Research assistance for this post was provided by my daughter Kara (pictured below)
This month we interviewed Malcolm Bird, CEO of child-directed video site Viddiverse. Since we reviewed their competitor batteryPOP last week, we’ll say up front that the principal difference from a parents’ point of view is that Viddiverse allows kids (if parents approve) to upload their own videos, whereas batteryPOP does not.
Bird created Viddiverse and launched it in June 2014 with a couple of very specific issues that in his view were in need of solving:
“A video site for parents who don’t want their kids under 13 going to an open social network”
“Kids want to upload their own videos”
I know that the second above is true; my 7 year-old daughter was in the habit of asking me at least once a week if she could make a video and upload it to YouTube. The answer had been “no” to date, and it goes without saying that allowing a child to post videos is fraught with risk – principally the risk that she posts personally identifying information and by doing so is overly exposed to predators or cyberbullies.
The site, targeted toward the 8 – 13 crowd, features a mix of professionally produced videos and user-generated content (UGC). I signed my daughter up for an account and told her to watch some videos and see whether anything there interested her. She watched 4 or 5 videos and told me that the content is very good.
As a parent, it’s nice to know that the content on Viddiverse is engaging, but my primary concern is whether it is safe. Let’s take a look:
- The site is compliant with COPPA (the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act), so parents should be confident that kids will be protected from advertisers and that their data is safe
- The only personally identifying information the site collects at signup is whether the user is a boy or girl
- The child must provide a parent email at signup, and the parent is required to pre-approve the account
- The parent’s identity is verified by requiring a $1 donation via credit card to a charity. This is a nice touch as the problem of a child posing as a parent is one that is often left unaddressed
- When a user submits a video, moderators review the content almost immediately to screen for age-appropriateness and safety issues
- There is a “report abuse” function prominently displayed below each video
- The site allows users to comment on videos, but comments are screened by software that flags and removes adult language and cyberbullying
- Parents have the option of receiving an email each time their child posts a video, and are able to change account permissions at any time
Overall, Viddiverse strikes a good compromise between providing content and features that appeal to pre teens and managing safety concerns. There are, however, a couple of areas that may prove tricky:
- As the site attracts more users, it will be a daunting challenge to effectively screen each uploaded video in a timely fashion. Not impossible, though
- While Bird states that cyberbullying has not yet been an issue in the comments section, if the user experience at YouTube is any indication, it will be at some point
The company is not disclosing its number of users or website traffic numbers yet, but Bird claims that engagement has been good, with users are spending about 15 minutes on the site per visit. Viddiverse looks like a very safe option for pre teens, especially those with a flair for publishing their own content. Viddiverse lets them do it safely, and keeps parents in control.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.