(Ping! Zine) – A new AOL survey, released today, conducted by The Nielsen Company, reveals the challenges of modern day parenting in a world with social networking. According to the survey, more than half of the children surveyed (54%) don’t personally know all of the friends accepted into their social network. While 76% of parents with kids on Facebook, claim to have “friended” their teens, 29% of teenagers are ready to “un-friend” their parents given the choice, and are twice as likely to want to “un-friend” mom versus dad.
In response to the dynamic safety and reputation management needs of today’s teenagers online, AOL today released a new product called Safe Social (www.SafeSocial.com). This comprehensive tool provides parents a 360 degree view of their child’s social networking life, with an easy-to-read report card of overall social networking activity and identification of potential red flags. With Safe Social, which requires up-front consent from the child, parents gain access to their teen’s friends list and what their teen posts on sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. Parents may also opt to receive real-time alerts regarding potential predator relationships and indications of at-risk behaviors, such as posted references to alcohol use or even bullying and suicide.
Child Protection Advocate and AOL’s head of Online Safety and Security, John Ryan, advises “Predators, whether bullies or sexual offenders, often masquerade as friends. The key is to unmask them. Safe Social takes an across-the-board look at your kid’s friends and checks them against more than 50 databases and other factors, such as distance, to help you find out if they are, who they say they are.”
Safe Social works to protect teen users by alerting their parents when someone identified as an adult befriends them, or when the person has no or few other mutual friends with their child. Parents can keep track of the friends in one easy-to-read gallery. Roughly one-third of parents (33%) feel they are mostly on top of things, but worry they aren’t seeing everything, while another 18% feel that it is tricky and too time consuming to keep up. Many parents are not able to effectively vet their children’s friends, with 41% saying they know half or less than half of their children’s online friends. Safe Social curbs this barrier with an up-front agreement with the teen user to allow parental access with a broader view. This arrangement is seamless to others, which 45% of children said they would prefer as compared to publicly being “friends” with a parent or parents who are able to post on their page.
An Eye on Age-Appropriate Safety and Reputation Management
Safe Social, which draws on underlying technology from Social Shield, also addresses the growing issue of teenage reputation management online by allowing parents to review postings, uploaded photos, and photos in which their child has been tagged for inappropriate behaviors and activities. The tool automatically notifies parents through an email alert of unsafe or questionable behavior when trigger words related to sex, drugs or alcohol are detected in conversations posted online. “I think parents are looking to strike a happy medium between giving their kids the independence to enjoy things like Facebook and being a responsible parent. Consumers have been waiting for a realistic solution like Safe Social that lets teens be teens and parents be parents,” explained AOL Consumer Advisor, Regina Lewis.
Safe Social is the first major product to be launched from AOL’s Paid Services Division. “AOL has been a leader in helping parents and their children enjoy a safer online experience,” said Ned Brody, President, AOL Paid Services. “We believe the launch of Safe Social underscores our commitment to continuing to evolve our offerings to match up with the changing needs of today’s families.”
The launch of Safe Social as a stand-alone product with a free trial and an ongoing $9.99 monthly price point augments AOL’s growing roster safety products and rich history in this arena. A separate study conducted for AOL shows that four in 10 parents are not using a Web filter. Those who do monitor their children’s Web browsing use time-consuming and possibly ineffective ways such as looking through browsing history, looking over the child’s shoulder while he or she is online or simply asking the child which sites he or she has visited. With this research in mind and the new findings from the Nielsen-conducted survey, AOL set out to offer multiple age-appropriate products to provide more effective solutions to keeping children, pre-teens and teens safer online.
Additionally, representing AOL’s continued commitment to provide child, pre-teen and teen online safety services, earlier this month the company introduced a free, easy-to-use and lightweight AOL Safety Toolbar available at www.safetytoolbar.aol.com. Features include a simple set-up process; a Web filter that checks against 13 million websites; family-friendly search that filters out inappropriate search results; Internet activity reports, and customizable controls. AOL’s renowned parental controls for younger children are available for free at www.Safety.AOL.Com
About the Survey
AOL and The Nielsen Company jointly developed the survey, with approximately 1,024 adult and 500 13-17 year old respondents contacted via email in August 2010.