AOL’s SafeSocial

Many kids will find this intrusive as will many adults. I however, as a concerned hope to be a parent someday I find it essential. What am I talking about? SafeSocial by AOL is what has me grinning ear to ear. There are some real shady characters out in cyberland and whats worse is outside of cyberland is the real world. The creeps you try to protect your family from just might be your next door neighbors.

What does SafeSocial do? SafeSocial makes keeping your child’s online experience a safe one without you having to stand over them like a guard in a prison. With your children’s permission you will be able to monitor their friends, their behavior and conversations. A summary of their online activity will be sent to parents for each child listed.

What child in their right mind would agree to something like this? For a parent the conversation might go something like this. If you want a Facebook account you have to agree to allow us to monitor your activity via SafeSocial. If the child wants a Facebook account they will agree to it.

On the website they spell out why their service is an important one. Do you wonder whether your children are safe on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace? Are you curious who their online friends are, or if they’re talking about sex, drugs, or violence? AOL SafeSocial can help address these worries while giving your children the independence to explore social networking at an age-appropriate level. With AOL SafeSocial, you get a complete view of your child’s online social networking activities: sites where your child has accounts, who your child is friends with, and what content your child is posting online and what’s being posted about them. We also let you know when you need to get involved, be it an inappropriate photograph that has been uploaded on your child’s account or an online “friend” who may not be trustworthy.

Internet privacy policy’s designed to make website users safe also inhibits and prohibits a parent from enforcing household rules. If my child sneaks off to a friend’s house and sets up a MySpace or Facebook account, by law I cannot get either site to close the account. If my child orders pornographic material like Penthouse or Sweet Action, I can write a letter to the publisher, tell them my child ordered the magazine, that they are under 18 and they had no right to send it to a minor. They would apologize and remove the charges from the account and then close it.

This is the message from Facebook:

We appreciate your concern for your child’s use of our website, but unfortunately we cannot give you access to the account or take any action on the account at your request. We are generally forbidden by privacy laws against giving unauthorized access to someone who is not an account holder. Please note that all users ages 13 and older are considered authorized account holders and are included in the scope of this policy.

We encourage parents to exercise any discretion they can on their own computers and in overseeing their kids’ internet use. If you are a parent, you might also consider using software tools on your own computer in order to do so. Please do a search for computer-based Internet control technology on your preferred search engine to discover options that you may wish to pursue.

Please also talk to your kids, educate them about internet safety, and ask them to use our extensive privacy settings.

Something needs to be done to help good parents be good parents. If a parent tells their child they are unable to have a certain account whether it be with Blogger, MySpace, Club Penguin or iCarly, they should be able to enforce their house rules. Something needs to be done but until then there is SafeSocial. Weigh in with your thoughts, especially any teenagers reading this.



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  1. #1 by callmeams on November 6, 2010 - 11:16 PM

    This is an older post, but as a parent with an 8-year-old daughter who not only has a facebook account, an icarly account, and a club penguin account but a cell phone as well I think I may have something to add here. I do not have “spy” software on my daughter’s laptop. Her own private comptuer. I also have not restricted her browser settings as that inhibits what she is able to with the internet. She couldn’t even access her math book on the strictest settings. I do, however, have access to it 24/7. She is not permitted to access the internet from anywhere but our family room and her “friends” are all family and kids she knows from dance classes and school. That means I know all of them as well. She enjoys playing the games on facebook and the other sites and her messages to friends and family are mostly about those games. As for her cell phone, it was purchased because she attends dance classes four nights a week for anywhere from one hour to two and a half hours per night. I am not able to be at the dance studio with her for 10 to 12 hours per week. I need for her to able to reach me should she need me. Does she text? Absolutely. Those same people she is allowed to be friends with on facebook. Does she have limits? Most certainly. The computer and the cell phone are both shut off 1/2 hour before bedtime. Neither goes upstairs to her bedroom, yet anyway, and she knows that mom payed for the computer and the cell phone and mom pays the bills for the internet and the cell service so if mom gets the urge to look at what she’s doing or what she’s texting mom is going to look. The long and the short…I don’t have to be secretive and spy on her. She’s knows I’m watching and that I care about what she’s doing. At 8 it makes her feel safer. At 15 it’s not going to be a surprise. And if she wants to maintain the privledges that mom pays for, she’ll follow the rules.

    • #2 by Tom Baker on November 7, 2010 - 10:35 PM

      I know that not every one is going to agree with adding spyware like AOL SafeSocial but if I had children, wait (when we have kids), I can’t be sure but I might go that route. Thanks for commenting.

  2. #3 by Nathan Pralle on September 10, 2010 - 1:43 PM

    I’m 32, a father, with a 2.5 year old son. I would NOT use something of this sort to track my children and I don’t believe my opinion would change on that.

