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.
June 19, 2007; 11:41 AM ET
Categories: From the Bunker , Safety Tips
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