Parents, Here's Another Fix For Facebook Cyberbullies

As many as one in five teenagers in the U.S. will come into contact with online predators or bullies, and some of that happens on Facebook, predicts the Cyberbullying Research Center.

ZoneAlarm SocialGuard launched to help parents protect their children from such interpersonal threats on Facebook while being careful not to override their child’s sense of privacy and independence. This tool offers a bullying-specific spin on the parental monitoring software for social media we’ve seen from about seven different vendors.

The new application from Redwood City, Calif.-based CheckPoint Software Technologies, Ltd., scans profiles, wall postings, status updates, comments, friend requests, even private messages of a monitored account using proprietary algorithms to locate potential threats.

“The application can now read the [news] feed, tracking all of the info going into and out of a monitored Facebook account,” says John Gable, director of consumer products at CheckPoint. “This means that e-mail messages in Facebook can now be monitored – which is crucial because predators often make conversations private, communicating only through private messages.”

The application differentiates itself from other products in the expanding category of social network security tools, including Bsecure Online and Norton Online Family Premier, by seeking to maintain a child’s sense of privacy while protecting him or her from cyber harm.

Parents can see their child’s friends but cannot see or comment on wall posts or chime in on conversations. And while the application alerts parents to suspicious activity taking place on their child’s Facebook account it does not block the activity from occurring. Monitoring parents do not have to have their own Facebook accounts nor do they have to be Facebook friends with their child in order to use the application.

“We approached this more like a conversation between a parent and child,” says Gable.

Parents receive real-time alerts by email or through the SocialGuard interface if suspicious material is discovered. This could be in the form of false age reporting by a sexual predator, threatening content sent from a cyberbully or material involving violence, drugs or suicide.

When a child receives a new friend request, ZoneAlarm SocialGuard calculates the degree of social separation from a child’s established network in an effort to identify strangers.

Unauthorized status updates and suspicious profile changes, which may indicate account hacking, are also flagged by the application.

Parents are also notified when dangerous or offensive links are sent to their child’s Facebook account through private messages, status updates and wall postings in order to prevent malware attacks and access to inappropriate content.

ZoneAlarm SocialGuard is available through the company’s website for of $1.99 a month or $19.99 per year.

Readers, does this product interest you either to protect your own child or for your friends’ children?

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