    Why? Because I plan to be the sort of parent that educates and informs and guides every step of the way through these complex waters instead of simply being content to monitor and react after the fact. Services and systems like this are more for those parents, IMHO, who are simply too busy or unconcerned or ignorant to figure out what’s going on with their children and what they’re doing.

    Does that mean that I’ll never monitor what my children are doing online? On the contrary, but only if I feel there’s a need and a loss of trust and/or safety. I’m a computer programmer — I’ll find plenty of ways of monitoring, access or not. :) But I’m not worried about it, to be honest.

    If my kids get on FB or Twitter or other places, they’ll do so only after they’ve had a lot of education and guidance. They’ll do so initially only with my supervision before they are turned loose. We’ll start at a young age so by the time they are teenagers and embracing their independence, they’ll have all the tools to make their way properly. At that point, those tools + our *mutual* trust in each other will be the power behind keeping them safe and smart.

    They’ll screw up, and perhaps some trust will be ruined, and if that’s the case, then consequences will follow as appropriate, but if there’s no issues? Then there’s no reason for me to snoop and pry. I fully believe in their right to have a private life as well.

    I liken it to vehicular use. I drive well and I’ll communicate that to my children, both through speech and example, long before they slide behind the wheel themselves. We’ll drive together for a long while before they take the car out on their own. And once they do, I won’t install a GPS to make sure I know where they are, but instead give them a cell phone, my number, and assurances that I’m there in case they need me, no matter the circumstances.

    In short — this COULD be a good tool if you have a situation that needs its help, but to use it proactively — I think is stepping over the line of supervision and proper parenting. Or it’s a good excuse to avoid the former.

    • #4 by Tom Baker on September 10, 2010 - 1:59 PM

      Nathan, you haven’t been here in ages. Thanks for dropping by. I fully understand your position on this subject as well. How have you been?

  3. #5 by Cherlyn on September 9, 2010 - 6:16 PM

    “but I don’t think you would/could see my point because you don’t want to” – that’s a bit uncalled for I think. I could say the exact same for you. And yes you are “only” 30, but obviously it’s old enough to have forgotten what it felt like to be a young person. If that offends you, well I don’t blame you – what I said is just as ignorant as what I quoted you saying. I never said I didn’t understand your point, disagreeing doesn’t mean I wear blinders to your point of view, I just have enough mind to tell you “no, I don’t agree, here’s why”. If you don’t like it, don’t post things that are meant to aggravate a particular reader.

    I dont mind the drama – but I suppose if your intent is to get a rise out of me particularly, email me and I’ll tell you topics that bother me to a personal level.

    • #6 by vee15 on September 10, 2010 - 1:18 PM

      aha. lol. love the intensity. :) but yunno I will agree to the kids UNDER the age of 15 shouldn’t have a facebook, twitter, myspace, or anything that’s social. But I will say yes if your kid is 13 and has a facebook give them the safesocial. But a teenager like me 16, I recommend you stay away. lol.

      So, Tom has a point either way it goes. And Cherlyn, you also have a point, because I most definitely will NOT AGREE with this if my mom was ever to walk in my room and tell me join this thing. SO WE ALL WIN! LOL

  4. #7 by vee15 on September 9, 2010 - 1:34 PM

    Aww man! When I was reading this, I got sorta of upset lol! :) From my teen perspective of all of this, it’s invading our teenage lives! Like why?? It’s parents are trying to ruin our lives already, so why make it worst? I know they just want the best for us but, whooa this is crossing the line. IF I was that kid or teen who agree to this I might as well not have a room door, sheesh. So what do I mean by this? Do I approve of this SAFESOCIAL stuff? No i DON’T lol. Because it’s just that us teenagers need our privacy too. I’m not doing none of that stuff they have listed up there, I’m saying if I wanted my mom to know that I was doing something inapproriate I would just tell her. siiigh. It’s like keeping us in their pocket every 5 mins.

    • #8 by Tom Baker on September 9, 2010 - 1:49 PM

      Valencia I fully understand how you feel, but I’d rather air on the side of caution. It’s my job as a parent to be nosey and protect my kids. If they don’t like it they can either pay rent when they hit 18 or move out! My way or the highway as my father would say!

      • #9 by vee15 on September 9, 2010 - 2:01 PM

        Like you guys can still protect us, your doing excellent job by feeding us,having a roof, and a metal proof basement. but yunno, how are you going to protect us at school, or when we go out. Give us a bodyguard? CAUSE I would love that if my mom gave me a bodyguard. We have to learn how to crawl before we walk into reality. I respect you on protecting your future children, but they have to learn a lesson some how.

        and that saying is funny, You want to protect them right? So why kick them where they really get hurt.

