Who cares about privacy? How a private social media app is evolving.

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It was a year ago this month that my team and I launched Frienedy.  We’ve learned a tremendous amount along the way about generational differences in terms of technology adoption and who truly values privacy.  Suffice it to say we’ve been thoroughly surprised.  This post highlights some of our journey and our findings over the past year since our launch.  Social media has given new life and consideration to what privacy means, and how people wish to interact online to maintain their privacy.

The beginning…

Six years ago, there was an 11-year old girl who was given an iPhone so that she could text her parents when she needed to be picked up from gymnastics practice. She was a competitive gymnast, spending many hours each week in the gym. The phone was to be a convenience for her parents, but ultimately opened a door to a brand new world.   She was a very smart girl, sweet, easy to parent and always the rule follower. So, her parents didn’t worry about what was taking place on her phone. Why should they? She’s under their roof, safe. She was a good girl. Unfortunately, the strangers she was exposed to on Instagram also assumed she was a good girl. Savvier and even more technically proficient than today’s tween, predators love to find young, innocent blood online. So easy to lure, becoming victims of their own innocence before they realize what happened- and that’s exactly what happened.

RRRRRRRRIIIIINNNNGGGGG- that’s the wakeup call that was far more chilling than my alarm clock going off at 4 am. I couldn’t be the only parent experiencing this!!!! I wasn’t. Research pointed to staggering statistics about cyber predators finding victims through their own social media accounts- or those of their parents.

How crazy easy is it for the wrong person to figure out exactly where you or your child is through the metadata embedded in a photo you posted?! Or for your child to post something casually, innocently, unaware of the information he/she was giving away to the wrong person? Or…for a perfect stranger to befriend them by insisting they used to go to school or play on the same team together or suggesting they play an innocent game with emojis for awards.

I poured myself into research, absorbing statistics around how many kids are online, how old they are when they establish social media accounts, what they do online, and how much time they spend online daily. I found studies that suggested kids spend up to 11 hours per day on average behind a screen, and that more than half of kids are likely to have already established a social media account by age 10. I found studies that showed the high percentage of cyber predators who find their victims through the victims’ own social media sites…or those of their parents.

Fast forward to today.

It was simple. What I envisioned as a need for every parent, teacher, coach, group leader and human who valued their privacy and wanted to manage all of the groups in their lives in a single place did not exist.  We needed a private social media app, a place where you could organize all of the groups in your life separately.

It was a year ago this month that my team and I launched a new private social experience, a mobile friendly website and iOS app that is compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and designed for users of all ages to communicate in private groups.

From the time I was able to establish the business partnerships that would lead to the necessary funding for this revolutionary platform, I immersed myself into the process of creating our company, so confident that every parent and adult in America was waiting with baited breath for our app.

We assembled designers, developers, legal, accounting, and accomplished business mentors. We worked 24/7 and then some through nearly 2 years and two beta test groups. And we put it out there. Version 1. Here it is. Who wants it? Who sees value in it?

Surprise.

At first, we aggressively marketed to schools, family groups, and sports teams believing this would be the best way to build a large user base. Our site was built as the ideal application for classrooms, sports teams, families, clubs, and groups of friends. But, a crazy thing happened. Something we never expected that would ultimately cause us to evolve, re-focus our marketing efforts and move aggressively to launch version 2.0 under a completely new product name to a different demographic market.

What I learned about “us”.

OK, so let me establish who “us” is. I’m a parent of two teen daughters. The “us” is all of my fellow parents out there. The parent tribe. The mama and papa bears guarding their cubs from predators and danger.

I began receiving requests to present to schools, parent groups, and clubs. I spent a tremendous amount of time speaking with parents about their feelings regarding their children and social media and educating them about risks as well as how to model and teach kids to be smart digital citizens. Over and over, I would hear…

“I’m terrified about him/her getting on social media.”

“Mine are only 9 and 8- we aren’t there yet.” (Right…)

“My daughter doesn’t use social media.” (She’s 14- I’m pretty sure she does and you are clueless.)

“My kid is on his/her device CONSTANTLY- I don’t know how to get him/her OFF.”

“Thank you for creating Frienedy, it’s about time someone did this!”

-OR-

Crickets…from the parents whose kids were actively tweeting their way into trouble and out of scholarships, off teams, and out of jobs.

My generation (of 40 somethings) didn’t grow up with social media. It’s still somewhat new to us- a convenient new world of opportunity to reconnect with high school friends we haven’t seen for years- without having to wait for the reunion. It’s also a way to connect socially with everyone we become acquainted with (in many cases). When Facebook first grabbed hold of my generation, we shared. WAAAYYYY too much. We became oh so casual about our personal lives, thinking certainly everyone on our “friends” list would want to know what we ate for breakfast, where we were vacationing, what restaurant we were eating at, how high little Tyler’s fever has been or photos of his rash we want advice for treating. Some of us mistook the “status update” to read “online diary- please spill the beans here.”

Our “friends” networks grew to the hundreds, and pretty soon that social network was a mix of friends, family, friends of friends, someone we met on a trip, co-workers, and acquaintances we met somewhere along the way.

But, we weren’t the first adopters of this “new” technology we call social media. We tend to jump on board at the very end of when our kids have already discovered, engaged with, and mastered various social media apps. What’s old news to them (Facebook) is right smack dab in the middle of our social feeds. Our kids are 4 steps ahead of us- they’ve passed us up. They’re on SnapChat and Instagram at age 8. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to make up a birthdate.

So where does that leave us?

There are 2 answers to that question.

As parents:

There are some parents who get it and some who keep their heads in the sand, or just pretend they get it. Those who get it will have kids who get scholarships, get into the schools they choose, get jobs. Those who don’t will wonder why their kid didn’t make the team. Or, they will be the ones who cry ‘victim’ when their daughter’s nude photos she Snapchatted to her boyfriend end up all over Twitter or Facebook.

As a private group networking platform originally designed for parents:

We have an awesome following of parents, teachers, coaches, families and group leaders who understand and embrace the value of a new generation of private social media. However, we’ve seen that our early adopters and users who truly, genuinely value privacy is not “us,” the parent tribe.

Not at all. We say we care about privacy, but we are the ones posting too many details on Facebook about our kids, or because we think our “private” group is really a safe place to expose our lives to strangers.

Who cares about privacy…

It’s today’s college students and twenty somethings- the first generation to grow up with social media and to be told over and over again to be careful about what they post.   It’s these young people who have made mistakes or watched their friends and acquaintances make mistakes, lose jobs, get cyberbullied, and stress over pointless drama.

It’s this specific demographic that seems to crave privacy and who values the ability to keep their online lives private and safe from unintended eyes and judgment.

They view yesterday’s social media as overwhelming, risky, a time suck and distracting. They’ve moved on to apps that are private as well as apps that enable them to share selectively and intelligently so they can maintain the integrity of their privacy and their reputations.   They seek apps that allow them to organize, communicate with, and plan events around groups of people they actually know.

For them, we are grateful. From them, we are inspired.

For them and for our awesome tribe of Frienedy users, stay tuned for a giant leap to our next version coming at the end of this month. Game changingly social, private, and simple to organize everything in your life.

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