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Everloop: Training Tweens to Become Digital Citizens

A few weeks ago, I caught wind of an intriguing site called Everloop.com. After checking it out and doing my research, I was incredibly impressed. Everloop is an incredibly fun, secure social media site designed for kids. The site provides tweens a safe, censored environment to learn about the unwritten rules of online social interaction. The experience heavily involves parents and gives moms and dads the power to decide what their kids can and can’t post. Inappropriate interactions are stopped before they happen and kids (and parents) can avoid incredibly embarrassing situations.

Hilary DeCesare, Co-Founder and CEO of Everloop.com (not to mention a digital child and parenting expert), took a few moments to share Everloop’s mission and how the site is literally changing young lives. If you’re a fan of ABC’s hit show “Secret Millionaire,” you may already be familiar with Hilary’s story as well as the idea behind Everloop.com.

MHM: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background as a mamapreneur?

Hilary: I’m not sure a man could really do what we do [laughs]. I went to school in Colorado and then I ended up staring at Xerox. I did Xerox for a little bit then went to Oracle and did ten years at Oracle. During that time was fortunate enough to end up getting pregnant immediately with twins. It was kind of crazy because I wasn’t expecting to be a mom quite so soon and I was kind of doing the whole “climbing up the ladder” thing.

When I left Oracle I decided that what I really was passionate about was helping other CEOs to get their businesses off the ground. I wanted to help them put strategic framework around their businesses. I spent five years with another mamapreneur and we had great success and at that same time my kids started to grow into that tween phase.

MHM: Can you tell us what inspired you to create Everloop?

Hilary: I’ve always been passionate about technology – I love it. I think parents have this fear of, “Oh my gosh! I’m not really that familiar with it – how do I get my kids to be digital citizens when I don’t know it.” There’s the fear of the unknown.

So, with two other mamapreneurs, we created Everloop a year and a half ago. It was designed to be that first step into the internet. It has the best features of Facebook, the best features of Twitter, the best features of YouTube. We kind of pulled it all together. So far I have to say that I’m incredibly pleased because the timing was so relevant. Kids are getting themselves in trouble.

MHM: What does Everloop offer for the young audience to which it caters?

Hilary: What we’ve really said to parents is that you want your kids on their own social network. It’s not that fun to be on a social network with your grandma and your mom and all her friends and your friends. [laughs] When your grandma says, “Honey, what a great soccer match!” All the sudden [their tween] friends will start to heckle them. Give them their own place.

MHM: Why is Everloop safer than other social media sites?

Hilary: So, what we did on the ground level is we actually engaged some of the top experts in the field around the laws that are out there. There’s a law called COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) and these people are experts in making sure that sites are safe. We made sure to engage these people while we were building the product. There are multiple levels of security set up. It starts with registration and then we also block profanity, cyber bullying, personal information from kids when they are posting it.

So not only is it a safe site, it’s also moderated and we’re teaching them about behaviors that take time to learn. By the time they finally get into the “Wild Wild West” of the open internet they actually then remember, “I shouldn’t have done that. Oh, I can’t do that.”

Kids are making horrific mistakes on Facebook, they’re posting things on Twitter. They are doing things they shouldn’t do. We have had numerous experiences where kids have made mistakes on Everloop. But, guess what? It was blocked before it was posted. If these things had been posted on a site like Facebook, it could have led to a firestorm. I could tell you stories – unbelievably awful. These kids could have been chastised, they could have been bashed and bullied and it never goes away. So, what we do is, we block those and have to contact parents. We have gotten numerous thank you cards.

MHM: Parents aren’t aware that their children are often sneaking onto Twitter, Facebook, etc. Could you tell about the parental controls and involvement Everloop offers.

Hilary: First off, we make sure parents are completely separate. As a parent of three, I still want to be the parent that decides if my child can post pictures. Which picture? I want to make sure that I’m the one who decides what loops – loops are groups – what loops they join. I want to be kept in the loop. There’s no parent out there who wants to be out of the loop.

What we have done with our parent panel, first off, it has kind of morphed into a place where parents can go where they can feel like they have have a say in their digital kids’ lives. What we want to do is make sure that their is no parent out there that is out of the loop and that there is a kid that says, “My mom gets this. She understands what is going on.” Where [the mom] may have no clue, we’ve made her into this empowered body [laughs] just by her being able to go into the dashboard and look and decide with the click of a button what their kids can do on Everloop.

MHM: If you could name the top 2 or 3 reasons parents should consider getting their kids an Everloop account, what would those be?

Hilary: What we’ve really said to parents is you want your kids on their own social network. In their own world – their own home base. Give them their own place. It’s the cool place for kids.

MHM: Is there any memorable feedback you’ve received from parents that has really made you thankful this venture a gratifying one for you as a parent?

Hilary: When you start a company, there’s always a mission. You want to make sure you keep going back to your mission because it’s easy to get distracted. One of the things we wanted to make sure we were doing was that we were educating kids in a non-invasive way. If you hammer kids over the head, they are going to be like, “This isn’t a cool site!”

We have received numerous thank you notes [from parents]. We took one child off because there was a racial slur. After  within a couple weeks the parent reviewed it, after the daughter apologized we let her back on and that child is now one of our top digital citizens. She is owning the site.

