Patent application title: Parental control systems for child's on-line accounts
Bhavin Shah (Fremont, CA, US)
Robert Hutter (Burlingame, CA, US)
Christopher Carvalho (San Rafael, CA, US)
IPC8 Class: AA63F924FI
Class name: Amusement devices: games including means for processing electronic data (e.g., computer/video game, etc.) access or authorization (e.g., game selection, security, etc.)
Publication date: 2010-11-11
Patent application number: 20100285871
On-line parental control systems are provided in connection with `activity
for credit` systems where a child earns credits into an account by
performing prescribed activity. The credit earned may be spent on goods
and services, and in particular in on-line transactions. Both spending
and earning activity are controlled by a parent or other guardian by way
of a special account login. A parent may designate earning parameters and
further spending rules to control activity of her child. Accordingly, and
on-line control system is coupled via the Internet to a user community
including a child member and a parent member. A member account includes a
parent facility with a rule library and lesson library. By way of a
parent control module, a parent set parameters of the member account
which cannot be manipulated by the child. Thereafter, the member account
performs in a manner suitable to the parent in view of her selections.
1) On-line gaming control apparatus comprising:a membership database,
andan applications and services system,the on-line gaming control
apparatus coupled to the Internet,said applications and services system
comprising an access restricted parent control module coupled to a parent
facility of a profile portion of a member account object,whereby a parent
user may adjust the state of variables in the rule library and lesson
plan after successful log-in via the parent control module to affect use
parameters of any particular member account associated with the log-in.
2) On-line gaming control apparatus of claim 1,said membership database is comprised of a plurality of member accounts each member account having two distinct log-ins associated therewith including a parent user log-in and a child user log-in, the parent login is arranged to provide access to the parent facility where rule states may be changed and lesson plans designed and prescribed, the child login is arranged to prevent access to the parent facility and prohibit changes thereto.
3) On-line gaming control apparatus of claim 1,said parent control module being coupled to the rule library and lesson plan elements of the profile parent facility and comprising a graphical user interface server operable for serving over a communications network graphical user interfaces operable to be played and manipulated at a remote computing system fashioned as a parent workstation, whereby the states of rule library and lesson plan elements may be changed by a parent user logged-in to a particular member account.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The following invention disclosure is generally concerned with parental control for on-line commerce systems and specifically concerned with parental control in on-line `activity for credit` accounts for children.
Internet gaming industries show surprising strength even in times of otherwise widespread economic weakness. At the time of this writing, Internet gaming remains atop the list of performing economies in an otherwise poor financial environment.
Of course, increased familiarization with Internet technologies as well as the ever increasing maturity of the Internet contributes greatly to the richness of on-line gaming and resulting growth. But along with this highly dynamic and growing industry come unique problems. Many parents will surely attest to the difficulty of managing a child's on-line gaming activity in agreement with healthy living and child development goals. Fortunately, systems have now been developed and are currently being deployed where on-line gaming activity is predicated upon completion of personal and self development tasks. In one version fully described and formally disclosed as U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/148,087 filed on Apr. 16, 2008 by the same inventors of this application, a child must perform educational tasks such as school homework to earn system credits which may be spent in on-line gaming activities. In this way, a parent sponsor encourages and motivates completion of school work in conjunction with on-line gaming access and activity. Rather than restrict a child's game play hours by declaration or command, a parent provides instead incentives to exercise and excel in educational and personal development activities. In a second important teaching, U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/220,047 filed Jul. 21, 2009 teaches additional related apparatus and systems. However, these descriptions identified above do not include teachings of certain detail regarding parental control apparatus which makes these systems still further effective in coupling a child on-line gaming activity with prescribed desired behavior to be incentivized by a parent or other interested third party.
While systems and inventions of the art are designed to achieve particular goals and objectives, some of those being no less than remarkable, these inventions have limitations which prevent their use in new ways now possible. Inventions of the art are not used and cannot be used to realize the advantages and objectives of the inventions taught herefollowing.
