(UPDATED) While it can sometimes seem tricky to navigate parenting in the social media era, one online business is making it easier for parents to not only protect their children but also keep them from being the ones who cause others harm.
Chuck Chesler, founder of the Stamford-based KwickLook.com, said his inspiration for launching the site was not only out of a desire to protect his two children from online predators, but also to raise them to be responsible citizens.
“We’re the first generation of parents responsible for navigating our children through this social media world,” he said. “We’re responsible not only if they beat someone up in the outside world, but making sure they behave in the social media world and keep them from bullying others.”
Instead of having to connect with their children through their own accounts, parents sign up on KwickLook using their child’s user name and password, Chesler said.
The child’s social media information for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube is rendered on a dashboard on the KwickLook website, or through a new system called Your Daily Email, Chesler said.
The dashboard has one column for each of the social media outlets, bringing the child’s activity to the forefront so parents don’t have to scroll through a lot of meaningless activity to track their children. If they want to know more about what their child has been up to, they can click on any post and will be instantly logged in as if they were their child, Chesler said.
And because they are logged in as their child, they would be able to do anything they needed to do – such as delete a post, or shut down or cancel an account, Chesler said.
Children would not get any alerts that their parents had been active in their accounts through Kwicklook, he added.
KwickLook monitors all likes, messages, and posts on a child’s social media, Chesler said, whether it’s from their children or directed at them.
The “Your Daily Email” feature sends parents an email once every 24 hours displaying their child’s last three likes, messages, or posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube. The parent receives an exact rendering of what the child sees, Chesler said. For example, if they liked a picture on Instagram, the parent would see that picture as well as the likes, mentions, and posts.
KwickLook unveiled Your Daily Email so parents who want to monitor their child’s online activity but don’t have the time to pore through all their posts, Chesler said. A number of parents originally asked if they could have some sort of notification whenever their children posted on social media. While that wasn’t practical, he said, an email system was.
Currently about 70 percent of KwickLook users get the email, and readership of them is about 100 percent, he said.
Parents “receive satisfaction or peace of mind in 2.8 seconds or whatever it takes to read or glance through an email,” Chesler said.
The emails are sent out at the same time every day, usually every 24 hours after the parent first signs up, Chesler said.
There is no mobile version of KwickLook yet, but Chesler said the site renders very well on phones, and a mobile version is planned.
The company plans to add Tumblr to the list of sites KwickLook follows in the next 6 to 8 weeks, and plans to add more social media services after that.
If children try to change their passwords in an attempt to lock their parents out of their social media accounts, the parents will immediately get an email alert, Chesler said, adding that many parents already have their children’s user names and passwords but never use them, so monitoring their Internet activities isn’t a large step.
He also said parents shouldn’t worry about their children setting up whole new accounts to get around parental monitoring.
“Children don’t want to change accounts because their whole world is there, all their photos, friends, etc.,” Chesler said.
While it’s possible that a child could try to clean up their social media presence before their parents get the email alert, it’s not very feasible, Chesler said. For example, they’d have to know exactly when the email was sent out every day and look for the last three posts on all four accounts. And even if they did get it off the email, the only way to remove a post from the dashboard would be to completely delete it from their social media.
Parents can also get a free e-book — put together with the help of licensed family counselors — that has tips on how to discuss social media monitoring with their children.
Laura Saunders, a psychologist who specializes in children, adolescents, and families at the Institute of Living, agrees that parents need to take an active role in parenting online.
“We live in an era where parents are mistaken if they think children can be on social media without parental supervision,” she said.
Saunders says systems that give parents access to their children’s online information is a good idea. However, she adds, it’s important parents set a framework so their children know their activity is being supervised and so the children know what their responsibilities are.
While predators and bullying are two examples on the extreme ends of what can go wrong on the Internet, Saunders said she is more concerned about the gray areas and what the fallout might be for questionable behavior. For example, they might not know that they can get in trouble for videotaping someone without their consent and putting it online without their permission.
“They have limited judgment,” she said. “Parents need to explain the limits of privacy.”
Saunders also said that online parenting can’t be done in isolation. It needs to be done in conjunction with parenting at home.
Parents “have to provide real-time guidance in advance of and when problems come up,” she said. “Technology is a supplement to real-time parenting and communication.”
“We’re not here to solve the parent-teen/pre-teen dynamic,” he said. “We just want safeguards.”
KwickLook is available free of charge.