When I first started talking to elementary schools about digital citizenship, I rarely mentioned specific apps. With every year, I see more young kids with phones and tablets. So, I have added slides about Instagram and kik. While I understand why kids love these apps, these places are for people 13 years old and up. This is a tough environment to learn about digital citizenship where mistakes are easily shared and hard to erase.
A few weeks ago, I got chance to talk with Janel Patterson, a parent and CEO of Frienedy, who has created a better approach. She has designed a social network for all ages. Frienedy is for everyone and allows both parents and kids to create private social groups. These groups can center around family, friends, teams or classes. Within a group, members can share activities, photos, videos and documents. They can also post an event on a shared calendar as well as create a WishList for equipment and supplies.
Designing a social network for all ages is not easy. Because of COPPA, most social networks choose to simply limit users to 13 years or older. A few social networks cater only to young kids. Frienedy is unique in bringing both these groups together. Janel said they were able to do this by integrating privacy software directly into the site. Frienedy makes it seamless and simple for parents to provide verifiable consent for their children under 13 to have an account.
Once kids are on, they can join and create their own groups under the watchful eye of their parent. As Janel explains, “Frienedy is designed such that parents have “view only” access to always oversee, but not participate in, their children’s groups. So, they are default members of every group a child joins or creates. However, there is not a risk to the child of being embarrassed by the parent, because the parent cannot comment, chat or upload photos or documents.”
On Frienedy, parents are their child’s digital coach. Overseeing their child provides the perfect opportunity to kick off the digital citizenship/cyberbullying conversation. Behind the scenes, parents can keep the digital talk going by teaching kids what to post and what not to post. If a kid makes a mistake or posts a comment that is misinterpreted, parents can immediately step in and work with their child to remedy the situation. Janel believes “that when, as parents, we have the opportunity and tools to teach our children how to be good digital citizens, we will inevitably see fewer cases of cyberbullying in the long run and fewer kids who post their way out of scholarships, colleges, and jobs.”
Frienedy is an excellent way for families, teams and classrooms to share information privately while teaching kids how to communicate responsibly on a social network. Right now, parents can sign up for Frienedy on their mobile friendly site. In July, they are coming out with their IOS app. For help with talking to your child about staying safe and sharing smart online, Talking Digital provides scripts and tips for kids from preschool to high school.