A new mobile application called Kuddle is introducing a safer way for kids to get introduced to social media, while still under a parent’s watchful eye. The photo-sharing app, which is like a more restricted version of Instagram, allows children to post and share photos with friends in a protected environment, safe from cyberbullying or unwanted connections from strangers.
Founded in March by a team of Norway-based developers and designers, all with kids of their own, the idea was prompted by co-founder and CEO Ole Vidar Hestaas’s experience raising his children. His 7-year old son wanted to be on Instagram, like his older sister was, but of course that’s not allowed…or, frankly, a good idea at that age.
After looking for an app designed with the safety and security needs of children and parents in mind, and not finding anything at all, he decided to build one.
Co-founder and executive chairman, Kathryn Moore Baker, was in private equity when she first met the team, and says she fell in love with the idea.
“I loved the idea of doing something that was good for kids. I’m the mother of two girls, 18 and 14, and the whole time [the team was] telling me about the idea, I was thinking, I wished I had this when [my children] were getting their first introduction to social media,” she says.
Baker, along with other angels, including Wibecke Nagell-Erichsen and international golfer Suzann ‘Tutta’ Pettersen, also invested in the company, which has now raised just under $1 million.
How It’s Safer
The app is designed from the ground-up to offer a safer environment than something like Instagram. Children have to input their parent’s email at sign-up, but can begin to use the app right away. However, their photos can’t be viewed or seen by others until the parent approves the account via the email they receive.
Afterwards, parents are notified every time a child posts a photo and every time they add a friend. (Because children don’t have their own Facebook account and friend list, they search for friends by name.)
In addition, photos will appear only in approved friends’ feeds, and are not geo-tagged so as not to reveal a child’s location.
Importantly, there are no comments allowed on photos. While kids can caption and even draw on their own photos with provided tools, friends can only view and like those images, not respond with text.
Though based in Norway, the app is COPPA-compliant, a U.S. regulation related to software and services designed for children. Children aren’t marketed to, and their info isn’t shared, says Baker.
Should Kids Use Social Media?
Some may argue that children shouldn’t be using social media at all at a younger age, but that’s not entirely realistic. With Kuddle, they can at least have the experience of sharing on mobile with friends, while opening the door to productive conversations with parents about what’s appropriate.
Kuddle, I feel, comes just in time for today’s youngest generation, as the kids of Millennials and Gen X’ers are now receiving their first smartphones at ever-younger ages (often now in the single-digits and pre-teens!). Even PBS is urging parents to “wait until preschool” at least.
Though there’s a plethora of educational apps and games, younger children are naturally drawn to what the “big kids” use. Today, that’s social media services like Facebook and Instagram, where you’re supposed to be 13 or older to register. Many kids just lie, in order to sign up.
Kuddle, which will always be free for children and will never sell things via in-app purchases, sees this app as the first step in a larger vision for the company which will focus on helping parents make better choices when it comes to their kids’ mobile usage, possibly through subscription services.
“Our revenue streams will come from areas where we can help parents make good choices such as safer devices, child-friendly mobile subscriptions, and safer search engines,” hints Baker. These products will be developed in partnership with others, and will be marketed to parents who will make the final buying decision.
In the meantime, Kuddle is a free download on iTunes and Google Play.