That’s where you start to get the goose bumps because you’re delivering a fun place for kids to be and at the same time they are getting themselves ready for that much bigger experience in the world.

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If your tween uses a smartphone, an Everloop app is in the works! It should be hitting the app store sometime this fall.
Hannah Camacho is an educator, mom to three wonderful children ages 3 and younger and proud wife of an Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran. She has been a BlogHer featured tech blogger and is very involved in the world of mobile app marketing and PR when she’s not chasing her three busy little ones.

10 Reasons Work at Home Moms should be on Twitter

Thanks to Christie Ingram for this informative post on Twitter. Christie is a new mom and now a work at home mom.  She blogs about being a WAHM and productivity tips and tricks at WAHM Hacks and can also be heard on Work at Home Moms Talk Radio. You can follow Christie at http://twitter.com/ChristieIngram

If you haven’t heard about Twitter by now, you are probably from a different planet, so I welcome you to Planet Earth. Everybody is all a twitter about Twitter, you cannot get away from Twitter-talk. The short definition of Twitter is a micro blogging platform where you can send out a message of 140 characters or less to your followers.

WAHMs should definitely be active on Twitter and here is why:

1. Everyone is on Twitter, or they will be joining today or tomorrow. And by everyone, I mean your customers, potential customers and your competition. If you are not on Twitter, you are not getting the attention of your customers, and your competition is.

Say it to my face…book?

I consider myself to be rather in-touch with what’s going on around me. I have over 400 “friends” on my personal Facebook Account. I have a bunch of people that I email, instant message/chat, text, or call on a regular basis. I try to stay on top of what’s going on with my friends, and I try to keep them appraised of the situation here.

I call, text, or email important things to top-priority people, and most everything gets shared on my blog at one point or another. On the flip-side, I’m easy to contact. I recently got a new BlackBerry, and she rarely leaves my side. I check email, Facebook, and Twitter from my phone. MY. PHONE. My, how times have changed!

I have pretty much all the communication bases fully covered.

So, imagine my surprise one day when I discover, purely by a random course of events, that one of our closest friends is engaged.

Engaged!?

Did he tell me in the myriads of text messages we’d had going back and forth the day before? No. Did he tell me in an email? No. Did he tell me in one of the phone conversations we’d had that week? No.

A friend of a friend saw it on our friend’s Facebook relationship status.

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the intricacies of Facebook, you can set a status that will broadcast to everyone, and you can also plug in information that is static on the site. It just sits there for everyone to see if they go to your page (Name, Hometown, Relationship Status, etc.). THIS is where he announced his engagement.

I couldn’t believe it, and because we are such close friends, I’ve given him unending grief about it, too. (His mom is on Facebook, and he claims to have told her before she saw it on there. I can only hope that’s true.)

“I had to learn this information on Facebook!?” I said to him when he finally called me. “I guess I see where I rank…”

I tried really hard to let this slide, to ignore the tenderness of my feelings, but this isn’t the first time this has happened to me.

This situation conjured up feelings from the not-so-distant past. A bunch of things like this have started happening in my circle of friends, and I’m wondering if this trend is here to stay. For example, I found out via Facebook about the birth of a close friend’s baby. Even though we’d been calling and emailing back and forth before her due-date, she opted not to send out a mass email or give us a call. She chose Facebook as her means of communication, and because I have so many friends to sort through on there, I’d missed the announcement until days had gone by. (In all fairness, it’s not her fault I have so many status updates to sort through.) I wished I would have been told directly so that I could have helped them celebrate sooner. Still, I tried to set my feelings aside and be happy to see pictures of her new little one so quickly.

We all have different “types” of friends, so I can understand finding out some of these things if the personal connection isn’t as strong. For example, I’m “friends” on Facebook with people I haven’t seen in 17 years (or longer!). I wouldn’t expect a phone call or a personal email about something that is happening to them, and vice versa. I enjoy reading Facebook statuses about what’s going on in their world.

Of course there are exceptions to these little rules I have in my head. When my dad was in a car accident last year, I put it out onto Facebook, and the overwhelming response I got from people warmed my heart. Things were happening so quickly, and I was glad to have a quick way to keep people updated.

Just the other day, in fact, one of my friends used her Twitter account to alert us about an accident in her family, and I wasn’t the least bit offended. It was a call of action, so to speak, and we rallied around her.

To me, that’s different. As devastating as an accident is, it’s in a different category than a “monumental event” like a birth, engagement, or death. When I find out something monumental about a close friend at the same time as their mother’s best friend’s daughter? I feel less important.

There. I said it.

All this being said, I think I’ve figured it out. I am just as important as I was before to my friends. People are just excited to announce the news to the whole world in the most efficient way possible. Social Media has become the Great Equalizer amongst the recipients of information. I either need to let go of my old way of seeing things or risk having my feelings hurt again and again.

Have Social Media tools like Facebook changed the face of communication, and/or do any of the old-school rules still apply? Do I need to unlearn all the “rules of communication” that are so ingrained in my psyche? And, more importantly, is there an app. for that? 😉

So, what do you think? How do you prefer to send and receive important information?