It should be understood that all of herein referenced materials provide considerable definition with regard to elements of these inventions. Therefore, those materials are incorporated herein by reference whereby this specification can rely upon them for enablement of the particular teachings of each.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Comes now, Bhavin Shah, Robert J. Hutter and Christopher Carvalho with inventions of parental control systems for child's on-line accounts including devices and methods of controlling Internet gaming consumption in conjunction with performance of prescribed activity.
An on-line control system is deployed as an intermediary arbiter between a child on-line consumer and a business on-line products (goods and services) provider. Further, these on-line parental control systems are particularly characterized by specialized function which permits an interested guardian such as a parent, great control of the system's use parameters, functionality, and limitations of use with regard to a child's on-line activity. These on-line parental control systems are particularly well adopted for use in conjunction where on-line products and services are provided in connection with educational (or other personal development or personal improvement task) accomplishments. For example, these control systems first taught here are particularly suited to manage on-line transactions where child consumer may earn `game play` credits by executing educational exercise such as exercises in Reading, Mathematics, Science, et cetera. These on-line control systems may be devised to provide a guardian or parent means of adjusting a child member account for highest performance and to bring about a wide range of customized system behaviors.
OBJECTIVES OF THE INVENTION
It is a primary object of these inventions to provide parental on-line control systems.
It is an object of these inventions to provide control system for use in connection with child consumption of on-line goods and services in connection with activity for credit accounts.
It is a further object to provide on-line systems with accounts having both child and parent log-ins to enable parental control of a child's use of same account.
A better understanding can be had with reference to detailed description of preferred embodiments and with reference to appended drawings. Embodiments presented are particular ways to realize these inventions and are not inclusive of all ways possible. Therefore, there may exist embodiments that do not deviate from the spirit and scope of this disclosure as set forth by appended claims, but do not appear here as specific examples. It will be appreciated that a great plurality of alternative versions are possible.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING FIGURES
These and other features, aspects, and advantages of the present invention will become better understood with regard to the following description, appended claims and drawings where:
FIG. 1 is system block diagram;
FIG. 2 is an expanded block diagram of an applications and services element of an on-line gaming control system;
FIG. 3 further details relationships between a parent control module and a user community of system members;
FIG. 4 shows additional detail with regard to the parental control module and its relationships with other system components;
FIG. 5 illustrates a fund manager unit and its interactions with related system elements; and
FIG. 6 describes a reward manager unit and its relations with cooperating elements.
PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION
With attention to the drawing figures and specific numeric references therein, one will appreciate a more complete understanding of a few illustrative examples as well as a most general version. Specifically FIG. 1 presents a general version of an on-line parental control system 1 coupled to a user community 2 via the Internet 3. In addition, both the on-line parental control system and user communities are similarly coupled via the Internet to on-line goods and services providers 4.
These systems are particularly arranged with a special view to relationships between a parent and child, and in addition, to `friend and family` relationships between parents, children, and relatives and friends.
By way of these special relationships each party has particular interests with regard to a child's personal development and on-line activity including consumption of goods and services. For example, a parent wishes to encourage a child to engage in educational activities--and may effect this by establishing and maintaining an `activity for performance` account where a child earns credits into a spendable balance by execution and performance of prescribed activities. An aunt or uncle might participate by funding such accounts to further incentivize and promote self development of the child participant.
Accordingly, a user community of these systems is characterized as including remote computing systems in the role of a child's workstation 5, a parent's workstation 6, and friend's or relative's workstation 7. These workstations are each in communication with an applications and services component 8 of the on-line gaming control system. Applications and services hosted by this component include those for administering both credit earning and credit spending related activity. In particular, applications and services are devised in cooperation with a membership database 9. Child consumer users of these on-line control systems may enroll as a `member` to establish a `member account` 10. A member account may be allocated to each unique participant. Of course, in some special cases, a single child may wish to initiate and use two separate accounts and nothing in these systems would prevent that.
