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Designing an Internet for kids

  • Story Highlights
  • CNN talks with the founder of a kids' version of YouTube
  • Kid-specific sites, browsers and software try to make the Web safe for children
  • Kids ages 2 to 11 now make up 10 percent of online population, report says
  • CEO says kids "are attracted to the Internet like bees are to honey"
By John D. Sutter
CNN
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(CNN) -- More kids than ever are roaming around the Internet.

Cliff Boro, CEO of KidZui, talks with CNN about Internet sites  designed for kids.

Cliff Boro, CEO of KidZui, talks with CNN about Internet sites designed for kids.

Kids ages 2 to 11 make up nearly 10 percent of all online users; that's 16 million people, or 18 percent more than five years ago, according to a report from Nielsen Online.

And they're not always finding content parents might deem appropriate.

"Sex," "porn" and "YouTube" are among the top 10 terms searched by kids who use a family filter provided by Symantec, according to a recent report by the computer security company.

Enter a host of products -- from Web sites and browsers to parental filters and search-tracking software -- designed to help parents make the Web safer for young children.

One of the latest kids' sites, ZuiTube, aims to be a cleaner version of YouTube by screening all its videos before youngsters troll through them.

To find out more about the pros and cons of the kids' Web, CNN spoke with Cliff Boro, chairman and CEO of KidZui, the company that owns ZuiTube. The company also makes a kids' browser called KidZui, which claims to access more than a million pre-screened Web sites, pictures and videos.

The following is an edited transcript:

CNN: Why do kids need their own version of YouTube?

Boro: Well, kids need their own version of YouTube because they're just attracted to the Internet like bees are to honey, but the Internet fundamentally isn't built for kids.

There's so much great content on YouTube for kids, but there's so much horrendous content that's completely inappropriate. So our goal with ZuiTube is to give kids the best of what YouTube has to offer without parents running and screaming because there's just so much bad stuff as well.

CNN: Why a video site specifically, instead of something else?

Boro: Kids love to be entertained in quick bursts of consumable moments of fun. I'd have to defer to a child psychologist to understand it.

CNN: Is the ZuiTube site educational or is it focused on entertainment?

Boro: The goal is to be both educational and entertaining. So KidZui has mapped out 8,600 channels of what kids are interested in, ranging from photosynthesis to Miley Cyrus. And we relate all of those categories to each other so kids can independently and safely browse, search and share.

And we deliberately -- just like the grownup Internet -- we don't create any division between learning and being entertained. Oftentimes kids will start with a search in KidZui on something they're interested in like baseball and end up learning or watching videos about sporting events in Rome.

CNN: On YouTube, anyone can submit a video. Where do the videos on ZuiTube come from?

Boro: All videos on ZuiTube right now come and are powered by YouTube. So they're on YouTube's site. But our team of editors, which are parents and teachers across 25 states, review all of the videos before they're included in ZuiTube.

CNN: Who pays for the site? Are there ads?

Boro: We have no advertising on ZuiTube, nor do we have any plans to add advertising. KidZui's in a position to offer ZuiTube. It's effectively sponsored by our flagship product, the KidZui browser. And we're proud to be in a position to be able to do that.

CNN: I read about an online world that's being designed for kids. It's billed as sort of a World of Warcraft for kids, where instead of killing people you might rescue cats from a tree or something. I wonder how far you see this idea of a kids' Internet going -- or if you see sites like that as appropriate?

Boro: Like with everything it's all about moderation. I think immersive kids' destination sites are fabulous -- or many of them are fabulous.

CNN: I saw another report by Symantec that said the No. 1 term searched by kids online is "YouTube." Is that good or bad for your business?

Boro: I'm surprised by that and I think it just shows fortunate timing on our launching ZuiTube both for kids and parents.

We created our company not out of fear, but we urge all parents to be mindful Google and YouTube were not designed for kids. And kids should not be in front of a Web browser unsupervised. Period.

Our goal with KidZui is to focus on the light, not the darkness. Of course, we keep all of the bad content and the bad people out of KidZui. But we focus on letting kids who want to discover, who want YouTube, to get YouTube videos that are fun and appropriate for them ... I think it is indicative of just how much kids want to be online.

CNN: Is there a point when it's too early for kids to be online, even with parents?

Boro: Again, I am not a child psychologist. I know in our company, that has lots of kids, that we have some significant KidZui time ... even with 2-year-olds looking at videos. Exercise and social time and time with family is really important, but kids really wanna be online.

CNN: What do you think these tools -- kids' browsers and video sites -- will do to this generation of online users once they grow up?

Boro: Our hope with KidZui has always been from the outset that we create a positive association with the Internet and technology that is not filled with anxiety and mom and dad looking over their shoulders all the time.

CNN: As an adult and someone who doesn't have kids, is there anything -- a video or site -- you can point to that you personally find interesting from ZuiTube or KidZui?

Boro: Our biggest surprise isn't one piece of content. We thought kids would be like us, like grown-ups. But it turns out, maybe because they have more time, that kids are bigger explorers in terms of discovering content on the Internet. Kids love voting on content, they love giving their opinion. They love sharing things.

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