All posts in “kids”

Kudos wants to be a gentle introduction to social media sharing for kids

Just as pre-teens in the 1990s were warned away from dialing 1-900 numbers, kids now need to learn how to navigate social media responsibly. Kudos, an app for kids aged eight to 13 with around-the-clock moderation, positions itself as a safe introduction to social media that also teaches its young users, some of whom were born before the first iPhone was released, how to be “good digital citizens.”

Formerly headquartered in Oslo, Norway, Kudos recently moved to Palo Alto, California and is now rolling out the app in the United States. Kudos originated as a photo sharing app called Kuddle in 2014. Since then, the app has changed its name, added many new features and hired a team that includes alumni from Disney, Dreamworks, Pixar and Instagram. The startup says it has raised $5.7 million in seed funding from individual investors.

Kudos is designed for kids aged eight to 13, but its most active users are between nine and 11 years old. While some parents might question why their preteens even need to be on social media (or have access to a smartphone), co-founder and chief executive officer Ole Vidar Hestaas says Kudos wants to teach them how to communicate and stay safe online.

Hestaas, a serial entrepreneur, became interested in building a social network for kids after his son, who was then seven years old, saw his older sisters using Instagram and Snapchat. After being told he was too young to sign up for either service, Hestaas’ son asked him to create a platform just for kids.

“Like any parent, I was concerned about the potential for bullying and exposure to inappropriate content if my son used the apps that were designed for kids over 13. So when my son challenged me to create an app, I dove in head first, realizing that this was a need for all kids and could have the potential to make a huge positive impact on the way kids connect and share on social media,” Vestaas said in an email.

He adds that by sharing photos, comments and reactions on Kudos, the app can teach its young users how to communicate online. Kudos is filled with constant reminders to keep things positive. For example, comment boxes tell users to “leave a nice comment” and all groups are created by Kudos, with prompts for sharing “written in encouraging language,” says Hestaas.

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The app also appoints ambassadors who model good behavior for other Kudos users. Like Facebook, kids can react to a post, but unlike Facebook, there are only three reactions and all of them are positive. The app screens content by combining 24-hour human moderation with text and image monitoring software and sends parents notifications about their kids’ activity.

All this might sound a bit cloying, but the recent success of tbh, which calls itself “the only anonymous app with positive vibes,” shows that many kids crave safer, kinder ways to connect with their peers online. For preteens, keeping things upbeat isn’t just wholesome. It’s also about safety. For example, Kudos doesn’t have a one-on-one chat in order to prevent its users from being drawn into negative conversations.

Of course, the app’s challenge is convincing children that Kudos, with its safeguards, is just as interesting as Instagram, Snapchat and the other apps they see older kids using.

Hestaas claims that “surprisingly, we can tell from reviews and user feedback that the kids themselves actually appreciate that Kudos is moderated, safer and focused on the positive experiences of sharing.” In the future, Kudos can give celebrities a place to connect with younger fans who aren’t allowed on other social media platforms yet, but will avoid advertising as it builds a monetization strategy. If Kudos succeeds in adding new features and content that keep its audience engaged, “our users won’t be as excited to sign up for Instagram or Snapchat,” Hestaas says.

Featured Image: Sol de Zuasnabar Brebbia/Getty Images

Bambino app helps parents find babysitters recommended by their neighbors

Parenting young children involves a lot of logistics, including what to do with them when you need to run a last-minute errand, go to an appointment or just have a few hours to decompress. For parents who don’t have friends or relatives they can call on for babysitting, this can be tricky. Bambino wants to help by connecting parents with nearby babysitters who have already been recommended by their friends and neighbors.

The iOS and Android app, which is free to sign up for, is active in 35 cities and building networks in another 15. The Santa Monica-headquartered startup is now hiring community managers with the goal of adding five new communities every month. It currently has about 20,000 users in total, divided relatively evenly between parents and babysitters, says founder and chief executive officer Sean Greene.

Greene decided to start working on a babysitter app after a fruitless evening spent calling people to watch his kids so he could go out after a long day at work. While driving home, he realized that there had to be a lot of teenagers and young adults living in his neighborhood who wanted babysitting jobs, but he didn’t know how to connect with them.

Besides the usual word-of-mouth referrals, many parents rely on, the biggest site for babysitters and nannies, or postings on Nextdoor’s private social networks for neighborhoods. Bambino combines the two ideas in one: it lets parents find nearby babysitters who have already sat for people they know, saving them time without sacrificing their peace of mind.

Parents “shouldn’t have to feel guilty for wanting some free time, and we shouldn’t have to pay tons of money for a professional nanny service to help out on occasion,” Greene says. “I started Bambino because I wanted to find good, honest, trustworthy babysitters in and around my neighborhood that my friends had used, and it’s worked.”

Bambino, however, is far from the only babysitting app out there. A couple of the better known ones include UrbanSitter and SitterCity, but Greene claims that they don’t “emulate the tried and true method of asking a friend or neighbor” as well as Bambino does.

“UrbanSitter and SitterCity are primarily job boards,” he says. “Parents post a job, random sitters view those jobs and apply to ones they are interested in and parents can choose from those that applied. It’s like posting on Craigslist or Monster.”

Instead of creating a posting on Bambino, parents pick who sees their babysitting requests. When parents search for a babysitter on the app, its sorts results by sitters they already know, sitters who their friends know and finally by distance.

In order to use Bambino to find babysitting gigs, sitters need to sign up with their Facebook profiles and already have a recommendation from someone in the community. Greene says babysitters also need to agree to reviews of their profiles for quality and random checks of their social media footprint. Bambino has a payment tool that tracks the duration of a babysitting session and lets parents send money to babysitters, who set their own rates, through the app.

