Facebook was slammed last month for suggesting an Instagram for kids under 13, but a social-media app for the 3-12 demo is attracting more positive attention.
Zigazoo launched last summer, when the pandemic made shelter-at-home the status quo. The app's goal is to encourage healthy social-media habits, predicated on more engaging pursuits.
In fact, Zigazoo co-founders, former elementary school teachers Zak and Leah Ringelstein, developed the app to provide safe, interactive fare for their own children.
Zigazoo’s 30-second videos are created by an array of sources — museums, teachers, musicians, among others — to stimulate kids with singing, dancing and social engagement. Kids get to ask questions, such as: What do you want to be when you grow up? What’s on your mind?
They are then welcome to share their responses with Zigazoo friends or the site’s 120,000 subscribers.
Brands from the Philadelphia Zoo to Netflix are also in on the action. It’s meant to be fun, but encourage curiosity. For instance, kids can watch Netflix’s “Chico Bon Bon,” a show in which cute vignettes address subjects, such as downhill acceleration, to make learning interesting. Similarly, a Peanuts challenge highlights how users can pursue ecological efforts on Earth Day.
That premise should help allay fears of worried parents and children’s advocates, who voice concerns about mind-numbing content where kids don’t communicate with others or ideas. Zigazoo says its platform has grown 100% since early 2021, recording 20 million video views to date, most from this year.
Also, on Zigazoo Classrooms, teachers have the option to create private classroom communities and moderate content.
The upshot? Some $4 million in funding was raised April 22; celebrity investors include Jimmy Kimmel and Serena Williams.
“Existing social-media sites were not necessarily designed with young children in mind and require parental supervision to make sure kids only consume content intended for their age group,” Williams, the mother of a 3-year-old daughter, told CNN Business in an email. “Kids-first platforms like Zigazoo are important because safety is in their DNA, and content is specifically developed to meet children's social and emotional needs.”
Then again, this isn’t the Ringelsteins' first time in the social-media pool. The couple sold Dropbox-for-education platform UClass to Renaissance Learning, a Google Capital Company, six years ago.
Moderators also work to ensure language is clean and content is free of“shoving, throwing, anger, yelling, bullying, sarcasm, or sulking,” according to company policy.
That’s a criticism Facebook has faced.
In March, the social network announced Instagram had to do more to protect teens from abuse, bullying and predators. It’s why some voiced concern when Vishal Shah, Instagram’s vice president of product, wrote a blog saying: “I’m excited to announce that going forward, we have identified youth work as a priority for Instagram and have added it to our H1 priority list.”
Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, told BuzzFeed News: “We have to do a lot here, but part of the solution is to create a version of Instagram for young people or kids where parents have transparency or control. It’s one of the things we’re exploring,” he said.
OK, but Instagram, first and foremost, is feeding a business interest — hooking kids early, then moving them to adult platforms. The underlying premise is one of commerce: Social interaction is something to monetize.
While Zigazoo is also a business enterprise, downloaded by the App Store or Google play, the format and ethos are different. And in an age of digital overload, that’s something.