The applications and services component further cooperates with a provider membership 11. Gaming service providers find it beneficial to participate in these systems as benefits associated therewith assure gaming providers additional consumption of services provided by them. Various levels of cooperation may be subject to a subscription relationships and these on-line control systems account for provider membership by maintaining an account 12 in a one-to-one relationship for each participating gaming provider. These on-line goods and services providers may be embodied as a remote computing system, an example a web server 13 coupled through the Internet to a child's computing workstation.
A most important element of these systems is a parent control module 14. A parent control module is designed and configured as a management system including function and interface to enable a parent participant to configure and define a program of spending verses earning activity. For example a parent may wish to prescribe a level of consumption of on-line gaming services in connection with performance of math homework. Specifically, a parent manipulates a profile portion 15 of a member account to control how the account performs in on-line transactions. A parent facility 16 of the profile is accessible only by a parent user. Separate authentication services are provided as a `parent login` 17 and `child log-in` whereby the state of the parent facility may only be altered by properly logged-in parent users. A parent facility includes a `rules library` 19 and a `lesson library` 110.
A rules library includes a set of discrete rules by which the entire system including actions executed in the application and service component may be regulated. A parent may enable or disable various rules and further various parameters associated with any specific rule. This may be effected by way of a simple parent user interface or GUI.
A lesson library is comprised of various lesson plans and other self development programs and administration modules of same. A parent may select and configure these to bring about a program of activity custom designed for the child participant. As each of these are stored as part of the profile portion of the member account.
At the heart of the presently disclosed system is the parent control module. The parent control module may be characterized as including a graphical user interface server or `GUI` server and several function specific control elements. The GUI server operates to provide a human interface such that stored parameters may be easily adjusted in example via `pointing click` actions taken in conjunction with a remote computing system running a web browser having web controls therein presented as part of the graphical interface.
Various function specific control elements are provided as part of these parental control modules 21, in agreement with certain desired functionality. In some important versions, these include an `E-mail Control` unit 22; a `Lesson Facility` 23; a `Fund Management` unit' 24; and a `Rewards Management` unit 25.
Thus in these on-line parental control systems 26, some most important administration applications and services 27 are provided as the parent control module illustrated in the drawing FIG. 2.
One important component of the parent control module is an e-mail control element or `E-mail Control` unit. FIG. 3 illustrates in greater detail an e-mail control unit 31 as part of a parent control module 32, among the applications and services 33 of an on-line parental control system 34. In particular, FIG. 3 is directed to relationships between an e-mail controller and other system elements. An e-mail server 35 coupled by way of the Internet 36 to various members of a user community 37 operates as an element of the parent control module.
In one important illustrative example, a parent wishing to regulate e-mail transaction activity of a participating child member having an established member account, may set a contact list (e-mail addresses) of persons from which a child might use for soliciting support in the form of sponsor donations. A child might send an e-mail message including an invitation and request that an aunt or uncle for example fund an account against which a child earns gaming credits by performing task actions. In this way, a relative participates in promoting school activity of the child. As it may be deemed by the parent to be improper or undesirable for a child to solicit funds from some persons or in an overly ambitious manner, a parent may wish to control who and how the child may approach to fund these gaming accounts. After a parent constructs a list of acceptable donors from which a child is permitted to solicit contributions, then this is made accessible to the child via the child log-in system and appropriately designed applications and services in support thereof. For example a logged-in child might be presented a drop-down list type web control on a graphical interface whereby a person may be selected from the list to be the recipient of an e-mail solicitation. The interface may further permit the child to couple therewith that message request, prepared text explaining the nature of the program, and in addition, custom text of the child's design or both.
In addition to merely forming a list of acceptable donors that a child is permitted to approach, a parent may additionally specify a schedule or maximum frequency of which messages may be permitted to be sent to various persons. For example, a child may only be allowed to send Uncle Ted a message request for additional funding once per school semester; while permitting weekly messages to Aunt Sally.
Further, an e-mail controller may be provided with additional functionality whereby a parent can provide a scripted message for the child to use to assure a child's approach is proper in manner. A prepared message or message template additionally serves to teach children about manners. Thus these e-mail control units may also provide mechanisms for solicitations including scripted messages appropriate for the program.
