Are parents doing enough to protect their children on the internet?
That's the first question that comes up when PCR meets up with NetGenie's Pranav Parikh, business development manager. He says parents are naturally concerned about their child's safety online, but that many don't know how best to to resolve the issue. As a result, he is keen to emphasise that NetGenie is a solution to a serious problem rather than simply a boxed product to get off the shelf as quick as you can.
NetGenie, which came onto the market at the end of 2011, is a router for home use with built-in parental controls, that also offers protection against anti-virus, and it's 3G-ready as well. Developed by networking specialist Cyberoam, NetGenie spent two years in research before getting to retail.
The firm surveyed over 5,000 parents about their children’s internet habits. They discovered that there were roughly two groups of parents – a smaller group with an IT background or significant amount of techy know-how, and a larger group that wasn’t so technologically able.
They were all concerned about what children could access on the internet, but the second group in particular lacked a way to fix the problem.
“The message we want to get out there is that NetGenie is the answer for people who need a simple, plug and play solution,” Parikh explains. NetGenie’s parental controls start work at the router level. Rather than faff about with software on a number of machines (which savvy youngsters can easily evade), you simply access the router via a web browser interface, log-in as admin, and set up whatever level of controls you prefer.
NetGenie has split the web into 72 categories; when you create a user (you can have up to eight users and ten devices) for a specific child and enter their age, some of those categories will be automatically disallowed. “These things it does automatically and then you can tailor it to blacklist or whitelist other sites. It’s that easy. “You know, we put controls on films and games, but what about the internet? It’s an open world.”
Apps aren’t forgotten either. You might not want your child to have unlimited social chat sessions for example, so NetGenie enables users to allow or disallow specific apps, or only allow them on at set times.
PCR queries how it works when there are several devices a child might use. “It is user-based, so wherever they log in, you don’t need to install anything on those devices,” Parikh replies. “Internet addiction is a concern now as well. Kids go online at an age of seven on average now. They have a curious mind, and it’s very easy to find things they shouldn’t be looking at.”
Parikh points out that these concerns are widespread in the UK, and there is a big audience looking to fix this problem. The Daily Mail began a campaign earlier this year to block online porn, and research from EU Kids Online shows just how worried parents are about these things.
An independent parliamentary inquiry into this issue from April 2012 found that keeping children safe online was a major issue, stating: “The Inquiry Panel concluded that many children are easily accessing online pornography and that this exposure is having a negative impact on children’s attitudes to sex, relationships and body image.”
Parikh continues: “Many kids have computers in their bedrooms now and it’s hard to find out what they are doing in there. One child we heard about was addicted to gambling sites, took a credit card off his dad, and they ended up 16k in debt.
“Some people think it’s just pornographic images or violence they have to worry about, but it can be gambling, it can be playing games all night, it can be talking to people they shouldn’t be talking to.
“We see it primarily as responsibility for parents, then teachers, as children spend half their life time at school, then it comes to ISPs, then everyone else. So we are taking our product to parents.”
On top of web and app filtering, and scheduling features, parents can also use NetGenie to create reports of websites that have been visited by each user.
As Parikh says, this is hugely helpful if your child has a computer in their room: “If you see online what they’re doing, you know when it’s time to talk to them about what’s going on, and you’re not looking over their shoulders all the time.”
PCR wonders out loud whether all this means that NetGenie is a unique opportunity in the market. “Yes, absolutely,” Parikh says. “It’s the first of its kind in the world. There is no other product like this. It not only has parental controls, but also protects devices from viruses and other malware. It’s not about shifting boxes, it’s about being a much-needed solution.”
It seems like a no-brainer for retailers – a chance to offer a router with multiple features – especially at a time where they need to differentiate themselves from chain retailers by giving personal, tailored advice to customers.
Parikh says the firm’s next goal is to get out there and get talking to retailers, whether on the phone or in person offering information and POS materials. He points out that there is also an attractive margin for partners on the device, which retails for £99, and it can be offered to education as well.
“NetGenie is the ultimate solution,” he concludes.
If you’re interested in finding out more, you can visit www.netgenie.net, or order the product from TekData.
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