Last week, Consumer Reports came out with a study revealing that approximately 7.5 million users on Facebook are under the age of 13. This follows the heels of the company's privacy advisor Mozelle Thompson telling Federal Parliament’s Cyber-Safety Committee that, “Facebook removes 20,000 people a day, people who are underage.” (Daily Telegraph Australia) With the recent attention being given to underage Facebook users, parents all over the world are scrambling to figure out if their kids have accounts, and if so, what they should do about it.
If your child does "Facebook" and is underage, it is recommended that the account should be deleted immediately. If your child is over the age of 13, then constant communication and proper monitoring is essential. Monitoring can take many forms these days. Some parents opt for dedicated “watchdog”-type programs that log every keystroke and website visited, and detail the exact activity of designated users unbeknownst to them. If you’d prefer a less clandestine way of monitoring, check out MinorMonitor, a free web-based tool that uses analytics-based technology to keep track of questionable words and phrases that it will track for on your child’s Facebook account.
Created by Infoglide, a company that lists the US Department of Homeland Security as one of its clients, MinorMonitor is a service for parents to have more insight and awareness into their kids’ Facebook usage. Upon signing up for an account, MinorMonitor asks you for your child’s log-in information. After you’ve spoken with your child and informed them that you’ll be installing this software, you can access their account and the technology immediately begins scanning recent Facebook activity. Once the information is compiled, it presents a parental “dashboard” of information, showing suspicious behavior or profane words, alerts, photos and messages.
Since the technology is based on keyword search, there are a lot of innocent words that it fields and alerts you to. For example, when I used it to scan my own Facebook account, it pulled up messages that included my friend’s name “Crystal” as a possible drug-related phrase and “bottle” as a reference to alcohol, even though the message was about a water bottle. Regardless, the information that it presents is impressive and it really gives you a bird’s eye view of your child’s Facebook activity. It flags the message (status update, photo, etc.) in question and shows it in its entirety, so you can judge for yourself if it is something foreboding. MinorMonitor also tracks for suspicious friends, like those who are significantly older than your child or ones who post lots of negative comments and status updates.
The service is free and is officially launching tomorrow, May 17th. For more information, check out the website, www.minormonitor.com.
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