What It Is:
StumbleUpon is what is known as a “discovery engine.” It is a specialized search engine for registered users that, through user interaction and feedback, finds and recommends to a user various websites based on that user’s interests.
What It Does:
StumbleUpon uses a collective form of ranking known as “crowdsourcing.” By trusting in the wisdom of crowds – specifically its own registered users – StumbleUpon assigns high value or low value to a specific web page based on a thumbs-up or thumbs-down ranking from other users of StumbleUpon, then determines, based on your own predetermined preferences, whether you might like that particular page.
Using this initial launching point, StumbleUpon then allows you to cull down your preferences even more, meaning the site learns more and more about you and provides you with the types of things you might want to partake of. You can also make a list of the sites you like and share those lists with others.
There’s also a social component, in that users can befriend one another within StumbleUpon and recommend different links to one another, send messages, and leave comments.
Would My Child Want It?:
StumbleUpon appears to have a fairly limited interest among younger users of the internet. The average kid is probably not fascinated with StumbleUpon, nor does the average kid endure any peer pressure to join the site.
However, since StumbleUpon places such a high value on user input, it seems to draw a lot of tech-savvy male users. If your child falls into such a category, then they may have an interest in using the service.
StumbleUpon is limited to users ages 13 and older.
Where Can It Be Used?:
StumbleUpon has its own website, but also has toolbar versions for browsers like Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, and Opera. There are also mobile apps for most smartphones, tablets, and mobile devices
What Should I Watch Out For?:
- Does not offer internal parental controls.
- Your likes and lists are public knowledge within StumbleUpon.
- Data mining.
- Other StumbleUpon users can send you private direct messages.
- StumbleUpon allows for paid website placement, meaning sites can pay StumbleUpon a fee to send users to their site.
What Are The Positives?:
- StumbleUpon can be an enriching experience by providing you with educational or inspirational content you might not otherwise see.
- Provided you connect with the right kinds of StumbleUpon users, there is the possibility for a certain kind of crowdsourced community and encouragement.
What Are The Negatives?:
- In an attempt to retain as much liberty and freedom for its users as possible, StumbleUpon does not limit the kind of web content it recommends. (It even has “Babes” as one of the options on its list of preferences.)
- Easy access to unsavory or illicit content.
- Mobile apps provide back-door internet access.
- Easy to connect with the wrong kind of StumbleUpon users.
What We Think:
While there can indeed be benefits to using StumbleUpon, there really is no reason to allow your child onto the service. We cannot give it a full recommendation.