Emeryville, California based Industrious Kid Inc. launched a new social networking service for children today called Imbee. The service takes strong measures to keep kids safe. I was skeptical at first, but after looking at how security is implemented I think it just might work.
The company was started with $6 million in funds from founder Jeanette Symons. Symons was a co-founder of Ascend Communications, which was bought by Lucent for $24 billion in 1999.
Imbee provides all the basic functions of other social networking services, except for chat. What’s most interesting are the parent controls. An adult with a credit card is required to create an Imbee account. That adult can then choose whether new blog posts, comments to and from their child and new friend requests will require parental approval before being passed through to the child’s account. If moderation isn’t selected, parents still receive email summaries of their kid’s activities.
One concern that many people have about young people being able to post content online is that today’s foolishness could come back to haunt young people later in life. Imbee says its pages are behind a firewall and that children’s content is shielded from indexing by search engines.
The site itself has no search function and unsolicited contact is not possible without knowledge of a child’s Imbee username. All children in the system receive a Imbee wallet full of “business cards” they can give to friends to share those usernames.
Free accounts at Imbee have limited features and a full feature account costs $4 per month or $40 per year. That sounds like a very viable price plan given the amount of parental concern there is about children online.
Will kids go for this? If requiring parental approval slows down the fast exchange of comments and friendships too much, they may not want to. The company says this will be between parents and their children and they expect that in time it will primarily be new friend requests that most parents require approval of.
If the children who join Imbee are old enough to seek this kind of service but still young enough that any amount of parental control isn’t yet anathema to them – it could be a great system. On the other hand, controling kids online could be a lost cause and educating about staying safe could be the best option.