SocialShield raises $10M for Web monitoring

Faith Merino · October 5, 2010 · Short URL:

The service allows parents to monitor their child's online activity

As cyber-bullying becomes an ever-pressing problem and younger children are connecting with friends and strangers via social networking sites, it is becoming increasingly obvious that more safety measures must be taken to protect children online.  SocialShield was developed to allow parents to monitor their children’s online activity, and the company announced Tuesday that it has raised $10 million in a series A round led by Venrock and U.S. Venture Partners, with help from angels Russell Fradin, Larry Braitman, George Garrick, Craig Sherman and Rick Thompson.

The program, which exists in the cloud and requires no downloading, uses technology to monitor a child’s activity on the Web and alerts parents if an adult attempts to friend their child, if there are any adults in their child’s friends list (and if any of those adults are registered sex offenders), or if any words are exchanged that indicate bullying, suicidal thoughts, or problems with violence, sex, or drug abuse. 

The question of privacy inevitably arises, as 1) a child will not react well if he or she finds out about any parent spying, and 2) who wants to sit around and comb through inane teenage conversations? 

Firstly, a child must opt-in and agree to the service, which obviously requires parents to talk to their child about online safety.  Furthermore, the SocialShield technology works by monitoring activity and flagging certain words so that a parent does not actually read his or her child’s conversations, but will be notified if Social Shield detects a problem.  This actually sounds like a clever compromise, as kids might be more likely to opt for this program over friending their parents on Facebook.

Founded in 2009, the San Bruno, Calif.-based company got started when co-founder Noah Kindler spoke to a friend whose daughter suddenly became the target of over 80 adult men’s attentions on Facebook after her father put up pictures from their last family vacation.  Kindler had experience working with social networking sites, and he teamed up with Arad Rostampour, who was an executive at HP.  The two found a number of willing angels in their immediate circle of friends, and AOL signed on to make SocialShield’s technology the foundation for AOL’s SafeSocial features.

“The [founders] chose to integrate their product more deeply into the social networks than anything else out there, and get access to the richest data sets,” said Brian Ascher of Venrock in an interview with TechCrunch.  “We thought they would deliver a superior experience to both the parents and the kids. It’s important that the kids feel good about this product.”

Getting started is fairly easy.  Parents can go on, type in their child’s email address, and the technology searches the Web for the name of the owner.  If it’s a match, parents can have the service send an email inviting the child to join the service.  The service costs $10 per month per family, or $8 per month for a yearly service.

SocialShield could not be reached for comment.

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