Understanding the ThirdParent Service – Part I

Like a lot of products or services that are sold primarily online, we don’t get a ton of feedback from people who visit the site and don’t become customers.

To remedy that, we conducted a small, unscientific survey of some folks who had not previously visited the site or used our service, to get their impressions and feedback. We’re happy to say that most of the feedback was positive, but there were some negative comments and some questions.

We thought we’d take the negative comments, questions and misunderstandings one at a time in a series of posts, so that our question-markfriends in the community will have a better understanding of the value proposition that we offer. Thanks for reading Part I.

Comment 1 – “…not exactly sure what you get for the money. I can Google my kids name just as easily as they can.”

Parents can Google their kids, and we encourage them to do so as soon as the child is active online and has his own email address. After seeing what your child’s initial search footprint looks like, parents can do the search again from time to time, and more often if things appear to be changing in terms of search results. That result, after all, is the first thing someone will see when Googling your child, and form the basis of her online reputation.

As far as the ThirdParent service goes, if what we do was limited to a simple Google search, we wouldn’t be offering any more than a parent could learn on his own. It’s not that simple though. Here’s how:

Most parents’ internet search is limited, and infrequent – Parents aren’t an exception to the rule that most search engine users don’t go beyond the first couple pages of search engine results pages (SERPs). If you Google your child and expect the first couple of SERP pages to tell the full story, you’re going to fall short of a complete result. If you do it once and forget about it, you won’t be alerted to any changes that happen in the future, and they will.

Not everything on the web is directly connected to a real name – In terms of social media, Facebook is the only network that really makes an effort to have users identify themselves by their real name. On some social sites, real names are common but not required. On networks like Reddit, practically no one who isn’t famous uses their real name. If all you are doing is searching for your child’s name, you aren’t likely to find everything, especially if your daughter has a common name like “Amanda Smith”, tends to use nicknames or aliases, or has information posted by or about her and identified by something other than her real name.

What does Google actually index? – While Google would love to index everything on the web, they can’t. The same goes for Bing. Some social networks do not make their content available to Google’s crawlers, in an effort to protect users’ privacy. Some websites aren’t set up to make content easily found by search engines. The content is still there, and could be found by someone, and it could be there permanently.

It’s not just Google – Or Google and Bing. Searching on Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, blekko or any of the other less popular search engines could return a different result for your child.

It’s not just search engines – If you do find evidence that your kid frequents a site or social network, are you going to search within that site? How deep will you go?

Even web content that Google indexes won’t necessarily show up in the first couple of SERP pages – In the event that a social media post has its own URL (think Twitter), Google will treat each post as it would a separate website, so any individual post is unlikely to rank high enough for parents to see it.

Where Google doesn’t help – Googling you child will not alert you to unsafe privacy settings or the fact that your child is divulging too much personal information or posting too many selfies. Nor will you know if your child is unsafely using Geotagged photos or other location-based services.

Establishing a baseline – While a ThirdParent audit’s results stand on their own as a snapshot of the last year’s digital activity, in the case of clients who sign up for ongoing monitoring, the audit establishes a baseline from which we search in real time for changes and send alerts for activity that may require parental attention.

In summary, Googling your child’s name, or name and location, will only give you part of the picture. With ThirdParent, you’ll be spared the time and effort of everything else we do to make sure that the public online profile and activity of your child is safe and reflects well on her.

Please understand that the founders of ThirdParent are all parents ourselves, and we trust our kids. We think it makes sense, however, to verify what we hope is true. There is no guarantee that our kids are acting in a safe manner at all times. Carelessness or naiveté can equally lead to an unsafe online footprint. Comments, posts and pictures made in jest or without much thought could come back to haunt your kids in the future. We can give your family the best chance to make sure that doesn’t happen.

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

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