By Greg Griffin The Denver Post Posted: 07/21/2010 01:00:00 AM MDT
Jane Siekmeier of Centennial was stunned to learn that a photo and detailed profile of her 13-year- old daughter showed up on a comment the girl made on a blog.
Her daughter was surprised too.
The fix was as simple as converting the setting of her information to "private" from "public" at the website hosting the profile. But the Siekmeiers might never have known about the issue or how to resolve it without the help of a startup company in Denver.
SafetyWeb runs a service for parents who want to keep an eye on what their kids are posting on social-networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. It's one of a handful of ventures sprouting up to help protect children's online privacy and reputations.
For $10 a month or $100 a year, SafetyWeb provides parents with reports on what their children are posting and what's being posted about them on public websites. It also alerts parents to potentially harmful activity such as online bullying, inappropriate comments or photos or predatory behavior and helps them have content removed.
"There are so many sites that it's challenging to be aware of all of them and know what to be concerned about," Siekmeier said. "As parents, it's our responsibility to monitor them and make sure they're safe. We rely on SafetyWeb to provide that monitoring for us."
So far, Siekmeier's daughter and 15-year-old son don't mind, she said.
SafetyWeb was formed in October by Denver resident Michael Clark, formerly senior vice president of technology at Photobucket, and San Francisco entrepreneur Geoffrey Arone, co-creator of the Flock Web browser.
The company, located near 15th and Platte streets, launched its service in May. It received $8 million in venture capital in June from a group led by Battery Ventures and bought another company in the online-safety field, Golden-based Odojo, this month. It employs 12.
Clark, who has three children, began to see the need for the service when he was charged with ensuring that Photobucket's images were clean.
"I got to see the best of what kids were doing. But I also saw a few of them sharing things with the world . . . that would be with them the rest of their lives," he said.
SafetyWeb is using the venture capital to boost its national marketing efforts. The company's ads are running on popular national websites, including The New York Times'.
Software exists to block children from viewing certain websites. Security programs allow parents to see every website their children visit. But SafetyWeb and several other services — including SocialShield and MyChild by ReputationDefender — focus largely on protecting children and teenagers from themselves.
Hemanshu Nigam, an expert in online safety who has advised the Obama administration, is an adviser and investor in SafetyWeb.
"It's a huge gap that's been missing and a quickly rising area of concern," he said. "What is your teen putting out there that can result in harm or may result in them not getting into college or a job?"
Greg Griffin: 303-954-1241 or email@example.com