Last week, we sat down with Hilary DeCesare to talk about Everloop, the new leading social network for teens, pre-teens and tweens.
As CEO and co-founder of Everloop, Hilary won the prestigious 2010 DEMOgod emerging technology award. (We worshipped her demigod-ability to appear radiantly cheerful fresh off the plane from Cali.) She has also won a Parent’s Choice Award and Edison Invention award and was listed as one of AlwaysOn’s Top 25 Women to Watch in Tech.
With issues of internet safety rising alongside increases in technology, Hilary and fellow mothers were concerned that kids be able to publish selectively – to share information with just soccer friends or gymnastics friends or friends on the football team, for instance.
As a mother of two with cousins on the opposite coast, she wanted to give her children a means to share photos, without having to share them across “everything.” She and co-f0unders Kim Bruce and Paige McCullough came up with the pre-Google circle concept of “loops” that did exactly that. By placing kids in different loops according to age and interest, Everloop allows a large range of users to safely populate and maximize the site, while also creating a space for parents.
We spoke with Hilary about trends in online social networking and parents’ role in helping their children navigate the online world:
Eight is the minimum age for Everloop?
It’s not—it’s interesting. It’s 15 and under. We initially thought to say eight because eight seems to be the year that, in school, kids start to formally express themselves with sentences. But what’s happening is that technology is scaling down so much—parents are giving their 2-year-olds iPads and saying, “Just play with this right now.” So these kids are so much more advanced.
We have a massive amount of kids now on it that are 11, 12, 13. I would have [thought that] those thirteen-year-olds are still on Facebook—what’s happening is that they’re doing both. Because of loops, you can have young kids and old kids. There’s a writing loop, right, for kids who love to write – well what happens is we populate different loops: you’re a girl and you’re 12; you’re a girl and you’re seven; you’re a boy and you’re 13.
We have dating loops now. The dating world has changed. Communication in kids is no longer what we’ve seen. We’re trying to keep kind of the youthfulness of it within the loops. [Kids] can give [each other] little gifts – we call them “goobs.” There’s this one that’s the kissy goob – that’s what girls now are sending boys. It’s innocent play. We’re bringing back the ability, again, to keep kids kids longer.
What are the staple features of the website?
Where we started as the social platform for tweens, we now are really the safe communication platform across all devices. It’s interesting because parents want—when their kids are on their cellphones, when their kids are using a tablet, when their kids are on other sites—to make sure that their kids are behaving in the way that they would be proud of them right because it’s a direct reflection of a parent and how you’ve raised your child if your child is swearing, text-talking negatively, cyberbullying…
Parents now are looking at us. [They] use Everloop because [they say] “Everloop is going to help me manage my children in the digital world so that I can be proud of them.”
[It’s] still the underlying social platform, but it’s taken on new meaning.
Parents can approve friend requests, yes? How do you navigate having parents “intrude” on this space?
It would be a horrible environment if you had your parents right there with you. We really think that there has to be a separation, and we want it to be a homebase for kids, but we also want it to be homebase for parents.
[My son] knows that online I have a presence, but he can still go do something—he knows that I’m at least aware. I’m not this blinders-on type of parent—you can’t be today. Kids are getting themselves into trouble and we’re seeing it on Everloop, kids are posting things they shouldn’t, but we block it. We block it before it can embarrass them on Facebook or get them in trouble.
What is it that parents should be aware of?
I think that the hard thing is that parents don’t really understand what cyberbullying really is. In some states you can be suspended, expelled—and they don’t know the rules behind it.
Other companies can customize their own social networks through Everloop?
Yes, they can have their own loop. This is really important because, with kids, to have kids come to your site – if you haven’t updated it, changed it, made it cool for them, it takes a great deal to get them back again, so what we allow for – Metel for instance, has a fantastic show; it’s a webisode called Monster High. Monster High and Metel thought Everloop was so great because when one of their webisodes comes out, they can actually post to the kids that are in their group, their loop, and say “Come watch the new webisode” versus [having] kids continuing to check back [and finding that] there’s nothing new.
Any plans for the near future of Everloop?
We pre-announced our mobile, and that’s coming in the next few weeks. It’s the first time that a social platform will be on a mobile device for kids, which is just great—again, I’m crossing over platforms.
Follow Melissa Wiley via RSS.