‘Breakthrough’ Tech ‘Brings Kids And Parents Together’ In The Fight For Online Safety
By Movieguide® Staff
CEO and founder of Canopy, Sean Clifford, is on a mission to protect children from online exposure to pornography and promote discernment with how everyone uses tech.
Clifford said that Canopy offers parents a tool to open up conversations with their children about media and content easily accessed on their mobile devices.
“Canopy is a tech company on a mission to create a world of healthy tech users,” Clifford told Movieguide® in a recent interview. “Our kids are spending more and more time on their online devices, upwards of seven or eight hours a day is spent on screens. While we can debate the merits of spending that much time on screens, a big part of what matters is how they’re actually spending their time. What are they consuming?
“We think technology is great, it can bring some wonderful things, but it also can bring a lot of content that is not appropriate for kids,” he added. “That’s really what was motivating us at the very outset to launch this in the United States. We wanted to deliver kids with the good without the bad and prevent specifically exposure to pornography and content that’s not safe for kids eyes.”
Unlike other parental control applications or software, Canopy relies on groundbreaking AI technology to identify pornographic content and eliminate the possibility of children seeing it in milliseconds.
“Canopy is leveraging two cutting edge advances that were developed in Israel,” Clifford noted. “The two big breakthroughs are this: first, our technology is able, using artificial intelligence, to detect and filter out pornography with 99.7% accuracy. That’s between text, within images, and within videos. The second big breakthrough was we figured out how to do this in milliseconds.”
“In mere milliseconds, we can look at every word image and video on that site and determine if it’s appropriate or not,” he continued. “The net effect of this is it can block websites that are pornographic in nature, even if they’re brand new and have never been scanned or tagged before.”
While Canopy effectively blocks pornographic content from adult sites, Clifford said that the software also helps protect children from content found on seemingly safe sites, like Twitter and Reddit, which made the National Center on Sexual Exploitations’ 2022 “Dirty Dozen List.”
“We can also filter within websites, which is so important because so many of the places where kids now go today are for benign purposes,” he said. “Great examples of this are Reddit and Twitter, where there’s educational content and you can find meaningful things, but you can also find a lot of pornography. So being able to filter within websites is a really big breakthrough… Canopy brings you a surgeon’s scalpel, not a butcher’s Cleaver, we can remove just the bad without having to block the whole site.”
Another issue that Canopy seeks to mitigate is self-generated child sexual abuse material, more commonly known as “sexting.”
A new report titled “Self-Generated Child Sexual Abuse Material: Youth Attitudes and Experiences in 2020,” found that the number of nude images shared amongst minors ages 9-12 doubled during the pandemic.
Thorn targeted research on Self-Generated Child Sexual Abuse Material, also referred to as SG-CSAM, which they identified as “explicit imagery of a child that appears to have been taken by the child in the image.”
According to the report, the number of 9-12-year-olds who shared explicit self-generated photos rose from 6% to 14% in 2020.
Through Canopy’s advanced image-scan software, it detects potentially explicit images taken with children’s phones.
“Sexting, regrettably, is becoming more common,” Clifford said. “It’s become unfortunately normalized, and we wanted a tool that would just serve to prevent that and limit the types of images that can be circulated online.”
Clifford, a father of four, said that Canopy’s ultimate purpose is to encourage children and parents to use technology in a healthy and uplifting way.
“I’m a father of four and I want my kids to be kids,” he said. “I actually want them to have a childhood in which their exposure to this content is pushed off as far as possible. I want kids not to have to grow up so fast and be exposed to this stuff so young. That’s kind of like the first driving factor.”
“I think the second thing is when you look at what early exposure does to kids, there’s a variety of issues that come from spending a lot of time online,” he continued. “I think probably the most pernicious is exposure to pornography, but there’s a lot of other things where it’s shaping our kids and we now have a ton of research that documents the challenges and the broader impact to their mental health, to their well being, to what they think is normal, to their capacity to then have healthy relationships on the other end. It’s impacting a lot of that in negative ways.”
Clifford emphasized that Canopy is a tool to equip parents, not replace them in the responsibility in raising their children.
“The end goal is not to replace the parent, but it’s to bring kids and parents together to have the conversation and to get the good of technology without the bad,” he said. “Walking them [parents] through what it’s like to be a digital native, to grow up with these devices and how that shapes them, I think equips parents to have better conversations with them.”
“Even if you get all the content, right, it may very well be that spending five hours on a social media platform is not healthy or conducive to good overall mental health, even if it’s all benign and wholesome and acceptable,” he added. “If your child becomes accustomed to frivolity and novelty, because they’ve spent so much time watching 20 second videos, are they going to be as open to the true, the good, and the beautiful when you show that to them?”
Clifford noted that parents should also make their motive known to the child and not back away from tech and online safety conversations.
“Even if you might encounter an eye roll, or a shrug or a ‘Okay, Mom, I get it,’ type comments, these conversations matter,” he said. “They’re so important, because these devices are shaping our kids at the deepest, most profound level, and ensuring that they are being shaped in the ways that we want so that our kids can be set up for success I think is key.”
“It is so important to communicate to kids that parents are taking actions, not because they don’t love their kids, but because they want nothing other than what’s best for them, that they’re doing these things and taking these steps because they want their kid to experience the best,” he added.
For pricing information and Canopy’s mission, visit Canopy.us.