Even the most vigilant parents can’t always supervise their children’s use of the Internet, so Cif, a Unilever brand that makes household cleaning products, is trying to scrub filthy content from the Internet through an iPad app called Cif the Web.
“We were shocked to discover during our research the average age of kids’ first exposure to pornography online is eight. Then just a couple of weeks ago, a news story broke about a study in England lowering that figure to 6-year-olds,” says Dave Henderson, executive creative director of London’s DLKW Lowe, the agency that developed the app with Cif. “And remember this isn’t the kind of pornography we might have seen as kids in the seventies or eighties. These days, it’s mostly industrial strength.”
Downloadable for free from iTunes, Cif the Web blocks more than four million sites known to contain pornography and violence. The app, which is made to protect youngsters ages 4 to 12, also provides little ones with a safe-search functionality as well as easy access to child-friendly sites from the likes of Lego, Disney, and Sesame Street.
A swear filter removes offensive words from sites that kids do make their way to and replaces them with more acceptable versions (the demo of this function in the video is hilarious). “We quickly realized that some sites or subjects can seem quite innocent but actually contain language that’s way over the top. So we compiled a list of over four and a half thousand swear words in different languages and then wrote correspondingly correct ‘clean’ replacements,” Henderson says.
The process of putting together that list was enlightening, according to Henderson, who says that he has never heard so many foul-mouthed exchanges in creative meetings. “I’ve learned a whole new set of filthy words to call people--behind their backs, obviously,” he cracks.
Bad words on the exhaustive list include swears that you would expect as well as goodies like asswipe and boobies.
Boobies? Is that really such an offensive word? “I agree that boobies is actually a sweet, innocent word. But then phrases like ‘lick my boobies’ aren’t quite as innocent,” Henderson points out.
The biggest challenge in creating Cif the Web was getting the app ready for launch in a limited time frame. The agency--and Socially Bright, which helped with the technical build--had to turn the project around in about six weeks from conception to the app’s availability on iTunes.
The app will continually be tweaked and improved, and while initial marketing efforts--beginning in July--will focus on the U.K., Cif the Web will be promoted around the world as Cif products are sold in more than 50 countries.
Thus far, Henderson reports “impressive feedback” from users. He happens to be one of them, installing the app on his iPad for his young daughter. “I genuinely believe the latest generation is growing up in an age where we don’t know what kind of effect having access to this stuff [on the Internet] is having on society," he says. "Sadly, the latest studies from educational and children’s groups suggest it’s not great. But the ISPs and government just seem to shrug their shoulders.”