Keeping Kids Safe From Predators (er, Marketers) Part One

kids-onlineJuly 13, 2009 Since researcher Sara M. Grimes opened up the conversation on data mining and privacy practices for us, I’d like to keep the focus on this important topic for a sec, because I DO believe we can use media and marketing to impact kids in favorable ways, and have founded our entire organization on that premise to sift out the sludge and elevate the possibility. (promise I’ll finish the “healthGAMERS” series later this week)

The whole Echometrix bait and switch (using technology for FamilySafe Inc. as a privacy vault, then offering up to the minute tracking and targeting of kids to marketers) makes industry affiliations of ANY kind suspect and tainted.

So it seems particularly timely to interview the executives of PRIVO, an online privacy vault with the tagline “privacy, permission and trust” which touts its PrivoLock System (secure third party registration and parental consent) and its COPPA Safe Harbor Certification as a rigorous seal of approval as I’m sure Privo can handle “friendly fire” in order to assure all they have no such agenda.

privo dogSince I’ve seen that little bulldog with a key logo popping up on several sites I’ve interviewed, I was pleased to finally meet their team last year when Privo was the lead host of the very helpful “Balancing Safety and Fun” UnConference.

I embrace the concept of an adhoc roll-up-the-sleeves group to tackle these complexities from all sides rather than drawing a line in the sand in ‘them vs. us’ combative dogma. Whether it takes the form of the KidsOnline UnConference open-wiki or any other entity.

As I alluded to in this post about the Ypulse National Mashup, there’s a certain ‘feeding at the same watering hole’ tenuous balance between predator and prey when I go to these industry functions, but it’s also one of the reasons I’m so IN FAVOR of same.

We NEED child advocates at the same events as marketers to understand how to hammer out a way to maintain integrity, and help kids “balance safety and fun.” (our UnConference hodgepodge of parents and practioners would no doubt agree)

dog-bone.jpgTo me, divisiveness, particularly when exploring the nuances of kids’ online privacy can turn into two sides of snarling watchdogs that either bark or snooze based on who’s protecting what bone at any given time…(especially dollar driven special interests!) I’d rather there be a collective knowledge pool (yes, Doug Engelbart is ever-present in my inspiration) so that we can ALL harness the potential of technology.

Why can’t we seed good practices, plant solid foundations and trim back the rotting weeds that are destroying the environment for the rest of us. Ya know?

To back up a little, last year’s Kids Online UnConference brought together child advocates like yours truly as well as kids sphere creators of commercial free safe zones, like Nancy Gruver of New Moon Girls Media, virtual ‘tween’ worlds like Dizzywood, and other live-moderated subscriber models…

Then there were the heavy-hitting marketers, industry pros, legal beagles, entrepreneurs, mobile gurus and more…So when I attended last MONTH’s Ypulse/Privo breakout session on kids internet safety and COPPA compliance at the Ypulse National Mashup  I wasn’t sure if it would be a recap or fresh information.

ei-gq-nutritionI just hoped to find out “how to get it right,” figure out where the holes are to fill and learn how to navigate dicey compliance issues, since there are those of us testing positive change in the ‘tween’ sphere who don’t have big legal staffs armed with ‘how tos’…and compliance crews.

In fact, in the beta trial of the Elf Island ‘virtual nutrition’ GoodQuest we had a heckuva time just trying to wade through the process to be COPPA compliant when posting a ‘fruit and vegetable survey’ to glean healthy habit benchmarks in a pro-social research arena…

I dare say bigger marketers have the bucks and forces to ‘comply’ easier than little guys, so I value the resources and aid of specialists like Privo and other privacy vault firms just to stay up to speed…(in fact I had this conversation with the Humana folks too) I’d sure like to see the whole COPPA compliance for educators simplified when it’s up for review next year.

Privo executive Denise Tayloe’s thorough knowledge of up-to-the-minute policy shifts, made me dig a little more into the underpinnings of their org, and I now realize her privacy legislation resources come from some interesting partnership channels…including CARU and ESRB, both of which I’ve approached in ‘question authority’ mode.


