One of the providers is Aristotle International Inc, which offers a variety of methods, including having a parent vouch for a child and make a token payment with a credit card to establish the parent's identity.Yet even though defensive techniques are now available and effective they can be expensive.Companies can set the software to take many defensive steps automatically, including temporarily silencing those who are breaking rules or banning them permanently.As a result, many threats are eliminated without human intervention and moderators at the company are notified later.Other sites aimed at children agree that such crises are rarities.
Still, as the Skout case showed, there are several recent trends that have heightened the concerns of child-safety experts: the rise of smartphones, which are harder for parents to monitor; location-oriented services, which are the darling of Net companies seeking more ad revenue from local businesses; and the rapid proliferation in phone and tablet apps, which don't always make clear what data they are using and distributing.They can also alienate some of a site's target audience - especially teen users who expect more freedom of expression.'There are companies out there that are doing a very good job, working within the confines of what they have available,' said Brooke Donahue, a supervisory special agent with an FBI team devoted to Internet predators and child pornography.'There are companies out there that are more concerned about profitability.'Also in June, a teen-oriented virtual world called Habbo Hotel, which boasts hundreds of millions of registered users, temporarily blocked all chatting after UK television reported that two sex predators had found victims on the site and that a journalist posing as an 11-year-old girl was bombarded with explicit remarks and requests that she disrobe on webcam.Some sites go much further: Disney's Club Penguin offers a choice of viewing either filtered chat that avoids blacklisted words or chats that contain only words that the company has pre-approved.
Filters and moderators are essential for a clean experience, said Claire Quinn, safety chief at a smaller site aimed at kids and young teens, Wee World.
Like most of its peers, Facebook generally avoids discussing its safety practices to discourage scare stories, because it doesn't catch many wrongdoers, and to sidestep privacy concerns.