February 26, 2018
By Natasha Lomas
With rising concern over social media’s ‘toxic’ content problem, and mainstream consumer trust apparently on the slide, there’s growing pressure on parents to keep children from being overexposed to the Internet’s dark sides. Yet pulling the plug on social media isn’t exactly an option.
UK startup SafeToNet reckons it can help, with a forthcoming system of AI-powered cyber safety mobile control tools.
Here at Mobile World Congress it’s previewing an anti-sexting feature that will be part of the full subscription service — launching this April, starting in the UK.
It’s been developing its cyber safety system since 2016, and ran beta testing with around 5,000 users last year. The goal is to be “protecting” six million children by the end of this year, says CEO Richard Pursey — including via pursuing partnerships with carriers (which in turn explains its presence at MWC).
SafeToNet has raised just under £9 million from undisclosed private investors at this point, to fund the development of its behavioral monitoring platform.
From May, the plan is to expand availability to English-speaking nations around the world. They’re also working on German, Spanish, Catalan and Danish versions for launch in Q2.
So what’s at stake for parents? Pursey points to a recent case in Denmark as illustrative of the risks when teens are left freely using social sharing apps.
In that instance more than 1,000 young adults, many of them teenagers themselves, were charged with distributing child pornography after digitally sharing a video of two 15-year-olds having sex.
The video was shared on Facebook Messenger and the social media giant alerted US authorities — which in turn contacted police in Denmark. And while the age of consent is 15 in Denmark, distributing images of anyone under 18 is a criminal offense. Ergo sexting can get even consenting teens into legal hot water.
And sexting is just one of the online risks and issues parents now need to consider, argues Pursey, pointing to other concerns such as cyber bullying or violent content. Parents may also worry about their children being targeted by online predators.
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