denver and Menlo Park, Calif., has 10 employees and a seed investment from Battery Ventures. It is jumping into a crowded space filled with companies large and small hawking a variety of parental control and monitoring products.

Children’s safety advocates say they prefer products like SafetyWeb because they don’t spy on kids using controversial methods such as keystroke logging on home computers.

“SafetyWeb has a fine set of features, modeling the new form of family safety tools that not only shows where kids have been but attempts to interpret how they behave, and how others behave towards them,” online child safety expert Linda Criddle, president of LookBothWays, said. “What I don't like is the fear factor they use to sell the product. Their ‘hook’ is for you to type in your child's name. But simply finding information that they are on a social network isn't ‘bad.' ”

Arone said SafetyWeb tried to be sensitive to kids and teens while giving parents a way to protect their safety and reputation even when they are online via mobile devices or computers outside the family home. He also said that unlike the marketing of some other products, SafetyWeb is not trying to scare parents.

“A big component of what we try to do is to help engender positive relationships between parents and kids,” Arone said.

Criddle recommends a number of products for concerned parents, including CyberPatrol and K9. She also says the features that come in McAfee’s or Norton’s security suites are also effective and don’t cost extra. For tracking what information is online about your child, she recommends ReputationDefender.

-- Jessica Guynn

 
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