Firm Offers a Family-Friendly Path on the Internet

WEST LAKE VILLAGE, Calif.—Making unpopular decisions. To children, it's what parents do best.

But a new Internet company has saved parents one decision that is potentially unpopular by providing worry-free Internet access.

“I'm constantly bombarded by my 9-year-old daughter,” said Jorge Gonzalez. “She wants to get on e-mail and chats — even my 7-year-old daughter is excited about the medium.”

Gonzalez is co-founder of Familink, an Internet filtering company in California that hopes to make the Internet decision an easy one for parents. He and his colleagues have tested options, researched family-friendly sites and launched a marketing campaign for their Internet filtering product.

At a time when hundreds of new pornographic Web sites appear daily, Familink founder Ryan Lamberton said his firm has developed an effective strategy. It doesn't try to block all the bad sites; instead, it only provides access to the good ones.

With 200 subscribers under its belt, Familink Internet filtering service has a long way to go in reaching American homes. But the company has big plans.

“Since the beginning we've had the idea that this is really a genuine service for the family. We support the idea of the family as the basis for society and we really feel that Familink will … strengthen the nuclear family and all that comes from it,” Gonzalez said.

Offering e-mail accounts to subscribers and a safe Internet environment is just the first step in Familink's vision of the family-friendly Internet, Gonzalez explained. The next step is to create a portal where subscribers will find documents, literature and links to a variety of family oriented services.

“We want to be able to provide members with information that will really help them to have better relationships, whether it means having experts on natural family planning, or experts on learning disabilities or experts in the field of marriage,” Gonzalez said. “From the beginning we have tried to contact a group of international experts in all the fields.”

Professionals Agree

For now, industry observers say, the filter is a good start.

“I'm so glad Familink offers what they do,” said Michael Soeherman, a sales executive for the Baltimore-based Web hosting company Alabanza. “I don't have children yet, but my wife and I are fearful of Internet pornography.” Because of Familink, Soeherman said, neither of them will ever see it.

Filtering systems have been in place in elementary schools for some time. Most of them rely on a system provided by a Seattle-based company called N2H2. Lamberton said Familink has been using N2H2 since 1995.

“When we chose them, they had the largest database for blocked sites,” he added.

According to Lamberton, N2H2's list of sites contains hundreds of thousands of Web pages that are personally reviewed and updated daily at N2H2.

Customers are also provided with a Web-based request form if they wish to request that a specific site be added to the list of excluded sites. According to the Familink's Web site, N2H2's database of blocked sites “is unmatched in the industry.”

That's reassuring to Cindy Young.

The Atlanta mother of four said she subscribed to Familink to take away any “temptation my children or possibly my husband and I might have to explore sites out of curiosity.“

Young said that filters do more for a home than block offensive material from reaching it.

Parents who take such a precaution are also preparing their children to make responsible choices themselves later on, she said.

“Computers are opening up many opportunities that we want them to explore,” Young noted. “We teach them that they have to make choices, they have to form their consciences according to the Ten Commandments and that they have to practice that outside the house too.”

That's just the kind of connection Familink co-founder Gonzalez envisioned for his business. “Familink was born out of a real desire to serve the family,” he recalled. “The economic part was important but really secondary. It was more a vision of service.”