Will 'Social Looping' Help Tweens Stay Safe Online?

From identity thieves to hackers to stalkers to third-party trackers, the list of online privacy concerns for social media users goes on and on...and on. There's a new network out there that bills itself as a "social looping platform," promising a safer social networking experience. The site is designed for "tweens," but can 'social looping' save us all?

From identity thieves to hackers to stalkers to third-party trackers, the list of online privacy concerns for social media users goes on and on…and on. There’s a new network out there that bills itself as a “social looping platform,” promising a safer social networking experience. The site is designed for “tweens,” but can ‘social looping’ save us all?

The new site, Everloop, is designed for tweens ages 8 to 13, using a social “looping” technology that, its founders say, “was specifically designed as an alternative to open social networks like Facebook.”

Described as, “intertwined micro-networks,” the “loops” create a privacy zone around kids’ social network connections online. Inside the “loop,” kids can have the “Facebook experience,” communicating with friends in real-time, playing games, posting pictures, sharing comments and personalizing and decorating their profile.

Everloop, launched just this month, is one of many new family-centric social networks that aim to stay deliberately closed, just as Facebook once was. A service called Neer uses location-based alerts and a bright, tiled interface to shrink down social networking to users’ innermost circle of family and friends. Others, like Edmodo, are offered for in-school use only.

While Everloop was built for kids, it keeps parents very much in the loop. Verified parental permission, including a credit card, is required to join. As part of the ‘social looping’ model, parents get a notification when kids collect new “connections,” the network’s equivalent of Facebook friends. Parents can select which of their child’s actions on the site they would like to be notified about, and have the option to restrict features like IM and friend suggestions.

Loops featured on the site include communities of common interest (art, science, culture, reading, sports, current affairs etc.), applications for the creation of digital art, music, social games, videos, photos, animation, premium content e-storefront, user-generated content, and other online learning experiences.

The “looping” model does not allow kids to post information that could identify them to strangers, and prevents bullying and inappropriate behavior. All activity on the site is also monitored by the company 24/7 to prevent inappropriate behavior.

These features make the site compatible with The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which prohibits websites from collecting information from children under the age of 13 without parental consent. Everloop is using that seal of approval to spread its appeal, landing a partnership with Internet safety education program i-Safe that will bring the platform into about 56,000 schools this April.

The question, of course, is whether sites like Everloop can prove their worth and their “cool factor” to kids, the most plugged-in, Facebook-friendly demographic. And, more broadly, would Everloop’s “social looping” model ever appeal to social media users of all ages, who have typically shown they are fearful of their privacy online, but reluctant to give up any of their online freedoms?

Tell us what you think. Will the platform persuade kids to move from Facebook to Everloop?   Would you buy into a “social looping” social network?