Trend Micro Enters the Parental Control Market with a “Super Light” Filtering Tool

This week, Trend Micro announced the introduction of its new tool, Online Guardian, which offers to keep children safe online. OSS had the opportunity to speak with Trend Micro’s Product Manager and Developer of the product, Laura Martinez.

Laura has two kids of her own, now ages 14 and 17. She is well acquainted with the challenges of being a parent in the social media age, as she shared during our interview.  I asked how Trend Micro had become interested in developing Online Guardian. Laura shared her story of a cyberbullying incident that happened in her home.

“I happened to peek over the shoulder of my daughter, who was 10 at the time,” explains Laura. “I was surprised to see that the chat conversation in which she was engaged seemed really mean.”

Laura tried talking to her daughter about the incident, but needed to look at the chat logs to get to the detail of what had been said between her daughter and her friend, another 10yo girl. The mean-spirited tone of the chat surprised Laura, who realized then that she needed to find a better way to monitor and protect her child online.

Trend Micro, Laura’s employer, was supportive of Laura’s motivation. She volunteered for their Internet Safety for Kids and Families program, which enables Trend employees to help train kids and parents on the safe use of the Internet. Laura’s experience with that program helped her to talk to 100′s of parents, hear their concerns, and write the requirements for the product which eventually became Online Guardian.

What Specific Needs Did Laura Identify in Her Discussions with Parents?

Laura was surprised at the level of education – and lack of knowledge – among parents about the Internet and social network sites, like Facebook.

“Parents told me over and over, that they weren’t concerned about Facebook ‘because I’ve friended my kid,’”says Laura. “They don’t realize that their kids are likely really tech-savvy. And the kids can block their parent – and any friend on Facebook if they want – from seeing some of their activities. So, just friending your child doesn’t solve the problem of monitoring their activities online.”

Laura also said that parents were concerned with their kids’ ability to disable monitoring software, because the kids know technology better than they do. The speed at which computers could operate while being monitored, also emerged as a huge concern.

“Machine performance is a big factor in whether a monitoring tool is usable,” explains Laura. “Many parents told me that they tried monitoring software, but that they had to remove it because it was slowing down their computer too much.”

Even Good Kids Can Be Lured Into Facebook Too Early

Laura shared a first-hand experience that she had when testing Online Guardian, of how useful the tool’s social network search capability can be. On a whim, Laura entered the email address of her daughter. To her surprise, her search revealed an unknown Facebook account.

“My daughter was really smart, so she’d used a different last name and blocked the account so that I couldn’t see it,” says Laura. “Finding the account allowed me to have a conversation with my daughter before any real problems could happen.”

What Makes Trend Micro Online Guardian Different?

According to Trend Micro, Online Guardian includes “more extensive” reporting on the top five social network sites, including Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, and Flickr, than other filtering tools offer. “My experience with my own daughter proved to me the value of this reporting capability,” says Laura. “Online Guardian even reports on the stuff which is private in a child’s account.” 

The software agent is built to be “super light” so it doesn’t slow down the computer. It is also tamper-proof; even if a child is smart enough to reset a system’s Windows Registry keys the product keeps working. The agent will self-restart and thwart any attempts by a child to disable its operation.

“We also license differently, by child rather than by computer system,” says Laura. “A parent can install an Online Guardian agent on as many computers as they need, to monitor a child.”

So, if a child goes online from many different locations – such as at home but perhaps also at an after-school location, or from grandma’s house - then Online Guardian can be installed there, as well. The software is licensed to protect up to five children, each with an individual profile.

Additional capabilities provided in the product include:

  • Keyword filtering which is customizable by the parent (note: only the words “porn” and “weapon” are filtered automatically by the software)
  • Black- and white-listing of web site URLs, selectable from 27 categories and organized for parents into five major categories and age-groups to make it simple
  • Easy-to-read snapshot reports summarizing daily online use by children, which are available online to enable remote monitoring for working parents or for those traveling

Online Guardian is available now from Trend Micro, and retails for $49.95 for a one-year subscription protecting up to five children. Trend Micro also offers a free 30-day trial.

The reaction to Trend Micro’s introduction of Online Guardian by parents is reportedly “super excited.” “We’ve been inundated with interest,” says Laura. “The high level of interest proves there is a real need.”

Resources

  • Online Social Savvy “Round-Up” report, which has been updated to include Trend Micro Online Guardian is located on our Resources page.
  • Trend Micro’s recorded demonstration for Online Guardian
  • Trend Micro’s Internet Safety for Kids and Families blog
  • Online Guardian product web page and download site
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Edmodo Helps Teachers Connect with Students Online: Attend Their Webinars For More Details Starting Today

Image representing Edmodo as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

To quote their site, Edmodo is “a free, secure, social learning platform for teachers, students, schools and districts.” With worldwide use at over 1.5M as of Feb 2011, this popular service enables teachers to connect better with kids, and safely leverage web resources for creative teaching.

