Parents recruit business to cyber spy on their kids

I spy with my cyber eye whatever your teen is up to. That's the service provided by ThirdParent, a U.S. company that keeps track of kids' digital movements and reports the activities back to their parents.

U.S. company ThirdParent says they can expose kids' digital footprint

ThirdParent, a U.S. company, keeps track of kids' digital movements and reports the activities back to their parents.

I spy with my cyber eye whatever your teenager is up to.

That's the service provided by ThirdParent, a U.S. company that keeps track of kids' digital movements and reports the activities back to their parents.

"Think of it as outsourcing for parents," co-founder Rob Zidar told CBC. "We'll find out who your child is online — their digital footprint."

Zidar and his co-workers formed the New Jersey-based company in 2013 after they realized — with 11 teenagers between them — that it was getting harder and harder to keep track of their child's social media activities. They pooled their efforts, learned about a lot of search engines and opened up for business.

For a monthly fee, ThirdParent tracks a child's online activities and reports them back to the parents. If they discover a problem, they'll also offer parents a solution.

So far, their efforts have paid off, Zidar said. On behalf of parent clients throughout the U.S. and Canada, they've red-flagged kids who've, accidentally or otherwise, engaged inappropriately with older adults, been caught up in cyberbullying and even posted comments that could cost them an education down the road.

"Right now, one-third of U.S. colleges admit they track the social media profiles of the applicants," Zidar said. "One racial slur your teen may have posted could make him a bad candidate for college."

Rob Zidar, co-founder of ThirdParent, helps parents in Canada and the U.S. monitor their kids' online activities. (Supplied photo)
However, anything that's not public is off-limits, including secret Facebook messenger group conversations like the one CBC Manitoba recently revealed, where members buy and sell drugs.

"I know they exist and they're scary stuff for parents," Zidar said. "But if they're secret, we have no way of finding them. We work exclusively with whatever public persona your child presents."

The bottom line is if your teen really wants to be "invisible" on the web, he or she will be, Zidar said. No algorithm will easily find them.

"If they're in a group called 'Donkey Shoes' but it's really a group selling drugs, it won't necessarily be noticed," he said.