Monday, June 13, 2011

Even With the Best Intentions, Parents Need Help Guiding Kids Online

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting with two leaders from Nominum, which is focused on "an internet to match your lifestyle." The company is now promoting and soon to be selling a technology called myi, which helps parents with an application center that controls all computers and mobile devices in your home. Parents, I think this is genius. Myi allows you to choose from a variety of apps, similar in look & feel to Apple's apps, that provide Internet security, better communication within your family and a mix of fun, too.

John Arledge presented live examples of using myi. For instance, he wants to maintain a close relationship with his family members and be able to discipline his kids with his wife, despite his heavy travel schedule. When one of his children broke a rule (didn't complete his homework, I think), John & his wife talked by phone. So that mom isn't always the "heavy" in disciplining, John who was traveling in Texas, logged into myi and used the Grounded(TM) app to take away access to the son's favorite site when he broke the rule in California. No matter which device his son tried to use in the house, he couldn't access that favorite site. Plus, all of this was done remotely from the dad's iPhone. (Yes, other mobile devices will work, too.) Awesome.

Here are a few highlights of some other apps that they offer. 
House Rules allows parents to set ground rules for the type of Internet sites that are permissible in their home. It uses a filter to block common categories such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs and adult content sites but the parent chooses which content to block, using simple check boxes. If a babysitter or other adult friend visits your home and tries to view something online that falls within the blocked content list, a message appears explaining that this particular web site does not meet the house rules but please try again.

Our Time helps parents schedule time for non-screen use with a drop-down menu and calendaring options. No Internet access would be available during the set time(s) except for tools like NetFlix or streaming video. This is neat in that parents can set dedicated times each day/week just to have time to talk with family members, whether that's conversation between the parents or amongst all family members. With more and more families being "connected" via online tools, I believe there's a growing need to dedicate time to time together offline. Anyone up for a game of Scrabble?

Bedtime will be especially useful for kids in middle school and older. It turns the Internet off throughout the house during times when folks should be "in bed". Instead of your teenager sneaking a computer or mobile device into his/her bedroom to chat with friends after the parents have gone to bed, the Internet is shut down so the option for late night FaceBook discussions just aren't an option. I'm not saying any of your kids would sneak a mobile device into their bedroom but avoid the temptation. Help your kids get a good night's rest.

Wink is super cute. If, for instance,  your husband likes to surf on or download more and more Angry Birds games at night, every time he tries to visit that particular web site, you can re-route him to, say, or a web site about the vacation you keep asking for.

Crunch Time can be used by parents and kids, allowing you to block a certain web site during a time period when you need to stay focused. I could really use this to keep me off of Hotmail and FaceBook when I need to wrap up some work but would rather socialize. Think about how useful this could be for kids during homework time.

Study Hall sets rules for when kids should be doing homework. It uses filters to allow students to only access education related sites doing the set hours.

There's no hardware to buy or software to install. Everything is maintained on Nominum's servers. Phew! Best of all, you can buy one app at a time ($1.99 - $2.99 each) or get full access to all the apps they offer (a growing list) for $25.99 a year. I also like the fact that I can have all of my myi apps managed on my iPhone and if a friend is interested, I can share my apps and settings with them from my iPhone. My friend would be charged directly for the apps that I'm sharing and all my settings are immediately applied to my friend's home.. with the ability to adjust those settings at any time. It gets my friend up and running super fast.

Schools can use this to share recommended resources like books, art exhibits or web sites that are directly related to the content being studied in class.

Daniel Blasingame of Nominum likes to explain myi not as a lock down tool, but rather as a way to facilitate conversations between parents and kids. Parents choose which content, which hours and which apps to use. Myi is simply the tool. "Myi gives you a palet or tool set to choose your own settings," Blasingame said. "It's not heavy handed."

Arledge laughed, saying "It won't solve marital problems but it's a great digital assist." I agree and am really looking forward to testing myi out, hopefully, later this month when it launches officially.

Check back here for more details or visit for updates later this month. Post your questions or comments to this blog about myI. I'd love to hear your feedback.

Until the next nap time...