Israeli Startup Offers Kids Social Media Training Wheels : Parallels Most social networks require users to be at least 13. But Itay Eshet's daughter, like many kids, wanted to join Facebook when she was just 10. So Eshet created a site just for younger kids, designed to protect them from bullying and other risks while teaching them to navigate social media safely.
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Israeli Startup Offers Kids Social Media Training Wheels

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Israeli Startup Offers Kids Social Media Training Wheels

Israeli Startup Offers Kids Social Media Training Wheels

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Many parents believe that Facebook and children should not mix. With cyber-bulling and easy access to strangers, it's for good reason. Well, in Israel, a parent has started a new social network, one just for pre-teens.

NPR's Emily Harris reports its goal is to teach future Facebook users to be smarter online.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Two years ago, Itay Eshet's daughter told him she wanted a Facebook account. She was 10 years old. He told her Facebook is great but it is not for kids.

So they built a new social network, Nipagesh. In Hebrew, that means let's meet. Itay Eshet.

ITAY ESHET: Nipagesh is for young kids in elementary school because we want to build them and to prepare them to using social networks when they're older - Facebook, WhatsApp or whatever social network they want to use.

HARRIS: His daughter said it had to be fun. He knew it had to be safe. What evolved was a network that signs up schools, not individuals. Once a school is on, every student is a member. Eshet says this makes it easy to learn how to socialize online.

ESHET: First of all, all the kids' friends are inside, which makes it much more interesting for the kid, he doesn't have to look for friends outside. And, second, every member of the network is authenticated.

HARRIS: Everyone has to use their real name. One hundred schools in Israel are participating so far. Kids can chat with and friend any other kid on the network, even strangers at other schools.

ESHET: They are strangers but we know for sure that they are kids and we know what age they are and we know what are their interests.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: (Foreign language spoken)

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: (Foreign language spoken)

HARRIS: Fifth graders at Reut School in central Israel like it. One student says she plays lots of games on Nipagesh and makes new friends. Another says any bullying is quickly stopped. Algorithms help detect inappropriate content. Teachers and parents are automatically members, too, and on every page, there is a report button for kids to flag posts that make them feel uncomfortable.

MICHAL ZAIDEN: I prefer that she will be in this instead of the Facebook. Because in the Facebook, I have no control.

HARRIS: Michal Zaiden's 10-year-old is on Nipagesh. Her 12-year-old lied about her age to get a Facebook account.

ZAIDEN: I'm a friend in the Facebook, so I can see what she's putting on, what the friends are - tell her, but it's not the same.

HARRIS: Zaiden had no idea her 12-year-old had a big fight with her best friend on Facebook. On Nipagesh, Zaiden can't read her 10-year-old daughter's private chats, but the system tells her who the fifth grader is chatting with and what else she does or posts. Some of that is homework. Teacher Nitza Gerber uses the network to start discussions, create assignments, and connect with her students outside class.

NITZA GERBER: (Through Translator) There are two parts. First, it's a social network, a very protected network. The other thing is the academic possibilities. When there is this combination, I think the sky is the limit.

HARRIS: In this early stage, Nipagesh is free for schools in Israel and their students. The company hopes that eventually schools will subscribe. Mother Michal Zaiden isn't sure she'd personally want to pay.

ZAIDEN: I guess if everyone will be there and will be...

HARRIS: And if the kids are learning something, she adds in Hebrew, it might be worth paying for. Nipagesh's founder is exploring other ways to make money in addition to school subscriptions. He says the company will never advertise to children but thinks there may be financial potential in all those adult eyeballs on this children's social network. Emily Harris, NPR News, Jerusalem.

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