A new social network for the middle school set has set up some hefty safety features that could make the Internet safer than the quad at lunchtime. In compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), WhatsWhat.me aims to create a secure and bully-free zone for pre-teens between the ages of seven and thirteen with a combination of adult supervision and facial recognition technology.
“It concerns me that we teach kids how to cross the street but not how to behave online,” said Vincent Cannistraro, WhatsWhat.me (Beta) CEO and founder in a statement.
On WhatsWhat, professional moderators will enforce a set of community rules and anti-cyberbullying policies in order to, as it was worded so perfectly in the press release, “turn online mistakes into teachable moments.” The kids will also have a “Report it!” button for tattling and an “approve comments” function to prevent unwanted posts from frenemies, which most social nets already have, but this one doesn’t need to be opted into.
To deter elderly creeps from impersonating minors, kids register using their webcams to create a “MeKey” that will recognize their features during log-in using a patent-pending, biometric facial recognition technology. The photos are encrypted and stored on secure servers. Students are only allowed to befriend other members one grade level above or below their own, unless their parents give them permission.
Parents must also participate on the site by registering their kids with a credit card. The membership fee for kids is $3.95 per month or $29.95 per year. A Parent Resource Center offers a glossary of online jargon such as “lurkers” and “poking,” as well as a question and answer forum with internet safety expert Katie LeClerc Greer. Said Greer, “our mission is to reach and proactively teach kids about positive online conduct in a safe, secure, kids-only environment, which we’ve developed carefully through technology, human moderation and enforceable community rules.”
Cannistraro, the site’s founder, is a former mechanical contractor and COO of JC Cannistraro, LLC. A father of three pre-teenage children, he got the idea for WhatsWhat from an Internet safety presentation at his kids’ school in Lincoln, Massachussets.