For many parents, one of the biggest concerns about children joining social media networks such as Facebook and MySpace is the danger of meeting online predators. However instead of restricting children from signing up with such networks, LittleLives founder Ho Sun believes that a better solution would be to come up with a social media network created specially for children. The key point is that a teacher acts as a gatekeeper for the network.
Private Communities For Children
Noting the void created by Facebook’s age restrictions—at present, children must be at least 13 to sign up for an account and this has resulted in children inflating their age to join the network—Sun saw an opportunity to create something “fun and safe” that children could call their own: “Children are always told they’re too young to sign up for Facebook but with LittleLives, they have something of their own and they can tell their older brothers and sisters that they’re too old for it.”
That said, she will have you know that LittleLives is not simply a Facebook clone for children. Rather, unlike the openness of a Facebook network, each LittleLives network operates as a private community that is unique to itself.
To ensure children’s safety, only teachers are allowed to act as administrators and create communities, meaning that they’re the only ones who get to decide who joins the network and what gets published. Therefore, parents don’t have to worry about their children speaking to strangers when they’re on LittleLives.
But what if someone from outside the community wants to join LittleLives? First, they would have to get the teacher’s approval and even then, they would only be able to read what’s been published.
Children Are The Future
Describing herself as someone who likes to solve problems, the former sales and marketing head of communications solutions company Hello Technology says what spurred her to give up her day job for LittleLives was the desire to help children. “I’ve always been passionate about children and I believe they are the future. Reading about poverty and war in the papers made me want to do something about this. I’m not an activist but I believe in taking action.
“I believe that if you connect kids from different countries, this will help promote understanding and make the world a better place. This is why LittleLives’s motto has always been ‘connecting children from around the world.’”
Helping Teachers Navigate the Social Network
Sun of LittleLives
The idea is to partner with the Students Care Service to provide online professional counseling to prevent cyber bullying and to offer students help via a channel they are familiar with. “The idea is to make it as easy as possible for educators to get on board LittleLives.”
Looking Beyond Singapore
LittleLives currently caters only to primary schools and has 40,000 users. To date, 85 percent of local primary schools have come on board through various channels such as the Ministry of Education (MOE).
The next stop for LittleLives? The United States.
A participant of IDA’s iStart programme, Sun recently returned from Silicon Valley, where apart from participating in workshops and meeting mentors such as The Founder Institute’s Adeo Ressi, she also managed to squeeze in meetings with elementary and pre-schools such as One World Montessori in San Jose and the Discovery Charter School.
Plans are currently underway to launch LittleLives in the US in the middle of next January and Sun tells us that they are also working on a pilot project to connect students from schools in Singapore and the US as pen pals.
In addition, she is also in talks with iRural, an initiative set up by IE Singapore to promote Singapore-based ICT solutions to rural communities in developing countries, to introduce LittleLives to schools in Peru, India and Nepal.
Founded by Sun, the company was funded by pooling together savings, which amounted to six figures. The company currently comprises herself and a minority investor, who she declined to name. Thanks to the numerous projects they have in the pipeline, the company hasn’t had to consider getting VC funding yet.
For now, LittleLives’s biggest challenge is working with limited resources, but Sun is optimistic that the company will succeed.
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