Early this month, Edmodo announced new features and capabilities which will take the tool even farther into eduction.

Edmodo At-a-Glance

Some of the social network capabilities which Edmodo provides, include:

  • Enables teachers to post messages for their students
  • Enables teachers to discuss classroom assignments
  • Enables teachers to assign and grade assignments
  • Enables teachers and students to share content and materials
  • Enables teachers to network with other teachers, to share ideas and resources
  • Alerts students through mobile phone apps about new posts
  • Keeps communications safe and secure with built-in privacy controls for each virtual classroom

Edmodo was founded in late 2008. It’s privately held, and appears committed to being a free service to enable easy teacher access. It’s also nice that the Edmodo interface looks a lot like Facebook – which makes it simple and attractive to students.

New Edmodo Features Launched March 3

Edmodo announced several new features on its blog site, which were released on March 3. These new features include:

  • New discussion forum communities, on a wider range of topics for teachers and educators than were available before
  • Read-only access, which teachers can assign to some groups of students
  • Saved assignments, which makes it easy for teachers to keep assignments – and assign them again in the future without having to recreate them

Teacher Reactions and Examples of Use

Videos with examples of how Edmodo can be used in the classroom, is provided at their web site. As one teacher comments, “The difference between the 21st century classroom and the traditional classroom, is that everything that we do not only focuses on 21st-century skills but it is project-based – which means connected to the real-world.” This teacher sees Edmodo as central to enabling better teaching, which is matched to how the current generation of kids learn best.

Some benefits for practical use cited include:

  • Access to learning for kids sick at home or absent for other reasons
  • Access to real-time, real-world current event information and resources
  • Providing teaching opportunities for up-to-date tools like social media
  • Helping prepare kids for use of tools and communication which are relevant for their futures, both business and professional
  • Enabling improved communication and tracking for students of classroom assignments and materials
  • Keeps teachers relevant to students in exciting new ways

Considerations if You Want to Use Edmodo for Your Classroom

Keep these challenges in mind, if you want to use Edmodo for your classroom:

  • You may find that some students lack Internet access and may not have mobile phones available for their use. Work with your school administration, to see if there are ways to make up for the “digital divide” that may unfairly penalize some students or call attention to their lack of resources at home.
  • Discuss adoption of Edmodo with your district’s technology integration specialist. That person can assist you with getting over some of the technology hurdles, including classroom Internet connection and site management.

Resources

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Reputation Management: An Emerging Service for Scrubbing Online Footprints

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Students applying to college have new tools that may help them to polish their profiles for admissions boards. Called Reputation Management tools, these services can crawl through Facebook profiles and search the web – and report back with alerts on images and statements that you just might not want others to find.

Tools for reputation management available now include:

  • SocioClean, which offers a “one stop shop” for cleaning all of your social network accounts – including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace. An article in Mashable this month, details one reporter’s experience in using SocioClean – and her surprise when her profile was graded by SocioClean as a “D.”
  • Myid.com, acquired by SafetyWeb earlier this year to round out its parental control capabilities, and “coming soon” according to its web site.
  • Reputation.com, offering a service it calls MyPrivacy to “find and remove your personal information from people-search websites like Spokeo and Peoplefinders.” This site was founded in 2010 by Harvard Law School graduate Michael Fertik, who was reportedly “troubled by the idea of young people being forever tainted online by their youthful indiscretions.”
  • Reputation Professor, which offers a service for monitoring “who is talking about you, your child, your brand, company, people or products on websites, videos, news, blogs and social networks.”

In his thoughtful and lengthy article, “The Web Means the End of Forgetting,” (NY Times login required) author Jeffrey Rosen describes a so-called Web 3.0 world in which our online images and information combine to profile our individual trustworthiness in areas like parenting, working, study, insurance, dating, and so forth. As credit ratings rule our ability to gain access to credit today, these trustworthiness ratings could unduly influence our ability to gain access to school, employment, social clubs – you name it – in the future.

In this Web 3.0 vision, it is our pictures as well as our words which can combine to haunt us as individuals. Rosen writes, “… as facial-recognition technology becomes more widespread and sophisticated, it will almost certainly challenge our expectation of anonymity in public. People will be able to snap a cellphone picture (or video) of a stranger, plug the images into Google and pull up all tagged and untagged photos of that person that exist on the Web.”

The author also cites work being done by legal scholars and others, who anticipate the Web 3.0 world – and who advise that we find new ways to “remember how to forget” online. Until then, students and others may want to check out reputation management tools – and think far ahead before posting new images and information online.

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