A Scottish father, whose daughter was involved in cyber-bullying, has created what he claims is a safer kids' social networking site on the internet.
With new figures suggesting that one in five children are the victims of ‘aggressive or unpleasant behaviour' online, Arbroath-based Jamie Tosh, dad to 10-year old twins, has unveiled Kibooku.com, aimed at children aged between 6 and 13.
Jamie was motivated to create a safer haven for kids who are desperate to join a social networking site where they can post updates and photos, as well as playing games, but whose parents and carers have justified concerns over safety.
Jamie explained, "Most children reach the age where they start pestering their parents to join a chatroom or social networking site and, amazingly, many parents are willing for them to lie about their age in order to sign up. The parents often think their child is safe, by befriending them on the site and casually overseeing what they're up to, but with Kibooku, we have put control firmly in the hands of parents. If parents choose not to be involved, the site simply shuts down in the interests of the child."
Following a soft launch which attracted significant and crucial feedback from users – including his daughters Kenah and Leah, Jamie has now weaved a number of additional safety features into Kibooku's design. He has also simplified registration and incorporated a variety of popular online games.
First of all, the parent and child have to register with the site from the outset this creates a control panel for both child and parent (also separate usernames and password for both) so children cannot create their own page without their parent creating one first. Once established, kids have full access to it and can link with their friends through schools, hobbies and so on, but parents can monitor it at any time, including friend requests and private messages. The system ensures that parents know who their child is in contact with, or who might be attempting to contact them.
Secondly, the parent is required to ‘verify' the child's site every 15 days, checking all previous activity, or the page will close down. This means parents have a window within which to report any abuse or bullying or any other concerns they may have about other users.
Kibooku also requires adults to provide credit / debit card verification (under 3D security), meaning the adult can be traced to an address. By paying an annual admin fee of just £3, a reduction on the pilot version, Kibooku have access to the parent's personal details and, if the card and address do not tally, they cannot join up. This avoids the situation where someone could set up a false page and interact with children without leaving any traceability.
Meanwhile, if the child deletes any content (as they might if being bullied or intimidated), the parent receives a notification of that deleted content – something that would go un-noticed with other social media sites, as Jamie himself experienced when his daughter was being bullied online.
Jamie continued, "It's important to stress that Kibooku isn't just about safety – it's about fun, creating a social networking site with a ‘grown-up' feel, something children will want to be part of until they are old enough to go elsewhere. With games and the facility to create events such as birthday parties, post photo and discuss everything from homework to holidays, the site is a cool place for youngsters to meet and exchange news, views and fun. Nowadays, we're often dissuading our children from talking to strangers but on Kibooku, they can make new friends worldwide, searching by hobbies for example, and expanding their horizons and experiences – but all in a safer environment."
Kibooku will also donate 50p of each registration fee into national charity Cash for Kids, benefiting thousands of children across the UK.
The site has been welcomed by parents and children throughout the world. Although currently set up for use within the UK, USA and Australia, plans are afoot to tap into countries such as Italy and Greece where initial interest has already been shown.
Closer to home, Arbroath mum Kerry Swankie, who tested the site out with her six year old, feels confident that her child is now able to play safely on the internet.
She commented, ‘We are delighted that there is now something on the market for our kids to interact safely with other kids their own age. The security aspects of the site have helped put us at ease making it easier for us to relax when our youngest is interacting with others on the computer. We think it's a great idea and feel that the annual subscription is very little to ask for a safer place for our son to interact. We also feel that we are helping other kids with the donation from our subscription going to Cash for Kids every month."