        • #10 by Cherlyn on September 9, 2010 - 2:32 PM

          Couldn’t have said it better myself. I never understood that parental line of thinking of “I want to protect you, so either you let me smother you or you can get the hell out of my house and starve”. It’s absolutely absurd.

          Tom, I think that the AOL thing is more acceptable for younger teens/children – despite the fact I dont think kids under the age of 16 should have facebook…but yeah, no teen will ever “agree” to it. Any parent who thinks that is kidding themselves lol.

          • #11 by Tom Baker on September 9, 2010 - 6:05 PM

            Let’s agree to disagree! I see your points, I’m only 30, but I don’t think you would/could see my point because you don’t want to. LOL.

            I do agree with the 16 age for social networks, not 13. The problem is if a kid sneaks and gets one, the parent has no recourse.

            I love the drama. What else can I post to get your juices flowing?

          • #12 by vee15 on September 10, 2010 - 11:44 AM

            aha. lol. love the intensity. :) but yunno I will agree to the kids UNDER the age of 15 shouldn’t have a facebook, twitter, myspace, or anything that’s social. But I will say yes if your kid is 13 and has a facebook give them the safesocial. But a teenager like me 16, I recommend you stay away. lol.

            So, Tom has a point either way it goes. And Cherlyn, you also have a point, because I most definitely will NOT AGREE with this if my mom was ever to walk in my room and tell me join this thing. SO WE ALL WIN! LOL

  5. #13 by barrycyrus on September 7, 2010 - 1:53 PM

    Technology and being young coincide in the same sphere nowadays, no? Hmmm

    • #14 by Tom Baker on September 7, 2010 - 3:35 PM

      Yes Barry you are right. It is an area of life that the young seem to adjust to better.

  6. #15 by Cherlyn on September 7, 2010 - 1:13 PM

    Hopefully you didnt think I was getting angry – on the contrary, I enjoy debates! Nothing gets the thoughts flowing like a good debate :) There’s probably other things we disagree about, but thats life right? I enjoy hearing other people’s thoughts and opinions, and it’s quite obvious that you do too :)

    On another note, my weekend was mediocre but I can’t complain – besides that I’m all right I suppose. How about you? :)

    • #16 by Tom Baker on September 7, 2010 - 3:35 PM

      Don’t worry, I didn’t think the wrong way but I have been known to cause people to get mad at me just because they couldn’t see my facial expression. Typing over the Internet has benefits and drawbacks. By the way you have two more comments on your guest post.

      My weekend was great, except I was hoping for some cooler weather. Next weekend the NFL season starts. I cannot wait. Maybe no posts on Sunday anymore until after the Super Bowl. We’ll see.

      • #17 by Cherlyn on September 7, 2010 - 5:26 PM

        Yeah I’ve got that problem too, which is why i avoid a few subjects on my own blog – I’ve been known to piss off of my own friends haha. I shall go check out those comments!

        I’m glad you had a good weekend! Take some of our cooler weather. All weekend it was 13-15 degrees (celsius of course), so I’m missing the summer already. And I dont blame you for missing Sunday posts – my dad’s all into the NFL too :)

        • #18 by Tom Baker on September 8, 2010 - 7:46 AM

          I have a feeling that one of my upcoming posts will cause the same type of debate. Did you check out any of the titles of my upcoming drafts when you had access to my blog?

          • #19 by Cherlyn on September 8, 2010 - 10:45 AM

            No I didn’t, I didn’t want to snoop lol. But hey, if I feel that it may get heated, I probably wont comment at all – keep things civil haha!

          • #20 by Tom Baker on September 8, 2010 - 11:01 AM

            Always feel free to express your comments. I’m the one who is charged with keeping things civil and letting visitors express themselves freely. I write what I want in the posts. If someone disagrees with me (and I expect it a lot more than I get it), I just let them speak their mind and I try not to reply with anything more than you are entitled to your opinion. It’s never happened before on my blog though. Chats on Facebook are a different story.

  7. #21 by Connie on September 7, 2010 - 10:32 AM

    I don’t fully agree with this but I don’t have any kids yet. I do think it is wrong that kids can do what they want after their parents have set rules. These social networks should not deny parents the right to close a minors account.

    • #22 by Tom Baker on September 7, 2010 - 10:54 AM

      I agree Connie. It’s not right. I tell my kid he/she cannot do something and because they can access a computer elsewhere, websites give them the ‘right’ to disobey. Makes no sense.

