Boy's social-networking, kid-friendly site takes off,

12:00 PM, Dec 28, 2012   |    comments
Kicked off Facebook by his parents, Zach Marks, 12, of Melbourne Beach enlisted the aid of his siblings and created his own kid-friendly ? and safe ? site called (MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY)
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(FLORIDA TODAY) -- Last year, 11-year-old Zach Marks of Melbourne Beach earned the ire of his parents for going behind their backs and playing on Facebook.

When they discovered Zach's actions and his exposure to some of the more unseemly elements of the popular social network, he was banned from Facebook.

So like any intelligent youth up-to-date on technology and in touch with his peers' interests, Zach, now 12, enlisted the aid of his siblings and created his own kid-friendly - and safe - version of Facebook called Grom, by the way, is a young surfer, which pretty much describes Zach and his five brothers and sisters. They created all the characters on the site and direct most of the content.

Zach's father, Darren Marks, founder of an energy drink and food company based in South Florida, immediately saw the potential for GromSocial in the multibillion-dollar social media market and officially registered it as a company in March.

After officially launching nearly three months ago, GromSocial has 6,800 members around the world. The site gets about 2,000 unique visitors a day and 6,000 or so page views. In the vast online world, that's a modest amount perhaps. So far, it's built on modest marketing, mostly word of mouth. "It has just started to catch on," Darren Marks said. "It's amazing how this is all happening and taking off."

He and wife, Sarah, let the kids be in charge of the creative side while they, as watchful parents, work to ensure that it meets all the standards for safety. The latter includes complying with, and mostly exceeding, safety requirements established by the Federal Trade Commission's Children Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA.) GromSocial also received an "A" rating by the Electronic Trust Foundation, an international organization that promotes privacy and security in the online community.

Facebook has restricted users younger than 13, though it's considering lowering that to attract more users now that it's a publicly-traded company. However, underage users can easily work around that policy and many parents even assist their children in creating Facebook accounts.


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