I had a good meeting yesterday with the child-safety product group from Symantec, the Internet security software company. They shared an aggregation of research that underscores the naivety of too many children when they use the Internet (i.e., giving out their passwords, or succombing to phishing sites). Symantic also mined their own database of child Internet search queries, tracked through Symantec’s security software, and found that “sex” and “porn” were among the most prevalent queries (top five). Their research also underscored the child-online safety challenges of parents, including digital ignorance, a lack of visibility and control, and simple tools and methods in which to ensure safety and teach responsibility.
As you’d expect, that’s where Symantec’s family protection software comes in. OnlineFamily.Norton (www.onlinefamily.norton.com) is a free Web service that gives parents a flexible way to view and control child Internet usage among Windows and Mac computers in their household. While parental control is an obvious feature, I liked the Symantec team’s philosophy of using the system to drive discussion, education and responsibility. We’re going to test the software in our family, where our oldest child is three and quickly becoming computer literate.
I’ll report on our experience in a month or so. In the meantime, a few thoughts come to mind. First, child-safety software quickly needs to extend to mobile and gaming devices, where a growing percentage of Web usage is taking place. Second, child-safety protection software needs to be marketed to kids, not just parents. The natural reaction for a kid is to reject control. But what if child-protection software became attractive to kids as well — through various incentives and direct benefits? What if kids were the ones to introduce the software into their families if their parents already have not?
(This post was written and uploaded from my Blackberry.)