  8. #23 by Cherlyn on September 6, 2010 - 9:01 AM

    Considering the fact that I am only 21, and a few years ago I was a teenager, I’m not entirely sure this will even work. Kids are manipulative and will find ways to do the things they want to do. I think that for younger children, this would be beneficial, like in the age range for 10-14ish. However, at the same time, coming from someone who is still becoming an adult, I don’t really like it for teens. It sounds like for teenagers, its a way for overprotective parents to smother them; I think more parents should do what my parents did – put some trust into their teens. My parents understood that I’m younger, and I’m bound to mess up and make some dumb decisions – thats life. But they never tried to smother me, and to keep me always within their grasp. They promoted honesty, and allowed for some aspect of privacy. I know they worried about what I was doing and who i was talking to, because they told me, and because of their honesty I felt I could be honest with them. “Some sketchy guy tried to add me on Facebook, so I blocked him”. My parents new that when I was 17 I was probably going to try my first taste of alcohol, because they were 17 once too. Did they lock me in my room and keep a close eye on me? No of course not – they made sure they knew where I was going, when I was giong to be home, and talked to me about how to be safe when drinking. Because the truth to the matter is, I would’ve done it either way, I would have found a way. I’m glad they knew that I had to make my own mistakes to become who I am, and I’m glad my parents raised me to be intelligent and to teach me right from wrong.

    I dunno, on paper, this AOL thing sounds good, but I think that if teenager wants privacy, and they aren’t getting it at home, they will find it somewhere else. If I had a teen, I’d rather allow them to have a bit more online flexibility in the safety of my own home, and have the discussions about making decent decisions than pushing them away. For younger children, I can see it being a lot more beneficial. However, I still have the mindset that kids that are younger than 15 shouldnt use online social networks, or have cell phones for that matter. But times are changing, I guess well have to see what comes.

    A good informative post, it’s nice to see a different view point.

    • #24 by Tom Baker on September 7, 2010 - 10:11 AM

      I see your point of view and I expected this very response. My parents trusted me and I understand why. My parents also thought enough of me to trust my choice of friends. They were right and very wrong. You have read parts of my blog that most have not and you know that I did some things I should not have. I was able to do those things because of the trust my family (not just my parents) had in me. When I was 17 I would think as you do now. Now, I am from the school of thought… I would rather go to jail for spanking my children, than for them to go because I didn’t.

      “I still have the mindset that kids that are younger than 15 shouldn’t use online social networks, or have cell phones for that matter” I agree with you there too.

      • #25 by Cherlyn on September 7, 2010 - 10:24 AM

        See, I can’t see my point of view ever changing. Mostly because I have friends whose parents have smothered them with their distrust and worry, and now that those kids are my age and not at home, they are worse off.

        I was spanked, maybe two or three times as a kid, and I dont believe I am going to go to jail because it “traumatized” me in anyway. And I know this may sound terrible, but sometimes a kid needs a smack on the bottom. Parents let their kids rule with an iron fist because they are afraid that any type of discipline, whether it be a small smack on the bottom or even just grounding, is a form of abuse. My father was abused as a child, actually abused – and I would never be ignorant enough to say that all people who have suffered abuse will end up going to jail or becoming violent, because my father would rather die than hit me or my mother or my brother.

        The truth to the matter is, its never the childs fault that they’re a brat, or that they make mistakes – it’s the parents. They are afraid – afraid of what their kids may or may not do, who they are or aren’t talking to’, what they say that will affect their child, and possible abuse. If a child is reaching about to shove a fork in an electrical socket, what do you do? You smack their hand and tell them no – that doesn’t make it abuse.

        I’m not sure why you brought up spanking at all, because the article you posted was about social networking and children :S

        • #26 by Tom Baker on September 7, 2010 - 10:51 AM

          I guess the spanking was an analogy that just didn’t work. I knew one day we would come across a topic we didn’t agree on and I’m not trying to change your mind, just express mine. By the way, how are you and how was your weekend?

  9. #27 by Daisy on September 6, 2010 - 4:05 AM

    As a teenager, I don’t like this idea and would not agree to it. I understand parents concerns because I’ve done some crazy things (I could be dead by now), because my parents not only trusted me but also my friends. This is an idea that probably won’t work but I fully understand why they want to do this. AOL is still around???

    • #28 by Cherlyn on September 6, 2010 - 2:07 PM

      hahaha I was totally thinking that when I saw “AOL”.

    • #29 by Tom Baker on September 7, 2010 - 10:05 AM

      I fully understand and I can see your point of view but I still feel it’s a good idea.

  10. #30 by Scent of my heart on September 6, 2010 - 1:07 AM

    It’s so different to be a kid today, than when I was one … Freedom and development in technology through the years it might improve life and make it easier in many ways, but certainly does not improve safety ..unfortunately! Good post!

    • #31 by Tom Baker on September 7, 2010 - 10:04 AM

      I can’t imagine what things will be long after I’m gone. Can you imagine what people only 100 years ago would think of today’s technology?

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