Social media is now more or less ubiquitous, but hand-in-hand with this surging popularity has come mounting concern over the risks it poses to children, including the potential for exposure to inappropriate content as well as grooming by sexual predators or other malevolent adults. One obvious solution is to create alternative, kids-only online spaces closed to any adults beside parents.
That’s the idea behind Jet.me, a new mobile social network and chat service that launched this week. Created by Jet Networks, a startup based in Boston, Jet.me is intended solely for children under the age of 13, and features multiple security measures (including a heavy dose of adult supervision) in order to comply with all the provisions of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act rule. The app costs $0.99 on the iOS app store.
Like social platforms targeting adults, Jet.me enables kids to connect with their friends and share content including texts, photos, videos, and “stickers.” However there are some key differences: not only do kids need a parent’s approval to join the network in the first place, it also requires parental approval for each new friend they want to add (and both kids’ parents have to approve the connection). Users can’t send messages or share content until they have made a parent-approved connection.
Parents get their own account on a companion app, Jet Parent, to approve connections and monitor their kids’ activity online, and they can unilaterally end a connection if they think things are headed in a bad direction for any reason. Further, profiles aren’t visible to anyone who isn’t a member, and the network doesn’t reveal any user’s real name, or any other content like photos, in public. Jet.me doesn’t have any feature that automatically suggests connections, and users have to know the full name of a friend to connect with them.
This isn’t to say that Jet.me is completely closed to anyone besides kids and their parents. Other parties, including brands and celebrities, can join the network and connect with young fans after they have been reviewed and approved by the network’s administrators; again, their profiles and any content they share are also visible to parents.Jet.me has some competition from an established player in kid’s media: in August Disney launched Disney Mix, a chat app for kids and tweens.