Although studies have highlighted the negative effects of social media on children, kids as young as eight are getting social media accounts.
In 2014, PopJam was launched as a community platform for kids aged seven to 12. While PopJam encourages creativity and has a lot of kid-friendly content, there are some issues with it:
- PopJam encourages engagement through likes and followers. Kids are rewarded for getting more followers, making them more likely to connect with complete strangers.
- There are no parental controls or age verification checks.
- User profiles are public.
- Advertisements on the platform target young kids specifically.
With parental involvement, PopJam can be a safe, fun, and engaging platform. Parents and guardians must educate children on proper online habits and show interest in their online experiences. This will make them more likely to communicate any problems they encounter.
One way to enhance your child’s safety online is by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), like NordVPN. VPNs offer protection from malware attacks, and allow your child to browse the web privately and securely.
In the United States, kids and teenagers are spending more time online than ever before. From playing Minecraft to making TikTok videos, kids as young as eight are now online for a significant part of their day.
For big tech companies, young users are a goldmine. More and more, social media platforms are actively targeting teens and tweens, who may be laxer about privacy. The age restriction that requires social media users to be 13 years or older is rarely enforced.
In 2014, PopJam was launched as “a kids’ version of Instagram.” It is marketed as a moderated community app specifically created for children between seven and 12 years old. Still, parents worry about whether the platform is kid-friendly enough to mitigate the many risks that come with social media use.
In this article, we take a close look at PopJam and provide parents with tips for keeping children safe on social media.
What is PopJam?
PopJam is owned and operated by kid tech specialist SuperAwesome. It is a sharing platform specifically designed for children under the age of 13.
Although it was created for kids, PopJam has many similarities to regular social media platforms. For example, you can create an account, share content, like, and comment on other people’s posts. PopJam distinguishes itself by offering a kid-friendly experience through high levels of moderation and added privacy features.
The purpose of PopJam is to enable children to express themselves creatively online. They can make personal profiles, create and share art, join groups, watch videos, and play PopJam games. The app is free, and there are no in-app purchases.
To keep users engaged, PopJam offers a Daily Challenge: a creative prompt that allows kids to design or decorate an image.
Just like Instagram, PopJammers can share photos, drawings, and images with other users by posting on a personal channel. Content shared by the accounts you follow will appear on a feed that you can scroll through. If people follow you, your posts will also appear in their feed.
There is a system of rewards and badges that encourages users to gain followers. For example, you need 50 followers before you can start posting photos.
Notably, there are many verified accounts in the PopJam community, including accounts from popular brands like Disney and Nintendo.
What can kids do on PopJam?
There is a range of activities that kids can partake in on PopJam. These include:
- Creating profiles and sharing photos. Selfies are not allowed on PopJam. Instead, users are encouraged to optimize their photos with stickers and filters. You can “heart” a photo, comment on it, or “rejam” it (which means reposting it on your profile).
- Taking quizzes. There are kid-friendly, magazine-style quizzes, along the line of “What kind of best friend are you?” and “Find out what ice cream flavor you are!”
- Interact with others. Vote in polls, watch videos and play games. Kids can create, join, and leave different groups where they can socialize with other users. There is no private chat function on PopJam.
- Take part in the Daily Challenge.
To make the app suitable for children, PopJam has closing hours between 11 pm and 6 am. Additionally, there is a blacklist of negative words that are filtered and deleted before appearing in posts.
PopJam is free. It is available for Android or iOS devices. The app is easy to use and the installation process is straightforward:
- Download the app from the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store.
- Create an account with a username and password. PopJam does not require an email address. However, you can submit one for password recovery.
- A personal channel is instantly created. Your child can now post, share, watch videos, play games, or take quizzes.
Since you only need a username and a password to sign up, PopJam offers a level of anonymity. There are no in-app purchases, so no payment details are required.
PopJam doesn’t report inappropriate behavior to parents or guardians. It also doesn’t notify users if they’ve been blocked.
Because PopJam is a platform for children, there are specific safety guidelines. PopJam uses a team of staff monitors and A.I. to moderate the platform.
Generally, PopJam’s policy is to stay out of personal arguments and let kids work things out themselves as much as they can. However, in the background, behavior-monitoring software is used to filter text and images to limit potential problems.
PopJam uses SIFT software to monitor the platform in real-time. The platform rewards “good behavior” that is in line with community guidelines by adding or subtracting points to a user’s trust score. If a user posts unacceptable content, they lose points. Points are added for posts that are flagged as “okay.”
With minor offenses, posts will just be deleted. However, if the content is highly inappropriate, the user’s account gets suspended.
Kids on PopJam can report if they encounter bullying or are made to feel uncomfortable. They can block channels or individuals to control the content they’re exposed to.
Even with moderators, PopJam is still a social media platform and is driven by followers, likes, and advertisements.
Kids and Social Media
A new study by Common Sense Media revealed that the daily screen time for children (aged eight to 12) increased by 17 percent between 2019 and 2021. Kids in this age group now spend about five hours and 33 minutes online every day. While the COVID-19 pandemic certainly played a part, the increase is not just due to attending classes online.