In addition, an e-mail control unit provides a parent means to specify and limit the amount of funds a child is permitted to solicit. In this way, a child may only use these on-line gaming control systems to politely request funds from those persons: 1) deemed appropriate either parents; 2) as often as a parent considers to be polite; 3) for amounts by appropriate; and finally; 4) to form these solicitations in connection with text approved by the parent.
In another portion of the parent control module, a `lesson facility element` is provided as an apparatus by which a parent can design, specify and create custom lesson plans. These lesson plans are those to be executed by the child user to earn credits which may be consumed in on-line gaming activities. By way of a lesson planning interface 41 to which only a parent has access by way of the parent log-in authentication system, a parent may use a web browser 42 at a simple workstation 43 to design, specify and create a custom lesson plan through interactive menus and controls which may be used to set and configure a plurality of system states and values to specify a lesson plan definition. Once so formed, the lesson plan may be passed from the lesson facility element 44 of the parental control 45 to the lesson library 46 of the member account 47. In addition to forming lesson plans, a lesson facility also permits a parent to create and specify various rules which dictate the manner in which a lesson plan may be executed. These lesson plan rules may be formed and deposited into a rule library 48 portion of a member profile. In this way, a parent uses the parent control module to provide guidance with regard to learning activity taken up as part of the program.
In a first example use of the parent control module's lesson facility, a parent can specify a prescribed lesson plan in accordance with curriculum for a certain school grade. In example, a parent may specify that a lesson plan be comprised of the material designated for consumption by students at the third grade level. A higher level is also possible when specifying a grade in conjunction with an `honors` program. Thus, a lesson plan may include the schoolwork appropriate for a `third grade honors` student. Accordingly, these lesson planning interfaces are configured such that a logged-in parent is able to adjust a lesson plan by grade. Further, a parent can use the lesson planning interface to set a level of difficulty.
For highest performing students, additional levels of difficulty may additionally be selected; conversely, for lesser achievers a lower performance level may be desirably set. In this way lesson plans are configurable such that they are most effective in advancing a child's learning activities. Lesson plans `too easy` or `too difficult` tend to defeat the system as they would either award credits where they are unearned or discourage completion of lessons as overly difficult. Thus, `tenability` of the level of difficulty is preferably under the exclusive control of the parent (to the exclusion of the child) by way of the parent control module having access restricted by way of the parent and child log-in means.
Still further, a lesson planning facility of a parent control module may provide mechanisms to increase the level of difficulty subject-by-subject. That is, to independently specify a level of difficulty for each subject of study independent of the others. Since some children perform better at a certain subject compared to others, and parents are generally aware of this, it is useful in a lesson planning facility of these systems to permit specifications in this way. That is, a parent may use a parent control module to set and specify: language subjects: easy; math subjects: advanced. Or rather, history and culture: advanced; physical education: easy. Thus, by way of the parent control module, level of difficulty is tunable with respect to subject of study.
Besides being operable for indicating levels of difficulty, these parent control modules may also be used to create a lesson plan comprising various subjects of study. Unlike some systems which might include the standards: reading, writing and arithmetic, parent control modules taught herein are specifically flexible with regard to study subjects. Study subjects from a long list may be selected to a arrive at a custom study plan for a specific child. This encourages a child to perform more in the areas of study believed best by a parent. A child who naturally excels in math may only need incentive to study language; accordingly a lesson plan can be provided whereby accomplishments in language studies result in credits earned.
While significant discussion has been directed to formation of lesson plans with regard to subject matter and level of difficulty, another important aspect of parent control modules of these systems is their use for enabling a parent to specify particular learning mechanisms. Various learning devices are used to stimulate learning for example: `true` or `false` questions; multiple-choice question and answers; drill games; simulations; videos; time to quizzes; and spelling games such as `hangman`, among others.
A lesson planning portion of a parent control module of these systems includes an interactive interface which operates to permit a logged-in parent to pick and choose options related to exercise type as well as specification of subject and level of difficulty.
