Move over, Zuckerberg. Florida resident Zachary Marks, 11, began his own social network, called Grom Social, after his parents banned him from using Facebook.
Grom Social is designed specifically for children.
Marks had a Facebook account for roughly a week despite being two years too young to join the site, having lied about his age to create an account.
When his parents discovered that he may have been engaging in risky online activities, they pulled the plug. At that point, he came up with a plan.
“I spent all my time on the computer chatting with friends. Then, I made mistakes,” Marks says on the Grom Social About page. “I had to deactivate my account.”
“One of my adult friends cursed and posted something inappropriate, and I cursed back. Also, I friend-requested grownups who I did not know.”
“About a day later, my dad found out. He was really mad.”
Marks said he wasn’t interested in any existing, kid-friendly, social networks – “They were all childish,” he said – so he set out to create one for “Groms.”
That’s slang term for young surfers that he re-purposed to mean something close to “precocious kid.” Soon enough, Grom Social was conceived.
In order to keep members safe, only parents and parent-approved adults can join.
Parents of kid members are kept up to date on youngsters’ online activities via email. The site also has a built-in language filter to keep the expletives in check.
Grom Social is also compliant with COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a controversial law aimed at keeping kids safe online.
Some argue this is ineffective and unconstitutionally limits 1st Amendment rights.
Under COPPA, websites, apps and plug-ins are not allowed to collect information from children less than 13 years old without their parent’s express consent.
The burden of verification, however, simply isn’t worth it to most networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Foursquare, so they ban members under 13.
To date, Grom Social has almost 7,000 members and is open to users under 15 in the U.S. and Canada. If it really explodes, could it hurt Facebook’s growth potential?