AOL Wants To Help Parents Protect Children Online With Safe Social

As kids flock to the internet for social networking, educational tools and more; safety on the web is becoming a concern for parents. However, one wouldn’t necessarily connect AOL with child safety on the web. But the success of companies like ReputationDefender, SocialShield and Safety Web are showing that now, more than ever, parents are looking to spend money on tools to help protect their kids on the web. Tonight, AOL is launching an new pre-teen/teen online safety application called SafeSocial.

AOL is licensing technology from SocialShield, a startup that offers a web application that targets various security risks on social networks. AOL’s application is similar in functionality to SocialShield. Safe Social will allow parents to monitor their kids social network conversations and actual “friends” network by sending parents real-time alerts if inappropriate conversations are happening (such as mentions of sex, drugs, suicide, and other red flag terms).

And Safe Social will run background checks of “friends” to match against a national registry of child predators, criminal activity, etc. Safe Social will also flag anyone who is not age-appropriate, or who doesn’t have other friends in the same network. For example, Safe Social will cross any new friend with, alerting parents when a child befriends a possible adult on a social network.

The application’s Activities Engine stores every comment and photo a child posts. The photo feature will track all images that are posted by a child, or an photos where a child has been tagged.

Of course, the key to all of this is that the parent has to have the children’s credentials to their accounts to track all of their activities. But as cyber bullying and predators pervade the web and social networks, there is increased pressure on parents to protect their children.

AOL is planning to charge for this service-Safe Social will be free for 30 days and then $9.99 per month. That price includes tracking of a number of childrens’ accounts.

Interestingly, this is the first branded paid consumer service AOL has launched in a number of years. The company’s President of AOL Paid Services Ned Brody, tells me that the new product is in line with AOL’s core values. And he says that we will see a number of consumer-focused subscription products to “help people with different parts of their lives.” It should be interesting to see AOL build out this part of its business after a continued focus on content strategy.

The New York Times highlighted in a recent overview of the space that it’s also important to note that these services are only a piece of the puzzle when it comes to protecting your children online. Parenting and communication is also an important part of avoiding unsafe or inappropriate behavior on social networks.