On the one hand, social media can have a very positive effect on kids. It offers opportunities for young people to connect with others, gain a better understanding of the world, and improve their digital and media skills. On the other hand, research shows that social media can also put kids at risk. They have to navigate highly automated online spaces that maximize interaction at any cost.
Studies show that children’s mental health can suffer from spending too much time online. Social media, in particular, can worsen children’s anxiety, increase their risk of depression, and cause a variety of physical issues, including lack of sleep, difficulty regulating emotions, and concentration issues.
Girls suffer disproportionately from the negative effects of social media, data from the 2021 Facebook whistleblower scandal shows.
Below, we’ve listed the most prevailing dangers of social media for kids.
Dangers of social media for kids
If you’re a parent or guardian, chances are your child wishes to be on social media. Whether it is to connect with friends or follow influencers, each year, kids join social media in large numbers and at an earlier age. Unfortunately, social media exposes kids to various risks.
A 2018 study by the Pew Research Center showed that 59% of teenagers in the United States have experienced bullying or harassment online. Social media is known for lowering children’s self-esteem and making them more vulnerable to cyberbullying.
According to Dr. Hayley Hamilton, a scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the impact of cyberbullying can be pervasive, and it is difficult for parents or teachers to notice it and intervene. The younger a child, the easier it is for them to become a target.
Moreover, the more time children spend online, the more they become desensitized to bullying, hate speech, sexism, and racism.
Children are not alone on social media. Research by the 5Rights Foundation shows that children can be targeted with graphic content within just 24 hours of creating a social media account.
Unsolicited contact from adult strangers spans from gaming to VR social reality apps. Kids are not only at risk of being exposed to harmful content online, but predators could also persuade them to share personal information.
In 2020, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received 37,872 reports of “online enticement” (sexual grooming or abuse of kids online).
Some social media platforms automatically display a user’s location. This can lead to stalking, extortion, or abuse.
Adult content makes up about 30% of the entire web. Games and YouTube videos often display inappropriate content that is not suited for children, especially young ones.
The younger a child is, the more they are at risk of accidentally stumbling on explicit materials online. Even if kids don’t seek this type of content deliberately, they can still come across it in pirated videos, advertisements, and streaming platforms.
Malware and phishing scams
Another risk worth considering is exposure to malware and phishing scams. Sometimes, all it takes is a single click to give strangers access to your banking information or personal details. In the case of “drive-by downloads,” just visiting a site can install harmful software on your device.
What about privacy?
In the United States, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), created in 1998, aims to give parents control over the online data that companies can collect about their children. If a user is under 13 years old, online services must get parental permission before collecting information about the user in question.
However, as we stated above, the fact that social media apps have a 13+ age requirement doesn’t keep kids from using them.
In the 2021 C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, nearly 50% of the parents of children aged 10 to 12 reported that their child used social media in the previous six months. For kids aged seven to nine, 32% of parents said they allowed their kids to be on social media, despite the risks it can pose to a child’s psychosocial development.
COPPA has been criticized for a variety of reasons. Critics say the law is outdated, as it predates the invention of social media, smartphones, and streaming websites. Moreover, the 13+ age limit is an arbitrary marker of adulthood.
At the moment, an updated version of COPPA, the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) of 2022, is on the table. Among other things, the bill would increase surveillance and censorship of internet users under 16 years old. While the goal of the new bill is to increase children’s safety online, there are significant concerns about how it affects children’s right to privacy.
Can there be a privacy-sensitive social media platform for kids? Let’s get back to PopJam.
A Closer Look at PopJam: Is It Safe?
PopJam certainly puts a lot of effort into mitigating the negative effects that regular social media platforms can have on kids. It offers great opportunities for creating art, playing games, and sharing posts with others. However, there are still several issues with this platform.
Profiles are public
Anything a child posts on PopJam appears on their public profile. Content will appear in the feeds of those who follow the user. Additionally, anyone who visits their profile can see everything.
While PopJam discourages sharing personal information, it is easy for some things to slip through the cracks and end up with strangers.
While PopJam is specifically designed for seven to 12-year-olds, there are no age verification checks to enforce the age limit. This means older children and adults can also create accounts and visit the platform. Although the level of moderation on PopJam is high, there is no guarantee that kids won’t be targeted by predators or criminals.
Engagement on PopJam is driven by followers
To use the app to its full extent, users need to acquire badges that unlock new features.
The only way to get these badges is by following people and being followed in return. To use a GIF, for example, kids need 20 followers. If you want to post something, you need at least 50, and the Black Star Badge requires 1,000 followers.
In other words, PopJam encourages users to get in contact with a high number of people they may not know personally.
Parents have expressed concerns about kids obsessing over likes and followers and the way PopJam mirrors regular social media platforms in this sense. It is an engagement system that perpetuates jealousy, anxiety, and isolation.
To keep PopJam free, the platform runs advertisements. All ads are marked with a “Safe Ad” logo to enable users to differentiate sponsored content from all other posts.
As you can expect, the products and services being advertised are specifically designed for kids. Research shows that young children, especially those under eight years old, do not have the media literacy to comprehend ads, which can lead to unhealthy habits.