Besides the lesson planning element of the parent control module, a parent control module of these apparatus further comprises a `fund manager` element. With reference to FIG. 5 the fund manager element 51 includes graphical user interface having control devices arranged whereby the states of variables may be adjusted from a remote computing system, i.e. a logged-in parent user. For example, by way of a web browser 54 coupled to the parent control module 55 by way of the Internet 56 and HTTP transactions. As part of the applications and services component of the on-line parent control system a logged-in parent may address the interface and manipulate its controls via `point-and-click` actions for example to set values associated with system performance. Those values are then associated and stored as part of a member account, for example in a rule library 58.
When a child member user logs-in from a remote workstation 59, through the Internet and further by way of the system applications and services component, parameters and rules stored in the rule library dictate how the system performs. In particular, with regard to how funds are earned and distributed as set out previously by a parent using the parent control module's `Fund Management` unit.
In one example, a parent may adjust an `earning rate` the rate by which a child accrues credits available for consumption in on-line purchase transactions. For example, a lesson plan may be parsed into portions and each assigned a value. Thereafter an earning rate of credits/unit is made adjustable in the fund manager element. By increasing an earnings rate, a parent can further encourage particular activities and level of activity/purchase in these systems.
A fund management unit of these systems further includes facility and structure to provide control of spending-for example spending rates. In one example, a parent to may wish to limit the amount credits which may be spent per day. Where a child earns a significant balance it may become desirable to regulate a rate of consumption of earned credits. A parent control module is arranged to provide a parent devices and mechanisms for setting spending rates.
In addition to earning rates and spending rates, a fund management unit element is also devised to set rules with regard to categories of goods and/or services which may be purchased for system credits. That is, a parent may restrict and limit purchases of videos and on-line games and favor instead consumption of credit in consideration of books and magazines for example. The parent control module is therefore useful to parents who log-in to gain access to settings which regulate the funds of a child member account.
Another element of these parent control modules is a `reward manager` 61 including a reward graphical user interface 62 operable remotely from a parent workstation 63 by way of Internet `request` and `response` transactions for example. Settings may be applied and stored to a member account 64 in a membership database 65. Rules library 66 maintains values and parameters in a memory storage system which dictate future performance of the on-line gaming control system with respect to a particular user--i.e. the child of the parent setting the values.
`Rewards` are generally the goods and services offered by participating provider members--and are those for which earned system credits may be exchanged. In one version of a reward manager, a parent is allowed to select from a list of provider members those whom are allowed to trade credit for goods and services. Certain providers offer goods and services more wholesome or valuable than others and it remains in a parent's interest to choose these to the exclusion of choices a child might otherwise make. Accordingly, a parent control module which is accessible by the parent but not the child is useful for selecting providers by its reward manager. In addition, parents also can choose among the specific goods and services offered by various providers. This may be taken up one-by-one via pre-selection of a goods and services description or rather may be effected in a scheme where a category of goods or services is selected from a category that. For example, one of parent may wish to exclude on-line games of a violent nature and all providers would be restricted from trade in such on-line gaming services.
A parent may also set a single specific goal product or service. Any performance of tasks activity would earn credit for the particular specify reward for example a bicycle.
The reward management unit also includes provision for a parent to suggest goods and services considered desirable such that this information may be sent back to providers who would then respond by adjusting their product offerings accordingly. In this way, a parent control module of these inventions provides a material transaction directly with providers of goods and services offered in connection with these systems.
One will now fully appreciate how a parental control system is deployed to regulate and control on-line commerce systems and those particularly related to consumption of gaming in consideration for personal enrichment activity performed. Although the present inventions have been described in considerable detail with clear and concise language and with reference to certain preferred versions thereof including best modes anticipated by the inventors, other versions are possible. Therefore, the spirit and scope of the invention should not be limited by the description of the preferred versions contained therein, but rather by the claims appended hereto.
Patent applications in class Access or authorization (e.g., game selection, security, etc.)
Patent applications in all subclasses Access or authorization (e.g., game selection, security, etc.)