A parent’s worst fear is having their child in danger. And in the age of digital communities, keeping track of who a child is socializing with becomes an overwhelming task.
Having lived through the experience of a 14-year-old son being a target of a child predator, Tim Woda and his brother Steve quickly went into action forming a company, uKnow.com, that can help parents avoid the horrific experience they lived through. The Rosslyn-based company began in 2009 with the notion of providing parents with tools to keep up to date on their children’s online habits.
“It is parental intelligence as opposed to parental controls,” says Steve Woda, president and CEO of the company. In 2010 uKnow launched a popular platform uKnowKids which monitors children’s activities online and on their mobile phones. “We want to take all the data [of children’s online practices] and make it actionable,” Woda says.
Through this product parents can see what photos, posts and texts children are sending, and alert them if any parent-specified keyword is used. Another feature is the phone GPS locators that allow parents to see where the children are.
This coming year the GPS locator feature is gaining an independent platform of its own through uKnowFamily. The mobile application shows where anyone in the family is—parents, children, grandparents and, hopefully one day, pets—yet it is “designed with privacy in mind.”
Parents can set levels of privacy for themselves (children don’t always need to know where a parent is) and allows for parents to set a “geofence” that alerts them if a child moves into or leaves a parent-set geographic boundary. Parents can also schedule check-ins through the system. “It enables a family to be connected in an appropriate way,” says Woda.
Another application uKnow is working on, with an expected roll out of March 2014, is uKnowID. “uKnowKids is about helping parents to manage and protect their kid’s digital privacy and reputation online. uKnowID is exactly the same thing except for adults so they can manage their own digital footprint,” says Woda.
The program is set up to report to the user an analytical breakdown of how that person is displayed online—monitoring the context and content on social media networks that the user defines, as well as keeping an eye on other places a user may come up online.
Using the platform from their uKnowLingo system, which alerts parents to online communication of set keywords such as sex, drugs, violence, etc., uKnowID can track content that may be inflammatory to one’s reputation or alert a user to potential identity theft, explains Vice President of Marketing and Products Tim Walton.
“It’s a new digital world,” says Woda. “And now that we’re out communicating and interacting in lots of places beyond our desktop, we have new issues we have to keep an eye on.” –Lynn Norusis
uKnowKids: $9.95/month or $99.95/year – uKnowFamily: expected to launch February 2014; free version will be available on iPhone and Android; nominal fee for more features – uKnowID: expected to launch March 2014, pricing tbd