More remedies for the MySpace dilemma

How to protect kids from potential run-ins with degenate aspects of the Internet? Two companies offer safe, controlled environments for families.

How to protect kids from potential run-ins with degenate aspects of the internet? Since the advent of MySpace.com, parents have become increasingly concerned over personal materials teenagers post and potential contact with pediophiles. Recently, two sites developed by moms, are hoping to remedy the situation by creating kid-friendly software for safe browsing, reports the S.F. Chronicle.

An Emeryville company called Industrious Kid will soon launch a social networking site called Imbee.com geared toward 8-14 year olds. The site hopes to serve as an online hangout for children, a place where kids can communicate with each other and create content, in a self-contained fashion, not accesible to the public.

Jeanette Symons, chief executive officer of Industrious Kid and a mother of two, hatched the idea after her young children wanted to set up their own blogs.

"It sounded like a great, cute idea, but what I started to panic on was whatever they posted would start leaving a trail, and that trail would follow them forever," Symons, who was also co-founder of Oakland's Zhone Technologies, said, citing another concern over the often personal materials teenagers post on their MySpace sites.

Another concerned mom, educator Chris Willig created netTrekker, a search engine for K-12 schools , which became available in January. Willig said she became frustrated with the "challenging searches" her children encountered while doing online research for school. 

"Parents (and their children) were experiencing the same trouble with Web searching as teachers were -- stumbling across porn, reams of inappropriate material, sites that look credible but really are not, loads of ads/pop-ups, etc. We've been selling netTrekker to schools for five years," she said.

"We decided it was time to listen to parents' concerns and provide access to a family-focused version of the site in netTrekker Home."

At $9.95 a month, the service may prove too expensive for most homes, especially when there are free kid-oriented portals like Yahooligans and Ask for Kids.

As for Industrious Kid, eventually walled gardens offer a false promise - highly controlled portals inevitably cut out the personality, energy and interconnectedness that makes Internet publishing exciting.

ven Symons, the CEO of Industrious Kid, conceded that a self-contained site can only do so much.

"The struggle is keeping them closed in," she said. "Can you do a complete enough job? Can you give them enough content that they don't need to go out? I don't see that happening."

 

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