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Playing It Safe

Barbara Bensoussan

How can parents make sure their tech-savvy kids are safe in the online playgrounds that have become an integral part of their social culture? Shlomo Reichmann — who can’t sit still if a way to make the world better is within his power — believes he’s found a family-friendly solution that will alert to danger without compromising the child’s sacredly valued privacy.

Monday, October 12, 2015

What do you do with tech-savvy kids who seem to have been born holding a silver iPad, when children are asking for access to the Internet at ever-younger ages — and getting it even if their parents refuse? While children from Orthodox and chareidi homes generally don’t have independent Internet access (and most of those kids accept the idea that unchecked Internet access is a dangerous proposition), the target of his concern — and of the company he created — is the general public, whose children are allowed to go online, often unchecked. “It has become so much a part of modern life that parents can’t put their heads in the sand,” Reichmann says. “That would be like throwing children in the ocean without teaching them to swim. In homes where technology is freely accessed, children need to be introduced to it in a responsible way, and that means, at least at the beginning, having a means of understanding and connecting around issues in real time.” Reichmann is the cofounder of the start-up VISR, a product aimed at helping families navigate technology by flagging problematic communications kids are experiencing, thereby facilitating relevant and actionable communication between parents and kids. His app is able to identify instances of bullying, inappropriate content, late-night usage, foul language, possible mental health concerns, and about two dozen other types of worrisome exchanges. Parents receive alerts when these issues appear. So far, VISR is being used by several thousand users and has garnered attention in such publications as the Huffington Post, Be Web Smart, Global News, and CBC.

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