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Kicked off Facebook, pre-teen creates his own social network

Grom Social Inc.

Eleven-year-old Grom creator Zachary Marks says on the site that he looked for a "kid's social network that was safe and cool. I did not find any that looked interesting to me. They were all childish."

By Ben Weitzenkorn, TechNewsDaily

If you can't join it, create your own.

That's the attitude one Florida preteen ran with after his parents banned him from using Facebook. Instead of begging or slamming doors when his account was deactivated, the 11-year-old launched his own social network tailored specifically to children.

Grom Social founder Zachary Marks had a Facebook account for roughly a week despite being two years too young to join the site, having lied about his age to create an account. And when his parents discovered that he may have been engaging in risky online activities, they pulled the plug.

"I spent all my time on the computer chatting with friends. Then, I made mistakes," Marks explained on the Grom Social About page. "One of my adult friends cursed and posted something inappropriate, and I cursed back. Also, I friend-requested grownups who I did not know. About a day later, my dad found out. He was really mad. I had to deactivate my account."

Marks said he wasn't interested in any existing, kid-friendly, social networks — "They were all childish," he said — so he set out to create one for "Groms," a slang term for young surfers that he repurposed to mean something close to "precocious kid."

In order to keep kid members safe, only parents and parent-approved adults can join Grom Social. Parents of kid members are kept up to date on their youngster's online activities via email. The site also has a built-in language filter to keep the expletives from flying straight into kids' virgin eyes.

Grom Social is also compliant with COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, a controversial law aimed at keeping kids safe online that some argue is ineffective and unconstitutionally limits children's First Amendment rights.

Under COPPA, websites, apps and plug-ins are not allowed to collect information from children less than 13 years old without their parent's express consent. The burden of verification, however, simply isn't worth it to most mainstream social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Foursquare, so they ban members under 13.

To date, Grom Social has almost 7,000 members and is open to users under 15 in the United States and Canada.

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