PITTSBURGH (CBS) – Protecting our children is parenting job number one and a shield we expect our schools to carry on as well. However, at progressively earlier ages, social networking is also coming into their lives.
“It’s like setting your kids lose in Times Square in New York. It’s not an altogether wholesome environment, even though it’s popular,” David Hobbs said.
“What they are doing on the Internet is anything but private. They are going on there and they are talking to people and they are exposing themselves to the entire world,” Michael Heiler of the FBI Cyber Crimes Unit said.
Michael Clark is the co-founder of SafetyWeb and there’s one point he can’t emphasize enough.
“Things that cause the most harm to children are things around their reputation, their privacy, and their safety. Those are affected most by things that they post publicly or others post publicly about them,” Clark said.
SafetyWeb is a website that allows parents to track their children’s communications whether it’s by picture, Tweet, text, call or social networking.
“It’s not spying. There are a lot of things that SafetyWeb does, but there’s one thing we don’t do. We don’t cross that private boundary,” Clark said.
“I’d have a problem with it if my parents knew what I was saying to certain people, like my exact thoughts because there are some things we can all agree that are supposed to be kept in confidence,” Carlyton High School student Tim Castello said.
Privacy was a critical issue when we talked with five high school students.
While social monitoring sites like SafetyWeb, SocialShield and others might make it appear as if they are listening in on every call and reading every text, Clark is adamant on that point.
“We monitor it for any activity that’s posted publicly,” Clark said.
They go way beyond Facebook ,Twitter and your child’s phone number to every social network they can find.
“[Parents] get back a report of where their kids have accounts or social networking accounts,” Clark said.
They also know who they’ve been texting or talking to. Parents can set up red flags to be alerted by e-mail or text when keywords indicate depression. suicide, adult content and profanity, bullying and threats, drugs and alcohol, racism and hate, and predatory behavior.
“I like the idea of key words. If I say specific tip-off words, then they might get a message, but like they said, I don’t like the idea of them monitoring all of my texts,” Matt Walker said.
The websites charge monthly monitoring fees and if you choose to use them, you must also decide whether you are going to tell your child.