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Glubble: The Web in a Kid-Friendly Bubble

Last week, Security Fix highlighted a software-free approach to helping parents block objectionable online content. Today, I'm profiling a new service that debuted this week - an "add-on" or extension for Mozilla's Firefox Web browser that takes the opposite approach: creating a "whitelist" of safe sites for kids to view.

The add-on and service, dubbed "Glubble," is the brainchild of Glaxstar, the company responsible for creating Firefox extensions for many top Web destinations, such as the social bookmarking service del.icio.us, as well as PayPal and eBay.

The service is aimed at parents who want to create a self-contained, online community for their kids, starting with a network of some 350 Web sites deemed appropriate for kids ages 11 and younger. Sites include Animal Planet, Disney, Nickelodeon, Lego, National Geographic Kids and Scholastic, to name a few (this list can be edited by the administrator of the child's Glubble account).

Glaxstar founder Ian Hayward said the service was not designed to be some kind of an elaborate Web filter. Rather, he said, his company designed the extension around parents with kids who mainly want to visit the Web sites of things they see on television. "The age group we're aiming at are kids who still hold mom or dad's hand at the shopping mall and pretty much do what they're told," Hayward said. "The propensity to try and get around stuff is a helluva lot less with your average 7- or 8-year-old than it is your older kids."

Sure, this service is a tad cutesy, and it probably sounds pretty tame coming from a column that frequently delves into some of the seediest sides of the Web. But it's nice to see thoughtful approaches that at least try to help make the Web a less menacing place for some of its youngest users.

Parents can install the extension and register a free account at Glubble, and then create sub-accounts for their children. If a child using Glubble wants to visit a site outside of the pre-approved list, they must request special approval from a parent or family member. If the designated administrator of the child's account is online and logged in to their Glubble account at the time, a notice will appear in the browser with the specifics, otherwise the parent receives the request via e-mail. Likewise, any Web searches in Glubble only return results from the sites pre-approved by the administrator or parent.

Glubble also includes a built-in chat client that is similarly restricted. If a child wants to add a "buddy" or fellow Glubble user, the addition of that friend must be approved by both the parents or Glubble administrators. By design, the service has no global "search for Glubble" buddy feature.

This service is, of course, not a substitute for talking with your kids about using the Internet responsibly, or simply placing the family PC in plain view in the living room.

By Brian Krebs  |  June 19, 2007; 11:41 AM ET
Categories:  From the Bunker , Safety Tips  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Mpack Exploit Tool Slips through Security Holes
Next: DHS to Answer for Hundreds of Cyber Break-Ins

Comments

While it is stated the service is aimed at kids 7-8 years old, it wouldn't be surprising to see them open a different web browser (the one included with Windows comes to mind), and start browsing freely. Unless of course, the parents setup IE's built-in Content Advisor.

Again, the key here really is about responsible behavior, something many a parent seems to have forgotten. A computer is NOT a babysitter!

Posted by: TJ | June 19, 2007 11:06 PM | Report abuse

350 sites seems awefully restrictive. Haven't we seen enough of these hand-picked services for kids? what prevents a spammer or advertiser, or worse, a pornographer from simply installing the plugin and adding their own list of URLs to the 'whitelist'? I guess they are paying for this by selling childrens clickstreams to marketers. Just by NetNanny or the equivalent. You get a lot more than 350 websites.

Posted by: John Hubley | June 20, 2007 12:17 PM | Report abuse

The internet is so huge and has a lot of sites ranging from the best to worst, and getting a service like this is just not worth your time and effort.
Rather, if you can, parents, educate yourselves with more computer knowledge and try not to rely too much on nanny or babysitter-style software to do the job for you.

Posted by: 12345 | June 20, 2007 1:00 PM | Report abuse

I strongly recommend parents to install it (in 10 minutes) and try before comment since you can add any site you as a parent approve (that means your kids can go to more than 350 sites). It's great and kids love it. This is the future of your kids.

Posted by: Noor Kerckhoff | June 20, 2007 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Hi John,

May name is Ian Hayward, Founder of Glaxstar the makers of Glubble.

You said, "350 sites seems awfully restrictive. Haven't we seen enough of these hand-picked services for kids?"

To explain, "It's not one of those hand picked service for kids, sites that are bundled with Glubble is an attempt to provide an easy starter-pack to get families up and running. You then take out or add new sites in a super simple way, so to be clear ; A Glubble is personal to what you want for your child, not what any one company wants to feed to you. What is in it is up to you"

Best Regards, Ian Hayward

Posted by: Ian Hayward, Founder Glubble | June 20, 2007 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Ian:

I have several questions to ask because some things aren't clear. First, why isn't this integrated into the add-ons in the Firefox browser? I also noticed that the service is listed as Beta. Does this mean you intend to eventually sell this Firefox add-on? Second, I am a little confused where the site list is kept. Is it on your servers or on the person's local machine? The article makes it sound like the lists are on your servers.

TJ is correct in saying that the children can just bypass it by using IE on Windows or Safari on the Macintosh. I can't in good consience recommend Linux for children because there is no Shockwave or Quicktime players and only limited support for RealPlayer media. That kills many of the games at pbskids.org and other things. In short this solution, like ours (hhobbit PAC filter) does depend on some self discipline with the people using it. Many parents may be better off buying CyberPatrol, NetNanny, or one of the other good commercial filters if they use Windows. They should also look into the free version of K-9. K-9 is looking for beta testers on the Macintosh platform right now.

Posted by: hhhobbit | June 21, 2007 4:37 AM | Report abuse

Yeah. This is pretty cool.

We also have a child friendly browser that is based on an include list. Our newest is a Shrek Themed Web Browser. Go to http://shrekbrowser.com to check it out and compare notes.


Posted by: Johnathan Karol | July 1, 2007 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Yeah. This is pretty cool.

We also have a child friendly browser that is based on an include list. Our newest is a Shrek Themed Web Browser. Go to http://shrekbrowser.com to check it out and compare notes.


Posted by: Johnathan Karol | July 1, 2007 6:25 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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