Social Monitoring Program Saves Kids Embarrassment

Software offers parents calculated insight

The use of social networking sites is now an integral part of communication among teenagers. But unlike older users, this group faces particular dangers that can make parents wary. Striking a balance between monitoring children’s Internet activity and allowing them a degree of freedom has been a difficult challenge. Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal tested a new kind of software aimed at giving both parents and kids peace of mind.

SocialGuard, a new product by CheckPoint, allows parents to monitor their kids’ Facebook activity without the embarrassment of a "friend request." The program allows parents to keep an eye on any type of predatory behavior that may be aimed at their child, such as cyber-bullying, hacking, viruses, and other types of fraudulent and malicious behavior. By scanning the Facebook page every five minutes for certain language, data, and other red flags, SocialGuard potentially provides an opportunity for parents to get the information they want without searching firsthand on their kids' pages.

The program requires the user to log in to the Facebook account that will be monitored, so consent from the child is necessary before the scanning can begin. If questionable content does arise, a designated email address is contacted with a warning about the potential risk. Though Mossberg finds the program to be a promising solution to an ongoing security problem, he acknowledges that SocialGuard is only available for PCs (it can still be used to monitor accounts that are accessed from all sorts of devices), has some holes in monitoring certain features like chats and events, and cannot monitor secret accounts opened by children.