Her genuine concern to show both nonprofits AND marketers how to keep kids safe from data mining and predatory practices from those just out to make a buck particularly appealed to me. As I said in my post last year, “it’s gold for child advocacy people like me who strongly feel there IS a way to balance fun and safety without all the hoo-ha and dare-to-scare tactics that have some parents shutting out the digital space altogether…”

That said, I’ve been told I’m ‘circumspect and wary’ of industry knowing it well from the inside out, but have also been called ‘fair-minded’ (and a slew of other things)…so let’s be clear:

Privo is a marketer and for-profit business, helping digital entities be COPPA compliant. Privo is not remotely trying to eliminate marketing, akin to a CCFC style. There tonality is one of  ‘curb and comply’ which seems to strike a high note that helps me separate these seemingly conjoined spheres of ‘data mining’ and kids privacy protection.

Personally, I like that. It helps me compartmentalize.

They’re clearly taking the lead in exploring SOLUTIONS rather than just talking about PROBLEMS and that’s my kind of ‘mashup’ of mindshare that leaves me hopeful that we can “crowdsource” some innovative ideas to bridge any cavernous impass.

30-percent-badgeThis long winded diatribe leads me to pre-interview disclosure that after the Ypulse event closed, I lingered for dinner with the entire “UnConference” organizing crew from last year to see if they needed a hand in planning this November’s Fall 2009 event, including Privo.

Unconferencing queen Kaliya Hamlin, soon to be Londoner and tween digital guru Joi Podgorny and the Privo execs were all discussing how to plan an even MORE inclusive “UNconference” on kids’ safety online, since it’s a hot button topic that merits full attention.

Since then, Privo has already moved forward teaming with Microsoft and Azigo to create an InfoCard for “enhanced identity verification” aiming to put “parents in charge”…(but I need to explore that further)

For now? I’ll just sum that it seems their ‘heart is in the right place.’ (and probably their business plan, too, since this is a key concern for so many of us in the kids’ sphere!) I’m an advocate for solutions-thinking and collaborative views from all walks of life…

privo logoKids under 13 ARE in need of proper privacy protection, and parents are in need of ‘training’ as well, or else you end up with that lockbox mindset of “just keep ‘em offline altogether” which is a shame given some of the robust content and rich learning experiences that could shift vapid intake of screen time into ‘meaningful’ pursuits. Not that a magic wand waves media literacy dust when kids strike 13…

It’s obvious COPPA regulations and age verifications are there for a good reason, there are simply too many loopholes and oopsie moments if marketers are given the opportunity to ensnare with covert ops sans regulatory wrist slapping…

Still, I’d sure like to see COPPA shore up the flanks to simplify, simplify, simplify while ‘balancing safety and fun’…because I, for one, find all the digital dos and don’ts quite daunting.

my-data-is-my-data.jpgMind you, I’m avidly against ANY data mining at ANY age sans opt-in permission and advocate for a consumer-driven “my data is my data” mindset where we all control our OWN digital destiny regardless of our age, NOT the marcom players and hubs and vaults selling our habits, foibles, personal mindshare, friends lists, and gawd forbid health and financial data.

Those in the youth sphere are far more sophisticated than perceived, (both on the giving and receiving end!) so just as you wouldn’t give the car keys to an eager joy riding teen without lots of time at the permit stage, I still think media literacy is one of the conduits for change here that needs to be factored into the privacy equation.

namle 2009I also think media literacy and digital privacy should be required in 21st century K-8 schooling, and NAMLE and others could make a solid case for same, even providing ‘certification’ for kids to earn a ‘seal of approval’ like Privo has done for their member sites…but I’ll save that for the national conference next month and pose that to some of their leadership, since I’ll only be in ‘virtual’ attendance, and hush up now.

So here’s Denise Tayloe, Founder of in an e-interview in Part Two…Stay tuned.



  1. I should add that our own AOC editor in chief, Drew McClellan has a pseudo-related (ok, privacy, at least) article on Social Media Today that all kids should read called, “10 Privacy Settings You Should Consider on FB”

    Also related on SMT:

    * The Inside Facebook Guide to Protecting Your Privacy on Facebook (
    * Social Networks Keep Privacy in the Closet (
    * Facebook Opens Up Privacy Settings to ‘Everyone’ (
    * 5 Crucial Facebook Privacy Settings (

    Again, not directly having to do with kids online in the ‘tween’ sphere, since FB is 13+ but still valid as we all know there are ‘gate crashers and age fakers’…n’est ce pas?


  2. I would also add the book, Off Limits, to this list — it’s very helpful to teach kids how to stay safe.

  3. Checking it out now, Melissa, thanks! 🙂

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