BY: PHILIPPE DE JOCAS
When you’re a kid, things can get frustrating. Between parents, homework, friends, responsibilities, and obligations, you can’t always find time for the things you want to do, especially when grownups lay down the law. Who here hasn’t experienced the devastating experience of going to an amusement park and being told that you’re too short to ride? Or saving your allowance for a movie, only to be told that it’s rated R? One kid took that frustration and turned it into something positive.
The Internet is a powerful tool, perhaps the most game-changing invention in human history. Where once we looked to libraries and universities for our knowledge, the Internet lets us gather terabytes of information in the space of nanoseconds…or lets us waste an entire day by watching cat videos. But the Internet can’t be anything more than a tool, and people can use tools for good or for ill. In an era where online trolls lurk under every bridge, careless Facebook words can cost you your job, and Internet harassment quickly bleeds out into the real world with devastating effects, it can be hard to raise a socially responsible kid while disreputable corners of the Internet whisper in the ear.
Internet entrepreneur Zach Marks turned a long-standing family feud into a web wonder through the launch of his social media website “Grom Social.” Named after an old slang term for young surfers, the kid-friendly website takes the best qualities of Facebook and Twitter and rolls them into one. Grom Social began when an under-age Zach circumvented parental authority by signing up for an account on Facebook. It was all smooth sailing until his dad inadvertently stumbled across the profile, banned him from Facebook, and gave him a dressing-down about obeying the rules. When Zach asked if he could design his own social media site, his dad laughed off the idea…but soon laughed out of the other side of his mouth when Zach went ahead with the plan. In its first nine days, Grom attracted more than nine thousand accounts.
Users who sign up for the service network with one another in a safe and supervised environment play games, and learn some of the basics of good “netizenship.” Unlike most other social media websites, staff continually regulate and monitor interactions between members. Cartoon avatars keep kids safe and anonymous while communicating with others, and software filters out curses and epithets. In an increasingly vast and confusing internet, sites like Grom Social provide safe places for kids to play.
After several years in operation, Grom has hit new heights, and is now estimated at more than 40 million dollars. In the next three years, sales estimate that it will hit more than 100 million dollars in value. Since then, Zach has appeared on “Kid Tycoons,” a TLC network show about teenagers who have changed the world. It may skew towards the kiddy, but it’s clear that Grom Social will be around to clean up the ‘net a little at a time.