TECH
02/20/2013 05:37 pm ET

EyeGuardian App Screens Facebook For Guns

EyeGuardian started out as an app to help parents detect suspicious activity -- such as potential cyberbullying and inappropriate photos -- on their children's Facebook accounts. But now, as WFAA first reported, the app is being refined to screen for something new: guns.

"It has to do with a lot of what is being discussed politically," Mitch Butler, co-founder of the company designing the app, told The Huffington Post. "We've had business inquiries about identifying hate speech and violence, whether it be gun imagery or Swastica logos, so it was a natural step for us."

The newest version of the EyeGurdian app, which could be ready by April 30, will present parents with a daily summary of flagged material -- such as exposure to images of guns or language tied to guns -- from their children's Facebook activity. The material could include the child's Facebook searches, chats or photos that have popped up in their newsfeeds.

But Butler said the app is neither meant to notify authorities or schools, nor tell parents how to handle the information; it's simply meant to keep parents in the loop.

"If there is a gun there, we're not dictating what the parents should do," Butler explained. "But if there's no guns in their family's house and all of a sudden there's gun interest being presented by their kid's Facebook activity, we're wanting them to be aware."

Children and teens might be at ease knowing the daily summaries their parents receive don't include the entirety of their newsfeeds or messages; they only include the flagged material.

In order for the app to work, however, children need to agree to initially share access to their Facebook accounts. Butler argued that having such a conversation is a productive step and better than the alternative: friending your child and constantly checking his or her page.

Still, some research has shown that the online behavior of children can be a difficult subject for their parents to deal with. A recent survey by McAfee found that 23 percent of parents are overwhelmed by technology to the point that they've adopted a hope-for-the-best approach rather than monitoring what their children do on the Internet.

The survey also suggested some denial on the part of parents. Only 22 percent believed that their children could get into trouble online, while 70 percent of teens surveyed admitted to hiding their online behavior from their parents.

As for Facebook, the site does have a policy concerning prohibited content. It specifies that ads and sponsored stories can't promote firearms, ammunition or weapons of any kind. However, there is no clause against people posting pictures of guns.

"Images of weapons are generally acceptable, as long as the weapon is not pointed directly at the user," the website's policy states.

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