PopJam, the UK’s latest social media app for children is being hailed as a success after achieving its 1 million download milestone and launching in the US and Canada.
What has PopJam got right?
PopJam only allows kids to access it during a curfew, based on their time zone, which is a clever way of ensuring kids are not sneaking onto the app after hours, engaging in unsupervised activities. Focus on creative content is also big, which proves a hit with the young users, while daily challenges encourage engagement and interactivity with creativity.
Unfortunately, that may be all PopJam has got right.
What has PopJam got wrong?
The app requires no validation to sign up and create an account. No email is required, no age verification, no parental approval, no limits on the amount of accounts you can create. Even Reddit has a more robust sign up procedure, blocking repeated sign ups from the same IP address on the same day.
PopJam confuses Parents
PopJam tells parents their children CAN’T upload or share selfies or images revealing their faces. They even say it on their parent page –
So it must be true, right?
Wrong. Sorry, parents, this is a very misleading lie.
Within 24 hours of creating an account, Kerfuffled was able to post a selfie, with no stickers or drawings to disguise ourselves. But how is this possible, I hear you cry? Well, simply because there is an upload function to post photos or selfies, despite the blurb above reassuring parents of the opposite.
There is nothing stopping your child uploading a photo of themselves on PopJam. Kerfuffled found several images of children within minutes of creating an account. When challenging PopJam on this worrying fact, they had this response –
Ah, so it’s a question of semantics. By telling parents that their children CAN NOT post selfies, what PopJam actually means is, children are NOT ALLOWED to post selfies.
But by providing children with the functional ability to post images, they are definitley allowing selfies, despite still reassuring parents that children simply CAN NOT do this.
Hmm. Kerfuffled is confused.
PopJam actually encourages children to post images by stating that 100 followers is needed to post your own images and by giving constant prompts to gain more followers to achieve this goal.
No email? No problem, we don’t need to verify who you are
The lack of email verification mean repeated sign ups are extremely easy, so if a cyber bully wanted to keep bullying, the block and report (and presumably ban) features are useless. In a few seconds they have created another new account to continue with their malicious activities. Adding an email into the step would be a deterrent as it is much more time-consuming and tricky to keep creating new email accounts for every new PopJam account you wanted to create.
Aged six or sixty? All welcome in PopJam’s Walled Garden for Kids
Call me naive but I assume that a walled garden for kids is a metaphorical way of saying, bad things can’t get in and bad things can’t get out. Well certainly, the posts, creations and comments children make in PopJam are contained within its ‘Wall’ and cannot be viewed unless you download and sign up to the app, in comparison to public pages on FaceBook for example. (But how many parents allow their children to have public pages on FaceBook?)
However PopJam’s Wall is compromised. Bad things can get in. Adults with no children. Adults who have a sinister interest in children. Nasty bullies who can hide behind the anonymity of the app and lack of ability to track and ban potentially dangerous users.
PopJam is certainly trying to be the new instagram for kids, but is it really socially responsible to be encouraging the ego-driven facade of the adult social media world? Fuelled by desires to rack up followers, likes and a false sense of popularity in a climate where child mental health is on the rise and where we have no real idea the physiological effects these drives have on the fragile egos of children. What effect will it have on children’s self-esteem and how they will deal with the torment of getting no likes on their masterpiece or a comment that says ‘ugly’ on their profile pic? Kerfuffled viewed many selfies that had negative comments under them. Even more worrying were comments like ‘hot’, ‘how old are you?’ and ‘send me your snapchat’. The children posting the selfies looked around eight to ten years old.
PopJam pushes the new concept of stranger-media networking, where people amass hundreds, even thousands of strangers following them, in a bid to emulate their YouTube idols, where everything is about gaining the most likes, views and subscribers. Shouldn’t we be focusing on more socially responsible apps which lead our children into the adult world of social media without the empty desire to have thousands of followers to show the world we are important, worthy and ‘somebody’. Can’t children be allowed to develop their feelings of self-esteem without tech-driven start-ups like PopJam trying to make profit out of children.
Why can’t apps be focused on kindness and creativity, luring them with followers is an instant way to encourage them to follow strangers, and sets their world up for this option when they enter the adult world. It also contradicts what parents will tell children, don’t follow people you don’t know. PopJam kills that advice with the lure of posting an image if you can get 100 followers. Gaining likes would have been a more socially conscious lure.
Mind Candy got it right with Moshi Monsters. The focus was on fun – interactions with real-world friends, meeting up in an online environment, playing games together, visiting each others homes. No selfies allowed.
PopJam is just ego-driven trash which has no other purpose other than to encourage children to follow strangers while pushing the ideology that having tonnes of followers and likes is a priority in life.
This post will be updated as we await further response from PopJam…
Hint: we may be waiting a while.