Norway's Kuddle does safe social networking for kids under 13

I never really liked the idea of young kids using Facebook: I feel like there's plenty of other things children could/should be doing then stupefying their minds with superficial ego-fishing. And as if the attention-driven environment wasn't enough of a reason to keep the young'uns out of social media, there's plenty of discussion going on about cyberbullying, the online version of old-school bullying, which has driven many youngsters face to face with serious emotional distress, and in some cases, even suicide.

Worried parents can now cease to fear for the online safety of their children, all thanks to Kuddle, the Norwegian picture sharing app especially designed for kids.

While most social media networks have a minimum age requirement of 13, Kuddle provides a safer entry to social media for kids below this age.  It aims to create a safer digital environment for children, while enhancing their knowledge about responsible digital sharing by combining elements of education and entertainment.

For example, when posting a picture, the app can educate by asking a question like "Do you agree that online bullying is just as bad as bullying in real life?", to which the poster has to answer correctly in order to proceed (right answer is "yes" by the way).

The user's safety is asserted by disabling geolocations; usernames (only real names are accepted); commenting on pictures. Additionally, likes are anonymous to prevent fame-chasing and the service has an alert team of moderators that make sure the content is appropriate.

To keep things light hearted, the app features a character - Kodi Kuddle - who befriends all users by default and regularly sends positive messages and input for good digital behaviour to Kuddle's users. Additionally, parental supervision is one of Kuddle's most important features: the parent will be able to regulate content on their child's/children's account(s) to ensure their online safety. Parents will also be able to monitor all of their child's activities, including photo-sharing, caption-writing, and added friends.

You know, at first, I figured that the easiest way to keep your kids safe from the risks of using social media at such an early age would simply to make sure they don't use social media altogether until they're old enough. Efficient as it could be to a certain point, it's true that social media is part of our everyday lives now: since it might stick around, kids will obviously be curious about it, so I guess teaching them the "netiquette" - the online etiquette of inclusion and responsibility - while they're young can't hurt.

"Today's children increasingly want to partake in social media, but it's important that they use social media services that are adapted to their level of knowledge and their critical judgment," says Ole Vidar Hestaas, founder and CEO of Kuddle. "Kuddle not only provides a fun picture-sharing experience for kids, but also a platform on which kids can learn how to behave and act responsibly on social networks."

Hestaas first got inspired to build the social app when his seven year old son asked for the permission to open up an account on a social media platform where the age limit was 13. Not finding it suitable, but not having any alternatives at hand, Hestaas set out to built Kuddle under the advisement from children's advocacy group Save the Children Norway, the Norwegian Media Authority and the interest group ICT Norway.

Now Kuddle is ready to be launched for the US markets; the app is currently available for iOS and Android.

In conclusion, it's hard to hate on something that educates children; gives us the feeling the next generation might be even wiser and kinder than we are, but nonetheless, social media is a putrid place, and kids would be better off playing outside then learning how to get more likes for their status.

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