“We have a fairly strict process for activating sitters and only one-third of those that register actually become active,” Greene says.

Babysitters on Bambino range in age from 13 to 60, but most are in their twenties and include college students and people with jobs that give them the flexibility to take babysitting gigs. Bambino gives about one to three percent “Elite Sitter” designation, which they have achieved a five-star rating on enough bookings, maintain a good reliability rating, respond promptly to requests and have recommendations from active Bambino users. Elite Sitters also need to pass a formal background check paid for by Bambino and be at least 18.

“Bambino was founded on the principle that we generally trust those who live around us,” Greene says. “As neighbors, we rely on each other. We are creating a private social network around neighborhood childcare and we’re doing so with all of the modern convenience factors of a mobile app. Unlike with, at Bambino, we try to keep it personal.”

Featured Image: Camille Tokerud/Getty Images

Google’s parental control software, Family Link, launches to public

Family Link, Google’s parental control software for Android devices, is now exiting its beta testing period and is now generally available to anyone in the U.S. without the need for an invitation. The software, which lets parents manage apps, set screen time limits and device bedtimes, can be used from either an iOS or Android device, but is designed specifically to manage a child’s Android device.

First introduced in March as an invite-only program, Family Link lets parents block or approve app download – similar to Apple’s iCloud Family Sharing “Ask” feature for iOS devices. Plus, parents are able to get an idea of what apps are capturing their child’s attention by viewing weekly and monthly activity reports.

The software also lets parents limit device usage, including by configuring a maximum number of hours per day the child is allowed to be on their device, as well as when the child is to be automatically locked out for “bedtime.” These limitations can vary by the day of the week, as well, so parents can be stricter on school nights than on weekends, for example.

However, Family Link does not include a generalized content filtering option like some third-party parental control apps do, but it can control the filtering options in Google’s own apps like the Google Search app and Chrome.

Initially, Family Link required both parent and child to be on Android, but that changed in April with the release of an iOS version of the Family Link parental control app. The service also works via a web browser.

The Family Link software is a differentiator for Android as compared with iOS, which instead offers a “Restrictions” section that’s focused more on what apps a child can use – either by toggling on or off Apple’s default apps or by app ratings – as well as use other settings for controlling what a child can do on the device, and configure privacy options.

However, Apple does not offer a way for a parent to set time limits, remotely lock a device, or view activity reports on app usage. For now, those sorts of tools have been left to third-party developers.

Family Link can control any Android device running Android Nougat (7.0) and higher, and select Marshmallow devices. (A full list is in this FAQ). Parents, meanwhile, only need to have Android KitKat (4.4) or higher, or iOS 9 and higher.

Though the software is now freely available, Google says it’s still considering user feedback in terms of rolling out Family Link’s next set of features.

Preschoolers get their own Pokémon game with launch of Pokémon Playhouse

A new app called Pokémon Playhouse from the Pokémon Company, released this week, is bringing Pikachu and friends to preschoolers. Unlike the augmented reality game Pokémon Go, a collaboration between Niantic and Nintendo by way of the Pokémon Company, this latest game is not focused on capturing Pokémon, battling and raids. Instead, it’s filled with activities appropriate for those ages 3 to 5 years old.

For example, young players can take care of their Pokémon in a ‘Pokémon Grooming’ activity, or they can look for Pokémon in the night sky in the ‘Search the Stars’ feature. They can also doing things like start a band with Pokémon, feed them treats, or take them to an interactive park, as well as solve simple puzzles or listen to stories.

Many of these activities are reminiscent of the sorts of things you’d see in other children’s apps, like those from Toca Boca or Furby, for example.

In addition, a human character guides players through the activities, to make it more accessible to young players.

As for the Pokémon themselves, the company says the game will include “never-before-seen expressions of Pokémon” such as Pikachu, Bulbasaur, Litten, and Snorlax.

The game advances as the young trainers continue to play. As they complete the various in-app activities, they get closer to hatching Eggs that feature new Pokémon to add their collection. In total, there are over 50 Pokémon included in the game.

According to The Pokémon Company, the new game is meant to introduce Pokémon to a younger audience because it believes the property should be for all ages.

“Playhouse offers our youngest fans the opportunity to explore the world of Pokémon in an environment made just for them,” said J.C. Smith, senior director of Consumer Marketing at The Pokémon Company International, in a statement. “As the popularity of the Pokémon brand continues to grow, we’re thrilled to launch the first-ever Pokémon preschool expression with Pokémon Playhouse, offering parents an age-appropriate and entertaining experience for the littlest Trainers in their family.”

And while the Pokémon Go game is wildly popular – having crossed $1.2 billion in revenue and 752 million downloads as of this summer – that game can also be a little challenging for preschoolers.

Parents will also be glad to know that, unlike Pokémon Go, Pokémon Playhouse won’t have kids begging for money for in-app purchases. The game itself is a free download, and all its content is free as well.

Rather, it seems the goal with Pokémon Playhouse is to generate interest in the world of Pokémon at a younger age, which will eventually lead kids to Pokémon Go when they’re older. And that benefits Nintendo, given the company gets a 19 percent cut of Go’s total revenues, it’s been reported. Pokémon Go’s success also had a halo effect on Nintendo’s hardware sales, and The Pokémon Company makes money by licensing its brand to toy makers like TOMY and Wicked Cool Toys.

Pokémon Playhouse is available for both iOS and Android.

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