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Online child safety card debuts

Net-ID-me

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A virtual ID card design to protect kids from paedophiles online was launched in four countries yesterday.

Net-ID-me is touted as the first system that allows children to check the age of the person they are talking to online. Card details can be exchanged when youngsters enter chat rooms, social networks, or when they swap IM messages.

Parental applications for the card, which costs £9.99 a year in the UK and $19.99 in the US, need to be verified by a school or approved professional. The system is also available in Canada and Australia.

The idea is the brainchild of father Alex Hewitt, 42, from Glasgow, who came up with the scheme after realising his daughter Kathryn could only identify a small percentage of people on her MSN buddy list.

Hewitt admits the system is not foolproof, but argues that online predators will baulk at requests for ID. The system is also promoted as a means to deter online bullying. Users are advised to report suspected abuse of the system to the police. Cards issued will give limited personal information about a child user (name, age, gender and general location).

The utility of the system is dependent of getting a substantial number of users to sign-up and the substantial membership fee might act as a deterrent to this. Nonetheless, the firm behind Net-ID-me hopes to enroll 100,000 children by the end of the year in Britain, the US, Australia and Canada. ®

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