JACKSONVILLE, Fla.-VyStar CU here believes it is the first credit union in the country to offer its members SocialScout, an online tool which allows parents to monitor their children's' online activity, including social media sites.

The $4.6-billion credit union has long offered free identity theft protection to its members, and CEO Terry West explained that the idea of offering SocialScout came about when the CU was shopping the market for credit repot monitoring services for its membership. VyStar ultimately re-signed with Identity Theft 911, which offered those services as well as SocialScout.

"The initial reaction was 'We like this, we want this for our kids,'" said West. "It lets (parents) have an idea of what's my child doing out there, but I don't become so intrusive that I'm absolutely looking at every thing they do."

Rather than using special software, SocialScout is a web-based application that can monitor any Internet site that requires a password, and delivers e-mail alerts to parents.

"The easiest way to have a parent start is to make an agreement with their 10-year-old that they can have a Facebook account, but the parent gets the passcode. Then you sign up online with the child's passcode and then we monitor," said Judy Walz, SVP of marketing and planning. "It's very simple-the scariest part for the parent is to ask their child for the passcode."

SocialScout also offers literature that advises parents on how they can talk to their children about online predators and explain that the parent respects the child's privacy, but also wants to keep their kids safe online.

 

Overview of Child's Activities

"It gives parents the ability to see at a macro level what my child has been doing, but without getting into every detail of every comment the child puts online," said West.

In addition to sites like Facebook, Twitter, and online gaming sites, the service also works on mobile phones, and can monitor text messages, calling history and even GPS location.

VyStar has added SocialScout to its suite of identity protection offerings, but the service is available a la carte and independent of any of the credit union's other products and services.

The credit union is advertising the service in newspaper inserts, on its website, via search engine optimization and on parenting websites. A variety of pricing options are available starting at $60 per year, with monthly and annual billing options available, and different pricing tiers for the number of children covered.

The service was launched on Feb. 20, and West and Walz said that the goal is to eventually have 5% of the CU's 427,000 members using SocialScout.

"It's starting to trickle in, and people are signing up for it, but we have a lot of people asking a lot of questions about how it works and how they get started," said Walz. "We know there's interest out there, and we know people find it intriguing."

West posited that the service may have potential beyond just those with young children. "There may be cases where you're using it with parents that you're now taking care of, and they're having difficulties with aging," he said, pointing out that older adults are also vulnerable to online predators. VyStar has not yet marketed SocialScout that way, but West indicated that he could see it evolving in that direction.

 

 

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