August 19, 2014 6:20 pm

New app allows parents to become online gatekeepers

Call it spying or cyber security, a new app allows parents to monitor and filter what their kids share on social media.

Driven by a desire to stop cyber bullies, William Stark created Halt, an app that acts as a parental filter allowing them to see what their children are posting, liking, and sharing on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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It also allows them to see posts their children are tagged in, flag posts for review, and even stop posts from going public in the first place.

“My niece went through a lot of cyberbullying, went to a few different schools to the point where she finally ended up withdrawing from school to do a home study program to graduate,” says Stark.

“One of the statistics that really prompted me to do this was that 85 per cent of all children surveyed, believed it was easier to get away with bullying online because they could hide it from their parents, and it kind of made me think, ‘well if a kid were to post something, and they knew their mom or dad were the first ones to see it, would they actually post it?’”

The answer was a resounding “no” from the youth we spoke with today. Parents, however, are “liking” the idea.

“I would creep on her all the time, I would watch her every move,” says Ashly, a young mother who brought her daughter to the beach this afternoon.

“I think it’s a fabulous idea, and I don’t like the fact that parents – including my own children – will put their kids on Facebook,” says Kim, a grandmother from Brampton who noted that social media posts are extremely difficult to erase once shared.

READ MORE: Why some parents are choosing not to post their child’s photo online

Currently the app is free on iPhone and works with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; but it’s a porous barrier according to digital strategist Andy Walker of Cyberwalker Digital.

“There are always ways around software, for anyone with half a brain. I mean, Snapchat is not monitored by this software and that’s one of the raciest pieces of social media right now. So this is going to be a solution for people who want some monitoring, but it won’t be guaranteed that parents are going to catch everything that is going on with their kids.”

Aside from using the app, there are other ways to help protect your children from cyberbullies and online predators according to Walker. One of the easiest ways parents can monitor their children’s online behaviour is by where they place the family computer.

“A lot of parents, especially with younger teens, only allow their kids to interact online when the computer is in the kitchen, not behind closed doors.”

“I approve all the friend requests they get, so if I don’t know who that person is or where they’re from, it’s not accepted,” says Trishia, who has four young daughters and a young son.

Whatever the option, the need for increased security measures to protect children is something everyone seems to agree on.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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