Working to Keep Kids Safe

Rita Papazian
Fairfield Citizen-News November 10, 2006


Parikhal, Steve Grossman and Eric Bogel, fathers all, want to keep kids safe.

The three Fairfield residents developed Safekeeper, a new computer program that protects children while they are online. The men, each of them successful entrepreneurs in their own fields of endeavor, founded the company Third Gear in 2005 to create and market new products. Safekeeper is the trio's first venture.

During a recent Saturday morning interview at a Black Rock Turnpike deli where they gather weekly to discuss their business ventures, Grossman appeared like Santa Claus with a bagful of goodies. Inside the bag were boxes of the new computer software product, which surely will put a smile on the faces of parents throughout the country. A brightly colored box with white, yellow and blue colors advertises parental controls, including a Kidsafe Blocker, Predator Alert, Chat Monitor, a Safety Shield, Anti-Virus, Anti-Spyware and Firewall.

Safekeeper offers parents complete protection and monitoring of their children's online activities, the founders say. And, yes, the program can block MySpace.com.

Grossman, the father of a 19-year-old daughter, led the development of the project, which included partnerships with other companies to offer a complete package of safeguards against sexual predators, pornography, gambling and other unwelcomed Web sites.

Bogel, the father of 13-year-old twin sons, said as concerned parents, he and his partners looked at all the products on the market, established "class partnerships" with companies and added their own components to offer a complete package of online protection for their children.

Parikhal, the father of a 14-year-old daughter, said, "We built the product for busy parents." He noted there are three kinds of parents. First, there are parents who don't know what is going on with their children and their online activities and don't want to know. The second group is the parents who don't know what's going on and want someone to help them. The third category of parents knows what's going on and is looking for some kind of help."

Parikhal added, "We're aiming for 100 percent safety on the Internet. We know it's a never-ending battle."

Safekeeper offers a variety of features, including the ability of parents to place time controls on the computer and to oversee the home computer from a remote location.

"It's customizable," said Bogel, noting that parents can program the software to each family member's need.

In presenting their new product, they are armed with statistics to justify the need for the product. According to a study by MSNBC and Duquesne University, there are more than 3 million known pornographic Web sites and more than 2,500 new Web sites coming online every week -- a 20-fold increase in just five years. A Dateline report in January noted law enforcement officials estimate as many as 50,000 sexual predators are members of MySpace.com. The Washington Post reported in 2004 that one-in-three girls and one-in-five boys who use Internet chat rooms have been approached online by pedophiles. Two years ago, the Journal of Adolescent Health reported victims of Internet-related sex crimes are primarily 13- to 15-year-old girls who meet adult offenders in chat rooms.

Parikhal noted that 60 percent of families have no computer controls. "Would you give an 11-year-old keys to your car? Kids are exposed to so much and parents don't know how to handle it."

Bogel encourages parents to talk to their children. "Find out what Web sites they are going to. Put the computer in a central room."

Parents may be surprised to learn that savvy youngsters have developed their own online language. Safekeeper provides a sample of the "Chat Code 'Watch Words.'" For example, POS, parents over shoulder; PIR, parent in room; PAW, parents are watching; PAL, parents are listening; CTN, can't talk now; LMIRL, let's meet in real life; SORG, straight or gay?; and WYRN, what's your real name?" Other codes are more explicit and should offer warnings to parents.

Safekeeper's exclusive, innovative features are:

KidSafe Block, which filters and blocks access to more than 30 million offensive and dangerous Web sites. The ground-breaking filter was developed by Net Intelligence, an industry leader in Europe.

Chat Monitor, which records and monitors all chat and instant message conversations that parents can print to a transcript to discuss with their children.

Time Controls, which enables parents to control when their children can use the computer and set specific hours when they can go online or use instant messenger.

Predator Alert, which is powered by Family Watchdog, maps every neighborhood in the United States showing where predators live. Also, users receive e-mail alerts when sex offenders move into their area, including name, photo and address.

Safety Shield, which allows parents to report suspicious Web sites, so they can be blocked by other Safekeeper users.

The fathers established Third Gear on a foundation of friendship. Bogel, a brand marketer and media promoter, and Parikhal, a media strategist and market researcher, have been friends for 25 years. Parikhal and Grossman, an expert in new technologies and business development, had known each other for as many years.

With their new company, the trio is focusing on aging boomers and products in the technology field that will make their lives easier. "We're not bringing out a new soap detergent," Bogel said.

"The products will be mostly software, digitally based," said Grossman, who has built a series of companies specializing in TV, music, video gaming, banded entertainment and computer software. His partners call him a "visionary."

The three decided on the company's name Third Gear because it connotes acceleration. With the launch of its first product, the trio has shifted into third gear. There's no doubt that these fathers believe that it's time for parents to shift into gear in protecting their children from online sexual predators, pornography and unwanted guests with easy access to the home because, they note, Mister Rogers' neighborhood has indeed changed.

"Every parent thinks my kids will be different," Parikhal said. He compared Safekeeper to airbags. "You never knew that you needed them, but when the time comes you're glad you had them."

Safekeeper and Safekeeper Plus are available at www.mysafekeeper.com as well as at many retail outlets across the country. For a list of retailers, visit the Web site.

Copyright 2007 Rita Papazian All rights reserved.