Parents wanting to safely introduce their children to the Internet have a number of choices these days. Sites like Club Penguin and Moshi Monsters present cartoon environments for kids to explore, while schools have a number of Virtual Learning Environments to choose from. Taking a different approach is Dizeo, which can be best described as “Facebook for beginners” crossed with an after school club.
Aimed at ages 8 to 13, the site offers similar features to Facebook but emphasises safe social networking by pre-moderating every single interaction on the site. Additionally, specialist tutors based at the Dizeo office are employed to help with children’s homework queries. Founder Christopher McCann says that all staff are carefully screened via Enhanced Disclosure Checks and given child protection training.
As a social network wrapped in cotton wool, this all sounds very honourable and McCann seems confident that despite the heavy staffing requirements, the service can scale. Charging a fee of £7.99 per month (with discounts for extra children per family and for committing to a year’s access) probably helps, although the first 1000 users get to use the service free for three months.
McCann admits that marketing the service has been “Quite a challenge” to date, as “A lot of parents who might sign up for this won’t be convinced by just advertising”. Dizeo, which launched two weeks ago, is channelling its efforts into building relationships with local authorities, PTAs and independent schools around the UK. The startup, bootstrapped to the tune of £100,000, is also carrying out a billboard and leafleting campaign in its native Scotland.
As a concept, Dizeo sounds like a potential winner with parents and teachers. Whether they’re prepared to pay for it, and whether the ultra-safe, pre-moderated environment chimes with the children themselves remains to be seen.