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Zigazoo, a TikTok-like app for kids, receives funding from Serena Williams, Jimmy Kimmel

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He points to his collection; There’s a blue rock with orange stars and another with a flower. A few seconds later, the video carousel switches to another clip. This time it’s a girl named Avery who puts a few quarters in her gumball machine and tells her 97 subscribers, “It’s blue! I guessed right.”

Without the tiny voices and faces, you’d think you’ve fallen into a TikTok rabbit hole. But that’s the world of Zigazoo, a social media app for kids ages three to twelve.

The short-form video platform was launched last summer with a mission to develop healthy social media and streaming habits from a young age. It leaves Kids browse or take part in 30-second video challenges or activities created by zoos, museums, teachers, musicians, and television studios, encouraging them to ask questions like “What are you doing right now?” to answer. or “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Children can then share recorded responses with your Zigazoo friends or his network of 120,000 subscribers. There is singing, dancing and animal demonstrations.

At a time Facebook (FB) Faced backlash for allegedly working on a kids’ version of Instagram, with stakeholders citing excessive device and social media time as the main concerns. Zigazoo attracts positive attention. The company said the platform has grown about 100% since early 2021 and has had 20 million video views to date – two-thirds of that in 2021.

On Thursday, the company announced a $ 4 million round of funding led by MaC Venture Capital and a handful of prominent investors including Jimmy Kimmel, Serena Williams through their venture capital firm Serena Ventures, and Matthew Rutler, investor and head of talent at MasterClass.

Williams, a serial tech investor and mother of three-year-old Olympia, said she gravitated towards Zigazoo because it was designed specifically for kids rather than retrofitting an adult product.

“Existing social media sites were not necessarily designed with young children in mind and require parenting supervision to ensure children only consume content that is intended for their age range,” Williams told CNN Business in an email. “Kids-first platforms like Zigazoo are important because safety is in their DNA and content is specifically designed to meet children’s social and emotional needs.”

Zigazoo co-founders Zak and Leah Ringelstein, former elementary school teachers, developed the app in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic after struggling to find interactive, engaging content for their three young children.

“We know that the highest level of thought takes place in creation, and we’ve watched our own children let off steam on YouTube,” said Zak Ringelstein. “We realized that not only was there a lot of content that we would never choose for our child, but that children can and want to do more. You want to be with friends. You want to create, build and interact. “

Leah Ringelstein said they had started organizing home challenges for their children, such as: sink or swim? “or looking for items that begin with every letter of the alphabet. With a background as technology entrepreneurs – the Ringelsteins started and sold the Dropbox for Education platform UClass to Renaissance Learning, a Google Capital Company, for an undisclosed prize sum in 2015 – they put these exercises together in one app and turned the traditionally passive experience of watching videos into something creative and social.

The app’s challenges fall into different categories – art, math, health and fitness, and more – and come from its content partners. For example, a Netflix challenge shows the character Chico Bon Bon: Monkey With a Tool Belt, who uses toy cars to demonstrate downhill acceleration, while a Peanuts challenge shows how Zigazoo users can help protect the planet for Earth Day.

The app requires an adult over the age of 18 to log in via Facebook Google (Goog) or Apple (AAPL) Account. Parents can then decide whether their child’s videos should be displayed in the Zigazoo feed or set to private. Zigazoo aims to develop healthy social media and streaming habits at a young ageEach video is directed through a third-party professional moderation service. the company has posted 125,000 so far in 2021. Its moderators work 7 days a week during a 19-hour window to ensure that for any challenge, the videos stay on topic, contain no personal information – no last names or addresses – the language is clean and content is free of as per the policy page “Pushing, throwing, anger, screaming, bullying, sarcasm, or pouting”. Videos that check these boxes will appear in the app’s created feed. those who do not are made private. Zigazoo is also part of the kidSAFE seal program, an independent safety certification service designed for kid-friendly technologies.

The app has received high praise from nonprofit Common Sense Media, which provides technical recommendations for families. “It’s really impossible to emphasize how cheap and critical this approach is,” said Christine Elgersma, senior editor for social media and learning apps at Common Sense. “If all social media had been developed with the idea that children could use it, we would be in a completely different place today. Instead, we play catch-up and try to solve problems that might have been avoided.” when the initial design and introduction put children and teens at the center. ”

Zigazoo was specially developed for young children

As Zigazoo grows through word of mouth, it has also fallen into the hands of celebrity parents – including Rutler and his partner, singer Christina Aguilera – whose 6-year-old daughter consumes videos on the app. “There is nothing like it in the field of child-rearing,” said Rutler of his investment decision. “I really didn’t want my daughter to spend time with any of the [apps] we found at the beginning of the pandemic. I think it’s great that there are more exciting opportunities now. “

Elergsma believes that existing social media platforms and other apps for kids can look to Zigazoo as an example of how kids can provide a social yet safe place to be online.

“Children don’t text each other, don’t respond to many notifications, try to make ‘Zigazoo famous’, shop in the app, meet strangers, or do other things that make TikTok popular,” said Elergsma. “Since Zigazoo encourages off-screen exploration and learning, and then allows kids to show what they’ve discovered, it’s a great balance. It’s absolutely okay for kids to use apps like this. “

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