Privacy and parental controls
In terms of privacy, PopJam states that “aside from certain technical information, such as IP addresses,” they do not collect data from children. Email addresses that are submitted during the sign-up process “will be hashed out and only available when matched with a specific username.”
PopJam says it respects children’s privacy. The platform is certified by the kidSAFE Seal Program, which is an independent safety certification service for children-friendly websites.
PopJam also claims to be COPPA-compliant. However, since there is no age verification, children can still create an account without their parents’ permission.
While parents can sign up and receive information through SuperAwesome’s parent portal, there are no parental controls on PopJam. Moderators attempt to safeguard the space, but they do not inform parents of misconduct and inappropriate content.
PopJam is a relatively safe platform for kids, but it doesn’t fully shield children from the damaging effects of social media. Therefore, we recommend that parents get involved and communicate openly with their kids about online safety. The tips below can make your child’s online experience a lot safer and more enjoyable!
Social Media Safety for Kids: Tips and Advice
Children are increasingly getting exposed to social media at a young age. And kids without social media presence fear being left out.
Although many parents are aware of how social media can affect their children, they are often inclined to allow it, anyway. After all, social media can help kids make connections, interact with role models, and express themselves creatively.
To ensure your kids’ social media experience is safe and fun, we’ve outlined some tips below. If you want more information about digital wellness, find out what the experts have to say.
- Communication is key. More than anything, it is important to talk to your children about being online. If you show genuine interest in what your children are up to online, they are more likely to keep you involved and inform you when there are problems. Talk about healthy online relationships, and help them find uplifting, diverse, and positive accounts to follow.
- Don’t spy on them. Although it may seem like a good idea to use parental control apps to supervise your children’s every move online, research shows that too much monitoring or supervision can drive children to secrecy. They have a right to privacy and are often more inclined to share information with you if there’s a basis of trust. If you want your kids to be more independent online, discuss safety guidelines and help them along the way.
- Limit personal information. When your child wants to create a personal social media account, make sure they know not to give away too much private information. This includes their address, birthday, or phone number. You can also manually adjust the privacy settings on most social media apps.
- Set boundaries. Having a clearly defined daily screen time limit can have a huge impact on children’s mental and physical health. Talk about what is and isn’t appropriate on social media. Remind them of how social media can impact their future.
Stay Safe Online With a VPN
With kids’ online presence only increasing, it is a good idea to invest in privacy protection. A good way to stay safe online is by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between your device and the internet. It routes your data through a VPN server. This server has a specific IP address, and your real IP address is hidden.
There are numerous advantages to using a VPN:
- It allows you to stay anonymous online.
- It offers protection from hackers and malware.
- It allows you to browse the internet privately and securely.
- It can unblock content that is restricted in your location.
If you want a VPN that is consistently reliable, secure, and fast, we recommend NordVPN.
- Excellent protection and a large network of servers
- Nice and pleasing application
- No logs
PopJam is a social platform that was specifically created for kids. Although the app has moderators and offers fun games and quizzes, it is still a social media network and can have a negative effect on a child’s mental health.
The more likes and followers you get on PopJam, the more you can do. This can lead to anxiety and stress in kids from a young age.
The bottom line is social media was not created with kids in mind. It puts young users at risk of cyberbullying, phishing, and even abuse. However, with ample involvement and oversight, social media can be a great tool for learning new things and connecting with other people.
If you’re a parent, teacher, or guardian, remember it is key to keep the conversation open. Teach your kids to be careful with personal information, and set proper boundaries online.
If you’ll allow your kids to use PopJam, make sure you talk to them about online safety first. Using a VPN can provide a layer of security.
Do you have questions about PopJam or social media for kids? Check out our frequently asked questions below.
Yes, PopJam is a fun, creative, and kid-friendly platform. Kids can play games, take quizzes, and share art and photos. PopJam moderators are ever vigilant to prevent cyberbullying and the use of negative language on the platform.
While PopJam is a relatively kid-friendly social media platform, its engagement system may have negative effects on children’s mental health. PopJam encourages children to get as many followers and likes as possible to unlock special badges. The quest to get followers and unlock these special badges can lead to anxiety, jealousy, and stress.
Yes, you can download the PopJam app for Android or iOS devices at no cost. Since PopJam is free, advertisements seem to be its primary source of revenue. These ads are specifically aimed at young children.
PopJam is designed for children aged seven to 12. However, there are no age verification checks. This means that people of all ages can use the platform.
While social media allows children to connect with others, learn about the world, and develop digital literacy, most platforms are not designed for children.
In recent years, there have been studies highlighting the risks of social media for kids, which include anxiety, depression, lack of sleep, changed eating habits, and cyberbullying.
PopJam is a social media platform specifically developed for children. Read our full PopJam article to see how safe it is for kids.
No, there are no parental controls on PopJam. Instead, staff moderators and A.I. work to keep the platform safe for children. They do not notify parents if there are any problems. However, parents, guardians, and teachers can log into the parent portal of SuperAwesome, PopJam’s parent company.